Mompreneurs…a family tale

by | Dec 1, 2009 | Features

There is an old business adage that says “men take charge while women take care.” But the business climate is changing. With women entrepreneurs running more companies than ever before, the new mantra is “women in charge take care.” Moreover, ‘Mompreneurs,’ female entrepreneurs with children under the age of 18, are leading the charge. 

New research funded by the National Women’s Business Council and Wal- Mart and conducted by the Center for Woman’s Business Research, reported in October 2009 that women owned firms is the US contribute nearly $3 trillion to the US Economy and create or maintain 23 million jobs, or 16% of the jobs in our nation.

For many of these businesses, family- friendly programs are strategic business practices. One successful River Valley company that takes this business philosophy to heart is Dail Specialties of Knoxville.

“Running a business is just like taking care of a family,” said Sherri Bullock, originator and former owner of Dail Specialties, a successful marine upholstery business. Bullock now runs the office for her daughters, Dayle Plummer and Lenell Beeman, who purchased the business five years ago.
Since then, Bullock’s daughters have expanded the family business, which employs 90% women. As ‘Mompreneurs’, all three women understand the struggles of juggling work and home. Plummer is mother to a 4th grader. Beeman also has a 4th grader, born on the same day at the same hospital in Russellville. Plummer, who took over as President, credits her mother with the company’s family friendly business philosophy.

Bullock started the company in 1987 when her husband, Royce Dail, owner of a nearby boat manufacturing company, bankrolled the start-up as a Christmas present for Bullock.
“I guess he figured it would give me something to do, said Bullock who moved here from Texas with her husband in 1986. At the time, Bullock had two daughters to take care of, so she brought them into the business.
At first my girls were “latch key kids and I couldn’t get involved with them as much as I wanted to, ” said Bullock. So, Bullock devised a plan where her youngest daughter, Lenell, could be with her before and after school, Plummer being away at college by this time. Instead of having Lenell picked up and dropped off at school, the bus brought her to and from the business, said Bullock.
These days, Plummer and Beeman also take their children to work with them. Their family-first policy extends to every employee, and not just for children but for grandchildren and other family members in need.
The family policy even extends to pets, a pot bellied pig being their most exotic family visitor. The pig, which was owned by Beeman, actually knew when it was break time and would grunt and bark like a dog when it was time for coffee and donuts, laughed Bullock.
The company also has a flexible work schedule so that an employee can take time off to care for a sick family member when necessary.

“If you work to help them, they work for you. Bend over for your employees, and they’ll reciprocate,” said Plummer.
Another sound business principle carried on from Bullock to her daughters is “making lemonade from lemons”.
In 1991, a few years after the business started in the “red barn” across the road from the current building, the “red barn” burned down under mysterious circumstances.
“The next day I had a meeting with vendors, and we set up to do business the following Monday at a shop in Clarksville,” said Bullock. “I never thought about doing anything else. Quitting was never a consideration.”
When business got slow in the marine industry, Bullock starting making various styles of water proof fabric bags and nine- pack coolers using fabric similar to that used on boat upholstery. In fact, Bullock’s business became so brisk, she became known in the area as the “bag lady”.
At other times, the company has made synthetic “chicken parts” out of vinyl to be used to demonstrate and test chicken processing machines and even made canopy pet beds. About the only thing the company doesn’t do is car and furniture upholstery, as the material used in making these is completely different (not waterproof), said Plummer.
Today, the company makes marine upholstery for Tracker Marine and other big-name boat makers, restaurant seating, exercise equipment upholstery and school bags. To accommodate their ever expanding business, the family also built a new 11,000 sq. ft. building last year.
“I’ve always been up for a good challenge,” said Bullock, regarding her decision to sell the business to her daughters. “I didn’t know how it was going to be, having my daughters be the boss, but it was always my dream to have my girls get into the business,” said Bullock. The new arrangement has worked out well, by all accounts.

As Plummer was describing the various products the company manufactured over the years, Bullock was busy rummaging around the office looking for some old brochures which Plummer designed while still in college. Eventually Bullock found the material and handed it to Plummer who exclaimed, “Mom, I can’t believe you still have that!”
Bullock simply replied, “Of course I could never throw this away. You made it. I still have your old report cards, too.” Sounds like something a ‘Mompreneur’ would say.

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