For more than 60 years,
a publication centered on life in Mississippi.
Today is December 13, 2019

Give the gift of Mississippi

Celebrating the talent, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit within the Magnolia State

By Sandra M. Buckley

Give the gift of Mississippi

In 1993, newlyweds Cindy and Tim Tyler of Greenwood had a novel idea for a new business. The idea was to launch a fundraising company that schools could partner with to sell Mississippi made products as a way to raise money. What they soon discovered, however, was that their efforts would have a better chance at success if they dreamed even bigger — and so they shifted from a school fundraising concept to direct consumer-based sales.

As the couple launched their startup as The Mississippi Gift Company, they refocused its mission, taking a visionary approach. Not only were they marketing top quality products to individuals, but also to an untapped niche in the form of corporate gifts — allowing their business model to double its consumer base.

Business began to boom, and they soon opened a storefront. “At that time, we were the only retail store in downtown Greenwood,” Cindy said, adding that they also took a chance and created a mail-order catalog. “We borrowed our brother-in-law’s camera and shot the catalog in the empty parking lot next to our retail location. The catalog gave us the appearance of a large company at the time and helped grow our business.”

Such pioneering thinking is what then took the company to the next level. “We were one of the first companies to have a website and worked to build a site on one of the first e-commerce platforms available in 1997,” explained Cindy. “It was during the days of dial-up and took forever for the site to load. This really helped grow our customer base.”

Today, Cindy runs the business full time and has created a convenient hub, both in-store and online, for exceptional Mississippi made gifts, decorative accessories for the home and gourmet food items. And the storefront is now more than a retail shop; it’s a unique shopping experience and a tourist destination. “We have visitors from all over the world visiting our business to find something unique to take home from their travels,” she said.

“We also have online customers in every state in the United States that love to give a gift of Mississippi,” Cindy added. “We have customers all across the state, the country and a few orders overseas from time to time to send something to their loved ones in the U.S.”

Over the past 26 years, the business has successfully expanded its brand and established itself as the first — and only — company dedicated to exclusively selling Mississippi products. It also maintains the largest selection of Mississippi made items available anywhere, with more than 750 product offerings handcrafted by more than 150 Mississippians.

The range of products is vast, from handcrafted dinnerware, pottery, picture frames, decorative pillows, candles and jewelry to original artwork and photography as well as cookbooks and coffee table books. And, gourmet food products are equally in demand, including bread mixes, salad dressings, salsas, pickles, cheese straws, cakes, pies, cookies, dessert mixes, local honey, appetizer and dip mixes, nuts, sauces, marinades, soup mixes and more. As an additional convenience, gift cards, a bridal registry and a wish list for customers are also available.

“We are so fortunate that there are so many talented artists, potters, chefs, craftsmen and gourmet food entrepreneurs in our state,” Cindy noted. “When someone receives a gift from The Mississippi Gift Company, they know the gift is high quality, handmade and made in Mississippi.”

Cindy, a graduate of Mississippi State University, has not only helped connect Mississippi makers and their goods with customers, she has also established lasting relationships with them. “I have become great friends and developed wonderful relationships with the artisans whose goods I sell,” she shared. “We love that we are a part of their story and have played a certain part in introducing their product to new customers who love Mississippi.”

Another amenity of the company is the option of selecting and purchasing pre-filled gift packages. These beautiful, festive or holiday-inspired gift baskets, which can be customized, are loaded with assortments of customer favorites, like sweet and savory treats. These offer convenience and fit the bill for countless occasions, such as a thank you, house warming, new baby, birthday, retirement, wedding or client gift. “We have gift boxes, gift baskets and gift packages for any occasion, all filled with made-in-Mississippi items,” Cindy added. “We have even shipped gift baskets to studio sets in Los Angeles.”

By offering gift packages as a convenient solution for businesses to meet gifting needs, Cindy and her team are prepared at a moment’s notice to fulfill these orders. “Our corporate gifts are a great option for small and large businesses, and we try to make it easy for them because we know that everyone is so busy,” she said. “We say, ‘Send us your list, we do the rest.’ So all the business has to do is tell us what gift package they want and send us their mailing list. We pack it up and ship it out to arrive on the date that they request.”   

To keep up with demand, the company stocks its items in a temperature-controlled fulfillment center adjacent to the retail space. Before, when fulfilling orders in the company’s early days, Cindy, Tim and occasionally Tim’s parents were the ones packing up and shipping out the boxes. “One time, we got a call from a customer saying that they found a wedding ring in the basket they received from us and that someone in our warehouse must have lost it,” Cindy shared. “We laughed so hard because we had no warehouse and it was just us packing and shipping, which meant that it could only be one person’s lost ring — my husband’s!”

The Mississippi Gift Company has been featured in national outlets such as Southern Living, Bon Appetit and Cooking with Paula Dean. Also a particular honor, it was selected in 2017 to represent the State of Mississippi in the Google Economic Impact report, an esteemed recognition that brought Cindy and her staff to Google headquarters in California for an awards presentation gala.

The Mississippi Gift Company holds true to its original mission to celebrate and share the talent, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit within the Magnolia State. “We have remained committed to finding the best-handcrafted food, gifts and home decor that is made by hardworking Mississippians,” Cindy explained. “This allows our customers to be able to give something that is truly different and unique. And most of the time, it reflects their own Mississippi heritage and allows them to share a piece of who they are with others.”

Thanks to an innovative vision nearly three decades ago, an appreciation of Mississippi makers, alongside years of hard work, The Mississippi Gift Company offers anyone, anywhere, a simple way to give the gift of Mississippi. “I am so blessed to have this opportunity to give people the ability to share Mississippi with their clients, friends and family,” Cindy said.

“Mississippi has a rich heritage of food, art and craftsmanship,” Cindy added, “and it has been such a blessing to have had the opportunity to showcase the best that Mississippi has to offer over our 26 years in business.”

The Mississippi Gift Company, 300 Howard Street. Greenwood, MS 38930, www.msgifts.com, 1-800-467-7763

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