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Today is July 12, 2020

Leadership and grit: a recipe for success

By Elissa Fulton

Leadership and grit: a recipe for success

In 2012, Alise Matthews was selected as Dixie Electric Power Association’s representative for the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour in Washington, D.C. That same year, she was selected among a larger group to represent Mississippi on the national Youth Leadership Council.

As a junior in high school, Matthews was already a leader in her school, but when she attended the national youth conference in Washington, D.C., she quickly appreciated that she could be a leader outside of Jones County. Matthews made many contacts around the nation that summer, but she already knew she loved interacting with people.

“I always had a dream of being an orthodontist since the age of 10 when I got my braces off because it helped my confidence so much,” said Matthews. “In high school, I worked retail in Laurel, and I loved talking to people and I came to the realization that I didn’t want to look in mouths every day, but I wanted to be interacting with the public. Some people hate retail, but I thrive on it. I just love it!”

After graduation, Matthews went on to Mississippi State University and majored in marketing with a goal of becoming an entrepreneur. She finished her marketing degree in three years and came home to Laurel with the dream of opening her own business. She grew up in the kitchen working with her mother in her catering business.

“My mom asked me if I wanted to take over her business, but I really didn’t want to cook meals,” she said. “I wanted to have a bakery and do sweets. When I was young, I would help my mom make homemade candies for her catering business and that was kind of the basis of my business. None of the bakeries in town were doing homemade candies, so I thought it would be really cool if we combined that idea with the nostalgic candy store.”

With a love of her hometown, sweet treats and a bit of nostalgia, Shug’s Cookie Dough & Candy Bar was opened in downtown Laurel in September 2017, just one year after Matthews graduated from college. In addition to the homemade candies like pralines, turtles and millionaire’s, Shug’s has a candy wall with more than 120 different candies to choose from. Customers can make candy bags, or they can enjoy the edible cookie dough and cookie cakes.

The recipe for success included a group of business owners that had already begun a revitalization project that turned the once ghost town of downtown Laurel into a bustling community.

“I feel like I definitely came in at the right time,” Matthews said. “They were already seven years into the revitalization of Laurel, and it was perfect timing for me.”

There were many that thought Matthews’ idea of a sugary heaven was crazy, but her youth, determination and marketing degree paid off. “I totally believe that marketing was a huge plus for me,” she said. “And social media is such a big part of our world today. We have a large social presence and I believe it has had a huge impact on the success of the business.”

Matthews has proven to be a leader in larger arenas, but she is proud to now be a business owner in her hometown. “I believe being from a small town, sometimes it's frowned upon to move back after college, but that’s also what I think is so special about electric cooperatives,” she said. “They are about community and Laurel was a great town and community to start my business. I have been so blessed to have a community that has been so supportive of me.”


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