**This story is an update to our original story “Mississippi Business Still Cleaning Up After 46 Years

After almost 50 years devoted to the coatings industry, Mississippi entrepreneur Earl Washington proactively initiated succession planning in 2023 for his business, U.S. Coating Specialties & Supplies.

Washington, the 78-year-old CEO of the Jackson, Mississippi-based business, offered insight into why he believes the present moment is ideal for transitioning leadership and securing the ongoing success of his company.

“I’m 78 now. I don’t care how good you feel. Everybody has a time,” Washington said. “When you start to feel tired, you know your time is coming to an end. I’ve been working to be proactive instead of reactive. I love what I have been doing and going out when it’s on top, hey, that’s the best time to move on, right?”

Washington’s strong work ethic has been evident from the start, transitioning from a long tenure as a truck driver to entrepreneurship in 1977 when he founded U.S. Coating as a janitorial supply company. Adapting to evolving customer demands, he expanded services to include waxing and coating, with coating emerging as a primary focus over time.

Today, Mississippi entrepreneur Washington’s company, U.S. Coating Specialties & Supplies, stands as a recognized leader in providing industrial and commercial chemicals, equipment, janitorial supplies, and paper products. The company’s reputation extends to its prowess as an award-winning contractor of large, complex, and fast-track projects, serving diverse sectors such as manufacturing, military, retail, recreational, institutional, and healthcare facilities.

Earl Washington with Glenda Johnson and Dr. Marnell Love
Earl Washington, CEO U.S. Coating Specialties & Supplies, Inc., poses with Communities Unlimited's Glenda Johnson and Dr. Marnell Love

In a recent move, Washington capitalized on the company’s value by selling U.S. Coating to a minority buyer for millions of dollars, far exceeding his asking price. Delighted by the opportunity, the longtime owner couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome.

“This was the right timing,” Washington said. “The opportunity was so great. It was a win-win situation. It was for all of us.”

Mississippi entrepreneur Washington encountered challenges despite U.S. Coating’s considerable revenue. Initially seeking success through a loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA), he was directed to Communities Unlimited (CU) and the Lending Team, including Area Director Debra Williams.

With CU’s assistance, including guidance from Dr. Marnell Love and Dale Rutherford of the Entrepreneurship Team, U.S. Coating secured a small business loan. The Arkansas Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) operated by Communities Unlimited and Entrepreneurship Teams then collaborated with Washington to develop an eWealth Health plan aimed at enhancing the value of his business.

The Arkansas MBDA and CU Entrepreneurship Teams pinpointed cash flow issues within U.S. Coating. During the engagement, CU offered various services, including consulting, analysis of historical financial data, projections, debt capacity assessment, industry benchmarking, and business evaluation. Additionally, CU assisted in crafting financial notes and assumptions to complement the data, all aimed at effectively resolving the issues.

Within a couple of days of getting the loan, Washington leveraged those funds into a sizable contract. One contract led to another and within six months, under Washington’s leadership with increased funding, U.S. Coating had a slew of contracts that totaled millions of dollars. That significantly boosted the company’s value before its eventual sale for a substantial amount.

“Mr. Washington is a special character. He’s the kind of person you would almost want to pay to work with because he's so much fun and so dedicated to what he does. He works harder than any young person that I know. Even at his age, his skills are tremendous. His ability to run a business is on point. He just needed that little bit of financial help.”

— Dr. Marnell Love, Area Director, CU Entrepreneurship

Initially hesitant to engage with Love and the Entrepreneurship team, Mississippi entrepreneur Washington’s reservations stemmed from a desire for a straightforward loan process without business consultation. However, after a chance encounter at a mutual function, Love and Washington found common ground in their shared values and perspectives on life and work.

This personal connection fostered a natural rapport, leading to a seamless collaboration that ultimately produced favorable results.

“We clicked and started talking business,” Love said. “It was natural. We became associates. I would even say friends. It was easy for us to get along and just work together and develop a great outcome.”

Love highlighted Washington’s remarkable success story as a prime example of someone who has benefited from the eWealth Health initiative.

“We’re always looking to help people wherever we can,” Love said. “However, this was a unique situation, and it happens to a lot of businesses. Sometimes they get in a pinch, and they need a little help to get out of it. In this case, this grand old gentleman was Mr. Washington. He’s filled with wisdom and sayings and different tidbits of information that’s possibly helped life become better. He’s a positive person and he just doesn’t believe that there’s an end to the road as long as you have breath to keep going.”

Washington is currently dedicating his time to making a smooth transition for the new owner and his staff, assisting by connecting them with industry contacts and promising opportunities. Among these connections, Washington introduced the new owner to CU. U.S. Coating’s collaboration with CU will continue even after Washington’s retirement.

“I am proud of the company I built,” Washington said. “I will continue to promote it and make sure it’s in the right hands. I will remain highly involved in my charity and community. At some point, I want to go visit different parts of the world. I am trying to do all that.”

Following the sale of his company, Mississippi entrepreneur Washington penned a statement to CU, praising the team for their instrumental role in his journey to success.

“A lot of people promise you stuff, and they don’t do it. They hold you, hold you, and hold you, but when you’re in business and you need funds, you need them now. Communities Unlimited did what they said they would do, which made all the difference in the world. With the knowledge, the experience they have, you can always get access to them. Communities Unlimited is like a coach. They not only accept the player, but they coach you to be a good player. They are magical. I was blessed to find somebody like them.”

Earl Washington

— Earl Washington, former owner, U.S. Coating specialties & Supplies

Love wasn’t sure Washington anticipated the sale of the company to be such a resounding success but affirmed he was happy with the outcome. Love extended well wishes to Washington for his future endeavors, as well as to the new owner of U.S. Coatings.

“We’re always here to lend a helping hand,” Love said. “If Mr. Washington knows of another business or businesses that need help, send them to us. That’s what we do.”

“For others looking to get involved in wealth building, be open,” Love said. “Listen to advice. Try something different. Wealth building is an ongoing process that you must build and take the time to nurture. You must feed it. You must water it. Dedicate regular time—to financial management and future planning. That’s how you build success.

“When you come to Communities Unlimited, we’re going to tell you some things that you have never heard before, but don’t dismiss it. Just try it and see what happens. Collectively, we have 325 years of experience. We’ve successfully assisted small businesses for 25 years. Our Entrepreneurship Team is the best-kept secret in the South.”

CU’s eWealth Health Initiative

CU prioritizes racial equity by offering tailored support to business owners of color. Instead of traditional lending, CU provides personalized technical assistance, addressing barriers to growth and offering problem-solving help when needed. Our eWealth Health initiative takes a “Whole Person” approach, focusing on building relationships and wealth-building capacity for entrepreneurs of color.

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