Sparking an idea

05 Mar 2020

The entrepreneurs behind Charleston’s successful start-ups and businesses talk about their inspiration and offer advice to others.

Compiled by Jenny Peterson

Sharon Campbell & Darla Miller

Backyard Retreats, Inc.


Our Business:  We are the #1 premier outdoor furniture showroom in the Lowcountry, featuring name brands that offer exceptional quality and value.  We are located behind the colorful row of Adirondack chairs on Highway 17 in beautiful Mt. Pleasant.

Best Business Advice:  Be honest and do what you say you will do.

One Thing We Learned The Hard Way:  To purchase only top manufacturers with quality and to stay away from even considering cheap manufacturers.  as well as, trying to outsource products to say we manufacturer ourselves. Quality comes with leaving the manufacturing up to the professionals that have been in business for many years and stand behind what we sell for them.

Why We Love Doing Business in Charleston:  We absolutely find that there is no better place than here in the beautiful Lowcountry to dress up the porches, outdoor kitchens, decks and backyard areas.

Woody Norris

Booze Pops


My Business: Alcoholic and non-alcoholic frozen pops and ice cream served from a mobile truck.

Why I Chose This Career: I wanted to create a family-friendly business that I could place directly in the community for adults and children. I first made booze pops at a party and thought, ‘maybe I can get them on an ice cream truck.’ I went through a neighborhood near my house in Summerville selling them and the second time I came back, there was a huge line.

You’d Never Guess That: As a veteran, I see that this business can help veterans with PTSD, because 99 percent of people who come up to the truck are happy. Some veterans have already started a franchise. 

Why I Love Doing Business in Charleston: It’s where I’m from and where my family is from. We have put 140 people to work over three years and give out free bottles of water to anyone who asks.

Jill Shortreed 

Charleston Balloon Company 


My Business: We deliver and decorate events all over the country using balloons. We are celebrating our 10th anniversary this year. 

Best Business Advice I Ever Received: It was advice from my husband who told me to always trust your instincts.

Words of Wisdom to Other Men/Women: Always reach outside your comfort zone and never stop learning or growing.

One Thing I’ve Learned The Hard Way: Don’t rely on a single client or market for your business to succeed. 

You’d Never Guess That: I am an industry educator and get to travel teaching others to run successful businesses.

Why I Love Doing Business In Charleston: I love the water! Even when I’m in the office all day, riding over bridges and seeing the water, it’s my happy place.

Michelle Wolfe

Coastal Creations by Michelle


My Business: I do what I love every day—make jewelry—and when it brings a smile to someone else, that’s what makes it all worthwhile.

Best business Advice I’ve Received: Don’t let a little bump upset your passion. Keeping your stride and holding your head high is how you succeed in this world; hard work does pay off. It wouldn’t be as interesting or exciting to do if you didn’t struggle. That’s what life’s about; overcoming problems and enjoying success. 

Why I Chose This Career: I found it a fun hobby, and I asked myself, “Why not make it a business?” Two years later here I am having a blast and taking it in strides. 

Why I Love Doing Business In Charleston: Charleston is alive! The atmosphere and people are vibrant. The area is rich in history and culture. I am proud to be from South Carolina and thrilled to share a piece of our great city with others.

Brian Pisener

Coastal Crust


My Business: Vintage Coffee Café and Coastal Crust Pizzeria 

Best Business Advice I Ever Received: Do what you think is right, always and never compromise your integrity.

Words of Wisdom to Other Men/Women: Work ethic and leading by example is imperative.

Why I Chose This Career: Who doesn’t love pizza, beer, wine and coffee?

One Thing I’ve Learned the Hard Way: You will regret not having strict hiring practices.

Why I love Doing Business in Charleston: Extremely loyal local support and a really great sense of community.

Dr. Drew K. McPhail

McPhail Clinic for Regenerative Medicine


My/Our Business: At McPhail Clinic for Regenerative Medicine, our goal is to help patients defeat chronic degenerative conditions without the use of unnecessary drugs or surgery.

Best Business Advice I Ever Received: People do not care how much you know. They want to know how much you care. 

Words of Wisdom to Other Men/Women: Do not defer to the second half. Get it done now!

Why I Chose This Career: I suffered a low back injury that I was told would require surgery. I went to a local chiropractor and in two weeks, I was pain free and have been ever since. That injury changed my life so much, I went back to school for another four years. Now 20 years later, I have the opportunity to change lives every day.

Why I Love Doing Business In Charleston: We are warm, cordial and generally good people, and that’s what makes life and business here in the Lowcountry second to none.

Tracey Wonnacott

Lavender Hill Design


My Business: We are a gift store with European items. Ninety-eight percent of the items are from Europe including jewelry, handbags, pottery and handblown glass from Milan. My daughter Caralina Wigfield, who lives in New York, handles all marketing, print and social media.

Why I Chose This Career: I love to travel. My daughter went to school in Scotland and lived in London and my son lived in Russia for three years. I wanted to start my own business and my husband said, “Why don’t you combine the things you love—travel and shopping?” Now on vacation, I’m always looking for new merchandise. 

Best Business Advice I Ever Received: Do what you love!

Words of Wisdom to Other Men/Women: Do your research and have a good business plan. Know that you’re going to make mistakes, so learn from them move on.

You’d Never Guess That: I started a book club in the store with customers. We read books that take place in Europe or have European characters. We meet monthly with wine and snacks. It’s really fun!

Paolo Dalla Zorza

Paolo’s Gelato & Gourmet


My Business: Paolo’s Gelato & Gourmet in Charleston and Paolo’s Gelato Italiano in Atlanta

Best Business Advice I Ever Received: Be authentic and always be consistent.

Words of Wisdom to Other Men/Women: Believe in what you do and never give up. 

Why I Chose This Career: I have always had a passion for food that my mother gave me and the South at the time had no gelato. I saw an opportunity and decided to dive in head-first. 

One Thing I’ve Learned The Hard Way: You can never cut corners. Your customers will always see right through it and you will lose customer loyalty.

You’d Never Guess That: We are starting our 4th generation of loyal customers. 

Why I Love Doing Business In Charleston: From the very first visit, Charleston has always given me such a European feel and the people are always very welcoming. There aren’t too many cities in the states like Charleston.

Terri Wischerath



Our Business: A nationally-recognized top 25 best giftshop with eclectic, curated items. We are a family business. My husband, Joe is the CFO and my daughter, Kelly Wischerath, and I are in the shop creating. 

Words of Wisdom to Other Men/Women: Be true to who you are and customers will remember you. Always do things that are new and different, so people will be excited to come into the store.

Why I Chose This Career: I am always so excited about the stuff we find, the artists who make it and I love getting to know their backstories. 

One Thing I’ve Learned The Hard Way: Learn how to run a business and have to have smart people around you. 

You’d Never Guess That: My daughter is an amazing photographer and she takes all the pictures on our social media pages. 

Why I Love Doing Business In Charleston: Charleston is wonderful all year round and there are so many rising artists.

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