Creating Networking Opportunities for Women in South Carolina

South Carolina Women’s Advisory Group (SCWAG)
Written by Jen Hocken

Achieving success as a woman in business doesn’t happen “in spite of being a woman” or by overcoming perceived obstacles. Women who achieve success in business will tell you it is about lifting each other up, motivating each other, sharing successes and failures, and finding a common voice.

Tina Stevens, owner and CEO of Secondary Solutions, shares the vision of the South Carolina Women’s Advisory Group (SCWAG). “Our mission is to share what we have learned as business owners and entrepreneurs with every woman who is on her own personal path toward success. That success is about forming relationships with other business people who can teach you, motivate you and mentor you to be the best you can be.”

Stevens, along with JoAnne LaBounty, President and CEO of Spartanburg Meat Processing, are eager to share their own lessons toward helping other women find the same success they have achieved. Joining forces as SCWAG was the perfect way to provide an umbrella under which they can launch networking events, mentoring opportunities and educational programs within success-sharing arenas.

Their first endeavor, along with the South Carolina Commerce Department, South Carolina Research Authority (SCRA), South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance (SCMA) and several other partnering organizations and businesses, is the Women’s Business Summit in Columbia, South Carolina on November 5. The group has gathered a dynamic set of speakers including Lieutenant Governor Pamela Evette, Dr. Rebecca Heiss, Terri DeCenzo and Tameika Isaac Devine.

In addition to serving the state of South Carolina, Pamela Evette is a founder and CEO of an extremely successful business, Quality Business Solutions. She will share her thoughts on Keeping South Carolina Competitive, and Terri DeCenzo will speak on the Power of the Collective Voice of Women, a topic that serves as one of the primary tenets of SCWAG.

“We specifically chose speakers and organizations who can be paramount in helping women advance their business to the next level,” shared JoAnne LaBounty. “We are collaborating with Columbia College, as well as the City of Columbia’s Office of Business Opportunity, to serve as incredible resources for women entrepreneurs. Sponsors like MAU and Sonoco can offer business insight as well as networking opportunities.”

Resources for women entrepreneurs are numerous and navigating them can be overwhelming. The founders of the advisory group have determined some key resources and formed their alliances. They are active in the Greater Women’s Business Council, serving in board positions, attending national conferences and sharing information on the benefits of becoming certified as a women-owned business.

But all agree the best resource for women who want to succeed is each other. “Every businesswoman has her own set of skills to share. One person may be a problem-solver while another has a knack for making good introductions. We have had experiences at events where two or three women were sitting at the same table, each with a unique issue or need for their business. By talking to each other and sharing their stories, many times they discover solutions by collaborating and working together,” shares Stevens.

SCWAG encourages all women in business to do their research, seek recommendations and take the time to attend events from which they can benefit. Events in 2020 that are worth looking at include Coastal Carolina University’s WILP annual leadership conference and BMW’s supplier diversity conference. BMW has increased their number of minority-owned suppliers by 379 percent since the inception of their annual event eight years ago. Many of those are women-owned businesses who capitalized on the opportunity to meet face-to-face with BMW suppliers.

The SC Women’s Business Summit will be a great springboard for those ready to branch out and up their networking game. In addition to the keynote speakers and the networking aspect, there will be a galleria market offering products from women-owned businesses including Pattycake Porch, Charleston Shoe Company, OME Gear and Grey Ghost Bakery. Tickets to the event include continental breakfast, lunch and a champagne toast – a true symbol of women celebrating each other’s future success.

“It’s about networking and sharing. This is a strong key to success for women and we want to be at the forefront of helping women have those opportunities,” says Stevens. “We all win when that happens.”



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