By Becky Gillette
Editor’s note: Prominent Delta women in business have some things in common no matter their profession. They have a passion for what they do, and they manage to also find time to enjoy family and community activities. This month, the Delta Business Journal profiles six women in business who have paved a way to success in their professions.
The Delta Bohemian®
Clarksdale born and raised on a farm near Sumner, Madge Marley Howell graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1980, and has held jobs including being an actress, model, and creative director for Putumayo, New York City. Her work took her to Europe and India, where she assisted creating the company’s clothing line in Delhi.
After spending time living on the East Coast and Atlanta, she moved back home, where she enjoyed raising her daughter, assisting as a bookkeeper for her family’s farm operation, followed by work as a legal secretary and culminating as general manager of Morgan Freeman’s Madidi Restaurant.
She and her husband Billy founded The Delta Bohemian® in 2010.
“The Delta Bohemian® started because my husband, Billy, felt the Lord had placed the words Delta and bohemian on his heart,” Howell says. “I responded to that by creating a blogazine called, The Delta Bohemian®. Our tag line is Celebrating Constancy and Diversity in the Mississippi Delta. The website is our personal expression of life here in the Mississippi Delta.”
Back when the couple started the company, Clarksdale’s tourism curve was really ramping up.
“We just wanted to be a part of and a contributor to the burgeoning creative economy, as folks from all over the world were figuring out the Mississippi Delta was a cool, authentic travel destination,” she says. “Our website also has a faith-based element to it. We are Christians and if you read our writings, you will soon discover that God is at the center of our lives and we owe everything to Him.”
The Delta Bohemian started it’s YouTube Channel in 2010, which now has more than 450 videos. They opened the DeltaBohemianGuestHouse.com in 2012, which Booking.com selected as the #1 recommended place to stay in Mississippi. They launched DeltaBohemianTours.com in 2015.
“My husband, Chilly Billy, is indescribable,” Howell says. “His regional identity tours are outstanding. We established our ClarksdaleWhiteHouse.com in October 2015, as a unique overnight place to stay. In May 2018, we launched our home concert series in the Clarksdale White House. We have had Grammy-winning musicians perform in our living room while enjoying soft seating and food provided by local restaurant Abe’s Barbeque.”
Howell enjoys walking, reading and riding the back roads with her husband late afternoons. The couple also values time visiting their children and grandson.
The Mississippi Gift Company
Cindy Tyler, owner of The Mississippi Gift Company in Greenwood, has long worked in retail and sales. She worked for Reed’s Department Store in Columbus as a sophomore in high school and then clerked at Mullins’ Department Store in Starkville from age seventeen until she graduated from Mississippi State. After graduation, she married Tim Tyler and they launched The Mississippi Gift Company.
“The original idea was a fundraising company, but we soon offered only Mississippi products to customers at retail,” Tyler says. “We were amazed at all the quality products that were made in Mississippi and wanted to offer these goods to customers and businesses to give as corporate gifts.”
In business for twenty-six years now, they were one of the first businesses to sell on the internet. “We now offer more than 1,000 items only made in Mississippi and work with over 150 gourmet food companies, entrepreneurs, artists that create these amazing, handmade treasures,” Tyler says.
Their most popular offerings include creating your own basket, pre-made baskets, pottery, foods and gifts. There is a huge trend of people demanding home decor that is made in Mississippi.
They are extremely busy year around as they have customers in every state in the country.
“Not only is the internet/mail order popular, but our retail location in downtown has become a top tourist destination in Mississippi, as our business is unique to offer only items made exclusively by Mississippians,” says Tyler, whose husband is marketing director for Viking Range, LLC. “Tourists include those doing a couples or girls get away in Greenwood, as well as many international travelers and bus tours.”
Tyler said people like that when they shop with The Mississippi Gift Company, not only does it support local Mississippi artisans, but it creates jobs and keeps tax dollars here in Mississippi.
The Tyler’s have one son, Cole and they are all very active tennis players.
Brandyn H. Skeen
Gainspoletti Financial Services
Brandyn H. Skeen, a financial advisor with Gainspoletti Financial Services, Inc., Hernando, didn’t initially choose the financial services profession.
“I graduated from Delta State University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice,” Skeen says. “I deviated from my educational choice when I was recruited eleven years ago by Gary Gainspoletti to become an administrative assistant to him in the Cleveland office. Gary has been both a role model and mentor to me. His positive encouragement and support of my goal to become a financial advisor and planner has been extremely helpful in my maturity in this profession. I greatly respect his work ethic and his rapport with his employees and clients. Working with Gary has certainly sped up my professional development and increased my confidence as an advisor. I am fortunate that he saw qualities in me that made him recognize my potential in this business because I truly enjoy my work.”
Skeen, a native of Biloxi, worked in the Cleveland office for eight years, and now works out of the Hernando office. She credits her mother and father with helping her achieve professionally.
“I am very lucky because I got the best of both of them,” says Skeen, a mother of three who is married to civil engineer Shea Skeen. “I got my father’s determination to succeed and my mother’s creative flare. In my current business I have to be dedicated and focused to my clients’ needs, but I also need to be creative in helping them solve their problems or plan their future.”
Working with clients face-to-face is her favorite step in the process. She is a good conversationalist, but has become an even better listener.
“I enjoy listening to them talk about their goals and dreams, as well as what is going on in their day-to-day lives,” she says. “It’s their story and when I am with them nothing is more important than their story. My job is to help them transform their story into a plan that will fulfill their dreams. When this happens, I love my job.”
Volunteering as an important part of her life. For recreation, she enjoys working out, running, sewing, organizing and decorating.
Allison Nimrod, who graduated from Central High School in Helena, Ark., was bitten by the food service “bug” pretty early on. From age fourteen, she worked at a couple of fast food joints in Helena.
“I fell in love with the food industry and so very much enjoyed the people,” Nimrod says. “I later began my emergency medical technician studies and pre-nursing courses, but my love of the food service industry was still hovering near the surface. I moved to Greenville in 1993. While working at Kings Daughters Hospital, I also began working at a steakhouse as my second job and later at Shapley’s Restaurant.”
For seventeen years, she co-owned Med Imaging, Inc., an all-female owned cardiac and vascular ultrasound company.
“From there, I went on to become the owner of Sherman’s Restaurant, my ultimate dream come true,” Nimrod says. “My husband, Peter, and I will celebrate seven years of Sherman’s ownership in September 2019. I consider it to be a completely living, breathing, challenging endeavor. Restaurant ownership is hands down some of the hardest and most rewarding work on the planet.”
Nimrod said her brain works the complete opposite of her civil engineer husband.
“This is minute-to-minute chaos and I love every second of it,” she says. “He appreciates things to be more methodical and predictable, which is not what you get on a day-to-day basis at Sherman’s. We are quite the mix. He chooses to leave the restaurant side of our lives to me. Thankfully, I’m somewhat of a workaholic. It definitely takes that to be a success in this industry.”
The Nimrods have three children, Dillon, Paxton, and Brantley.
Nimrod considers Sherman’s not only her job, but her recreation.
“I completely enjoy recipe development and implementation,” she says. “I have taken on many of the cooking duties as well as all management duties. I also don’t mind washing dishes—I will do it all.”
Baxter Healthcare Corporation
Sandra Golden, site director, Baxter Healthcare Corporation, grew up in Rhinelander, Wisc., and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota. During school, while working as a lab assistant in a cancer research department, she interacted with some of the oncology patients at the university hospital and realized she wanted to use her engineering degree in healthcare.
“After graduation, I joined Abbott Laboratories, a healthcare company, and started my career in the Chicago area in a two-year rotational program designed to develop young engineers into future leaders,” Golden says. “This was a great way to start my career. This set me on the path to where I am today, leading Baxter’s manufacturing plant in Cleveland.”
Golden said Baxter is a great place to work, and she is excited to have the opportunity to lead its longest-running manufacturing plant during a time of growth and innovation.
“We are expanding our solutions filling line operation and are also bringing a new life-saving product line to the Cleveland plant,” Golden says. “This is an exciting and challenging project and my team is focused on expanding our role in Baxter’s network. Baxter is very supportive of women in leadership roles and I receive mentorship and guidance to help me succeed. I encourage those looking for a great opportunity with a great company to check out www.baxter.com/careers for roles in manufacturing, engineering, maintenance, and quality, all right here in the Delta.”
Golden said leading a plant that is responsible for producing life-saving and sustaining products is both challenging and rewarding. Outside work, she loves spending time with her husband and being outdoors where she can grow beautiful flowers year-round.
“I encourage women of all ages to earn a high school diploma and seek higher education or technical certification,” Golden says. “There are many opportunities for women in manufacturing and engineering roles in Mississippi. With education comes self-reliance, independence, and endless opportunity to succeed and make a difference.”
The Yazoo Herald
Jamie Patterson, managing editor of The Yazoo Herald, first started selling a newspaper outside her grandparent’s home in Monticello when she was six years old.
“I went from selling the papers for nickel to a buck,” Patterson says. “When I held that change in my hand, I knew I could make a living at it one day. There was never a doubt in my mind I wanted to be a newspaper woman.”
Patterson was attracted to journalism to help benefit her community.
“I liked talking to people, and could easily get a story out of anyone from all walks of life,” she says. “Aside from telling a story, journalism allows me to hold leaders accountable and socially correct any injustices that impact my small community. As a member of the press, it is up to me and my colleagues to appreciate and protect our freedom of the press. It is very rewarding to hold something in my hand every day and know something was corrected or highlighted thanks to my work.”
Patterson received a degree in journalism from Delta State University, where she met her future husband, Jason Patterson. She spent about a year working for The Clarion-Ledger before moving to her husband’s hometown of Yazoo City and taking a job at The Yazoo Herald. She has been at there now for eleven years.
Over those years, there have been tremendous changes in print journalism. The advent of websites and social media has siphoned off a lot of the advertising revenues for newspapers causing large job losses for reporters across the country.
Patterson said it has been important to embrace the digital social medium by posting articles on websites and social media.
“Our staff has gotten smaller adapting to the new world order,” she says. “But we have managed to make it work. We are required to do more than we had in the past. The gist of it is I love what I do. I’m not going to let anything stop me from putting out a quality product. Once you get ink on your hands, you can’t wipe it off. This isn’t just a profession.”
The Pattersons have three children, James, Elsie, and Jase.
Dr. Andrea Marble
Animal Medical Clinic
Dr. Andrea Marble, owner of Animal Medical Clinic in Cleveland, grew up on a farm where she helped feed and take care of cows, horses, pigs and hunting dogs.
“I just fell in love with animals at a young age,” Marble says. “My mom said I told her when I was only four years old that I wanted to be a veterinarian. Really, it is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I like the fact that on any given day I get to do medicine, surgery, anesthesia, radiology and be a pharmacist, all ultimately helping animals.”
While Animal Medical mainly takes care of cats and dogs, they also see some exotic animals and horses. With exotics like rabbits, ferrets, snakes and birds, it is hard to be a specialist in so many different kinds of animals.
“It takes a lot of staying up-to-date on all the current medicines and therapies for all the different species,” Marble says. “There are some similarities between animals, but a lot of differences, as well.”
Marble came to Cleveland several years ago to work at the clinic and later purchased the practice.
“I knew I wanted to own my own business at some point,” Marble says. “Then I ended up marrying someone from the Delta, Parker Barrett. The Barrett’s have two daughters, Gracie Elizabeth and Maggie and a foster daughter.
For recreation she likes spending time with her family attending Mississippi State University sporting events, riding horses and gardening. She also enjoys reading and quilting.