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Facebook key in launching local crafter’s business

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Eight years ago Nikki Steele was a happy, young working mother married to the love of her life, Mark. She had a 6-year-old daughter with another one on the way. Life was happy and comfortable and the family’s future was promising with two incomes — until it suddenly wasn’t. 

Steele arrived at work one morning and learned that she no longer had a job. No warning. No explanations. No severance package. 

“I was angry and very hurt at first. I was pregnant, and we relied on both incomes,” Steele said. “My husband is so positive and kept reminding me of  the benefits of being unemployed. He wanted me to stay home with the girls and kept reassuring me that he could support us just fine, but I wanted more than ‘just fine’ for them.”

Steele laughed and explained, “It really is silly and trivial, but I just loved dressing my girls up in big bows and boutique outfits. Those things can be expensive! So I got busy figuring out how to make things myself.”

One of Steele’s handmade boutique outfits.

She began with hair bows for her girls and posted a few pictures to her Facebook page. Suddenly, she had strangers contacting her about purchasing them for their own children. 

And just like that, Steele Designs was born. 

“The bows were a hit, and I realized I really enjoyed the work. So I started teaching myself how to make the cute boutique outfits that were so popular in the expensive children’s stores. Every time I took my girls out people commented about how cute they looked,” Steele said. 

She soon began selling those as well. 

As her girls grew and no longer wanted the boutique clothes as much, Steele began making other products. She has taught herself how to make T-shirts, blankets, mugs, cups, keychains and car decals among many other items. 

She credits her husband for allowing her to pursue crafting.  “Mark has always been my number one supporter,” she said. “He just goes along with all of my ideas and happily does anything I need him to. Even when my crafting supplies took over every room in our house, he never complained.” 

A Steele Designs creation.

The Steeles have recently purchased a larger home to accommodate Nikki’s growing business with Mark turning a large room into Steele Designs’ headquarters. 

Steele took a break from many of her products when COVID-19 hit. “I focused on just making masks for a few months in the beginning of the pandemic,” she said. “I probably made over 2,000 masks.” 

She donated most of those. 

“A profit margin is not even a concern when something like COVID-19 happens. Those are the times that the most important thing is neighbors taking care of neighbors.”

That kind of thinking is a large part of the reason Steele Designs is thriving in a time when many small, locally owned businesses are in trouble. 

Brandi Boyd met Steele when she was tasked with choosing and ordering the yearly school spirit T-shirts for the faculty, staff and students of Agape Montessori Christian Academy. 

“I’d already been admiring these cute, colorful T-shirts I was seeing everyone on Facebook wearing, and we (members of the Parent Teacher Organization) knew we wanted to buy locally if we could,” Boyd said. “I asked around and was put in touch with Nikki Steele. She met with us, helped us put our motto into a cute design and then shocked us all with an incredible price. She even donated cute, matching  face masks for all of our faculty and staff.”

As far as employees go, Steele Designs may soon have its first new hire. Steele’s younger daughter, Hannah Claire, has begun taking an interest in mom’s business. 

A customizable ornament.

“She loves helping me and, of course, I love spending that quality time with her. She’s even been coming up with her own ideas for products,” Steele said. “She was on Pinterest or YouTube and saw someone making these hollow, edible balls that people were using to make hot chocolate. She keeps me hopping coming up with different ideas for flavors. We’ve pretty much perfected them now, so I’m going to let her begin selling those.”

Steele’s next goal is completing a website to showcase all of her products. “The problem is I’m always coming up with new ideas, and I get sidetracked working to perfect my techniques,” she said. “I call it ‘crafter’s brain.’ It never stops.”

For now, Steele’s products and designs can be seen and ordered through her Facebook pages, Nikki Steele and Steele Designs

 

  • One of Steele Designs t-shirts available for purchase

  • a customizable ornament

  • One of Steele's handmade boutique outfits.

  • A Steele Designs creation.

People

Josh Morgan wins the VDN Head Coach of the Year award

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VDN Head Coach of the Year Josh Morgan (photo by Ced Tillman)

Warren Central High School football coach Josh Morgan is the Vicksburg Daily News Head Coach of the Year.

Morgan played football at Warren Central in the late 1990s under his father Robert Morgan. He eventually committed to play football at Mississippi State University where he was a star safety and named to the All SEC team in 2001.

Morgan began coaching at the University of Memphis in 2004 as a graduate assistant before returning to Warren Central in 2006 to be the Vikings’ defensive coordinator.

In 2010, Morgan was named as the Vikings’ head coach after the retirement of Curtis Brewer.

Morgan struggled in his first two years as head coach. The team went 2-9 in 2010 and 1-10 in 2011. He broke through in 2012, when the Vikings their first playoff appearance under his leadership.

Morgan and the Vikings have made it to the playoffs each year since 2012, and this year marked his ninth consecutive season making it to the postseason.

The Vikings had a 9-3 record this season, and made it to the second round of the playoffs. They finished with the best record out of the four high schools in Vicksburg.

Morgan is the second coach to win the VDN Coach of the Year award after Vicksburg Junior High Coach Larry Carter Jr. won it last year.

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Business

Shandell Lewis opens an online home accessory store

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Shandell Lewis (photo courtesy S. Lewis)

Vicksburg native Shandell Lewis has started an online company where she sells various home and kitchen accessories, including luxury candles, room sprays and wax melts.

Lewis started organizing A Touch of Magnolia six months ago ad is excited about selling products that have helped her along the way. In college, she was diagnosed with severe anxiety but the aroma of certain scented candles helped bring her peace during difficult times. Now, Lewis sees A Touch of Magnolia becoming a great success as she spreads her love of aromatherapy to others.

“I want to go as far as God wants me to, and I want to put Mississippi on the map,” Lewis said.

A Touch of Magnolias is in the beginning stages of the business, and the store will have a soft opening online Nov 30.

Lewis is a 2011 graduate of Warren Central High School and graduated from Tougaloo College in 2016 with a degree in psychology. She received her master’s in school counseling from the University of Mississippi in 2018 and currently works as a high school counselor.

Lewis is grateful to her family for her success over the years.

“I come from a family of carpenters, business and home owners,” she said, “and we are all used to using our hands.”

To find out more about A Touch of Magnolia, visit the store on Facebook, Instragram or on its website.

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Claiborne County sheriff appointed the first female chief deputy in the county

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Standing is Sheriff Edward “Moose” Goods, who is pictured with his Chief Deputy, Christy Sykes (photo courtesy Port Gibson Sheriff's Department)

Story by Emma Crisler, editor, The Port Gibson Reveille

As 2020 arrived and both county and city boards met for the first time Jan. 6, not only were there new people sitting in every supervisors’ seat in the Matt Ross Building in Claiborne County, but changes had come to people working for the county as well.

In the sheriff’s department, not only was Sheriff Edward Goods the new sheriff but the chief deputy also had changed. The sheriff had selected Christy Sykes, the first woman chief deputy in Claiborne County.

Goods and Sykes had several connections including that they attended the Law Enforcement Academy together. They also worked together for 13 years at Alcorn State University.

As the Sheriff stated, he had observed her intelligence and noted the training courses she had passed, many of which would be useful if she were hired in his department.

“Chief Deputy Christy Sykes is the backbone of my department,” Goods said. “I’m the politician.” But most of all “I can trust her — a very important matter.

Chief Deputy Sykes

Sykes will receive her fourth degree from Alcorn State University later this month in athletic administration and compliance. Earlier, she earned degrees in criminal justice, workforce education, and an athletic management degree covering health, votec and technology.

She is the wife of Robert Sykes and the mother of three children, a daughter and two sons ranging in age from 6 to 16. Her parents are Harry and Shirley Williams (deceased).

Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department

The chief deputy said she interviewed for a job locally and put together a portfolio. She intended to keep her job at Alcorn and take on a job at the sheriff’s department, not knowing that Sheriff Goods was going to pick her as his chief deputy. As it turned out, she had also worked under former Sheriff Frank Davis when he worked as chief of police at Alcorn, and she knew some of the Claiborne County deputies from Alcorn.

Since she began her job, Sykes said they had dealt with some cases that were left over from the previous administration. There were also a few murders, petty crimes, cyberbullying and more domestic abuse that might be caused by the pandemic.

“But crime is down right now,” she said.

Sykes sees a few differences between her earlier law enforcement jobs and the one she has now.

At Alcorn, there were long hours to handle big events such as football game days, she said, but now, “I’m on call all the time.”

She added that people in law enforcement need to have their job in their hearts — some might call it complete dedication.

Fifteen deputies work full time or part time in the sheriff’s office with a “great auxillary,” she said.

During this first year, Sykes said they are trying to do things differently, especially on the technical side. They want to use computers to record everything instead of hand writing every action they take on a case.

She also mentioned bringing the 911 system up to date as an essential project.

Communication skills are also important.

“People will listen if you talk to them, and they will do what you ask of them,” she said. Keeping your ears open is also vital.

“Mrs. Sykes likes to be in the background,” Sheriff Goods said, but according to Sykes, “I can come out when needed.”

“I like to empower people, and I want to show this community that a female can do this job,” Goods said.

We wish Chief Deputy Christy Sykes much success in her important job working for Sheriff Goods and hope both will maintain their jobs keeping Claiborne County safe for a long time to come.


A version of this story appeared in The Port Gibson Reveille newspaper, and is reprinted here with permission.

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