Following is a conversation with Rachelle Jamerson-Holmes, founder and owner of Rachelle’s Island, which is marking its 27th anniversary year.
What made you choose these types of businesses?
“They bring joy to my life. I love helping people and bringing joy into the lives of others. Every endeavor that I pursue is with that foundation in mind. They all require excellent customer service and outstanding hospitality, which allows me the opportunity to brighten our customers’ day.”
What are your responsibilities as an entrepreneur?
“Everything! As a small business owner in the beginning, you are the customer service representative, salesperson, bookkeeper, creative director and the list goes on. As a business owner, I am required to create effective marketing to bring guests in the doors to generate revenue. Yet I also must make daily good decisions as we have a huge responsibility to our customers, vendors and team.”
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
“My greatest inspiration has been my family and close family friends. It is true that it takes a village to raise a child. I am blessed to have been raised by my role models, my mother Brenda Jamerson and my grandmothers Lillie J. Limehouse and Martha Huggins. They were my first examples of strong, courageous, visionary women with goals and dreams. And they exemplified the determination to achieve each of them while creating new goals and dreams along the way. Their resilience and leadership instilled in me an unwavering resolve that with God, regardless of what life brings, I got this!
“My father, Broadus James Jamerson lll, taught me the true sense of community. He taught me to treat everyone with respect, love, and kindness. He also taught me the art of public speaking as he is a prolific orator. My parents have been my role models for maintaining a successful long-lasting marriage and teamwork. They have been married for over 50 years.”
Business is not for everyone. How should women make decisions on going into business on their own or pursuing a career?
“Entrepreneurship is not easy and is not for everyone. If time and financial guarantees are needed, then perhaps a career may be the better fit vs. going into business full time. Or perhaps the best fit may be complementing the career or job with a part-time home-based business. You have to be mentally prepared to manage yourself and be very disciplined. I always share with people asking me about going into business that I make it look easy. I love what I do. I have turned my hobbies and passions into a professional career and sustainable businesses. …”
“I share with persons that they don’t see the long nights, eating cereal and missing family and friends’ gatherings. You must believe in yourself, your abilities and seek professional training. It takes courage to step out on faith. You must have unshakable belief in yourself to press through when no one else can see or understand the vision. You must also know when something is not working and make the necessary adjustments.
What are three key pieces of advice you would offer women interested in a business career?
• “Do the prep work. Find a mentor, someone you know who could guide you along your new path. If you are lacking skills in finance or marketing, enroll in classes or programs to assist.”
• “Spend a lot of time talking with your future customers. You need to really learn what their needs and wants are. This is a great brand-building exercise that will allow you to properly position yourself in the marketplace.
• “Seek out virtual assistance. There are several great free resources in our community such as the SBDC and online tools that can help you launch and maintain business development and growth. My grandmother introduced me to the SBDC at South Carolina State University when I was in high school and it has been the best resource for me over my 35 years in my entrepreneurial career for business development and best practices. The Small Business Development Center is also a great resource for guidance, assistance with business plans, etc.”
What do you see as the unique challenges facing women in business today?
“Defying social expectations, dealing with limited access to funding and building a support network. Some women may feel the need to adopt the stereotypical ‘male’ attitude toward business: competitive, aggressive and sometime overly harsh. But I believe remaining true to yourself and finding your own voice are the keys to rising above preconceived expectations.”