Small Business in South Carolina Finds Big Opportunities
Discover how small businesses in South Carolina are benefitting from programs that connect them to large companies that need vendors and suppliers.
Big success often has its roots in small packages, and South Carolina is proving that a nurturing environment can yield tremendous opportunity. Through agencies like the state’s Small Business & Rural Development Department and Small Business Development Centers, small business owners have found a wealth of help in developing and building their companies.
“We are dedicated to helping small business owners work their way through various regulatory and permitting processes and making connections to guide them in the operations and financing aspects of their operations,” says Ashely Teasdel, small business manager for the South Carolina Department of Commerce. Small Business Development Centers are in 21 locations across the state, providing start-up help and special topical seminars for small business owners. Business owners can tap into the knowledge base of SCORE Association mentors and entrepreneurs can attend incubator programs throughout the state to successfully get their enterprises off the ground.
Buy South Carolina
The Department of Commerce helps small businesses access large company supplier networks so more of South Carolina’s products and services are available to a wider range of in-state customers. The Buy South Carolina-Supplier Locator Program, for example, expands the market for small business products and services. The homegrown Coastal Corrugated Inc., based in Charleston, was one of the first direct manufacturers of corrugated packing in the region.
The company, founded in 1987, makes a wide range of specialized corrugated packaging primarily for manufacturers and distributors. Because packaging is such a homogeneous product, the company has differentiated itself through a focus on high-quality customer service, says Jim Bozard, founder and CEO of Coastal Corrugated. The company has found unique ways to meet the needs of some of the largest manufacturers in the region.
“The employees we hire here in South Carolina are dedicated to meeting the needs of the client and they have made all of the difference in our business,” Bozard says. Coastal Corrugated, which currently has 106 employees, completed a $1.5 million expansion in 2011 after it secured a contract with automotive parts maker Robert Bosch in Charleston to produce packaging for specialized manufactured parts. It acquired additional property in 2013 to satisfy the growing demand for its specialized kitting services. Bozard credits officials of both Dorchester County and North Charleston for their assistance in everything from completing the expansion to providing support and guidance.
Bozard says he is highly optimistic about what South Carolina has achieved in creating a pro-business environment and the aggressive expansion of the Port of Charleston’s facilities to promote international trade. “The state has a growing reputation as a quality manufacturing state,” says Bozard.
SC Commerce Unit Lends Big Assist
LaJoia Broughton owns Alpha Business Essentials, a Columbia-based supplier of office products and supplies distributed nationwide. Responding to customer needs and showing care is an integral part of her business.
“I receive a great deal of help from the Department of Commerce in getting my business going,” says Broughton, who also credits assistance from the Small Business Development Centers. “They were helpful in me getting the certifications I needed to operate and I have been greatly helped by a number of mentors along the way.” Broughton is looking forward to growing her business and expanding beyond her current product and service lines. “I know there are people who will help me along the way,” she says.
Lasenta Lewis-Ellis was laid off from her construction job and saw an opportunity to go into business herself. She created LLE Construction Group in 2011 to provide renovation project and property management expertise to school districts and other businesses in the Columbia area. The Commerce Department’s small business section provided invaluable help in obtaining several necessary certifications.
“I have enjoyed the opportunity to network with other small business owners and also with business leaders who give me an opportunity to demonstrate what my business can do for them,” Lewis-Ellis says.