Vera Hall, Owner of Innovative Performance Construction, Expands Her Company

Vera Hall, Owner of Innovative Performance Construction, Expands Her Company

Vera Hall

Mississippi Woman Business Owner Utilizes Small Business Development Center and SBA Programs to Succeed in Construction Industry.

It’s no secret that business owners often derive a personal meaning from their creations.  To some, it’s self-expression.  To others, a sense of purpose.  For entrepreneur Vera Hall, it’s economic and personal independence from a previous marriage.

Hall discovered at Alcorn University that she had a knack for constructing things from scratch.  During an assignment where students were instructed to create something, Hall didn’t feel like joining the majority of the class in working on a motor.  Instead she took to carpentry, leading other young women in the class to construct a screen door.

From there, she began to have an interest in antiques and refurbishing old homes, but never made the link to construction until after she separated from her contractor ex-husband.

“He told the judge that I was just a figurehead and that he needed the company,” Hall said.  “Out of humiliation and offense, I was going to prove to them that I’m no figurehead.”

From there, Hall hit the ground running, going on to obtain her construction and contracting licenses.  Founding Innovative Performance Construction, she initially ran the outfit out of her bedroom.

However, after years of slow and steady progress, as well as counseling and support from the Mississippi Small Business Development Center and the 8(a) Small Business Development Program, she’s been able to see considerable growth.  Whereas she might have been limited to working on $50,000 projects in the beginning, she now has the resources, certification, and personal experience to undertake projects bidding at $2,000,000.

When asked about how accomplishing such growth on a construction project as a woman of color feels, Hall shed light on its personal meaning to her.

“To me it means liberation,” Hall said.  “Confidence. It’s a level of independence that is unspeakable.”

Even through multiple challenges and hiccups, Hall has managed to bring the company through perilous economic situations such as the COVID-19 lockdowns.  With the help of the MS-SBDC, she applied for the EIDL grant and was able to use it to keep everything running smoothly.

As lockdowns have been lifted and business is returning to normal, Hall has set her eyes on the future once again.  She wants to undertake bigger projects in bigger cities in (likely) bigger states.  In order to do that, she plans to build new offices for the business in new areas, and doesn’t seem likely to let anyone else slow her down along the way.

Clairmont & Co.

Clairmont & Co.

Stephen and Deshawn Clairmont have built a successful manufacturing business that produces decorative home goods with inspirational messages, but their 12-year-old business, Clairmont and Co., took a hit when the economy stumbled because of COVID-19.

As soon as the shutdown hit in March, the Clairmonts began the process of applying for the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury and Disaster Loan program and the federal Paycheck Protection Program. Business counselor Rita Mitchell, who works in the Mississippi Small Business Development Center office in Hattiesburg, walked them through the application process via texts, phone calls and emails.

“The loans were a definite game changer,” Stephen Clairmont said. “I could not have done this so quickly without the MS-SBDC’s help.”

The Clairmonts furloughed their employees for only two weeks while they retooled the plant with sewing machines to make masks and other personal protective equipment that was hard to find at the time.

“This is a great example of how our team has stepped in to provide assistance during this time of crisis for our small business communities,” said Sharon Nichols, state director of the Mississippi Small Business Development Center, whose state office is housed at the University of Mississippi. “We are here to be that boots-on-the-ground assistance that small businesses need, not just in time of crisis, but every day.”

The Clairmonts were high school sweethearts who grew up together in Laurel and returned to start their business and family after graduating from college. Clairmont and Co. and their retail store, HAND+made, are both in Laurel, which has garnered national interest recently due to the popularity of the HGTV home renovation show “Home Town.”

When the opportunity arose to keep the business open while serving front-line workers by supplying mask and gowns, it was a perfect solution for them.

“Stephen won’t volunteer this about himself, but he is so kind and generous,” Mitchell said. “He and Deshawn are very much part of the fabric of the community.”

The PPE business was brisk until the larger manufacturers caught up, then orders started tapering off, something the Clairmonts expected. Most of the masks they make are custom orders, and they are in the process of transitioning back decorative home goods, but with an expanded vision for the future.

“Now that we have the infrastructure in place, we’re going to use the sewing machines to add another product line,” Stephen Clairmont said. “This experience has opened up an avenue to add pillows and other soft goods. We already have some in product development right now.”

“The story of Clairmont and Co. is still being written, and the Mississippi SBDC is proud to help play a supporting role in the reinvention and relaunch that Stephen and Deshawn are bringing forth,” Mitchell said. “Stay tuned for the next evolution of Clairmont and Co.; I can’t wait to see what visionary ideas they come up with next.”

Everything Kayak

Everything Kayak

“I first came to the GC SBDC before transitioning from the NAVY. I wanted to find out how to start my kayak business correctly.”

Stephen Whitt, Mitch McDowell, and Connie Whitt all provided assistance to me.  Stephen Whitt was my initial contact and provided me assistance with business plan information, business structures, marketing and advertising for my business. He was very valuable in helping me obtain lease space and when I outgrew that he assisted me in obtaining a great lease in my new location.  Mitch McDowell reviewed my business plan and financial projections. He assisted me with information on applying for a Patriot Express Loan which I did and received to start my ‘Everything Kayak’ business.

Connie Whitt helped me with information on where to apply for my LLC, business license, EIN#, and basic advertising information. Stephen, Mitch, and Connie continue to listen to and make recommendations for my rapid growth and expansion.  I recently relocated my business to a larger facility (10,000 square feet). Stephen, Mitch and Connie have provided great mentorship during my many business decisions over the last 3 years. I look forward to their continued assistance and consider them a valuable resource.”  -Michael Pornovets

The MSBDC looks forward to an enduring relationship with Everything Kayak as the business flourishes and grows.  We applaud the success Michael has enjoyed and wish him the very best as he continues on his journey.