Georgia College Foundation Trustee Brenda Mason knows quite a bit about entrepreneurship. Brenda and her husband Harold started Mason Sales Company Inc. serving the forest products industry in 1982 in the corner of their family room with a typewriter, calculator, ledger book and some invoices. During the day, Harold visited customers. At night, Brenda invoiced orders and posted sales. Although apprehensive at first due to the risks associated with starting a business, after one year, the Masons rebuilt their savings that they used to start the business and purchased a building.
Through hard work and long hours, the Mason’s sales territory expanded to include the southeast. Considering this region was a prime market for pine in the 1980s, the business grew fast, so they expanded the building. Soon, more facets were added to the business including a saw refurbishment service and a sales force— the business thrived.
In 1989, the Masons entered into a partnership to start a second business known as Mason & Johnson Saw Company Inc. in Birmingham, Ala. The company manufactures band saws for the sawmill industry. In just a few years, the Masons became sole owners of the company and relocated Mason & Johnson Saw Company Inc. from Birmingham to Milledgeville’s industrial park.
Then, the economic downturn hit. “It was hard on the forest product industry,” said Brenda. “Thankfully, our hard work helped us survive, and we continue to serve our customers. And, we are very fortunate that the company has been debt free since we started it.”
Today, you can find the Mason’s children, Dell and Sharon, running the family businesses, which have since captured the international market. Although she is retired, Brenda continues to reconcile the businesses’ bank statements and post entries from home, plus she serves as a Georgia College Foundation Board Trustee and a member of the Real Property Committee, a Pink Lady for Oconee Regional Hospital Auxiliary since 1989, the Town & Country Garden Club, the First United Methodist Church and the Altar Guild Committee. She previously served as an Alumni Awards chair of the Georgia College Alumni Board, president of Beta Sigma Phi—an international sorority of women serving the community, president of Milledgeville Country Club, president of Civic Women’s Club of Milledgeville and member of Tallulah Falls School Board of Directors. “I have been very blessed and enjoy giving back to our community,” said Brenda.
Although her desire to help improve the community is evident in all of Brenda’s volunteer endeavors, she also strives to touch individual lives through her alma mater endowed scholarship. As a birthday present, Harold surprised her with the Brenda T. Mason Scholarship to benefit nontraditional students since Brenda was one herself.
“A scholarship is a wonderful gift for a deserving student,” said Brenda. “My recipients have been very thankful for the help they have received through my scholarship, and it has enabled them to continue with less stress about college costs.”
The Masons also endow the nationally recognized Georgia Military College Golf Team. Golfers who meet certain criteria are awarded the Mason Cup. The endowment was given for the college to start a golf team.
Although Brenda had always dreamt of pursuing a higher education early on, she put her family first. However, the opportunity came in 1985 when her son Dell was a senior at Georgia College and her daughter Sharon was a senior in high school.
“That’s when over lunch one day, my husband said, ‘I think you need to get your degree,’” said Brenda. “My son went with me to register at Georgia College so I wouldn’t back out.”
Brenda entered Georgia College as a freshman during the summer session.
“I did well so I was encouraged to continue,” Brenda said.
She pursued her degree plus was a member of several honor societies even though she was still responsible for the accounting, payroll and payroll tax reports at the family businesses. In 1990, she earned her BBA, majoring in marketing and management.
To young professionals wanting to start a business, Brenda offers this advice, “It takes a lot of hard work and determination to be successful in a business.”
Since the Masons opened their doors in 1982, their motto has always been and continues to be “The Customer is King.”