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Stepping out pays off

By By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
Feb. 18, 2001
Experience, good planning, desire and a little luck have all played a hand in Will Burrage's quest to start and run his own business.
Burrage, 36, has worked in the rent-to-own business since 1989. He came up with the idea of owning his own company, and today owns and operates Rent-A-Plex of Meridian. But while getting the business started, he learned turning dreams into reality is easier said than done.
A 1982 graduate of West Lauderdale High School, Burrage attended classes at Meridian Community College for a couple of semesters before going to work. Later, he was employed with the Howard Brothers retail store in the manager training program and OTASCO store at College Park Shopping Center. But both of those businesses closed.
A friend helped him get a job at Rent-A-Center driving a delivery truck. He did a good job, was successful and got into the management part of the business. After working for a couple of companies, he started thinking about going out on his own.
In 1995, Burrage went to see Doc Braswell, a small business consultant for Mississippi State University, whose office is at WEBB Hall on the Meridian Community College campus.
Burrage was forced to put the project on hold for the time being, but he didn't give up on the idea. He went back into managing a rent-to-own business with a group in California, and this time he paid a lot of attention to the financial end of the business.
He returned to Meridian in late 1998 a lot wiser and with a little money. He started talking with Braswell again and he set a goal to open his business by April 1, 1999.
Again, he approached the bank and was turned down. So he took his own money and started "Rent-A-Plex" in a small office with just a few electronic items.
Burrage approached Trustmark National Bank and talked with loan officer Steven Bass. Having been in business for five months and using his own money certainly helped his case.
With that money, Burrage increased his inventory to include both electronics and appliances. He was able to lease a better building with a better location, the old Pizza Hutt on Eighth Street.
And two years later, he's still there with three employees.
During the process of getting his business plan together, Burrage came up with his company's name and logo, which is an oval with the initials R.A.P. That stands for Rent-A-Plex, but he added, it also stands for "Respect All People."
Burrage said his goal is to turn his one store into a franchise across the state, targeting the rural areas.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at sswogetinsky@themeridianstar.com.

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