By JoAnne Laffey Abed
“I never dreamed about success; I worked for it.” Estee Lauder
According to recent data gathered by Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and the National Association of Women Business Owners, there are a total of 12.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States, producing $1.8 trillion a year in revenue. In fact, each day last year, 1,821 women started businesses.
Their stories vary, but all of them are a mixture of great inspiration and even greater dedication and perspiration. Female founders have come a long way in relatively short time, standing on the front lines of the fight for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Some of the hardest working and most dedicated female entrepreneurs in Greenville are in the retail sector, and they work every day to help serve the public and improve lives, while adding fun and flair. In honor of Women’s History Month, we want to highlight some of Greenville’s wonderful women-owned businesses and share insights from some of the amazing ladies who lead them.
Whether it’s starting a business specifically designed to do good, creating a product solution to a pressing problem, or seeking daily ways to help others, these female entrepreneurs are on the case:
Ducks and Drakes – Being a tall girl isn’t always easy, and neither is being the mom of tall kids. Luckily, when confronted with the challenge of finding clothes that would fit her children properly, problem-solving mom Rebecca Gault rolled up her sleeves and took action. She created Ducks and Drakes, a clothing line brand that provides the perfect fit in length and waist size for long-legged kids, giving them greater confidence and freedom of movement. Driven by e-commerce and a Greenville retail shop, Ducks and Drakes has filled a niche market and continues to grow. Rebecca believes that perseverance is the key to success in any field. “Don’t get discouraged when things don’t go your way. Learn from challenges and setbacks, adapt, and try to move the needle a little each day, and you’ll get where you want to be.”
Loggerhead Apparel – Founded in 2010 by Lowcountry native Sara Painter and her husband Zac, Loggerhead Apparel is focused on sourcing and selling Carolina and Georgia made products with the mission of conserving the South Carolina beaches and wildlife so close to their hearts. The company offers marine and beach themed clothing, jewelry, home goods, and artwork, using a portion of its proceeds to support groups like The South Carolina Aquarium and The Friends of Coastal South Carolina, which work to protect and preserve sea turtles and other marine wildlife and habitats. (104 W Curtis St A, Simpsonville)
Splash on Main – While Splash on Main sells bathing suits, resort wear, and accessories, owner Anne Mayher never loses sight of her primary mission: helping all women feel more confident and better about themselves, regardless of size or age. Over the years, Anne has become expert in finding the perfect suit, dress, or coverup for every occasion from Spring Break in Cancun to a beach wedding or a girls’ getaway. She focuses on creating a relaxed and fun environment and on curating the best and most unique products from top designers. (807 S Main St, Greenville)
Given Goods – Sisterhood and helping others is at the heart of Given Goods. Founded by three sisters and their sister-in-law, this family-owned socially conscious company offers a thoughtful curation of ethically minded goods that champion great causes. From jewelry to apparel to home goods, shopping at Given Goods will allow you to use your purchasing power for good. (1631 E North St, Greenville)
Foot Solutions Greenville – Celeste Purdie wakes up every day thinking about how and who she can help. Her company provides shoes and custom orthotics to help people lead better, more productive lives by eliminating pain, increasing stamina, and boosting overall well-being. She credits her determination, keen time management skills, and ability to stick to a mission and a process to her experience in the United States Air Force, but her hustle and drive are inborn. She believes that half the battle in succeeding as an entrepreneur is having a strong WHY and knowing the value and purpose of your efforts. Aside from focusing on the mission, she offers this advice to other women, “I’ve long said that if you are not where you want to be in life, go out and help more people and see how the universe will respond.” (103 E Butler Rd Suite K, Mauldin)
Some people are simply born to be entrepreneurs or have the benefit of years of experience. These retail veterans can teach all of us a thing or two about long-term success.
Samantha Grace Designs – Sonja Miller of Samantha Grace Designs started her kitchen textiles business from her garage and financed it with a personal credit card. A few years later, the Samantha Grace brand is carried in more than 200 retail boutiques across the country, but her primary passion is still her local brick- and-mortar store. At the Greenville shop, Sonja prides herself on creating a truly unique setting that carries a wide range of interesting items from home goods and accessories to stickers and self-care items and offers a shopping experience you won’t find anywhere else. She will be the first to tell you that, as the working daughter of a family-owned business, she was born to run her own operation on day. Sonja attributes much of her success to a string of mentors, beginning with her father and continuing with her fellow makers and other successful retail entrepreneurs who helped her deepen her knowledge of merchandising, pricing, buying and sourcing, and other key skills. She wants women business owners to understand the power of the pivot: “Keep an open mind and realize that since you don’t – and can’t – know everything, you may have to change directions every now and then. Don’t be afraid to walk away or pivot when you feel you should. Be more afraid of standing still.” (640 S Main St Suite 102, Greenville)
Julie’s Jewels and Gifts – After nearly 30 years in business Julie’s Jewels and Gifts owner Julie Brashier has developed long-standing relationships with multiple generations of families. While she focuses on timeless things like quality and service, she is quick to advise other entrepreneurs about the importance of staying current and being open to new things. “Attend trade shows, read magazines, and seek input wherever you can to ensure that you can confidently meet the needs of your clientele, as wells as advise and guide them based on their preferences.” (301 Haywood Rd #3, Greenville)
Petals and Co – Petals and Co is a family-owned and operated florist hand delivering flowers and smiles to the Greenville area and beyond through its large network for nearly 25 years. The flower shop regularly goes the extra mile to provide superior service, including helping people who want something unique and special but aren’t quite sure what to ask for. Owner Paula Hendricks knows how to make your floral vision a reality, by and how to create the perfect arrangements for any person, event, or occasion. (1451 Woodruff Rd STE P, Greenville)
In some cases, the desire to start a business is VERY personal. These ladies found something they loved and built a business around it.
Leandra Hill Metal Works – Leandra Hill is a true artist who uses traditional goldsmithing methods to create custom designed, handmade jewelry pieces. She understands the undeniable significance jewelry has in our lives, especially the lives of women, as items tied indelibly to memory, like the ring your grandparents gave you at graduation or the necklace you wore to your wedding. For her, envisioning and giving life to her precious metal pieces makes her a part of those very meaningful moments, imbuing her art with a great sense of purpose. (1256 Pendleton St Suite C, Greenville)
Reedy River Rides/Greenville Goods – Sister companies Reedy River Rides and Greenville Goods reflect two great passions of founder Jamie McDonough: cycling and her love for her hometown. Reedy Rides offers bike tours, service, and rentals to allow people to safely and easily explore all that Greenville has to offer, while Greenville Goods offers unique hometown gear for souvenirs or to show civic pride. Together, these businesses provide everything visitors and locals need to enjoy our city on two wheels. (50 South Richardson St Greenville)
CORE Grow Strong – A lifelong athlete, Currie Gossett discovered Pilates after a back injury and quickly became hooked. After learning firsthand about the personal benefits of Pilates and seeing the growth in the boutique fitness industry market, she decided to open CORE Grow Strong. The gym offers classes, juice cleanse products, and fitness gear, but Currie believes the sense of community and support it has created are its true differentiators. She also believes that, because of their ability to connect and build deeper relationships, women are natural entrepreneurs. “As a whole, I think women are much more in tune to their customers and their specific needs. I think they are better able to build authentic, caring relationships with other customers that turn into business loyalty and very sincere word-of-mouth referrals.” (1501 E North St Suite 100, Greenville)
Urban Digs - Owner Amy Walcher has successfully created a loyal following for her warm and inviting shop. A labor of love dedicated to reflecting Amy’s personality while treating shoppers like friends, Urban Digs sells gifts, house plants, local art, home decor, vintage pieces, and even children’s items. (215 Wade Hampton Blvd, Greenville)
You don’t have to be in the retail game for long to hit your stride and stir things up. These relative newbies are killing it and are eager to share their secrets to success with other women.
The Pink Bee – In the height of the pandemic, Leigh Ann Miller purchased this well-loved Greenville women’s clothing boutique. Since then, she’s never looked back and taken the store to new heights. She attributes a large measure of her success to recognizing her own strengths and weaknesses, outsourcing what she’s not good at, and relying on a strong team to fill in gaps. While she originally planned on launching her own clothing line, she has found unexpected but great joy in running her retail operation. Rather than buying into the commonly held belief that finding a career you love is not really working, she wants women to embrace the notion that being an entrepreneur is REALLY HARD work. She adds, “It’s very difficult, but, when you love what you do, you will continue to want to grow, improve, and evolve, and you will do so with vigor each and every day.” (105 Augusta St, Greenville)
A Polished Man - Tiffane Davis always wanted to be a business owner, but it took the COVID shutdown to give her the time and clarity to brainstorm her creation. A Polished Man is a men’s accessories store that gives men - and the women who love them - the freedom to use fashion to express themselves more fully and become more confident. She and her very chic husband and business partner, Charles, feel that clothing choices can be empowering and even life-changing, reflecting Tiffane’s personal mission to make a difference and be better every day. Rather than be discouraged by naysayers or be caught up in negativity, Tiffane suggests that female entrepreneurs acknowledge that difficulties and biases are there but focus on their village. “Lean in to support from allies, who will help foster opportunities to make the playing field even for everyone.” (2 W Washington St, Greenville)
Village Launch Third Thursday Market – Female entrepreneurialism must start somewhere, and for many Greenville retail operations, that place is this market. The market is only open on select days throughout the year, so be sure to check the website in advance. Supporting these burgeoning businesses in their efforts to scale is a great way to support women- or minority-owned businesses, especially makers and early stage entrepreneurs. (1186 Pendleton St, Greenville)
While their reasons for doing it may vary, simply put, women get things done – for themselves and for others. Surcee is proud to highlight the important role these savvy female entrepreneurs and all women play in driving progress, growth, and positive changes in our community.