Entrepreneurship always involves risk. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 25 percent of new businesses survive for 15 years or more. So, when a company has endured for decades, what’s their secret?
We asked the leaders of some of the Coast’s most well-respected, longest-operating businesses what it takes to go the distance. Here’s what the women at the helm had to say:
THE AD GROUP – BILOXI
Laura Hasty, president; Robin Stephens Lund, vice president, senior art director
According to Hasty and Lund, The Ad Group is a team of creative, hard-working and fun-loving individuals who all have one thing in common — a love of advertising. Their team expresses this passion, they add, through innovative design, strategic planning, media placement that ensures maximum exposure, research and production — all coming together to help clients reach their advertising goals. Hasty and Lund say the team also takes tremendous pride in saving their clients’ money so they can put it back into their advertising
The Ad Group celebrated its 25th anniversary this year; Hasty and Lund founded the business and opened their doors on Jan. 16, 1995.
To what do you attribute your business’s longevity and success?: We have a reputation of producing great creative (material) to fit our clients’ needs while working at our clients’ pace. We’re always available to our clients. We are not just a 9-to-5 business.
What advice would you give other women for building a legacy business?: Work hard seven days a week and ALWAYS be honest with your clients. If you mess up, fess up, own it and make it right.
D. BATIA INTERIORS LLC
Debbie Batia, owner
This Biloxi-based firm specializes in residential and commercial interior design and offers over 200 lines of furnishings, accessories, rugs, lighting and gift items. The business, founded in 1947 as Merchiston Hall Galleries, has been owned and managed by members of the Crapo Family since 1957 — starting with Leo K. Crapo, who bought the store and business from the Napier Family.
Debbie Batia took over the business completely after her mother, Dottie Crapo, retired in 2005. Many of Batia’s closest relatives worked in the business at one time, including her father; her mother; her sister, Pam Bozeman; her brother, Greg Crapo; and her aunt and uncle.
“I grew up in the business,” Batia says, “and have been working here full time since January of 1977.”
To what do you attribute your business’s longevity and success?: (I attribute it to) our reputation for quality, selection and good service — which has always been the most important factor in making our business successful and enduring through all of the recessions, the BP oil spill, hurricanes, etc. We just keep doing our best for our clients and the local community, and they continue to support us!
What advice would you give other women for building a legacy business?: You have to understand that your business will always be a major part of your life and your family’s lives. You have to believe in what your business does, and the main thing is you have to love what you do, or it will not be successful. I have always lived and breathed my passion for fine furnishings and interiors, and I can’t imagine living without this business!
Liz Corso Joachim, president
Corso Inc. is a 97-year-old family wholesale and vending business located in downtown Biloxi. Frank P. Corso started the business in 1924 by selling candy on a bicycle to students after they were dismissed from school. The business grew to supply every item found in a convenience store except liquor.
Corso’s daughter, Liz, is running the company with her three children, who have retired from other businesses in the community. Todd Joachim is the chief financial officer; Elisa Radich is the vending manager, and John Joachim is the general manager who oversees the buying of products and distributing the products to customers.
To what do you attribute your business’s longevity and success?: We contribute to the loyalty of our customers, and our service to them has kept the business operating for 97 years.
What advice would you give other women for building a legacy business?: Do not be afraid to inherit a family business and keep it going. We are capable of handling many obstacles that are handed to us.
W.P. SHELTON JEWELERS
Family-owned for 75 years, William Paul (W.P.) Shelton established his jewelry business in 1945 on Howard Avenue in Biloxi after learning how to repair airplane instrument panels during World War II. In 1972, he relocated to Highway 90 in Ocean Springs, and after retiring in 1986, he sold the company to his daughter and son-in-law, Cathy and Terry Reed.
Today, the family tradition continues and includes Shelton’s granddaughter, Dianne Murray, a knowledgeable sales staff, two expert bench jewelers and an experienced appraiser.
According to Reed and Murray, high quality, trust and experience are the foundation of the business. Murray has said the company’s multi-generational legacy “is something we are very proud of.”
To what do you attribute your business’s longevity and success?: Mainly trust — we’re dealing with people’s valuables, and people trust and value our opinions. And obviously, (there’s) the quality of our products. We will work with anyone’s budget, and we sell a quality product even if it’s a minimal budget.
What advice would you give other women for building a legacy business?: Be honest with your customers; be open with your customers. You’ve got to put in the hours also. You don’t just start a business and run with it. You’ve got to build your clientele and put in the hours. It can be trying, but it’s worth it.