Surprise! The President Will Address You Now!

Hilton Head’s ArtWare Lady Goes to Washington as the S.C. Small Businessperson of the Year

June 2023 Issue
Story and Photography by Jennifer Megliore

When I got the call I had been chosen as the Small Business Administration (SBA) delegate for the state of South Carolina my mind went blank, and I couldn’t feel my teeth. I was honored to be chosen as South Carolina Small Businessperson of the Year by the US SBA but I had no idea what a treat I was in for.

I heard Washington, D.C., Waldorf Astoria, pay your own way….luckily, a following email provided the details I was lacking. Mark, my husband, and I would be going to Washington to represent South Carolina. That same month brought lots of uncertainty for us. His father had been diagnosed with cancer, and we were caring for him at home with the help of hospice. We wouldn’t dream of leaving his side. His struggle ended quickly, and we decided to attend the event. You have to take the highs with the lows in life.

After a travel nightmare, getting us into D.C. well after the Capitol tour Senator Tim Scott’s office had been kind enough to arrange, we instead fell into bed and the next day took The Underground Donut Tour and Tasting, instead. The good news is it also includes a three-mile walk between stops to burn up some of those calories. We did pass a service dog that assists diabetics; he had more than a passing interest in alerting us to our high sugar levels. We took the last tour bus of the evening to get a lay of the land. Back at the hotel, Mark took a nap as I caught up on emails.

“Mark-Get Up!” I couldn’t believe my eyes, “The President of the United States of America requests your presence for remarks celebrating Small Business Week 2023 to be held at the White House.” We glared at the details and the link with the first security measures. Thankfully, a SBA note arrived shortly after stating, “When the President asks, we drop everything and make it happen.” They rearranged the whole schedule on Monday to accommodate the request.

Our arrival on Sunday, the first day of the National SBA event, didn’t start off well. Unbeknownst to me, my phone slid out of my bag, leaving it in the Uber, and I lost the cap to my right heel. As I glued it back into place with eyelash glue, I realized I was actually now level because I had apparently lost the first one even earlier. I was in a stupor.

Now, Mark freaks out over small stuff, but when something big goes down, he’s your man. He calmed me down and called my phone until the Uber driver answered, agreeing to bring the phone back after his current ride was complete. (Can you say Big. Fat. Tip?) Now with my heart rate returning to near normal, we checked into the event.

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The ballrooms were extravagant, the service impeccable. Being in the room with the other 52 state/territory winners was overwhelming. Bridget Weston, CEO of SCORE, a top-notch business mentoring program, was kind and welcoming. I shared with her how grateful I am for the support of SCORE, and I was thrilled to be able to bring some attention to their services for South Carolina and beyond. Isabella Casillas Guzman was appointed by President Biden to serve as the SBA Administrator, and she is doing an amazing job. All of her staffers say no one works harder as the champion of small business nationwide. I felt a great surge of ‘girl power’ in the room as these vibrant, dynamic ladies were leading the charge of the President’s motto: “The Small Business Boom. We’re out of recovery mode; it’s time to thrive!”

We gathered again at the Waldorf Ballroom on Monday for our marching orders. We were to wait in the lobby for the Social Director of the White House to call our SBA Director so we could start our two-mile walk to the White House South Entrance. As we were ushered through the South Gate, a few people at a time, Security K-9s gave us the once over. We went through two security check points, bag check, two license checks, another with a 360-airport security like scan, random chemical testing, and a biometric scan. A brief walk and we were at the stately gates to the South Entrance. Stepping behind the 14-foot black fencing that surrounds the White House, we were greeted by a 6’4” honor guard in full dress uniform. Somebody, pinch me.

Once inside, we were asked not to take photos and to stick to the line in the center of the hallway. We could see the South Lawn where the annual Easter Egg Hunt is held. It has a beautiful sweeping view down to the monuments. Live band music filled the air, and we made a turn into a beautiful garden—THE Rose Garden! White chairs were set up in front of the Presidential Podium. We all buzzed with excitement as we waited. Another state delegate learned the President and Vice President would BOTH be addressing us! The press filed in, as it became apparent this may be more than remarks to kick off Small Business Week.

The band announced the arrival to the podium of Administrator Guzman, and last year’s Small Businessperson of the Year to make opening remarks. The band broke into “Hail to the Chief’ and President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took the stage. His speech felt like a campaign speech as President Biden touched on his effort to secure the stability of our banks. He then focused on the importance of celebrating Small Business as the “backbone” of our economy. He stressed how many new jobs have been created and asked us to support him in continuing to deliver on his promise to not only make Small Business survive but thrive.

Back at the Waldorf we enjoyed a famous Waldorf Salad for lunch as each State and Territory representatives were given their awards. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event that I am glad I was able to share with Mark. After we returned to S.C., we attended the State Small Business event in Columbia the following Friday. And being able to share the S.C. event with my parents meant just as much to me as our visit to the White House. No matter how old you are, you still like to make your parents proud.

Jennifer Megliore is the founder and owner of ArtWare, a beloved retail store offering unique artisan gifts and novelties that make everyone smile. Shoppers are always greeted with a friendly welcome from Jennifer and her canine shop girl, Maddie. Filled with color, inspiration, beauty and happiness, ArtWare has been in business since 2000 and is an Island favorite for locals and tourists alike. ArtWare is also known for being the first store in the U.S. to be named a Queen Bee Store in partnership with Savannah Bee Company. Go shop at ArtWare in Shelter Cove Towne Centre on Hilton Head Island! Once there, you’ll completely understand why Jennifer was named Small Businessperson of the Year.

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