Honoring Our Black Entrepreneurs: Mimi StriplinFeb 01, 2024 10:24AM ● By Amy Bonesteel Smith
(Photo by The Aneris Collective)
In 2022, more than 20 percent of South Carolina businesses were owned by people from racial minorities, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Of those businesses, more than 72,000 were owned by Black entrepreneurs.
A 2023 study conducted by Lendio, a company that specializes in loans to small businesses, used data from the Census Bureau and the U.S. Small Business Administration to rank each state’s support of minority-owned businesses.
The study ranked South Carolina 14th in the nation, citing a 147-percent job growth at minority-owned businesses.
Every entrepreneur faces challenges in getting a business off the ground and keeping it on a growth trajectory through the ups and downs of the economy and the upheaval of the Covid-19 pandemic. And many minority business owners face additional hurdles ranging from discrimination to a lack of mentorship opportunities, according to Lendio.
Meet some Black entrepreneurs around South Carolina who are navigating the challenges and putting their own stamp on the business world.
The Tiny Tassel
A distinctive style is the key to accessory and clothing shop owner Mimi Striplin’s success. Instinctively recognizing the lure of bright and fun accessories in a tourist town, the entrepreneur has taken the tassel earring to new heights, along with expanding her Charleston shop with the addition of gifts, clothing, and even more variety of beaded jewelry.
Beginning with an (online) Etsy shop in 2015 while working full-time, Striplin saw her products grab a foothold in 2020, which led to her opening a Tiny Tassel storefront in 2021. “Customers were really craving the in-person experience,” says Striplin, “and we created a joyful and safe space.” The shop on Spring Street became a destination, with its playful, colorful interior perfect for social media posts, generating traffic.
“We have customers from all over the world,” says Striplin, and maintaining an online shop and strong social media presence has connected the business with locals as well as tourists. “We have a really whimsical style,” she adds, pointing to fun Rainbow Row beaded earrings ($36) highlighting the local attraction and a new “Charleston Toile” print fabric in various clothing items designed by her mother, Keiko Striplin.
The successful business has doubled in the last year and now includes seven full-time employees including Striplin’s sister Aiko Striplin, who serves as CFO. The venture also includes two interns from the College of Charleston and two part-time employees.
Striplin, who was raised by two entrepreneurs, says she has learned “when to ask for help” along the way. And she remains focused on reaching a diverse customer base, one of the driving forces of the business. “As a college student of Black/Japanese heritage (here) I didn’t go into any stores and see myself represented,” she recalls. Tiny Tassel is happily remaking that landscape.