Mississippi Entrepreneur Mildred Smith dedicated her career to serving as both a social worker and an adjunct professor at East Mississippi Community College until her retirement in 2022.

Smith, whose family has held the same expansive tract of land since the 1800s, resides in rural West Columbus, Mississippi. For 15 years preceding her retirement, she harbored a dream of constructing a quaint cottage behind her home. This cottage would serve as a welcoming haven for both immediate and extended family members, offering them the opportunity to stay overnight on her property.

“It’s all close in proximity to me,” Smith said. “My family likes to stay out here. They like to stay in the country.”

Smith soon recognized the potential for profitability in her idea and pivoted towards offering short-term rentals to the public. Motivated by this vision, she established a business named MelRon Special Events and made the decision to invest her retirement funds into the construction of a small house, named Jim & Noot’s Cottage.

MelRon Special Events provides a single short-term rental: a cozy 16×40 two-bedroom house featuring two baths, a convenient kitchenette, a TV, and all the essential amenities for a comfortable stay.

Located around oak and pine trees, Jim & Noot’s Cottage offers a countryside getaway. Smith says its setting makes it an ideal choice for visitors looking for a retreat, whether for business trips, relaxation, or attending events at nearby universities.

Smith was introduced to Communities Unlimited (CU) and the Entrepreneurship Team through her cousin and Area Director, Marnell Love. Love, having a familial connection, was unable to directly assist Smith with her business. Smith was paired with Area Director Brian Wells and Training Coordinator Latoyia Morgan for guidance and support.

CU closely collaborated with MelRon Special Events, going from ideation to startup. They developed financial projections and pricing strategies for her rental property. Wells advised on Airbnb rental and marketing.

Smith actively participated in CU’s webinars even while waiting on the construction of her cottage. She kept the team updated via email. Upon completion, CU assisted in setting up an Airbnb account where MelRon Special Events has achieved consistent bookings.

“Mildred had questions throughout our engagement process,” Morgan said. “We helped her answer those questions. We made sure she understood how to use Airbnb and the Wave accounting tool since those are primarily the tools she will be using. She was motivated to learn everything we asked her to do. She keeps moving forward with her business. We’re excited about where she’s at. We’ll continue to check in with her and make sure she’s doing well.”

Smith says she plans to build a second cottage at some point in the future.

“I see us growing,” Smith said. “On top of Airbnb, I’ve had flyers distributed into surrounding towns to get the word out. I see us being booked more and more.”

To say working with CU has been a positive experience for Smith would be an understatement.

“Communities Unlimited made my dream come true. They made my vision come to life. They were there for support. I felt them wanting to help me. It wasn't just a job for them. They want to help and improve people's lives. They walk with you through the business process. It’s like somebody has your hand walking with you.”

— Mildred Smith, Owner of MelRon Special Events