Terry Kelly made her entrance into the business world like so many other women-looking for a way to balance career and motherhood on her own terms. When working at a law firm began to conflict with raising her kids, Terry said goodbye to the legal world and decided to reinvent herself as a small businesswoman. She bought a children's clothing shop in Ohio, and, satisfied with the flexible hours it afforded her, operated it successfully from 1991 until 2003.
"A lot of business is just strictly common sense and knowing your neighborhood," said Terry. "Having three children myself, I knew what mothers wanted and I catered to that."
Now that she's moved to the Lowcountry, she's taking this logic and applying it to a new customer base. So what do people here want?
"Everyone loves to laugh," said Terry, who now has two shops in Fordham Market, located in downtown Beaufort. "Even in tough economic times, if something puts a smile on their face, that's what they want to buy and that's what they want to give as a gift."
Terry's shop Sass 'N' Spunk-also known as The Laugh-has a full line of T-shirts, home dÈcor, and gift items that are designed to tickle the funny bone of anyone who wanders past. Nearly all the products are adorned with what Terry calls "sassy sayings," phrases like, "Put your big girl panties on and deal with it," "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy," and "May all your wrinkles be laugh lines."
The Laugh is just one of 32 separate businesses in the market, ranging from tiny enterprises selling just two or three specialty items, to larger shops with an extensive range of products. There are gourmet foods, garden items, art and artisan works, Gullah products, home dÈcor, jewelry, pet paraphernalia, and apparel. This diversity, as well as the visiting tourists from all over the world, is what makes the market such an enjoyable place for Terry to set up shop. Best of all, it's a low-risk way for people to get their foot in the door.
"Being in a multi-merchant market is a good way for women to venture into the business world," she said. "You can start small, and we have a full-time staff so you don't have to be here all the time. For a mom or a retired person looking for something to do, the Fordham Market is a wonderful opportunity."
Another advantage to this environment, Terry feels, is the camaraderie amongst the shop owners. Far from being a bunch of cutthroat entrepreneurs, they function more like a support group for women who are just getting started. And as Terry points out, experience gained here could be a jumping-off point for full-fledged careers in fields such as advertising, accounting or city government. At the end of the day, there's nothing like the satisfaction of knowing that you have been successful in a new endeavor.
"It's very rewarding to know that you have built your business from the ground up," said Terry. "It's almost like having a baby-you watch your business grow into a very productive entity."
Hometown: Cincinnati Came to the Beaufort: 2003 Favorite things about the Lowcountry: serenity of the beach, birds and marsh Hobbies: travel, gardening, walking on the beach Favorite plants: hibiscus and hydrangea Advice to women looking to start a retail business: "Don't go overboard; have a nice selection and watch your price points. Never over-invest in one product." Sassy saying that best applies to her: "If you're lucky enough to be at the beach, you're lucky enough." Best kept secret of the Fordham Market: it's a great place to find gifts for men!