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Greenville Business Magazine

The women of South Carolina are making business their business

By Carole Sox, Ph.D., CHE, DES 

Director of the Hospitality, Tourism and Event Management Program, Columbia College

Did you know that 40% of businesses within the United States are owned by women? Within this group, 64% of the businesses are owned by women of color. While still not equally proportionate to men, women are starting businesses in unprecedented numbers, a trend that has gained momentum over the past 10 years. In fact, the United States has seen a 58% increase in women-owned businesses from 2007-2018.

Women-owned businesses earn this classification if at least 51% of the business is owned and operated by at least one female and the women of South Carolina are stepping up and taking charge. The Palmetto State ranks No. 4 in the nation for women-owned businesses. With just under 170,000 women-owned businesses throughout the state, South Carolina comes in fifth in growth for the number of these businesses in this area since 2007. 

With all of these statistics to ponder, one may be intrigued to learn more about how to make this happen and what resources are available for women entrepreneurs locally. The good news is that there are a number of resources to choose from within the Palmetto State which offer guidance, support and next-step opportunities for women. In fact, in addition to the many resources for overall entrepreneurial support, there are resources available that highlight women specifically. 

This past November, for example, the Women's Business Summit was held for the second year in Columbia. The summit was designed for women positioned for growth and who want to thrive in their business, life and community. Mayor Steve Benjamin spoke to a full room of businesswomen from across the state offering praise and encouragement and highlighting the bright future of women in business within South Carolina.

Headquartered at Columbia College, the Women's Business Center of South Carolina establishes programs aimed at assisting women business leaders throughout the state. The Center holds weekly programs, regional networking events, individual coaching sessions and locally hosted opportunities for engagement. Last year, the Center served approximately 1,000 women throughout the state, and continued growth is expected. 

The Women's Business Center serves women entrepreneurs and has programs for women who are currently working in the corporate world. Shennice Cleckley, program manager for the Women's Business Center of South Carolina, states, "Women in business are growing by leaps and bounds. "We must support them by removing the barriers that keep them from soaring." 

Continuously adding to the already robust schedule of programming for the new year, and working with partners throughout the state, the Center is on target for continued success. 

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is an independent agency of the federal government with state offices that, in addition to providing aid, counsel and assistance to small businesses, offer assistance to women entrepreneurs interested in starting new businesses and thriving in a competitive marketplace. In addition to their many programs, the SBA offers training and funding opportunities that are aimed at women specifically. Programs include business training, counseling, federal contracts and access to credit and capital. Gregg White, district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration's South Carolina District Office, says, "We are seeing more and more women starting small businesses throughout the state, with African-American women taking the lead, and we want to support them however we can throughout their entrepreneurial journey. The SBA is here to help."

Additional organizations are also available for support, such as the Woman to Woman Entrepreneurs Association, which was launched in 2013 and created as an outlet for women business owners and entrepreneurs to network and provide mutual support. South Carolina Women in Business (SCWIB) is a non-profit corporation which also offers resources for women to start and develop businesses. If you are seeking to attend an event focusing on women entrepreneurs, there are many to choose from listed on Eventbrite for the Columbia area. Opportunities for networking, brainstorming, workshops and conferences are all available for the upcoming year.

While there is still room for needed growth, kudos to the women of South Carolina for making business their business, and kudos to South Carolina for the support it has offered to women choosing this path.