MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette was in Myrtle Beach Monday to highlight woman-owned businesses.
Evette hosted a roundtable discussion with local women owners of small businesses. She then toured some of the woman-owned businesses in the area.
Monday’s visit to Myrtle Beach by the lieutenant governor is her second visit to a South Carolina city to discuss women in business. The first meeting was in Greenville. Evette said South Carolina ranks 4th in the United States for the number of woman-owned businesses and that sharing success stories only leads to more women choosing business ownership.
“Young eyes look at us from everywhere and we want young girls to know that their opportunities in life are endless,” Evette said.
Evette, a longtime business owner herself, said the visit to Myrtle Beach is part of an emphasis she and Gov. Henry McMaster have placed on minority and woman-owned small businesses in South Carolina.
At the roundtable, the business leaders discussed their challenges and obstacles as well as what worked and what didn’t.
“Sometimes I feel like women need a voice at the table,” Evette said. “Just by who we are, sometimes we don’t do that, so it’s really nice to emphasize. I think times women fall into different arenas than our male counterparts when it comes to businesses, so I want to make sure that all business owners across South Carolina feel like they’re appreciated, and we want their input on what we’re doing here in our state.”
Just miles away in the Market Common, sisters Leonella and Lorenna Gonzalez were at work, running the business the two own, Loleo Juice Bar.
“We’ve been together all of our lives so we know each other very well,” Leonella said. “We fight like everyone. We have arguments, but we also know that we are all we have.”
The sisters opened the juice bar in October 2019. It is a combination of both of their passions. Now, they have nine employees. Eight are women.
“I really always want to motivate them and tell them that we cannot do this by ourselves and that we have space to grow in our company, and we want all of us to grow at the same time,” Leonella said.
The sisters said their shop’s success is proof their doubters were wrong. They said they never took no for answer while in the process of opening up their juice bar.
Lorenna said no woman should take no for an answer.
“We need more women in business,” Lorenna said. “We need more women out there to speak out. We’re strong. We’re independent. We can really do anything.”
A Wells Fargo study using U.S. Department of Labor statistics showed one million plus more women left the labor force than men since the start of the pandemic. A Babson College study showed 23% of woman-owned business in the U.S. closed permanently since the onset of the pandemic.
The co-owners said they consider themselves lucky the pandemic did not hurt their business like it did for many other women, as they are actually opening a second, bigger location in several weeks.