Biloxi Shrimp Co.
Jonathan McLendon and Mark Mavar founded the Biloxi Shrimp Co. in 2020, soon building a 20,000-square-foot production facility and a thriving wholesale business that supplied hundreds of restaurants daily. But when COVID-19 curtailed restaurant dining across America, the owners were left with a dilemma: freezers full of seafood, and no buyers. Who would buy their shrimp and keep their employees working? That’s when Jonathan had an idea: They’d sell directly to the public. “I looked at him and said, ‘That’s about the silliest thing you ever said to me,’” says Mark. Still, the pair put the word out on social media and unlocked their front doors. The first day a handful of curious shrimp buyers stopped by. A week later, cars were lined up for five blocks. As word got out, orders began coming in from as far away as Los Angeles and New York City. Suddenly, Biloxi Shrimp Co. was building a new direct-to-consumer business and brand, with its own packaging and family recipes tucked in with each order.
Mississippi Food Network
Mississippi Food Network (MFN) opened in 1984 with a mission to end hunger across the state. Starting with a 4,000-square-foot space, eight member agencies, and 2,300 pounds of food, they now have over 80,000 square feet and work with 430 member agencies, distributing over 21.2 million pounds of food annually. The only organized food bank in a state with two of the nation’s most food-insecure counties, MFN is a necessity for many families. “We always say we’re a small food bank that acts like a large food bank,” says Director of External Affairs Kelly Mott. Supported by Google Ad Grants, Google Ads campaigns have been central to their efforts. In 2018, over half of their online donations and more than 7,000 new community members discovered MFN via those campaigns. Google Analytics has also helped them understand their digital performance so they can make the most of online interactions.
Though COVID-19 forced food pantries and soup kitchens to close, shelters and group homes to reduce capacity, and fundraising events to be canceled, Kelly and her team remained committed to MFN’s mission. MFN has become more crucial than ever for their community. They started partnering with Feeding America and taking in online donations thanks to increased website traffic. They continue to receive support from Google Ad Grants, and Google Ads as well as insights from Google Analytics have allowed MFN to greatly increase their visibility. They saw a 142-percent increase in site traffic from January through September 2020 versus the same period in 2019, peaking on April 19, 2020 with 484-percent traffic increase from the same date in 2019. Google Analytics also allows Kelly and her team to identify where their services are most needed, as well as better target digital fundraising efforts to a younger, more diverse demographic. She and MFN’s major gift specialist, Crystal Alfaro, hope that donation increases continue through 2021 and beyond, and they’re getting creative with their use of Google Ads to make that happen.
The Pig & Pint
When Chris Clark and Grant Hutcheson started cooking on the competition circuit, they didn’t expect it would lead them to open one of the highest-rated barbeque restaurants in Mississippi. But that’s exactly what happened in 2014 when they opened The Pig & Pint, which has since been named the best barbeque in the state by multiple media outlets. “When we started the restaurant, we didn’t know what to expect in terms of customer feedback,” said Chris. “Giving them the same high-quality barbeque that we competed with has been a great success for us.” Chris knew that to reach tourists — and locals — looking for barbeque in the Greater Jackson area, The Pig & Pint had to have a strong digital presence. “If you’re going from Texas to Florida, you’re coming through Jackson,” he said. “Our online presence has helped us immensely. On any given day, 20-30% of our customers are from out of town.”
To boost visibility on Google Search and Maps, The Pig & Pint uses Google My Business. It allows Chris to see and respond to customer reviews. “We’re in the service industry, so we have to give the customers what they want,” said Chris. “Being able to engage with them instantly is a wonderful thing.” The Pig & Pint recently started using Google Analytics to learn more about its audience, and it relies on Google Ads to better reach them. “With Google Analytics, I’m able to see that 75% of people who are finding us are just searching for restaurants and barbeque,” said Chris. “Ever since we started using Google Ads, if you type in ‘barbeque in Jackson, Mississippi,’ we’re popping up at the top.” Chris also uses G Suite tools like Gmail, Calendar, Docs, and Drive to keep his operation organized.
With Google, The Pig & Pint has had a lot of success getting the word out to local barbeque lovers as well as those passing through Jackson. “I’m still amazed at how many people from all over the world end up finding us through Google,” said Chris, who cites Google as a driver of the business’ impressive 15% year-over-year growth. Chris plans to increase his Google Ads budget moving forward and wants to explore using YouTube. Grant also uses his competitive cooking skills for good by regularly participating in charity fundraisers to raise money for kids with pediatric brain cancer and local community centers. Their success has encouraged them to consider opening two more locations in the next three to five years. “We started in my parent’s garage tweaking and working recipes. It’s incredible to be where we are and on the verge of so much more” concluded Grant.
Wise Guys Technologies
Wise Guys Technologies has been experiencing over 30 percent annual growth
It used to be tough to get quality personal electronics repaired in Justin Johnson’s hometown. “There was a need for higher-quality computer and cellphone repair,” he says. With a background in programming, website development, and computer repair, Justin stepped up and opened Wise Guys Technologies in 2013. From laptops to video game consoles, if it’s broken and electronic, Wise Guys Technologies will fix it. “We provide a quality service people need,” Justin says. From a single small desk in a friend’s back office, the company has grown into one of the most trusted electronics repair businesses in the Jackson metro area.
Wise Guys Technologies has always plugged into the power of the Internet. Their website is attractive and easy to navigate. They commit 80 percent of their advertising budget to digital, and most of that goes into AdWords, Google’s advertising program. “It’s given us a lot of growth, and allows us to be shown to more people who wouldn’t normally see us,” Justin says. “When we started using AdWords, we saw our foot traffic basically double.” With AdWords driving 30 percent of sales, Wise Guys Technologies turns to Google Analytics to better understand their web traffic and to identify trends they can capitalize on. “We’re able to see who is interested in our services and tailor our ads to those customers,” Justin says. And to compete with larger companies, the team uses G Suite tools, such as Gmail, Calendar, and Docs, to collaborate from anywhere and quickly respond to customer requests.
Wise Guys Technologies proudly serves thousands of customers every year, and business is growing at a steady rate. They recently moved into a larger flagship retail space in Brandon on the reservoir, plan to open more stores across Mississippi in the next five years, and are expanding their business to include refurbished electronics sales and small business website development. While they are investing in new service areas, there’s no question where Justin’s heart lies: “We love our community. Everyone is very loyal, and that loyalty in turn lets us give back to the community,” he explains. “By supporting a local small business, those funds stay in your area, and that growth happens right here.”
The Mississippi Gift Company
Tim and Cindy Tyler travel the backroads of Mississippi to curate the best handmade foods, art, and home decor that their home state has to offer. The result is The Mississippi Gift Company, their labor of love and pride. The couple got the idea for the shop in 1993, when they were newly married. “We borrowed our brother-in-law’s camera and shot our first catalog of locally made goods,” Tim recalls. “The response from Mississippians and displaced Mississippians was overwhelming.” Since then, they’ve expanded from 20 items to over 750, and from three suppliers to 150—all in Mississippi and thoughtfully curated through Cindy’s aesthetic lens.
In addition to a retail location, they sell their products online, which lets them, as Cindy says, “offer to the rest of the world hidden treasures that can be found nowhere else.” They got on the Internet relatively early, creating their first website in 1997. They’ve been using AdWords, Google’s advertising program, for so long that the couple can’t remember exactly what year they started. They also use Google Analytics to measure their web traffic and make informed business decisions. “Google products allow us to discover new customers, expand our customer list, and grow sales,” Cindy says. Working day-to-day operations in G Suite tools Gmail, Docs, Drive, and Calendar, she also believes that Google helps them “be more efficient with internal processes,” so they can ultimately reach more people.
Based in a small city of about 16,000 people, The Mississippi Gift Company is a hub of art and culture for the local area. Because of their online presence, that culture now reaches far beyond state lines. “By marketing our goods through retail and on our website, we’ve been able to provide an outlet for countless artists, entrepreneurs, and producers from all across the state,” says Cindy. “This relationship is mutually beneficial. It helps local artisans get more exposure to a wider market while also significantly contributing to their income.” For everyone involved—the artisans, entrepreneurs, and customers themselves—The Mississippi Gift Company offers a unique opportunity for Mississippians to share “an expression of who they are.”
Strange Brew Coffeehouse
Strange Brew Coffeehouse sells 130,000 cups of coffee per year
Mississippi State alumnus Shane Reed opened the Strange Brew Coffeehouse in 2005 as a community gathering place. To differentiate his business from the big-brand coffee shops, he'd stay open 24 hours during finals week and serve "awesome local coffee" (the Albino Squirrel, a white chocolate and hazelnut latte, is a bestseller), house-baked pastries, and traditional “King Cakes,” a Mardi Gras favorite. When the financial crisis of 2008 hit, Shane learned what it truly meant to be part of a community. "We made it through, and it taught us a few things about weathering hard times," he says. "Being a small coffee house in a small town in Mississippi, you have to fight to survive."
Shane's blend of hometown hospitality, locally roasted coffee, and freshly baked pastries is a winning combination. He and his wife, Katelyn Reed, Head Baker and Shop Manager, rely on Google tools to keep their brand in front of customers. Their Google My Business listing makes it easy for potential customers to find Strange Brew’s store hours, address, reviews, menus, and website. They use social media, including Google+, to engage customers and connect with them even when they’re not at the coffeehouse. Google Analytics keeps them informed of how users are interacting with their site. Gmail and Google Docs help to keep the business operation flowing.
When a national coffee shop opened branches nearby, Shane and Katelyn didn't have to worry. "Our sales went up by 22% that year," Shane says. They now sell merchandise online, employ 16 people, and plan to open a shop in Tupelo, Mississippi. They're also opening an ice cream shop called Churn & Spoon right next door to Strange Brew. They believe in "brewing it forward," and support local children’s sports teams and other charities. "Sometimes I get a cup of coffee in the middle of the night, when all the college students are hanging out in the shop," he says. "It puts a smile on my face."