STARKVILLE, Miss., March 6, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- B.J. Cougle was working for a small pharmacy chain in Starkville, Mississippi, when a major chain bought out the only hometown pharmacy.
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After years of working for large chains and wishing he could bring the personal touch back to pharmacies, Mr. Cougle and his wife, Jennifer, recognized that this was their opportunity to start their own business.
Their motto – "Let our family take care of yours," is their competitive edge, and what led them to open BJ's Family Pharmacy in May 2013.
The full-service pharmacy, located within Starkville, Mississippi's historic Drew Depot on Jackson Street, also provides immunizations, over-the-counter medications, and other retail items.
Mr. and Mrs. Cougle serve as the pharmacists, and they also employ a senior technician.
"Walgreens decided to buy out and close the only pharmacy here in Starkville," Mr. Cougle said. "When that happened, we felt it was an opportunity for us to open our own store."
The couple worked with the small business development center at Mississippi State University to develop a business plan. They then found a location within the old train depot.
The Cougles received assistance with their start-up costs through a specialized grant program offered by Planters Bank & Trust Company and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas). The Cougles received a loan from Planters Bank & Trust Company, which was funded by a favorably priced Economic Development Program (EDP) advance from FHLB Dallas. They also received an accompanying $23,550 EDPPlus grant from FHLB Dallas.
Mr. Cougle learned of the program through another pharmacist who had also received an EDPPlus grant.
"My wife has a great personal relationship with the folks at Planters Bank & Trust in Greenville. I called them and asked if this was something we could qualify for," said Mr. Cougle. "We used the funds to assist with start-up costs.
The couple did a small amount of remodeling and purchased a significant amount of hardware, including computers, countertops, and shelving. They also had substantial initial inventory costs.
"The grant was a tremendous help to us," Mr. Cougle said. "Number one, just being able to count on nearly $25,000 made a big impact. It was something we didn't have to borrow and that extra money helped us with our operating cash flow."
Although Mr. Cougle had not had a banking relationship with Planters Bank & Trust prior to applying for the grant, he was impressed with the level of service the bank provided.
"They were fantastic. They were super professional, but very approachable and friendly," he said. "I really couldn't have asked for more. They did all the work for us."
Planters Bank & Trust Company Vice President Parker England said BJ's Family Pharmacy was an ideal candidate for the program.
"Planters Bank & Trust was fortunate enough to assist another local pharmacy in Greenville with the EDP and EDPPlus, and it was a great success," Mr. England said. "We saw BJ's Pharmacy as another opportunity to extend this grant to help him get his business up and running. And seeing his work ethic, we felt he'd be quite successful."
Planters Bank & Trust Company has used the EDP and EDPPlus programs for a number of years, primarily for two reasons – the ease of the program and the benefit to the customer, Mr. England said.
"Obviously, a grant program means free money, and any type of free money gives a new business a chance to get on their feet quicker," he said. "It's also an easy program to work with. As long as customers have their business plans together and their paperwork in order, it doesn't take a lot of work to apply for the grant. The ease of access is one of the big advantages. We appreciate the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas and the support we get from them that enables us to go into the community, do some good, and create opportunities for more businesses to open.
For the Cougles, owning their own pharmacy has been challenging, but rewarding.
"We've been really fortunate. We're a long way from where we want to be, but we're still in a good position," Mr. Cougle said. "We've had all the challenges that go along with opening your own business...all the mistakes you make...but it's been fun to really get to know our customers."
The Cougles' future plans are a lot of the same – building their customer base and reaching out to long-term care facilities in town to assist in any way they can. After the first of the year, they plan to hire another technician.
"One of our biggest surprises has been how well our pharmacy has been received by the community," he said. "We can't compete with some of the big box chains on the hours or number of locations. We can't always compete on price, but one thing we have the opportunity to do consistently is personally reach out to people, and that has been the key to our success."
About the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas
The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas is one of 12 district banks in the FHLBank System created by Congress in 1932. FHLB Dallas, with total assets of $30.2 billion as of December 31, 2013, is a member-owned cooperative that supports housing and community development by providing competitively priced loans and other credit products to approximately 900 members and associated institutions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas. For more information, visit the FHLB Dallas website at fhlb.com.
The photo is also available via AP PhotoExpress.
CONTACT: Corporate Communications Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas www.fhlb.com (214) 441-8445
Source:Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas