Following is a conversation with Rachelle Jamerson-Holmes, founder and owner of Rachelle’s Island, which is marking its 26th anniversary year.
1. 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.”
2. Does your business help the community?
“Absolutely, we support our community and a number of charities on and offsite. We launched “Events For Causes,” an initiative which raises awareness, funds and needed items for various community organizations and families in need. I believe that we must help each other, not criticize. No one is perfect.
“I strive to become a better person every day personally and professionally. I believe in reaching back and assisting the younger generation and in paying homage to those before us that have paved the way. I understand that it is because of their bravery that our journeys are easier. As a result, I am forever grateful and I am compelled to pay it forward by giving back. My mantra is, ‘As I lift others, I rise.’”
3. 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.”
4. How would you describe your customer base?
“We have been fortunate to have local, national and international customers that have continued to conduct business with us over the years and refer their friends and family. That means the world to us.”
5. 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.”
“My family taught me through their daily lives and strong work ethics that you can do anything you want if you work with a plan and work smart.
“I have listened to many stories from family members about growing up at a time when African-Americans had many hurdles to overcome.
“I never saw bitterness or anger. I saw a family that was strong, proud, worked well together and full of faith, which enables us to continue to strive for and conquer to be the best that we can be. Despite the odds, all of my family members still became successful. By witnessing that, Iquickly eliminated words such as ‘no’ and ‘can’t’ from my vocabulary. I believe the world is yours … Explore it.”
6. How is your business experience over decades a model for what can be done? What key lessons have you learned by persevering through the housing crisis, mortgage crisis and more?
“First know that no matter how positive, talented, determined, resourceful, energetic you are, something or someone will blindside you -- community, family or friends. My business experience over decades demonstrates the strength, fortitude and razor-sharp focus required to achieve success in spite of the challenges.
“The mortgage and housing crisis taught me a deeper level of sacrifice that is often needed to ensure business survival. This lasted for well over 10 years and I made a conscious decision to stick it out. When I opened my doors, we did not have websites, the internet and social media. It also taught me the importance of diversifying my business portfolio with multiple streams of income.”
7. 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 do not have physical children at this time, but my businesses are my babies. I birthed them from a vision and I have sacrificed and nurtured them as my children. You have to be willing to give up a lot of your personal dreams in the beginning to pour into your professional goals.
“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.
“When I was a young entrepreneur in high school, the business owners in my community were my mentors and I am so appreciative for them paving the way and being willing to give advice.”
8. 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.”
9. 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.”
10. What kind of education is essential for women in business?
“Despite statistics regarding women's achievements in education, the fact remains that women continue to suffer in the professional sphere. Not only do women still earn dramatically less, the wage gap currently hovers around 20 cents less per dollar less than men. Women tend to be relegated to less-prestigious jobs, which generally promise lower salaries and worse working conditions.
“Women who lack a diploma or degree have a significantly harder time finding work than men with the same lack of qualifications. That means it is imperative for women to seek education for any hope of career success. However, the type of education matters and is relative to the career or business path chosen.
“We as women should constantly sharpen our professional networking, public speaking and negotiating skills.”
To learn more about Rachelle Jamerson-Holmes, visit TheeMatriarch.com.