It's no secret that small businesses are hurting right
now. It's never easy to make a go of it on your own,
but a bad economy can mean the death blow to local
entrepreneurs who have a tough time competing
with big chain stores even in the best of times.
"When it's your own small business I'm sure it can seem
personal," said Blakely Williams, Director of Member
Services for the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce.
"What we do is try and offer all the tools to make the
burden of doing business during these downturns as light
Like many people, Blakely believes that buying from
local businesses is vital to keeping her town in good shape.
"A healthy community has to have a strong small business
base," she said. "It's instrumental in reviving or creating a
sense of place. And when you purchase at locally-owned
businesses rather than nationally-owned, more money is
kept in the community. Local businesses owners live in
this community, so they are less likely to leave and more
invested in the community's future."
For Blakely these personal convictions are taken one
step further as her job actually revolves around providing
support to the merchants in Beaufort.
"I live here and I love it here, so I feel like my job
complements what I want to do," said Blakely, who came
to Beaufort because of her husband's job and has worked
for the Chamber for two and half years. "I want this to
be a great place to live and work and play. The unique
character of the Beaufort Region is what brought us here
and it's what keeps us here, so we are advocating for the
best business environment we can have."
In stark contrast to some of the "dead-end" jobs Blakely
says she's had, working for the Chamber is constantly
rewarding. "I enjoy getting up and coming to work," she
said. "You get to meet tons of people and every day is
different. One minute you'll be planning a big expo for
500 people, the next day you'll be working on a 25-person
luncheon. Every task has its own set of challenges."
Blakely is also active in the community on a number
of other levels, and she does more than her fair share of
volunteer work. She's involved with the Lowcountry Young
Professionals - which represents what she believes to be an
overlooked demographic - as well as the Junior Service
League of Beaufort, the YMCA board and United Way.
"It gives me energy," she said of her busy schedule. "I'm
stimulated, I'm energized and I feel a sense of responsibility.
It makes you think about things bigger than yourself; ideas
and long-term planning as opposed to the short-term or
Advice to women in business: "Be yourself, be educated,
know what your options are and strategize. Seek out
resources that complement what you are doing - you don't
have to do it all yourself and you don't have to reinvent
Hometown: Clinton, SC
Hobbies: family, friends, cooking, yoga, tennis, reading
Pet: Chocolate Lab named Hampton
Indulgence: Italian food and red wine
Current read: Pat Conroy's new novel "South of the Broad"
What she's excited about right now: her baby is due in February-congratulations!
When she's 89: hopes to be mobile, have lots of grandkids and still feel a civic duty to vote