Twenty-nine years ago, I was looking for a creative outlet as a stay-at-home mom. Since then, God has turned my hobby into a thriving enterprise.
When I was in high school, I thought I was going to be a rock star, but in 1968 God revealed to me that He had other plans. After graduating from the University of Mississippi, I taught school for a while and then stayed home after my second child was born.
I was happy and fulfilled with my family, but there was something missing—something I longed to do—something creative. I began to look for an outlet.
My search led me to begin “fooling around” with ceramics at my kitchen table. Soon my experimenting became an adventure, and I now have a company that manufactures hand-painted dinnerware and accessories in Ridgeland, Miss.—with 110 employees!
It was 1979 when I began pursuing my new career. In the 1980s I took a leap of faith and displayed my pottery at the Flea Market in Canton, Miss. Going into this experience, I reflected on Proverbs 3:5-6 and applied this passage to my situation, trusting in the Lord with all my heart and not relying on my own understanding. The result—success—and Gail Pittman Inc. was born.
By 1986 I had outgrown my work space at home, and my husband encouraged me to purchase an 1,800-square-foot building in Ridgeland as a studio. I read the book of Jeremiah for inspiration, memorizing Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” After only three months, our building was too small, and in February 1988, we moved into a 7,800-square-foot studio.
The Lord continued to bless me and my small staff, and in 1992 we moved into a new 26,000-square-foot factory in Ridgeland with an increased staff of 80 artisans. In 1994, Gail Pittman Inc. had the privilege of being named one of Inc. magazine’s 500 fastest-growing private companies. Then we expanded for the fifth time into more than 50,000 square feet in our factory.
How did we grow so quickly? What is the secret to our success? The “secret” is not really a secret at all: We submit everything to God. Every time we have to make a decision, whether it is related to design, personnel or a pending expansion, we pray about it as a company—and whatever God tells us to do, we do.
Also, I depend on God continually for wisdom to determine what is important and what isn’t. I want to keep my priorities straight, making certain my husband and children come before my work responsibilities.
In addition, I invest spiritually in my employees. I believe it is my Christian responsibility to afford them the very best possible opportunity to grow in their faith. For this reason, every Wednesday morning employees have the opportunity to attend a company Bible study that is led by Jim Doremus, one of the ministers from First Baptist Church of Jackson, Miss.
Everyone involved in our company is invited to attend, and for many, this Bible study is the highlight of their week. We sing, share joys, hurts, and prayer concerns, and go to God together.
Serving the community is also important to me and the employees at Gail Pittman Inc. We helped build a Habitat for Humanity House in Jackson and participated in the Salvation Army’s “Souper Sunday,” for which we donated soup bowls. We also helped raise funds for the Salvation Army and its local ministries.
Other than listening to God, following His directives, and caring for my family, employees and community, there are a few guidelines I’ve learned to follow through the years to help my business grow. These are the guidelines, or tips, I give others when they ask how I did it:
First of all, define what success is for you. Decide what you value, and set your goals accordingly. Keep in mind that the meaning of success is different for different people. You can’t set your business objectives by what others consider success.
Success can be defined in a variety of ways–from sales growth to employee retention to having a strong corporate culture. But don’t let money be your only measure of success. Many people who make a lot of money never feel satisfied with their professions.
Be True to Yourself
Be true to what you really believe. Pray about decisions, and ask God to help you make the right ones.
When I am facing a particularly difficult decision, I depend on my deepest held beliefs to guide me in my choice. I know I cannot compromise on certain principles, and that makes a lot of decisions easier.
Keep Your Passion
Keep the passion alive that got you started in business. This will help you stay focused.