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Entrepreneurial Drive: Successful academy ready to welcome ’14 class

Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Mary Sproulls opened Some of This & Some of That, a home décor store in Natchez, with her husband, Willie Sproulls, in July 2012 and expanded their business next door by opening Some of This & Some of That Furniture in November 2013.  Sproulls was a member of the first graduating class from the Entrepreneur Academy training program.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Mary Sproulls opened Some of This & Some of That, a home décor store in Natchez, with her husband, Willie Sproulls, in July 2012 and expanded their business next door by opening Some of This & Some of That Furniture in November 2013. Sproulls was a member of the first graduating class from the Entrepreneur Academy training program.

NATCHEZ — Mary Sproulls and her husband Willie opened Some of This & Some of That in July 2012 on East Franklin Street, expanding this year to include a furniture store.

The business also offers candles, warmers, wall décor, gifts and more.

Mary Sproulls said the couple’s recent success, which comes with much hard work, was made possible in part because they attended Entrepreneur Academy 2012.

Hosted by Alcorn State University, Natchez Inc. and the Mississippi Development Authority, organizers say the Academy helps with entrepreneurial training, smart regulations and manageable tax structures to give small businesses the support system needed to thrive.

“We attended the classes right as we were starting the business,” Sproulls said. “I had been in a home business which had closed, and we wanted to make this business work.

“(The Academy) brought in a lot of great speakers who talked about the work and drive needed to keep a business going. It pushed us to use social media, which we are doing to our advantage. It also helped us create a network of people to help build and sustain the business.”

The Academy is open to anyone 16 or older. Tuition for Entrepreneur Academy 2014 will be $25. The class will be limited to 40 people.

The workshop kicks off at 6 p.m. Jan. 14 at the Alcorn Technology Incubator facility at 300 Franklin St. The Academy will meet every other Tuesday evening through the first part of May.

Those interested can register by emailing info@natchezinc.com or calling 601-445-0288.

Ruth Nichols, assistant vice president for educational and community partnerships at Alcorn State University, said the entrepreneur training offered can provide those with a great business idea the structure to succeed or spotlight ideas that have passion but not the requisite components to flourish long term.

“Participants will have a chance to assess their own entrepreneurial potential, create and evaluate their business plan and hear from local experts in the areas of marketing, employment, insurance, finance and more,” Nichols said. “A very important and valuable resource will be the development of a small business network made up of like-minded new friends.”

When Carol Ann Riley participated in the academy, Riley said she already had her own business but without the proper insurance or business set up.

Riley said the speakers were especially helpful and covered many important topics.

“They had people who could help you get small-business loans,” she said. “They had workbooks that helped you write your business plan. They gave away the top-of-the-line business books, whatever was fresh out there. It gave me the tools I needed to get it set up like an official business. I was just a freelancer.”

Riley eventually moved her creative business to 423 Main St. and today offers clients graphic design services, logo help, ad designs, booklets, brochures, billboards, website and marketing consulting.

Natchez resident Melvin Tillman said the classes were especially helpful to him and his home-based candy apple business.

As a caterer for special events and parties, Tillman said he attended the academy in 2012 to improve his networking and marketing skills.

“I learned some valuable tips to help do what I am doing in the present,” he said. “I was having problems in the beginning doing too much product based on the functions and the places where I was selling the candy apples. It helped me think about locations and the type of people I was dealing with. They help with the total package.”

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