Hattiesburg woman becomes first female owner of local business
PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - March is Women’s History Month, and one local woman is making strides in a historically male-dominated industry.
Julie Breazeale is now the third-generation owner of Polk’s Meat Products.
“We are in probably 99 out of 100 local grocers in Mississippi,” said Breazeale, who is the CEO of the company. “We deliver to all of those stores ourselves. We are in several of the Walmart warehouses and Sam’s warehouses.”
She’s the first female in the company’s over 50-year history to take the lead position.
“I went to Southern Miss, got my degree there, and then immediately went to work for the family business and worked my way up through the different levels of working in sales, and then in production, and in-plant management, and even in summers before I started working there, I worked on the actual line with everyone,” Breazeale said. “So, I knew it literally from the ground up.”
Breazeale took over as CEO for her father, John Polk, after he became a Mississippi State Senator in 2016.
“He realized that I was ready and so, I just took it from there,” Breazeale said.
But she says she had her eyes set on the job long before then.
“It’s just always been something that I knew I wanted to do,” Breazeale said. “And it’s not that I have always wanted to be in the meat business, but I knew I wanted to be a leader.”
And it wasn’t the easiest journey.
“This is definitely a male-dominated industry by far,” Breazeale said. “When I first started in my 20s, my dad took me to my first equipment auction and there were cowboy hats... It was in Texas, there were cowboy hats everywhere. And here I am this little, you know, girl 20-year-old walking into a room and everybody looks and then ignores me. And then slowly over time, everybody quit ignoring me and started listening to things I had to say.”
Breazeale says through her new position, she wants her daughter to realize she’s capable of anything.
“I just want her to know that anything is possible, and she has all these big dreams,” Breazeale said.
She also has this message for any females wanting to be in the top spot.
“Just keep going and be the loudest one,” Breazeale said. “Don’t... don’t give up. When somebody tells you no, there’s always somebody else. I was told ‘no’ quite a bit through this process. But I just kept going and finally found somebody that was willing to give me a chance.”
Polk’s Meat Products was started in 1969 by Julie’s grandfather, Milton Polk.
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