With open arms and an undercurrent of joy, the women featured this month are chasing their dreams and uplifting others in process. Though their pursuits are different, these entrepreneurs are focused on more than the bottom line. What matters most is how they impact those around them. And that’s a noble path indeed.
Katie Chaney’s philosophy is apparent even before entering Hester General Store. “Love Your Neighbor” – the mural says it all. She accomplishes that in a myriad of ways, from bringing joy to a customer with a piece of homemade pie in a welcoming, inclusive space to giving new life to an old building and creating a community hub in the process.
The Dacusville store is home to Chaney’s bakery and mercantile, along with her catering business and more.
“It’s all about community and focused on the community that we’re serving,” Chaney says. “I’ve always had this dream of starting a general store, and also had a dream of doing something with my – I call it my night-school passion, which was baking and cooking. But I never really had the confidence or thought that I was good enough to do something like that. It was when I was newly postpartum, COVID hit. I think we all had that moment of ‘what are we doing with our life and is it really aligned with where we want to go?’”
Chaney was working in the corporate world, helping other people build their startups.
“While it was fun and exhilarating, it wasn’t truly my life’s passion and what I wanted my daughter to ultimately see for me,” she says.
Chaney’s dream became focused on creating “a very Americana pie shop.” When a friend encouraged her to check out an old general store that was for sale, it was simply meant to be.
“I drove out there and instantly fell in love,” Chaney says. “It was like an emotional connection. Once I started learning the history and background of it, it resonated even more. One example of that is the store was started by Michael Hester, who was kind of the patriarch of the Hester family. He had three children – Frank was the one that people mostly know about, related to the store, because it was passed down to him once Michael passed away.”
Frank Hester became the face of the store for about 50 years, Chaney says, but her research showed that his two sisters, Anne and Mae, were actually important forces behind it.
“Truly the entrepreneurship that was happening behind the scenes, it was women who were doing it, but their stories were really forgotten,” she says. “That resonated deeply with me as someone who was newly postpartum and whose life was really changing in front of me and being redefined by being a mother. I thought, wow, that’s a story I can connect to, and I really want to tell my family story as a part of this as well and put that imprint on it.”
Chaney closed on the property in late 2021 and started remodeling in 2022. Though it remains steeped in history, the building has truly been reborn for its second act. Chaney has a new vision for her future as well.
“I think I found a confidence that had been missing for me through this project,” she says. “The financing journey was not easy, and it took a lot of tenacity. I’ve been able to reflect on those hard times and realize that I am capable of so much, and that I should trust my creative vision because it’s good, and it resonates with people. And it helps connect me to people, too. That kind of self-exploration and definition has been life changing for me.”
Learn more at hestergeneralstore.com.
Taryn Scher didn’t plan to sparkle her way into starting her own business, but this month, she marks 15 years of TK PR, a very specific kind of company that she runs on her own terms.
“None of this was planned,” Scher says.
When her husband’s medical residency meant a move from New York to Greenville, Scher was in the midst of a job she loved, doing public relations work for a fashion company. To keep that work, she had to start her own company.
“I was so young and green at the time, I didn’t even really understand what that all meant as far as essentially starting my own business,” she says. “They were my first client – the company that I had been working for in New York – and I started meeting people here in Greenville and telling them what I did, and people were intrigued by PR. There weren’t a lot of PR firms in Greenville at that time and the idea of PR was still relatively new in Greenville, whereas I came from a place in New York where your dog had a publicist.”
As she met people in Greenville, Scher connected with Southern Exposure, the festival that would become the annual euphoria Greenville food and music event that benefits Upstate charities. She volunteered to help.
“That singlehandedly kind of led to this transformation for the business, to focus on the hospitality industry and the travel industry,” Scher says. “Now 90 percent of our clients at this point are in travel or hospitality.”
For those clients, Scher says she makes them sparkle.
“I joke all the time – I am a one trick pony, but I’m really good at my trick,” she says. “We do earned media coverage. We don’t have any buying power for our clients in terms of advertising or even paid content. The only thing that we do is work with journalists to get them to tell our stories.”
Scher’s creativity took center stage when the pandemic rocked the tourism industry to its foundation.
“We had to get really creative, of course, like everyone did,” she says. “We looked for other stories that we hadn’t told or that were suddenly far more relevant than before.”
As she has grown her business, Scher has made it a priority to help bring others along with her. She freely shares tips and encouragement and spent several years as a coach for the Greenville Chamber’s Minority Business Accelerator program. Her first rule for business? It’s the golden one.
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“People always want to know what’s our secret sauce because we have a very good track record of what we’re able to do for our clients,” she says. “We don’t have one. Basic human decency is the secret sauce – to treat people the way you want to be treated yourself. Treat people the way you would treat your mom or your children, you know. Just do things right.”
For others with an idea for “a weird business outside the norm,” Scher tells them to embrace it.
“If you have something different that’s going to set you apart in the long run, that’s what you take and you run with it,” she says. “You don’t need to conform to what everyone else is doing.”
Learn more at tkpublicrelations.com.
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