University Aims to Boost Family Businesses at Annual Symposium

Family business owners and employees invited to share challenges, solutions in open forum

Steve Grantham Jr., president of J&R Restaurant Group, speaks at the inaugural It’s All Relative Family Business Symposium in 2022 at Ole Miss. This year’s session, set for Sept. 14-15 in Flowood, will offer insights to small-business owners from across the state. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Family businesses will be the center of discussion during the second annual It’s All Relative Family Business Symposium, set for Sept. 14-15 in Flowood.

Hosted by the University of Mississippi Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the open forum will connect small business and family business owners and employees with industry experts. The event is slated for the Sheraton’s Refuge Hotel and Conference Center.

“After the resounding success of our inaugural family business symposium in Oxford, we are bringing even more family business owners to share their stories,” said Clay Dibrell, CIE co-director.

“The biggest challenge for a successful family business is adapting to changes in either their business or, more often, through the succession of the next generation of family business leaders to guide the company. Like anything, consistency and continuity are very difficult to achieve over an extended period, and it is even more complex when family is involved.”

Keynote speakers are Hu Meena, chairman and CEO of C Spire, who will offer insights on family business successes, and Justin Craig, visiting professor of family enterprise at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, who will discuss family business foundational structure and frameworks.

Participants network during a break at the inaugural It’s All Relative Family Business Symposium. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Other featured speakers such as Doug Hederman, president and CEO of Hederman Brothers, will discuss concerns and solutions to challenges facing family businesses. Case study topics include lessons learned from experienced leaders such as Oscar, Caleb and Elizabeth Ann Miskelly, of Miskelly Furniture, and the essentials needed to take a business to the next level and ensure continuity for future generations.

“Being a third-generation family member, we’re looking forward to expanding to our fourth generation,” said Amy Walker, Legacy Leadership Program Committee member and area sales manager for Ergon Asphalt & Emulsions Inc. The Ergon Foundation is a platinum sponsor for the event.

“There are so many different things going on in the world today, as the culture is always changing. It’s been interesting to see all of the different family businesses classes and events all over the United States – and to bring this back to Mississippi is exciting. We have something that is right here in our backyard to serve all the family businesses that we have here.”

Attendees at the two-day event can network with industry experts and gain insights to apply to their own businesses, Dibrell said.

“The It’s All Relative Family Business Symposium is about Mississippi family businesses learning the best practices; not only from globally recognized family business leaders, such as Dr. Justin Craig, but also from Mississippi family businesses who have encountered difficulties and come out of the other side stronger,” he said. “This year’s symposium is all about growing Mississippi family businesses into world-leading companies.”

The center’s mission is to provide Ole Miss students with knowledge, skills and experience necessary to create innovative companies that provide valuable services, products and employment. For more information on the symposium, email