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Cue the Spotlight on Mississippi’s Top Entrepreneurs of 2022

Right to left: Janita Stewart, Nelson Haskin, Mark Scott, Lisa Cochran, Lesia Daniel Hollingshead, William Daniel, Jr., Ashlei Donerson. Courtesy of the Small Business Administration of Mississippi

As the year comes to an end, the future of business leadership in the Magnolia State looks bright thanks to several outstanding Mississippi entrepreneurs.

And the Small Business Association of Mississippi has taken notice of several outstanding leaders and recognized them as the state’s top small business entrepreneurs of 2022.

Janita R. Stewart, Small Business Association of Mississippi District Director, said shining a light on these hardworking Mississippians is exciting, especially the 2022 Small Business Administration Persons of the Year, Lesia Daniel Hollingshead and William Walter Daniel Jr., who are co-owners of Funtime Afterschool of Clinton, Inc. in Clinton.

“I love knowing the daily work we do changes the trajectory of children’s lives,” Daniel said. “We know that high-quality care has a huge impact on children’s social and emotional development, as well as academic success.”

Hollingshead credited SBA’s COVID-19 programs for helping to keep their three facilities’ doors open during the pandemic challenges in 2020. They were able to maintain the operation of the childcare facilities amid increased overhead and day-to-day operational costs.

Nelson Haskin Jr. and his impressive string of restaurants on Front Street in Hattiesburg, the heart of the city’s downtown entertainment district, were tapped as the 2022 SBA Minority Small Business Champion.

Haskin owns the Blu Jazz Café, Southbound Bagel and Coffee Shop, Nellie’s Chicken and Daiquiris, and Hattiesburgers and Blues.

“Two things we love in the south are fried chicken and frozen drinks,” Haskin said. “Our key to success is being prepared to serve our customers at a high level, use the best products available, keep our restaurants clean, and be nice to everyone. Downtown is becoming a weekend destination. Therefore, our customer base is in the range of William Carey and Southern Miss students, people who live in the downtown area, travelers, and people from West Hattiesburg and Petal.”

Lisa Cochran, owner of The Studio, LLC in Hattiesburg and Laurel, and founder of Dwell, a non-profit organization dedicated to women in recovery is the 2022 SBA Women Business Champion of the Year.

“I have a heart for women who are in recovery or who have been abused,” Cochran said. “I think we view abused women as being poor, maybe in a different economic category than the middle and upper class. But women of all economic levels can experience these problems. As I have seen in my business as a stylist, we know people’s stories. People will confide in a stylist before family.”

Candace Chambers, Ph.D., CEO of Educational Writing Services, LLC, in Pearl, was named 2022 SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. The 29-year-old works with professionals helping write resumes, cover letters, human resources proposals, and business plans. She also helps high school students develop their college admissions and scholarship essays.

“For both populations of professionals and students, it is important for them to communicate effectively,” Chambers said. “I think a person’s writing has to be developed to convey their message to their intended audience clearly. After grad school, I saw there was a need for more community-based literacy and writing instruction. I like that I can work with a wide range of professionals and can also help high school students go to the next level in college. Therefore, I can use this avenue of writing to help people move forward in life.”

A good entrepreneur works hard and is dedicated to his or her profession and these leaders are continuing to set goals to not only achieve their dreams of success and glory but to build a better Mississippi through entrepreneurship.


Written by Cherie Ward

Cherie Ward is an award-winning Mississippi Gulf Coast journalist with decades of experience in writing and photography. She lives in Ocean Springs with her husband and has two adult children who also live on the Coast.

Connect with her by email at [email protected] with story ideas or find her @cherieward on Instagram. She would love to hear from you.


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