Local Entrepreneurs Share Successes, Challenges with OCtech Students
Four local entrepreneurs shared their success stories – and the challenges they faced building their businesses – with Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College business students during a recent Entrepreneurship Panel Discussion.
The discussion was held during National Entrepreneurship Week, Feb. 20-27, 2016. This year’s panelists were Joanna Godwin, owner of JoJoSox; Rachelle Jamerson-Holmes, owner of Rachell
e’s Island and Thee Matriarch Bed & Breakfast; Graeme Moore, owner of The Moore Company; and John Rodriguez, co-owner of Gold’s Gym in Orangeburg.
In sharing their stories with the dozens of students in attendance, the panelists shared their best advice for budding entrepreneurs. Most said they had no background in business when they started out.
Moore was a journalist for several years before he joined his father’s real estate business, Century 21 The Moore Group. In September – after working for his father for nearly three years – Moore and a fellow real estate agent decided to form their own business, The Moore Company, in Columbia.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s so rewarding to have your own company and be your own producer and set your own path,” he said. “If you want to be an entrepreneur, you’ve got to really believe in what you do. You’ve got to really love what you’re doing. And if you do that – it’s an old adage – you’ll never work a day in your life. You may have to work hard at times, but it’s still fun and rewarding.”
Godwin, a former teacher and stay-at-home mom, started her business in 2008 during the “Great Recession,” when her husband’s successful business – a wholesale hardware distributorship – began to rapidly decline.
“I thought, ‘if my husband started a business, then I can start a business,’” she said. “The question was, ‘what could I do that would sell in a recession that everybody would need, but I could do a little bit different?”
Researching options, the equestrian discovered there were no socks on the market for short riding boots. JoJoSox was born.
“You might think, dumbest thing to do – start a business during a recession – but you’ve got to be willing to take risks. You can’t let fear hold you back,” Godwin said. “I’m a doer, and if I can encourage you to do anything, it’s to not just be a dreamer – be a doer. You’ve got to dream big and chase hard.”
Godwin said mentors are important, too. “My husband is a fabulous mentor. I know that he’s a good businessman because I watched his success,” she said. “Another mentor is my daughter. I lean on her a lot, and she’s very direct in making decisions. Surround yourself with mentors.
“I feel like if I can do it, anybody can do it.”
Jamerson-Holmes’ love of fashion has circulated throughout her career as a designer, entrepreneur and speaker. The Orangeburg native, who previously owned her own design studio and produced fashion shows in New York, was named National Minority Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 1999.
She said it’s important to believe in yourself because you will get discouraged.
“I walk in to work optimistic every day, with a smile on my face,” Jamerson-Holmes said. “You will have discouraging moments, but when bills have to be paid, you quickly snap yourself out of it and get moving.
“If you are really, really interested into going into business for yourself, know that you’re going into it for the long haul. You have to always listen to your customers. Listen to the market and watch what’s going on. If you can, get started now.”
It’s important to reinvent yourself, Rodriguez said, adding that he and his dad are moving beyond the gym business and into the real estate market.
He said entrepreneurs shouldn’t look to get rich off their business.
“You’re going to be paying everybody else, but you’re not going to get a dime,” Rodriguez said. “Everything you get has to go right back into the business.
“If you take care of your business, it will take care of you.”
The Entrepreneurship Panel Discussion was sponsored by the OCtech Entrepreneurship Club.
Pictured are members of the OCtech Entrepreneurship Club, which sponsored the event.