Entrepreneurs talk about risks, challenges at GoodBusiness Summit

Founder of Rewined talks about knowing what you're not good at from Charleston Business Journal on Vimeo.

By Liz Segrist
Published Aug. 26, 2014

Adam Fetsch saw wine bottles being thrown away night after night when his shift was over at a local restaurant — and it sparked something within him.

He grabbed some wine bottles and learned how to cut the glass to make a candle holder. From his backyard in Charleston in 2009, he began creating what would become Charleston-based Rewined Candles. Fetsch now employs 40 people who make candles out of a facility on upper Meeting Street.

Adam Fetsch, founder and owner of Rewined Candles, said he always wanted to start his own business. He recycles wine bottles into candles at his facility on upper Meeting Street. (Photo/Liz Segrist)

“Start writing down your goals and talking about them.”

— Adam Fetsch, Rewined Candles

Rewined Candles are sold by more than 2,000 retailers nationwide, such as Anthropologie and West Elm, and Fetsch wants to go global. The company’s fast growth is both stressful and invigorating to him.

“Start writing down your goals and talking about them,” Fetsch said. “I used to feel awkward saying I wanted to achieve $1 million in sales. That year we had $1.5 million in sales. ... Now I’m saying I want to make $100 million in sales. The more you say it, the more you can visualize it. ”

Fetsch was among many entrepreneurs who shared stories during Lowcountry Local First’s GoodBusiness Summit on Thursday at The Charleston Museum.

Entrepreneurs talked about quitting their jobs and turning their dream or hobby into a company. They spoke of getting into debt and taking out loans, while others said they spent only what they had.

Some talked of their failures and others spoke of expanding their footprints. All of them shared their challenges and lessons learned. They all said “to go for it” and “believe in it” and “love what you do.”

Like Amanda Stephenson, who opened Rolling Rack Boutique, Charleston’s first women’s clothing boutique on wheels that makes stops around the region for shoppers.

“You have to be addicted to what you’re doing,” Stephenson said. “You have to take the risk. It’s all about being an entrepreneur.”

Or Chevalo Wilsondebriano, a former New York City first responder and 9/11 survivor, who co-founded Charleston Gourmet Burger Co. of Charleston with his wife, Monique.

The couple made their seasoning and marinade during backyard cookouts before going to local farmers markets and catching the attention of national media outlets and the Food Network. Their marinade and sauce can be found in more than 400 retail shops and in 17 countries.

“Those that have made it and those that have tried and failed are the stories that inspire me,” Wilsondebriano said. “The people in the trenches have inspired me.”

While trying to achieve the work-life balance of being a new mother and a fledgling entrepreneur, Carrie Morey launched Callie’s Charleston Biscuits as an online-only business.

Carrie Morey opened her first brick-and-mortar store this year after selling her biscuits online for nine years. Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit opened last month on Upper King Street. (Photo/Liz Segrist)

“I thought I would just do my Internet business a few hours a week. Well, nine years later...”

— Carrie Morey, Callie’s Charleston Biscuits

Morey learned how to make sweet ham biscuits from scratch by watching her mother, Callie. Callie’s Charleston Biscuits are now sold through the company’s website, in more than 200 grocery stores nationally and in Morey’s new store on Upper King Street, Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit.

“I thought I would just do my Internet business a few hours a week. Well, nine years later...” Morey said, laughing.

As for Katherine McDonald, she did not have a business background or financing, but she was determined to follow her childhood dream and become a wedding dress designer.

So in 2003, with only $300, McDonald launched LulaKate, a Charleston-based clothing company that specializes in wedding and bridesmaid dresses. For the past decade, she has learned to deal with unexpected obstacles, such as lack of financing or manufacturing facilities closing their doors. Today, her dresses are made in New York City and she has a storefront on King Street in downtown Charleston.

“I should have quit 18,000 times. There are so many times I was told to quit, but I love it,” McDonald said. “You can have all the connections in the world, but if you don’t have the drive and the determination, it’s not going to work. You have to want it.”

Reach staff writer Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

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