When you see Zippity Doo Dah® and Sweet Potato Queens®, what do you think? For some, it’s “what’s with all the circled “R’s”? For Kyle Jennings, it’s just another day at the office. He’s the patent and copyright attorney behind those marks, protecting the image and viability of the brand for his client, Jill Conner Browne, THE original Sweet Potato Queen®. And shes more than a client: she’s his wife. They met at a book signing event in Fairhope, Alabama one year but didn’t go out for their first time until a year later. “He likes to tell people I stood him up”, Conner Browne says of their near-missed connection, but the pair his been inseparable since.
When it comes to her brand, Jennings can’t separate himself because it’s so much bigger than one event. “If you look it up”, he tells us, “Zippity Doo Dah® was created to engage in local fundraising in support of children’s hospitals”. And that’s exactly what ZDD™ is about. “We moved the Queens out of the Mal’s parade because we had simply outgrown it, ” Jennings said. “The entourage we brought along and the effect of it adversely affected everyone. The parade became too long”. But there was reason beyond that that Jennings says is most important: “it interfered with our fundraising goals”.
So the Zippity Doo Dah® parade and weekend moved to Fondren last year and raised $65,000 for Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital. “It fell into place in Fondren”, Jennings says. “They got, embraced and understood it”. He cites Jeff Good merging his Sal & Moookie’s Children’s carnival with the weekend which, in the past, had been held in May. “There was no learning curve to embrace the idea”, Jennings notes. “For most people, if they can’t see it, touch it or feel it, it doesn’t exist”. But not Fondren. “They totally embraced the ZDD™ vision for the community – for business and residential, for visitors and the hospital. Batson is here. It’s a perfect fit”. Jennings says the goal is to spread the brand around the country through Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and have ZDD™ events all over. “It will be a few years before we get that concept out to others”, he says, “but Jill wants this to be a legacy so the concept will live on in perpetuity”.
But Jennings isn’t just monitoring intellectual property sitting behind a desk. He is on the committee producing the weekend and says it’s not an easy job. “I’m wearing a number of hats”, he says. “I’m designing all the banners and working with Southern Beverage to produce signage for the event”. Jennings says there are over 70 pieces of art they’re creating. “Yeah, it’s more than being on a committee. These aren’t honorary positions. These are ‘work your ass off’ positions”. But it’s all worth it. Jennings calls the upcoming weekend a win-win for everyone. “There’s no down side to this at all. It’s another opportunity for businesses in Jackson to make money and another tourism opportunity”. He says around 30 states are represented with participants this year, even a group from Hawaii. “It’s significant. All of it is a very positive for Batson and, really, for everybody”.
It’s also worth noting that when Jennings is not in ZDD™ mode, he’s protecting and exploiting other’s intellectual property rights and running a publishing company. He has recently written an adapted screenplay based upon a novel by his client, author Bobby Cole, that won an award at Action on Film, an international screenplay competition in Los Angeles. “Of course”, he says “when it films, it WILL film in Mississippi”. zddcomm