When I first began writing this column, my goal was to uplift and inspire leaders and entrepreneurs around the state. By interviewing successful Mississippians and sharing their stories, I hoped to make a positive impact. For those who enjoying learning from the experiences of outstanding Mississippians, I am excited to share with you about Mississippi Entrepreneurs by Polly Dement, which was recently published by Cat Island Books, LLC with University Press of Mississippi. I caught up with Polly to visit about the book in a recent interview:
MW: Tell me a little bit about the book.
PD: The book profiles outstanding entrepreneurs from around the state including legends who have passed on and up-and-comers.I interviewed over 100 people for the book which contains 70 profiles of 85 Mississippi entrepreneurs.
MW: How did you become involved in this project?
PD: I grew up in Vicksburg and graduated from Millsaps College before pursuing a career in Washington D.C. I would regularly come back to the state and had always hoped to one day work on a project back in Mississippi. My conversations started with Tim Medley, who had been inspired by a book he saw while in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina on entrepreneurs in New Orleans. He began to think about how to do a similar book on Mississippi entrepreneurs. He formed Cat Island Books along with Paul Calhoun, David Martin, Mike McRee and Rowan Taylor to make that dream a reality. They asked me to conduct the interviews and write the articles on the Mississippi entrepreneurs.
MW: Tell me a little more your career and travels.
PD: After Millsaps, I moved briefly to Atlanta and then found my home in Washington D.C. My husband, John Mayer, and I have spent most of our careers based in D.C. I have always been interested in communications, and I have worked both in the public and private sector over the years. One of my first jobs in Washington was working for the Senate Watergate Committee where I wrote profiles of the witnesses who testified. I had the opportunity to write profiles on entrepreneurs for over a decade beginning in 1981 for the National Association of Investment Companies. I also worked for the National Commission on Children and Hager Sharp Inc., a communications firm in Washington, DC. n 2005, my husband and I decided to take a career “time out,” and we traveled the country for three years in a mobile home before relocating to Sante Fe in 2008.
MW: What was it like working with the Cat Island Group?
PD: I have tremendous respect for these gentlemen who shared a passion for trying to encourage entrepreneurs and Mississippians around the state. They had never published a book before, but they were entrepreneurs in their own right who had the vision, figured it out, took risks and enabled this book to be written. They carefully considered who to feature in the book as they wanted to make sure that the entrepreneurs represented the state geographically and a diverse mix of business and social entrepreneurs.
MW: I understand that you will be doing some book signings.
PD: We launch the book in Jackson on June 3 at Lemuria then we will be traveling around the state for other book signings. Many of the entrepreneurs will be joining locally as well and there are some special celebratory events. People who would like more information on these events can follows us on facebook at www.facebook.com/Mississippi Entrepreneurs.
MW: How did this project impact you?
PD: I had an incredible opportunity to personally interview each of the entrepreneurs or those who knew them if they were deceased. I came away inspired by each of their stories in unique ways. Mississippians have much to be proud of, and I hope these stories will encourage people to reach for their dreams.[Originally published in the Mississippi Business Journal, June 6, 2014.]