JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Governor Tate Reeves raised the cap on Cottage Food sales in Mississippi, which means vendors can advertise online.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Mississippi in March, few people could imagine the extent of the impact on the economy, family and jobs.
“I couldn’t go to work. And after a couple weeks, I got furloughed. And due to the lack of business, because we supply the businesses that were effected, the business went under. So now I don’t have a job,” said Leslie Stingley.
Her story is similar to many. Stingley said her husband was one of the first 300 people to get COVID-19 in the state. She lost her job, but she still had to find a way to provide for her family.
“There ain’t a lot of jobs hiring. So I’m going to try and do something for myself.”
Stingley has worked in the food industry for years. So she took what she knew and started “Homestead by the Brambles.”
“I’m primarily making bread and syrups. I make this really good white bread that you can slice up for sandwiches. I make this Italian herb loaf. And then I’ve been doing zucchini bread, because I’ve got a garden and my zucchini are massive. I’m sick of eating it, and I have a freezer full,” explained Stingley.
It’s not that easy to sell homemade goods. That’s where the Cottage Law comes in. It allows food entrepreneurs to operate small businesses under certain guidelines.
“We’re talking about foods that are perfectly safe. They comply with federal guidelines. They’re labeled. We’re talking about strawberries, jam and pickles,” said Jameson Taylor, Mississippi Center for Public Policy. “It’s an open door to these small business owners to take a risk on their dreams.”
There’s also something in the law for the state.
“What we’re doing is jump starting the economy. We know that small businesses are going to be the key to any kind of recovery. So we want to encourage Mississippi entrepreneurs to try out that idea that they have,” explained Taylor.
Gerry Ellis knows what success looks like. She owns Ellis Farms and has been in Cottage Foods since 2013. She said it started as a retirement hobby, but it’s now much more than that.
“It’s definitely grown our business quite a bit. It changes from year to year as people change and clients change, but it has definitely grown our business in the market industry,” said Ellis.
Stingley hopes to have similar success. For now, she’s trying to get her new business off the ground.