Born in Laurel, Miss., David Hudson did not grow up living a life of luxury. He did, however, grow up learning about the dynamics of business and economics, starting 12 successful businesses in four decades. The international business developer who is now the director of Tennessee Small Business Development Center in Cleveland said the agency is dedicated to helping entrepreneurial men and women realize their dream of starting a new business.
“We will not only give you the information you need to get your business up and running, we will stay with you and help it grow,” he said. All of the services we provide are at no cost to you and your business information is kept in strictest confidence.”
Hudson, who has a masters in business administration from Tulane University in New Orleans and a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Colorado, worked 10 years for Dole, the world’s largest producer and marketer of fresh fruit and vegetables. He was the manager of operations in Costa Rica, Ecuador and the Philippines.
“I also ran a $50 million brewery in soft drinks in Honduras as the general manager there,” he said. “I went from there to the Philippines, then from the Philippines to Ecuador — I was operations manager there — but I always wanted to have my own business.”
In 1975, Hudson started up the first dry cleaners in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. When he left he sold his share to his partner and ventured into other businesses. He said his most enjoyable, however, was the shrimping business.
“I went in it with the idea of raising shrimp in ponds,” he said. “Ecuador is where shrimp farming really got started. These were large expanses of big ponds with little bitty shrimp that you grow out big enough to sell. We had to hire a marine biologist who ran the shrimp part of it. It intrigued me. So I started putting a business plan together to start a shrimp farm.”
Hudson said he left Dole in 1985 and returned to Mississippi to get investors. He then moved to Guatemala and worked at an investment bank for a short time while putting his project together.
“I got the investors together and bought the farm — about 1,200 acres,” Hudson recalls. “We bought the machinery and everything. I went back to Mississippi, got on the plane in New Orleans to go back to Guatemala and this real pretty looking lady sat next to me.”
Hudson laughed. “It was all over,” he said, regarding their instant attraction. He and Marisol married the following year, in 1986, and lived what he calls “a comfortable living” in Guatemala for the next 10 years.
“Marisol and I had managed an office staff of 12 people with 300 employees working on the farm,” Hudson said. “I also built a two-story house on the beach of the Pacific Coast and spent three nights a week there for 10 years. We had 400 head of cattle and sold beef. In the meantime, I got into several smaller businesses there.”
According to Hudson, he exported vegetables, dried flower and ornamental plants from Gautemala. He also grew and exported ornamental furns as well as 300 acres of corn.
“I also had a Coca Cola distributorship in a rural area of Guatemala,” he said. “That included a big warehouse in the back with between six or eight trucks.”
From 1996-1999, Hudson was general manager for Central America’s largest furniture manufacturing company, Derivados de Madera in Honduras, with annual sales of $7 million and 550 employees. Still, Hudson admits the shrimping business was his favorite venture, exporting about a million pounds of shrimp a year at its peak and becoming the most productive shrimp-growing operation in Central America, achieving sales of $4 million. Later, Hudson felt it was time to move on.
“I started looking for a buyer for my shrimp farm,” he said. “I now had 100 acres outside the city with a mountian cabin about 8,000 feet altitude and a 3,000 acre farm where I planted 1,000 acres of pine trees. Guatemala is a beautiful place with beautiful people. You can get into a business with less capitol there. We still love it there.”
Upon returning to the states to be with their two sons who are now in medical and law school, Hudson started four different automotive repair businesses — three AAMCO transmission franchises and one Meineke Car Care franchise. Still, Hudson admits his motivation has never been in making money, but in starting businesses, something he has a proven track-record for.
Now that he is the director of Tennessee Small Business Development Center located on the Cleveland State Community College campus, Hudson said he and his staff are prepared to offer their advise and resources to anyone interested in starting their own business.
“One of the greatest satisfactions here is that you’re able to talk with people who have great ideas,” Hudson said. “They are really great people who can help you by using the experience we have and even help them avoid errors that we made in the past and help them onto the right path to make their business a success. That’s satisfying.”
He said he is fortunate to have so much support from Dr. Carl Hite, president of Cleveland State, and Dr. Thomas Wright, vice president of finance and administration at Cleveland State.
When asked about his most rewarding venture, Hudson, said in 1989, he planted pine trees on 1,000 acres of bush and brush and after 15 years “it changed the whole ecosystem,” he said. “After we planted those pine trees there was more water and wild life running through there. That’s something we did for the earth.”
David and Marisol said they are proud of their sons Mitchell, who is in medical school, and William who is in law school. The success of the Hudson family can be traced back to an emphasis on starting and executing a business plan.
“We can also help you with that,” said Hudson, who took four years of French and is fluent in Spanish. “We enjoy helping people start businesses and our goal is to help you succeed.”
For further information about the Small Business Development Center, call 423-478-6247 or 1-800-604-2722 ext. 247. Send emails to: firstname.lastname@example.org