South Carolina's recent meager ranking as a top state for businesses has many would-be entrepreneurs questioning their decisions to pursue in-state start-up ventures. Yet, despite the state's embarrassingly low business report card, it's still possible to start a thriving venture in South Carolina.
Check out these quotes on how to get started from the state's top entrepreneurs...in one sentence each.
Stella Mercado - Mercom Corporation
As other business owners were closing their doors during the recent economic downturn, Stella Mercado was pushing her company, Mercom Corporation, through unprecedented growth. Founded in 2000 by Stella along with her brothers Larry and Allan, Mercom is quickly leaving its mark on South Carolina's information technology industry.
On the subject of growing a successful company, Mercado explains, "The biggest thing is mainly taking care of customers and clients, and understanding what their needs are."
Rebecca Ufkes - UEC Electronics
Recently named South Carolina Small Business Person of the Year, Rebecca Ufkes co-owns UEC Electronics with her husband. After nearly two decades of fostering her company's continued success, Ufkes has learned a thing or two about business ownership.
Ufkes offers the following advice about starting a business, "You have to make your company known and make those connections because if they don't know who you are, they can't help you."
Bill Mullis - Electric Guard Dog
Seeing an open niche in the security sector, Bill Mullis filled the gap by founding Electric Guard Dog. As a replacement for guard dogs, the company's security fences are solar powered and bring continued innovation to the security industry.
Mullis' business success can be traced to the following guidelines: Find an open business niche, create a quality product to fill that niche and remain committed to improving the product as the industry evolves.
Brian Seidel and Eric Ward - Website Pipeline
In today's world of debt-ridden businesses, Website Pipeline owners Brian Seidel and Eric Ward stand out from the crowd by financing their company's growth from their revenue reserves, rather than accumulating debt or pursuing investor funding.
Seidel and Ward attribute their company's success to, "innovative ideas, hard work, dedicated employees, and late nights."
Herb Dew - Human Technologies, Inc.
Voted regularly as a top place to work in South Carolina, Human Technologies was founded by Herb Dew and is a leading human relations consulting firm in Greenville. Dew views employees as central to a company's success and has spent years fine-tuning his company's successful human resources policy. After all, without the right employees for your startup, who will carry out your company's mission?
Of his company's employee retention success, Dew comments, "What really counts is that employees receive fair compensation and benefits, that they perceive compensation policies as fair, see opportunities to advance in responsibilities and income and are given coaching, training and opportunities to move ahead."
Jim Kirwan - TrySports
Owned by Jim Kirwan, TrySports is a sports gear specialty store that has earned a loyal following since its 2004 debut. Kirwan, originally from Ireland, has brought so much success to his Mount Pleasant store that he is now working on expanding to other locations.
Kirwan says a "knowledge of business, love of the industry, a keen sense of customer service, community outreach, and the right set of staffers" have led to his brand's success.
Sandi Hall McClain - Sugar Boutique
Sandi Hall McClain was recently named South Carolina's Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Her apparel shop, Sugar Boutique, has experienced continued growth and success since its debut and now includes an e-commerce site, which has expanded sales nationwide.
On creating a thriving business, McClain summons her favored quote from Coco Chanel: "In order for one to be irreplaceable, one must always be different."
Steve Parker, Jr. - Levelwing
As co-founder and managing partner of Levelwing, Steve Parker, Jr. has helped push his company through an ever-changing online landscape. The 21st-century ad agency has been consistently named as one of Charleston's fastest-growing companies and serves clients in a variety of industries.
Parker, Jr.'s recipe for success is simple: "Every decision we make should have a basis because if you don't use data to fly, you will crash."
Dan Dennis - Dennis Corporation
Recognized as a recent SBA South Carolina Small Business Person of the Year, Dan Dennis is the founder of Dennis Corporation. The company, which has experienced massive growth since it was founded in 2005, is a full-service engineering, surveying and construction management firm.
On maintaining a company's success through economic downturns, Dennis explains, "It's beneficial to receive advice from financial experts who can provide guidance in a tough economic climate and advice that helps us capture even small financial gain goes a long way for a small business like ours."
Grier Allen - BoomTown
BoomTown, currently listed as one of Inc. Magazine's fastest-growing companies, is a real estate software as a service company that was co-founded by CEO Grier Allen. The company earned that title by experiencing triple digit, year-over-year growth.
So, how did Allen push his company to such success so quickly? He sums it up as follows, "BoomTown's vision is to constantly innovate and share knowledge to drive the future of real estate technology and our vision is deep rooted into every aspect of our business -- from product development to the support and success team that make our company so unique."
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Being an entrepreneur is tough, especially when you live in a state with a less-than-stellar reputation for supporting small businesses. However, with a little guidance from the state's proven business leaders, it is possible to still carve a path toward entrepreneurial success.