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Cuisine Queens 2019 CHEF AMBASSADOR

Jessica Shillato

The Ladies of Lula Drake

Fall 2019

Columbia, SC

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Table of Contents




6 LinkedIn Tips

for Small-Business Owners

ATTITUDES & ETIQUETTE 6. Grief in the Work place 18. Doing Things Differently

Can Be a Piece of Cake


Villa Tronco:


Jessica Shillato:

A Mother to Daughter to Daughter Legacy

Columbia’s 2019 Chef Ambassador


Dianne Light:


Lula Drake Ladies:

No Woman is an Island




Harvest Hope Food Bank: Providing Hope to Hungry Families

FINANCE 14. 15.

5 Steps Involved in a Food Recall Forming Your Own LLC MARKETING


Contact (803) 216-1902

Pro Tips for Professional Prose IN EVERY ISSUE


Editor’s Letter


Book Review

Serve Up Great Communication

Helping You Put Your Best Foot Forward One word at a time

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It’s hard to keep up with myriad style guides and ever-changing English grammar, mechanics, and usage issues, but the The F-Suite is here to help. Because what you write is a direct reflection of both you and your business, in this issue we are excited to introduce a column titled “Get It Write” to help small-business owners master the usage conventions they need to produce polished prose. The first installment covers a lot of ground. Future articles will tackle one narrowly focused topic with a short, easy-to-comprehend explanation to help you sharpen this important tool in your professional toolbox.

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Editor's Letter Publisher and Managing Editor Anna Gelbman Edmonds Design and Production: Kristina Parella Assistant Editor Kristin Scott Contributing Writers April Blake Carolyn Culbertson Erika Dawkins Sylvie Golod Heather Leigh Paul Owens Kimberly Raber Nancy Tuten Photographers April Blake Carolyn Culbertson Beth McNamara Sally Scott The F-Suite (Volume 1, No. 2) is a free quarterly publication. Copyright ©2019 The F-Suite LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. The publisher is not responsible for the opinions or comments of authors or the subject matter of advertisers. Advertising rate are available upon request. We welcome your comments and questions by email at or mailed to The F-Suite LLC, 317 Bradford Lane, Columbia, SC 29223. Tel. (803) 216-1902

The F-Suite’s mission is to encourage and be a resource for women in the business community, empowering them to grow and develop their businesses and leadership skills in order to make a positive impact on the greater community.

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Look what’s cookin’ in Columbia! When I moved to Columbia more than 25 years ago, it was a sleepy Southern city, and downtown went dark at 5:30. All that changed a few years ago with the revitalization of the Main Street district (endless thanks to Mast General Store and Nickelodeon for jumpstarting that). The Vista now hums with activity day and night, and both North Main and Five Points are undergoing interesting transformations. I’m delighted to say that food is a major element of this growth in our business community. Columbia now offers residents and visitors a myriad of interesting, eclectic and ethnic foods from which to choose, and served in almost as many different styles of restaurants and food trucks. This issue’s theme is the food industry. Anyone opening a restaurant is taking a big risk. More than half fail in the first year. We want you to meet three local women restauranteurs whose businesses have achieved both success and longevity. If you’re in the food business or thinking of starting a food business, Jessica Shillato, Carmella Roche, and Dianne Light are your role models. I encourage you to visit their dining rooms after you read their stories–and tell them The F-Suite sent you! After recently experiencing a death in my family, I decided to include in this issue an article about grief in the workplace. Weeks after the loss, sadness still washes over me when I least expect it, which can be awkward in public. I’ve cried in the dentist’s chair and wiped tears away in the grocery store check-out line. But what do we do when we’re at work and how will our co-workers respond if tears well up? Grief counselor Heather Leigh offers us some advice on the subject. On a happier note, I’m delighted to announce that Richland Library will be contributing business-related book reviews and other articles on a regular basis. If you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner and haven’t been to their state-of-the-art Business, Careers and Research Center at the main branch on Assembly Street, what are you waiting for? Everything they offer is free, and they offer a lot¬–including one-on-one meetings with a career coach or the entrepreneur in residence. And I have more good news. The F-Suite is growing so quickly that we hired an intern! We’ll be formally introducing her via social media, so follow us on Facebook for more details. We hope to see you there! Let’s grow together!


6 LINKEDIN TIPS FOR SMALL-BUSINESS OWNERS Establishing a professional profile for both you and your company.


By Erika Dawkins


any people assume that LinkedIn is simply a place for those seeking employment. However, it is much more. LinkedIn is a tool that a small business owner can use to position herself as a professional in her field and thought leader in her industry. LinkedIn holds more than 500 million professional profiles, giving you an unlimited supply of network connections. So, whether you’re using LinkedIn to build your professional network or brand yourself as a professional in your field, use these steps to make it work for you. WRITE ARTICLES Writing articles on LinkedIn helps you stand out as an expert in your industry. It is a great opportunity for you to create relevant content to share with others, whether you’re sharing information you just learned or information you’ve learned about the industry over the years. This is a great way to show others who may be interested in working with you or your company that you are knowledgeable and engaging. ENGAGE WITH OTHERS It’s not enough to simply, create your LinkedIn profile and leave it out to dry. It’s important to like, comment and share content so your connections see that you are active. If you come across a great article shared by one of your connections, comment letting them know you enjoyed the article. This opens up the opportunity for dialogue, and

USE THE RECRUITMENT TOOL As a business owner, it is also just as important that your business maintains a presence on LinkedIn. One of the key things to do as a business owner when using LinkedIn for recruiting employees is utilizing the Career Pages. On your business’s Career Page, you will have the opportunity to create a personality and display your company’s culture through the Life tab. This option allows you to tell a little bit more about what it’s like to work for your company vs. just what your company does. You are able to add modules about why someone would want to work with you, your company’s social responsibility, etc. This section also allows you to add pictures of your employees at work or at company events, link industry-related articles written by your staff, and add employee testimonials. This option is vital to a company seeking great talent.

you may be able to provide additional insight for others. FOLLOW OTHER PROFESSIONALS AND PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS IN YOUR INDUSTRY This is especially important in your quest to keep up with industry news. Following other professionals and professional organizations in your industry gives you access to the knowledge they share, as well as, articles and industry updates. It’s very important to keep tabs on industry trends and reports. KEEP YOUR PROFILE UP TO DATE It is critical that you keep your profile up to date with your current business information, education, licenses and certifications, skills and endorsements. These are all things that will help anyone who happens upon your profile to find out more about you. Remember, LinkedIn is not like other social media outlets; all of this information should be directly related to yourself and your career. OPTIMIZE YOUR PROFILE LinkedIn has a highly intelligent search tool. You are able to search a keyword in various categories, including jobs, people and groups. This is why it is important that you use keywords that pertain to your field when you write your headline, your business’s information section and your job descriptions. Adding these keywords will help when someone is searching for a professional with your experience or knowledge.

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Attitudes & Etiquette

GRIEF IN THE WORKPLACE Grief isn’t magically resolved once the standard three-day bereavement leave ends. By Heather Leigh


hat do you say or do after a co-worker’s spouse passes away suddenly? Do you ever wonder how your business partner manages to cope every day after her brother’s suicide or an unwanted divorce? How can you respectfully acknowledge a colleague’s rape, loss of a home to fire, or cancer diagnosis? What do you say to a co-worker struggling during the holidays? How can we better prepare our workplace environment to embrace someone who is struggling with a tragic life event? Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss of any kind. It’s also the most neglected and misunderstood experience, often by both the grievers and those around them. We are socialized to believe these feelings are abnormal and unnatural. We regurgitate such clichés like “keep a stiff upper lip,” “I know how you feel,” “she led a full life,” and “God, will never give you more than you can handle.” These empty platitudes do nothing to help the griever and may add to their already existing confusion, anger, disap6 |

pointment, and frustration. It is normal for a griever to be overwhelmed, feel lost, dazed, confused or frustrated when a major loss impacts or disrupts her life. The griever may see returning to work as a distraction from mourning or a way to move beyond the loss. However, unresolved issues can lay dormant until a co-worker offers a well-meaning comment, a forgotten memento is found in a desk drawer, or a client takes the opportunity to overshare details of her own loss. Co-workers may feel the bereaved is receiving special treatment or that they must mind their words and actions so as not to cause a breakdown. Everyone in the organization should recognize that grief is not resolved once the standard three bereavement days are over. Both employers and employees can take steps to address the issue of grief in the workplace. Employees and Grief In an attempt to provide comfort, people typically repeat what they have learned and

heard. While said with the best of intentions, words often ring hollow. Rather than saying “call me if you need anything,” try to provide the griever with specifics: “I am going to the store, can I pick up a salad, fruit, or some soup for you?” or “I’m free on Tuesday, can I mow your lawn, take the dog for a walk, or drop the kids off at school for you?” When providing the griever with specific options, they know what you are willing to do and may be more receptive to your offer. A grieving colleague may want to talk about the loss, and it is okay to ask what happened. Take this opportunity to listen with an open heart, without analysis, criticism, or judgement. Refrain from sharing your similar experience or saying, “I know how you feel” — because you don’t. Let the griever share her story with her words and emotions. Employers and Grief Employers who acknowledge the impact of grief also understand there is power in creating a positive environment. This means finding ways for employees to feel empow-

working through the sniffles. There are financial aspects of grief in the workplace that employers should acknowledge. In 2011, grief cost employers over $75 billion a year due to reduced productivity and increased mistakes, according to Business Insider. Across the nation, employers bear the brunt of employee grief through loss of production, absenteeism, inefficient use of time, clouded judgement, and increased on-the-job injuries. The stakes are higher among employees with physical jobs; the inability to concentrate may increase workplace injuries that can result in higher worker’s compensation claims, which often impact the company’s bottom line. How companies handle employee grief can easily determine whether or not a good employee will stay with the organization. Creating a culture of understanding and embracing human emotions as part of the organizational fabric can help retain the best talent and protect an organization’s bottom line.



Heather Leigh is a certified grief recovery specialist with The Grief Recovery Institute and can be contacted at

ered to help the griever in a positive and healthy way. Creating a supportive environment is one safe from gossip, obligatory sympathy, or fear of judgement and appearing unable to perform her job. Creating a safe space may require offering one-to-one counseling, participation in a grief recovery program, employee training on grief and communication, flexible work hours, or an on-sight area where the griever can go for comfort and privacy. Showing sad emotions in the workplace is often misconstrued as a sign of weakness or unprofessionalism. A griever can suddenly become overwhelmed many days or even months after the life event. Crying is the body’s natural response to distress. Shedding tears in a professional setting is nothing to be ashamed of and doesn’t require an apology. The griever is not responsible for how others may feel when he or she expresses such emotions. However, courtesy dictates that the griever let co-workers know that tears may well up spontaneously and are not cause for concern. This allows everyone to continue


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A MOTHER TO DAUGHTER TO DAUGHTER LEGACY The Secret to Villa Tronco’s Longevity? La Famiglia! by April Blake Photographs by Sally Scott


assed down from mother to daughter three times over, this Italian family heirloom is only 80 years old, not very vintage in terms of other heirlooms that Italian families pass down. But in restaurant terms, 80 years is a true feat. The relation between these two? The fact that the Italian heirloom in question is a restaurant, the oldest in the state of South Carolina: Villa Tronco. Sadie Tronco opened the restaurant in 1940. It then changed hands to their daughter, Carmella Tronco Martin and her husband Henry Martin Sr. Now, it is in the hands of her daughter, Carmella Roche and her husband Joe Roche. Currently working at the restaurant as well is Carmella and Joe’s daughter Carmelina Nieto, who makes their famous cheesecakes. 8 |

Set just back off of Main Street on Blanding, the building itself is steeped in history. A former fire station in the early 1900s, the cozy dining area original brick from the Civil War era, giving the space an authentically Old World feel that just can’t be replicated in new construction. Small nods to the building’s firehouse history are visible to those who are in the know. Vintage fire buckets and a humongous Dalmatian statue are just two such details for which one should keep an eye out. The length of time Villa Tronco has been able to stay in business is one of its most amazing features. In 80 years, the restaurant has kept its doors open through wars, through immense changes in the Main Street landscape, and the recent Great Recession, too. Roche credits their longevity mostly to her grandmother Sadie.

“She instilled a great work ethic in us when they came over from Italy and built this business for us,” said Roche. The strong family and especially mother-daughter connection is what Villa Tronco is built on. Family and customers get treated with the same warmth and hospitality that make every visit seem like a special treat. “Our customers are a part of our family and we know them by name,” Martin says. Her husband Henry agreed. “It’s the closeness and these family ties that mean so much,” he said while bouncing his two-year-old great granddaughter on his knee. When discussing weathering more recent setbacks like the recession, Roche’s facial expression was as though she could feel the pain of living through it all over again. “We had to be lean during that time because people weren’t eating out, and we had to hope things would get better, but it took a few years,” she said. Making some adjustments to their business helped them during the leaner years. But one particular act of forethought kept Villa Tronco going through the hard years— the fact that Carmella and Henry Martin Sr. bought the building years ago. Getting through those tough times came with a major payoff for the whole family. Right after the recession faded away, Main Street slowly began to buzz with life. Roche

credits Mast General for kickstarting the positive change that downtown Columbia has seen in the past decade. “When all of this started it was unbelievable for us,” said Roche. “We are busier and we just keep on our toes and have more staff, and ramp up our efforts a little bit for the customers.” The Roches have made a few changes at Villa Tronco, such as being closed on Mondays as an extra day to rest and relax before they are back at the restaurant for the rest of the week greeting customers by name and serving up their traditional family recipes that haven’t changed. Another change the Roches made was getting into the fun Main Street music scene that First Thursdays brought. Beginning with opera from Palmetto Opera in the back dining room on First Thursdays, the Roches took the customers’ love of music in the restaurant and expanded their musical offerings to every Thursday. The schedule includes a jazz week, an opera week

and two Broadway musical weeks, cycling through monthly. A boost for their business in the form of musical interludes along with more foot traffic from Main Street’s growth spurt also gives them the space to dream about the future, including potentially passing the restaurant on to the next generations. “We just want to continue as long as we can,” said Roche. “Hopefully, when the grandchildren get through college, they’ll want to be involved in running the restaurant.” One of their future hopeful plans is to renovate the upstairs portion of their building into usable dining space in keeping with the Italian spirit of being able to feed more people. “We’ll see how Main Street continues to grow with the rooftop bars and things like that,” Roche said. “Anytime anything new happens downtown it only helps us more! We’re thankful to our customers for supporting us throughout the years.” | 9


salad with cornbread croutons, and a different deviled egg recipe every day are among a patchwork of reimagined Southern dishes. Being an executive chef is not easy. But being a female executive chef is in a league of its own. While traditional gender roles place women in the domestic kitchen, the back of house in a restaurant has always been considered a man’s realm. Even now, women comprise only seven percent of the total population of head chefs in the U.S. "There are very few women in this industry," she says. More than a few times, Shillato has been the only woman in a group of men at food festivals and competitions. She’s had male colleagues tell her to go bake some desserts or go wash the dishes. Once, while in her first executive chef position, a salesperson refused to sell kitchen equipment to her because she's a woman. Over the years Shillato has learned to face these arbitrary lines with indifference. “Whatever,” she shrugs. “I can do this, too.” Shillato has a lot to show for ignoring the rules that would otherwise leave her out. Two years ago the café got so busy that she doubled her seating capacity by purchasing the adjoining building, complete

COLUMBIA’S 2019 CHEF AMBASSADOR By Carolyn Culbertson Photographs courtesy of Spotted Salamander


t the age when most kids learn to mind their Ps and Qs, Jessica Shillato learned to cook country-fried steak with rice and gravy. That was the first of many dinners she would cook for her family, who taught her the value of trying new things. "My family was always into new, fun cooking... I was kind of always experimenting at home," she said. Shillato now runs a kitchen of her own as executive chef and owner of the Spotted Salamander, the welcoming corner cafe in Columbia's historic district. Her habit of pushing the 10 |

boundaries carries on. Shillato opened the Spotted Salamander Café and Catering in 2014 sort of by happy accident, she says. The time had come for her catering company to get a new kitchen, but the space that is now the cafe beckoned to her. Shillato decided to open it to the public for lunch in addition to her catering business. "I was kind of winging it," she said. "We started out with eight tables. I didn't think anybody was going to come, but they did — thank goodness." Putting a twist on Southern classics makes Shillato's menu shine. Tomato pie mac n' cheese, the spotted

S.C . Gov. Henry McMaster congratulating Jessica Shillato on being named a 2019 South Carolina Chef Ambassador. Also pictured are S.C . Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers and S.C . Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director Duane Parrish.

with a porch wrapped by yellow jasmine in the springtime. And at the beginning of 2019, less than five years after opening her restaurant, she was chosen to represent and enrich the state’s culinary landscape as one of South Carolina’s five chef ambassadors. In October she and other ambassadors will cook a meal at the prestigious James Beard house in New York City. Although it’s a long way from her grandmother’s kitchen, Shillato’s habit of creating dishes grows stronger every day. “I have to always be making something,” she says. “It’s creative expression. It’s fine art.”



Di Prato’s powers through a partnership. By Carolyn Culbertson


ianne Light was setting down roots for her business in Columbia when she met Bill Prato, who was on his way to anywhere else. She hired him as a salad prepper at her restaurant, Dianne's on Assembly, but soon noticed his skills in the kitchen went beyond. "One day I just called him into the office and I said 'Who are you really? Because you're not a $5 an hour salad prep guy,'” Light says. “No,” he responded, “I'm a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. I'm an executive chef, and I'm just picking up chump change." So Light offered Prato the executive chef position, and he took it on the grounds that he would have control over the menu. That was the beginning of an almost 30-year business partnership so evenly matched that together they opened and ran Dianne's on Devine and Di Prato's, two of Columbia's most distinguished restaurants. Their partnership relies on mutual respect,

trust and staying out of each other’s way. “We’ve got two strong personalities, and that’s good. But we’ve got different jobs, basically,” Light says. “I think you have to have separate interests in what you’re doing in a business.” Light, a natural leader and people person, has always run the dining room, maintaining customer relationships and managing the daily rush. Prato finds his passion in food. When she elevated him to executive chef and let him flip the menu all those years ago, Light remembers how business took off. “Within six months you could not get in that place,” she says. “The place was so packed, people were actually eating on top of the cigarette machine,” Prato adds. He remembers that people were always coming in because they knew Light, who had previously co-owned three businesses and grew up in Shandon, which gave him a platform to serve food that would make people want to come back. People came back in droves. Dianne’s on Assembly was so popular that they were able

to move into a space quadruple the size on Devine Street. Then in a truly balanced effort in 2003, eight years after the move, they also opened Di Prato’s as co-owners. The lunch (and brunch on the weekends) restaurant bears a piece of them both in its name and style. Someone could go into Di Prato’s without ever meeting Light or Prato and still know them by the rich New York Italian menu that doesn’t take itself too seriously, the graceful yet assertive Southern charm of the servers and environment, and the way they warmly complement each other. Light and Prato understand that good relationships bind great businesses. By no means has their journey been a perfect one, however. Feeling jerked around by the daily rigor of running two busy restaurants, they made the tough decision to close Dianne’s on Devine in 2013. “Not everything is hunky-dory and fairies and unicorns, you know what I mean? But we’ve conquered through it,” Prato says. “Respect each other. Work hard. Make sure one person doesn’t do more than the other person.” Light is a force in her own right. Before Dianne’s on Assembly, she had immersed herself in the fashion, interior design and restaurant industries on her own with success. But meeting Prato was sort of like finding a business soulmate — luck already written in the stars. | 11


LULA DRAKE LADIES SERVE UP GREAT COMMUNICATION Staffing success at Lula Drake begins with openness. By April Blake


ome things that begin completely unintentionally turn out to be exactly what people are seeking. And such is the case at Lula Drake Wine Parlour, an intimate wine bar on Main Street in Columbia, where the unintentional way that they’ve built up a nearly all-female staff brings exactly the right feel and tone to the restaurant.

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The relaxed energy is palpable on a Friday as people begin trickling in looking to unwind before heading home. Each new customer is greeted with a genuine cheeriness that’s welcoming but not falsely enthusiastic. It’s easy to sit at the bar and watch each new person who enters melt into the calming and softly-lit atmosphere. From the staff behind the bar and the servers who attentively enjoy their conversations with the people whose

wine orders they take, their gracious mannerisms put guests at ease in the well-appointed, lush space. Currently, outside of owner and head sommelier Tim Gardner and one dishwasher, the other nine employees, from the servers to the executive chef, are women. “When we first opened there were several gentlemen here but once it became mostly female, it changed in terms of hospitality for us,” said general manager Jessica Williams. Keeping track of one another’s well-being like they would their own family is crucial each evening of service at Lula Drake. “There’s a lot of lifting one another up, and asking each other what we can do to help, and a lot of back scratching,” said Williams. “People think that women working together is competitive, but here, it’s not,” said Rosalind Graverson, executive chef. These women treat each other respectfully, which is important in the fast-paced restaurant world, and especially in one where the servers need to retain and understand a lot of information about the complex topic of wine. Keeping the communication door wide open is another key to their staffing success. “Everyone has these ideas and we have a staff that gets along, is constantly learning together with no competition, and the female focus is just a part of it,” said Williams. New potential hires get told right up front, too, how tight-knit the group at Lula Drake is. When they come in, Williams said, they are told that they need to be aware that they are joining a group of people who treat each other well, and they will be loved. Williams believes the family dynamic starts at the top and trickles down. “Tim is so great because he is a feminist in every sense of the word,” said Williams. “He treats us like he’d treat his own daughter, with respect, leniency, and trust to run this business in his absence.”




oo many South Carolinians have to choose between meals and vital living expenses, like utilities or medical costs. At Harvest Hope Food Bank, our mission is to provide for the needs of hungry neighbors by gathering and sharing quality food with dignity, compassion and education. In 1981, Harvest Hope was founded by leaders from business and faith communities who came together to serve the hungry of Columbia. In the years since, we have grown dramatically, expanding our service areas to

include 20 counties in the Midlands, Upstate and Pee Dee regions. While Harvest Hope serves our neighbors, we also depend on the help of our neighbors. We’ve developed relationships with thousands of volunteers, donors, and agency partners whose support is essential to our mission. We partner with more than 430 nonprofit agencies, serving nearly 27,000,000 meals in FY 2018-2019 (roughly equivalent to four meals for each citizen of this state). Our partnerships also allow us to leverage every $1 donation to Harvest Hope into five

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meals by working with organizations and individuals to drive food donations and buy in bulk. Through these partnerships, we’re able to reach approximately 31,405 people each week from our locations in Columbia, Greenville and Florence. Because anyone can go hungry, Harvest Hope has programs in place to serve people in every stage of life, from senior citizens, children, veterans and beyond. Many don’t realize that 64% of school children across our 20-county service area qualify for free and reduced lunches. One in five children in South Carolina go to bed hungry every night. In order to feed these children, we started Feeding America’s Kids Café and BackPack programs. Kids Café is a charitable after-school meal service program for children ages six to 18 that distributes hot meals in churches, after-school programs and public schools. Our BackPack Program provides weekend hunger relief for children identified as at risk of hunger, who receive fresh and nutritious sources of fruit and protein that can easily be opened or prepared on their own. One in 10 South Carolina senior citizens, another high-risk population, face food insecurity, meaning they remain uncertain if they can meet their daily hunger needs. Through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), Harvest Hope provides a monthly nutritious commodity box to participating seniors. Harvest Hope also has mobile food pantries to deliver food to rural and remote pockets of poverty. Each month, when our trucks roll up to mobile food pantry sites, they are welcomed by local partners who help coordinate our efforts to provide food to their hungry neighbors. For more than 35 years, Harvest Hope has played a vital role in serving the hungry across South Carolina. We couldn’t do it without the support of our volunteers, donors and community partners. Thanks to the collaboration of numerous individuals, we are taking tremendous steps towards ending hunger among our neighbors. Wendy Broderick serves as the CEO of Harvest Hope Food Bank. For more information, visit | 13

Book Review



Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir by Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein


on’t let the title of this book deceive you. Kwame Onwuachi’s memoir, “Notes from a Young Black Chef,” imparts more than mere notes. Onwuachi divulges hardcore, complex life ingredients vital for survival and realizing one’s passion without compromising authenticity. By the time Onwuachi was 29 years old, he had trained at the Culinary Institute of America, was a former” Top Chef ” contestant and had opened five restaurants. Today, he is the executive chef at Kith and Kin and owner of the Philly Wing Fry franchise in Washington, DC. Onwuachi praises the women in his life, “who have shaped me into the man I am today.” His descriptive narratives integrate all the senses for the cookbook-aholic, and at the end of each chapter, there are complementary recipes to fully engage the reader’s inner chef. Onwuachi shares his autobiographical story through food, steeped and seasoned with the historical lives of his ancestors. 14 |

Lowering the risk of a product liability claim By Paul Owens


any small businesses either manufacture or distribute food products. The food can be meals served in restaurants or individually sold items marketed in retail stores, online or at farmers' markets and craft fairs. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recalled approximately 125 food products. But mandatory food recalls are rare. Most recalls originate with the company producing the food product. The Center for Disease Control and other reporting systems of FDA-regulated products can also recommend a food product recall. If a food product is recalled for safety issues, it’s important to act quickly to prevent product liability claims by consumers. Consumer injury claims can result in costly compensations and lawsuits for everyone involved in the distribution chain. The five steps involved in a food recall 1. The maker or distributor of the product (that’s you!) notifies the appropriate authorities. Consumer hotlines are established where information can be obtained regarding the recall’s scope, including serial/batch numbers, where the product was sold, etc.

2. Recall announcements are released on the appropriate government agency websites, the product maker’s website and in print media notices. Television and radio news broadcasts may also be necessary. 3. Consumer groups typically notify the public when learning of food recalls. 4. In most cases, consumers are advised to return the product to the seller for a full refund or replacement. 5. Consumer compensation varies depending on specific laws that govern consumer trade protection following an investigation into what triggered the recall. If you manufacture, package, distribute or sell any food products, keep this information handy and hope you don’t need to use it. But it’s highly recommended that you carry product recall insurance. The costs involved in a recall can be quite high, even if no consumer claims are made. Contact your commercial insurance agent for more information on product liability and product recall insurance. Paul Owens manages the Product Liability Division of Sadler & Company, Inc.


inance IFnspirers

Are You Protected? By Kimberly A. Raber


o, you’re ready to take the leap and form a bona fide company. Congratulations! My law practice is a woman-owned small business just like yours. I primarily practice in the area of business law and am passionate about helping small-business owners protect themselves and the businesses they’ve built. It is a common practice among small business owners in South Carolina to form their own limited liability company (LLC) online from home in the comfort of their favorite pajamas. The S.C. Secretary of State website makes that easy to do without the help of an attorney. However, while this may initially sound like a great idea, you could be placing yourself and your business at risk. Let’s look closely at the process of forming an LLC. You will be asked right away to complete articles of organization, which the website makes sound easy enough. But are you aware of the role of a registered agent? What a term company is? Or if your company should be managed by members or managers? The majority of people answer these questions without actually understanding them. And

they are important questions! Next, for tax purposes, you are asked to inform the IRS how you want your company to be treated. If you choose to skip this portion or if you make an uninformed choice, you could end up paying more self-employment taxes than you should. Who wants to pay more taxes? Next, are you acting like a company? Do you have a signed operating agreement that suits your company? How is your company’s name listed on your letterhead, invoices, emails, business cards, social media, advertising and marketing materials? Who has the authority to sign legal documents on behalf of the company? Has the company voted on and approved major transactions, such as sales and purchases of property or loans? You are probably answering “no” to these questions– and wondering why it matters. Trust me, you are not alone. And that’s not good. If your company is not acting like a company, then the courts are not going to give it the protection of a company. What that means is that your company’s contracts could be held invalid and not enforceable. You, as the owner, could be held personally

responsible for the debts and liabilities of the company. You could lose your house, cars, savings–EVERYTHING you worked so hard to accumulate. As you are now quickly changing out of your pajamas, you are probably asking yourself, “What do I do now?” Every business owner will benefit from being part of a team. You need to build your team by seeking the services of an attorney and an accountant. These professionals are educated and trained in helping small businesses and will look out for your best interest. You and your team can ensure that you are paying the correct amount of taxes, that your personal assets are protected from the debts and liabilities of your company, and that your contracts are valid and enforceable. Build a team and let it work for you so you can concentrate on and grow your business. Kimberly A. Raber has been practicing law in South Carolina for 31 years. You can learn more about her at | 15


PRO TIPS FOR PROFESSIONAL PROSE Show your clients, vendors and colleagues you have the write stuff By Dr. Nancy Tuten


s a small-business owner, you may sometimes find yourself wishing you had paid closer attention to your teachers when they were trying to explain how to write well. Web content, emails, newsletters and social media posts all require us to write. As small business owners, we can’t always afford to hire professional writers and editors, yet we know that our words matter. Some business experts directly correlate spelling mistakes, for example, to lost revenue. First, tackle the big issues Before we write the first word, we should consider two critical questions. First, “What is the purpose of this message?” Writing well is difficult and time consuming, but that time and energy are wasted if we aren’t first clear about the one overriding idea we want our readers to take away. What do we want them to believe or feel or do when they have finished reading what we’re about to write? For example, if we are writing a social media post to announce a new hire, is it more important to tout that person’s past experiences or the specifics of the new role? Should we emphasize the individual or the fact that our business is growing and needs a new hire? Should the post include some sort of call to action, or is it simply an opportunity to remind our audience of the services or products we offer? Without a clearly defined and narrow focus, we miss out on the opportunity to maximize each interaction with our current 16 |

We have to remember that we are not the intended audience, and the angle with which we might carelessly and instinctively present our message may not be the best way to reach the audience we seek. and potential clients. Knowing our purpose guides us in decisions about two other critical components of good writing: organization and development. If we know the intent of a particular message, we can make better decisions about which details to include and which to leave out and in what order we should present those details. The purpose of our message also drives important decisions we must make about both the structure and the order of our sentences. Sentences and paragraphs should flow logically and coherently to guide readers toward the conclusion we want them to reach. The second question is equally important: “Who is the audience for this message?” We can’t lead our readers to the conclusion we hope they will reach if we don’t consider their perspectives. What do they already know about the subject of our message, and what do we need to tell them? What emotional or practical connection do they already have to the subject matter? What are their needs and concerns? They are all just as busy as we are:

how can we hold their attention? We have to remember that we are not the intended audience, and the angle with which we might carelessly and instinctively present our message may not be the best way to reach the audience we seek. We have to take time to picture our ideal readers and to frame our message in a way that will best guide them to the purpose we have in mind. Next, proofread. Again. And again. Once we have considered our audience, focused our message, made a compelling and persuasive case, and kept the reader’s attention, the final step is to edit our writing before we send it out into the world. Unfortunately, we are the worst editors of our own writing because we know what we meant to say; we don’t always recognize when we have been unclear or hear when a sentence is awkward. This difficulty is compounded when our work is fresh. If at all possible, we should put a draft away and review it later (a day or more later if possible, but at least a few hours) before hitting “send” (that magic button that allows us instantly to see all our errors). One helpful strategy is to ask another careful writer to be an editing partner. Both writers agree to read one another’s work with fresh eyes. If at all possible, editing partners should read the work out loud so the writers can hear problems with sentence structure or the logical flow of ideas. If the reader stumbles through a sentence, it probably needs work.

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Finally, launch the message At some point, especially given the fast pace of news cycles and the constant need to post on social media, we have to let go and send our writing out into the world. But if we have considered our audience and purpose, if we have used those two important details to craft an organized and compelling message, and if we have edited carefully, our written words will represent us well and enhance the success of our business endeavors. Professionals understand that the written word makes a powerful and lasting impression. It may not be fair, but it is nonetheless true: if our writing appears less than competent and professional, potential clients may wonder about our competence in other areas. To improve the quality of our writing, we have to invest both time and mental bandwidth, but these are assets wisely spent in this important pursuit. Dr. Nancy Tuten is founder and owner of Get It Write: Writing Skills Seminars and Consulting Services. Visit to subscribe to her free weekly eNewsletter and to learn about her writing-skills seminars.

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Of course, it is also important to make sure our professional writing employs what is known as standard written American English or SWAE. As Shakespeare once wrote, “Aye, there’s the rub.” Even if we did pay attention in school, some of the rules have changed. To make matters worse, some of the rules we have learned through the years aren’t really rules at all (yes, you can start a sentence with because; no, every paragraph is not required to have a specified number of sentences). When we fail to follow the conventions of SWAE, our readers are often more focused on our mistakes than on our message. Yet the number of issues we need to know can be overwhelming: • Is the confidential information to be kept “between you and I” or “between you and me”? • Will the presentation be made by “Ellen and me” or by “Ellen and myself ”? • In response to a question about two proposals, should I say that “neither of them is acceptable” or “neither of them are acceptable”? Some grammatical issues are consistent across all style guides (it’s always “between you and me,” for example), while on some issues style guides disagree (do we use the Oxford comma all the time or only to avoid ambiguity, for example?).

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lomp. About half of the Bundt cake fell out of the pan. But at least it wasn’t just the bottom of the cake that fell out while the top clung stubbornly to the inner curves, like last time. I was almost mad enough to throw away this iteration of the Coca-Cola cake I was trying to perfect. But I decided to get with the program and form the crumbly mess into cake truffles using the leftover chocolate chips I had and save it from being flung in the trash like the first one I ruined. Despite the very clear instructions to bake this cake a in a 9x13” rectangle pan, I decided to blaze forward and use a Bundt pan. I wanted a round Coca-Cola cake. The first time it stuck because I did not dust the pan with cocoa powder after greasing it. Okay, my bad. The second time I greased it and threw in a generous portion of cocoa powder to coat every interior inch of the pan, insuring a no-stick bake this time. I put the cake in the oven and set the timer for 45 minutes. It looked absolutely glorious when I pulled it out. But after loosening it’s edges a bit with a knife and flipping it over, the cake ripped in half, sealing its fate as another failure. Forcing this sheet cake recipe into a Bundt pan was an effort in

futility, which ended in cake truffles. Accepting that I couldn’t make something occur just by sheer force of will and a little grease, I wondered if there was anything else in my life that I was trying to force into a Bundt pan that should be in a sheet pan format. That thought led me to thinking about my job search to reduce or eliminate my very long daily commute. I want it so badly, and think about it every day. It’s hard to tell while in the throes of a process if you’re doing it right or wasting time on useless stuff that isn’t getting you closer to the ultimate goal. Unlike a recipe, when trying to find a new job there isn’t a step-by-step process to ensure the end result is what you’re hoping for. My efforts at taking on random freelance work, enrolling in online courses and polishing up my LinkedIn profile are like mixing together ingredients blindly and hoping they would taste great. My goal is to reduce my commute before the end of the year; but I’ve told myself that before. This time I mean it. That means it’s time to assess the ingredients I’m putting into my job search and make sure to put them in the right shaped pan because I want my next venture — whatever it may be — to be the most delicious one yet. And by the way, the cake truffles were really great.

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