Never ever in a million years would I have guessed that I would be a small business owner living in Jackson, Tennessee. I am one of the most shy people you will ever meet. That ambitious entrepreneur spirit is in me, but growing up, it wasn’t readily apparent, even to me. My husband, on the other hand, always knew he would work for himself and probably stay here in Jackson. Both of our grandparents owned their own businesses, and their examples shaped our lives.
When I think of Jackson, I think of my family. Our ties to Jackson go back as far as I can work my way through our family tree. My grandparents lived on Boone Lane. My grandmother was a Boone. She lived her whole life on the same land where she was born and raised. My grandfather grew up “in town” on Orleans Street. He loved to tell stories about how he would hop on the back of a train so that he could get to her house in the country and visit her. They were married while he was on leave from the army during World War II before he shipped out to India. They eventually started a family, a career in politics, and a successful plumbing business.
It is so nice to know the history of a place in such an intimate way that everywhere you go you feel a sense of connection. For example, if I take my family to eat downtown at Dixie Castle, I remember that it is the restaurant where my grandparents had their first date in the 1940s and also where I worked my first job in the 1990s, fifty years later.
My life has come full circle in a way. I always wanted to get out of Jackson—and I did. I have lived in Memphis, Tennessee; Rexburg, Idaho; and Mission Viejo, California. I loved living near the mountains in Idaho, taking road trips to Yellowstone, or feeling like a local because I knew where to find the best beaches in Orange County. I had earned the right to call myself a Californian after commuting to L.A. on the 405 for two years to attend UCLA. I gave myself a two-hour window to travel the sixty miles to school, but there were many times it would take as long as three or four hours. After finishing grad school and having a child, I was ready to come home. The commute coupled with the recession in 2008 were wearing me down, and I didn’t know what the future would hold, but I knew I wanted to get back to my roots.
I took a job at the Jackson-Madison County Public Library downtown, and it’s a good thing that I did. That’s where I met my husband; he was doing the IT work for the library at the time. A few years later, he hired me to work with him at his grandfather’s company. We worked together a few more years, and then we took the leap and started our own business, Borden Technology. Looking back, so many things fell into place for us in such a miraculous way. We have been in business six years now, and the library is still one of our clients.
I can’t imagine a better town to start a small business. It is scary to venture into the unknown with no clue of what will come of your effort. Self-employment is not for the weak of heart; it takes grit, determination, and the pain of learning hard lessons as you go. Thankfully we have clients who are genuinely good people doing amazing things every day, and we are blessed to support them and work alongside them.
When my husband and I consider how Jackson itself has contributed to our success as small business owners, we keep coming back to the idea of community. Jackson is home. It was an easy decision to start a business here. We love our city and are really excited about where it is going. There are a lot of existing, new, and growing businesses in our town that need reliable IT support and service. One of the things we love most about our jobs is watching these local businesses evolve and to be a part of their success. The way most people do business in Jackson, as far as the level of trust and respect that they typically extend you—even if it’s a new client—is a valuable thing. Sometimes that warmth or connection isn’t there to the same extent when working in bigger cities or with larger companies. Working for clients in Jackson who you share so much with makes the job more personal and more rewarding.
Also, as far as IT infrastructure, we are incredibly fortunate to have municipally run Fiber Internet service. Most people don’t realize how lucky we are. Having Gigabit Internet speeds is rare in communities across America. And what makes our situation in Jackson even better is that it is run by our local utility company who offers affordable prices. Even many larger cities don’t have a fraction of the speed, not to mention the customer service, and prices that aren’t insane. This is a major asset to our community and makes our jobs so much easier. Jackson is truly at an advantage because running a business in the more rural areas around us is challenging due to the lack of the same opportunities.
Jackson also has resources like the Chamber and theCO that offer workshops, events, and programs like Leadership Jackson that bring together a community of people who genuinely want to make an impact. We are involved with a program through the Chamber that connects local businesses with schools, ours being JCM Early College High. We get to help bright and ambitious teenagers learn to code, create amazing things, and think about their futures. Some of the students we have mentored have even gone to San Francisco as an award for their work in web design. We are blown away by these kids every time we interact with them. I hope many of them go off to do great things, and I hope many of them stay here to do the same.
As a parent, the success of schools like JCM-ECH is a hopeful reminder that the future is bright. I can’t imagine a better place to raise my family. We are surrounded by so much more than I realized when I was a teenager who wanted to see the world. Jackson is a wonderful place to live and work. We are lucky to have schools like Community Montessori where I know my kids are getting an excellent education; it’s even within walking distance from our house in midtown, which also happens to be only a few houses down from my childhood home. I actually know most of my neighbors and spend time with them instead of treating them as strangers; we look out for each other, our kids play together, and we support each other. It doesn’t get any better than that!
At the end of the day, whether for our business, family, or community, Jackson is home, and it always will be.
Beth Borden has been doing IT work for eight years. She has Bachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University and a Master’s degree in Library and Information Sciences from University of California, Los Angeles. She worked for two years as a Reference Librarian at the Jackson Madison County Library, and for two years as an IT technician at Modern Telephone and then left to start Borden Technology with her husband, Jonathan, in 2012. She is a 2016 graduate of Leadership Jackson, a member of the Imagination Library Board, and a member of the Leadership Jackson Alumni Board.
Jonathan Borden has been doing IT work in the West Tennessee area for over twelve years. He is a graduate of University School of Jackson and has a Bachelor of Science degree from Tennessee Technology University in Computer Science with an emphasis on Computer Programming. His has experience as a programmer, systems administrator, IT technician, as well as experience in the field of Telephony. He worked as a technician at Modern Telephone for eight years. He enjoys working with youth as a Partner in Education at JCM-Early College High, and is an avid cyclist.