Friday, August 19, 2022

Mary Katherine Perry: Mixing Style and Service

It is the end of a workday on the Oxford Square, but the Katherine Beck Boutique is so spotless it looks like it could just be opening. Emerging from behind the counter, 24-year-old Mary Katherine Perry walks swiftly around the store in her bright red skirt, matching top, and sparkling earrings. She is making sure everything is in order, down to the last price tag on a package of decorative cocktail napkins.

Merry Katherine Perry (left) and her business partner/mom Becky
Mary Katherine Perry (left) and her business partner/mom Becky Jaskey

In a store packed to the brim with jewelry, monogrammed everything, Grove décor, and bright Easter decorations, it is an Ole Miss prepster’s dream come true. When first walking into Katherine Beck, you might miss Perry as her polished, yet preppy, style seems to match much of what is for sale at her boutique.
Originally from North Carolina and a Class of 2011 Ole Miss marketing graduate, Perry has watched her store transform from a mere idea into a flourishing business.
Perry’s idea for Katherine Beck started as a secret in its earliest stages.
“I remember coming down for Double Decker and I was secretly looking at spaces, nobody knew,” Perry said.
The idea started in January 2013 and the lease was signed at the beginning of July. The day after the lease was signed Perry left for market to buy everything for the store to start up.
“It was pretty crazy, we went from an idea to store front in a really short amount of time,” Perry said.
It is evident that Perry, already a successful business owner, makes things happen and knows what she wants.
Being her own boss at such a young age has spurred others to wonder about Perry’s ambition, but to Perry, age is truly just a number. She thinks no matter what age you are you can do anything.
“I think when you’re young you have that much more of an advantage because I’m not married, I don’t have kids, I don’t have anything holding me back,” Perry said.
With nothing holding her back, Perry and Katherine Beck continue to be the monogram mecca for Oxonians. To Perry, the best part of the store is meeting new customers who have traveled to Oxford and making sure they make the right purchase.
Katherine Beck is located at 134 Courthouse Square, next door to the Round Table.
Katherine Beck is located at 134 Courthouse Square, next door to the Round Table.

“I love helping customers find whatever they are looking for,” said Perry.
But Perry wouldn’t even have customers without the support she has received. Thanks to her family, boyfriend Chip, close friends, and generous locals, Perry has been able launch Katherine Beck into a successful position.
Her mother, Becky Jaskey, is a supporter and also an inspiration. The proof is in the boutique’s chic name.
“My name is Mary Katherine and my mom’s name is Becky so we combined it to be Katherine Beck,” Perry said.
Jaskey serves Katherine Beck as creative director and proud mom.
“It just feels like a major achievement. It feels like our seed was planted and we were able to see it actually come to fruition, and just to watch it grow and her grow is pretty awesome as a mom,” Jaskey said.
Perry’s style is not one that only a mother could love because, given the store’s booming business, it is obvious everyone adores Perry’s style.
Katherine Beck even hosts bridal showers and offers bridal registries. Pictured above is bride Mary Louise Clawson.
Katherine Beck even hosts bridal showers and offers bridal registries. Pictured above is bride Mary Louise Clawson.

“My style is preppy with bright colors and southern traditional but modern as well,” said Perry.
This unique personal style translates into the store. Every product that comes through the doors gets Perry’s preppy approval first.
But don’t let the business owner with the un-smudged monogram necklace fool you. The truth is, Perry is committed to another form of work she loves, and sometimes it includes a not-so-glamorous hair net.
Perry has been on three mission trips to Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Rwanda. She also arranged, the first ever college Pack-a-Thon (this is where the hair nets come in) to benefit the organization Feed The Hunger by packing nutritious food for poor and malnourished people in Africa.
Much like her devotion to her business, Perry’s commitment to Feed The Hunger also started at a young age.
As a sophomore in college, Perry went on her first trip to Kenya and Zimbabwe with New Directions International, an organization that works closely with Feed The Hunger. Jaskey learned about this opportunity through their church.
“We just saw a need and knew we wanted to help, there’s so much need all over the world and you can only do so much so we decided that Feed The Hunger would be perfect,” said Perry.
When Perry returned from the trip, she was determined to help the Oxford community become more involved with Feed The Hunger. After telling her friends about her experience, their interest in going themselves sparked another trip.
With multiple trips to Africa under her belt, Melinda Staples, a leader at Feed the Hunger, challenged Perry to do more. Specifically, she challenged her to host the first-ever college Pack-a-Thon.
“We worked our little tails off and we were the first college to ever do a Pack-a-Thon,” Perry said.
Perry sporting a very preppy hairnet at the 2014 Ole Miss Pack-a-Thon
Perry sporting a very preppy hairnet at the 2014 Ole Miss Pack-a-Thon

In its debut, the Pack-a-Thon raised nearly $60,000 and the volunteers packed 142,000 meals.
“Much like starting the store, that was a crazy whirl-wind too,” Perry recalls.
The meals and money raised went straight from Oxford to Africa to help the malnourished children.
“Seeing the kids malnourished was so hard to see because you know they are dying. Then leaving them knowing you have to go and they have to stay was the hardest parts,” Perry said.
But the most rewarding part of her trips with Feed The Hunger, Perry said, was seeing how much of a difference everyone could make by going on the trips or participating locally at the Ole Miss Pack-a-Thons.
Today, Ole Miss Feed The Hunger Pack-a-Thons still happen annually, including trips to Africa and Asia, and the group has packed all-together a whopping 500,000 meals.
Trips to Africa through Feed The Hunger also continue, by taking girls from Perry’s sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and giving them the chance to serve and deliver the meal packs made during the Pack-A-Thons.
Perry on her most recent volunteer trip to Africa with Feed the Hunger.
Perry on her most recent volunteer trip to Africa with Feed the Hunger.

Perry believes that through service you find yourself and the college experience is a pivotal time to find your niche in an organization you love where you can work to make a difference.
“In college, you’re trying to figure out who you are and I think giving back helps that,” said Perry.
Perry’s friends can’t help but admire her amazing accomplishments and feel inspired by the person she has grown to be.
“I think it’s awesome that Mary Katherine started her own business, especially being so young. Not only does she run Katherine Beck, she finds time to help with Kappa and Feed the Hunger. She is definitely someone I look up to,” said close friend, Alli Bridgers.
Just like the many monogrammed items flowing out Katherine Beck’s doors, Perry has also left a special mark that stretches from Oxford to Africa. Even with a successful business on her plate, she knows it’s important for the less fortunate to have food on theirs.
Visit Katherine Beck on the Square in Oxford or on there Facebook page, facebook.com/katherinebeckgifts.
– Maggie Durnien is a staff writer for HottyToddy.com, Perry’s KKG sorority sister, and avid Katherine Beck shopper. She can be reached by emailing mkdurnie@go.olemiss.edu.

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