SOUTHAVEN, Miss — Near-record-high inflation has cast a shadow over this year's holiday shopping season for both shoppers and some businesses. Still, for some entrepreneurs, there is major growth.
Mississippi-based owner Tanya Smith and her husband Jerry Smith expanded from an online-only business that started during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to a full-scale brick-and-mortar store in Southaven.
Two years ago, the Smiths founded “Virtuous Soap Company” — a plant-based all-natural skincare and hygiene product store that’s leaving nothing on the table.
“I was looking for a solution — a natural solution for myself for my own feminine and skin care hygiene," Tanya said.
Combined with her background as a medical assistant and her gift for teaching, Smith decided to turn her hobby into her career.
“Even though I loved teaching, that’s my passion and that’s why I integrated over into teaching about feminine hygiene," Tanya said.
The Smiths are a part of a major small-business industry here in the Mid-South.
According to the U.S. Small business administration, there are 923,329 small businesses combined between Tennessee and Mississippi. There are roughly 652,795 small businesses in Tennessee and approximately 270,534 in Mississippi.
In the last three years alone, Memphis saw a 77% increase in the number of people who filed for business applications. Still, inflation has made it hard for nearly 60% of small businesses to remain open nation-wide.
"Virtuous Soap Company," once online-only, is bucking the trend expanding into a brick-and-mortar location in Southaven on Airways Blvd.
“It was time to make a faith move," Jerry Smith said. "I had a gut feeling, and I went with it. I said quit your job and let's just go all in.”
It was a "gut feeling" that led to great success.
“You have to take a leap of faith and that’s taking the risk to go ahead and do it," Jerry said.
Now in their 6,700 square foot facility, the operators of this family-owned business say they're making products with a greater purpose.
“They [shoppers] mostly will go to Walmart, Target or this that, and the third," Tanya said. "But we always pray that prayer that when people walk into here, they feel that spirit of love."
As a team, Jerry said he is the coach and his wife Tanya the player. The smiths said they took a leap of faith and strangers became customers.
“Don’t be afraid to fail," Jerry said. "If it’s something that you want to do get up and do it — just do it.”