TUPELO • Since 2006, the Renasant Center for IDEAs has served as a business incubator for dozens of up-and-coming businesses.

Among the highly successful “graduates” are Hyperion Technology and Mabus Agency, which have grown and expanded their businesses over the years.

Shirley Hendrix of R&B Specialty Printing and Letisha Jackson of Jackson Insurance Group have each been at the Renasant Center for a couple of years and are growing their businesses as well. On Monday, they shared their knowledge and experience with more than a dozen would-be entrepreneurs, offering their advice to an attentive audience.

Hendrix and Jackson decided to offer the free seminar after being approached many times by those asking for advice. And they were happy to oblige.

“They really want to know how to move forward in their business ventures,” Hendrix said. “I want everyone to win, because we’re all in this together.”

Among the tips she offered:

• Find a niche that makes your product or service unique.

• Be authentic, consistent and focused.

• Have a passion for the business.

But Hendrix also said not all ideas will work. Being willing to move on is key, she said.

“Do a little research; you don’t necessarily have to give up on it, you just might have to adjust the idea,” she said.

Hendrix’s printing business started as a part-time hobby in 2001 and she went full-time with it a few years ago. One of the obstacles she had to overcome was the closure of her restaurant, Shirley’s Place, after about 18 months.

“You can’t be afraid of failure,” she said. “Look – I’m still here, aren’t I?”

Jackson graduated from the incubator and last year moved to the first floor in a bigger office for the insurance company that she founded with her husband. She, too, was eager to share her experiences with the ups and downs of building a business.

“I want to tell them the importance of having someone to talk to, to show them the ropes and share with them things they don’t get on an everyday basis,” she said. “Once you’re able to get those resources that are available to you, it’s really up to you to go and get it.”

Jackson started her business at home and has added several employees in the last year.

“We want to share what we know and just encourage others with their businesses. If you fail, get back up and try again,” Jackson said. “And you need to have that circle of people that can continue to push you to keep going.”

Hendrix said attending ribbon cutting ceremonies, grand openings and other events is important for small business owners to not only show they care about their fellow businesses, but also to create a network with others.

“You have to let them know you’re out there, and maybe they can turn to you for something one day,” she said. “Relationships are important.”

dennis.seid@journalinc.com Twitter: @dennisseid

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