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This Issue


Columbia, SC


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.

Table of Contents

12. LEADERSHIP IN A PANTSLESS NATION Meet business owner and author Jada Willis


Rethinking your work-from-home space


Get a look at the invisible woman behind The F-Suite


18. TAMARA BROWN PROVES SHE IS NOT YOUR AVERAGE TRAINER Against all odds, her business is booming



Are these public spaces rethinking their business model?




Think of this as Entrepreneurism 2.0

6. COVID-19: HOW LOCAL BUSINESSES HAVE PIVOTED To land on your feet will take innovation and creative thinking


Tackling the issue of teen pregnancy before it becomes a problem

8. WHEN TO CAPITALIZE POSITIONS AND TITLES Sparingly is the general rule of thumb


Warble and boogaloo away your stress and so much more

10. GETTING BACK ON TRACK WHEN THE WHEELS FALL OFF Practical advice for moving forward


Educators look at alternative ways to continue on their career path


For women of a certain age



Download or copy and paste at your own peril


Likeable Social Media by Dave Kerpen


It took some adjustment, but now she’s cruising!

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Editor's Letter Publisher and Managing Editor Anna Gelbman Edmonds Design and Production Kristina Parella Assistant Editor Betsy Montgomery Contributing Writers April Blake Karen Campbell Martie Cowsert Streit Carolyn Crowder Carolyn Culbertson Diane J. Epperly Sylvie Golod Earl Gregorich Haley Kellner Bland Lawson Doug Lineberry Nancy Tuten Photographers Whitley N. Bell Sally Scott The F-Suite (Volume 2, No.4) is a free quarterly publication. Copyright ©2020 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 the authors or the subject matter of advertisers. Advertising rates are available upon request. We welcome your comments and questions by email at info@thefsuite.com or mail to The F-Suite LLC, 317 Bradford Lane, Columbia, SC 29223. Tel. (803) 216-1902

Thank You

IT’S HOT OUT THERE! We’re in what I call the South’s second summer, when temperatures and humidity levels in September and October differ very little from those in July and August. The business community is also feeling the heat as COVID-19 continues to curtail almost everything except Netflix binging. Much of this issue focuses on various aspects of working remotely, but we also look at how important pivoting, creativity, and innovation are to the survival of your business. I know it’s disheartening (even scary) to see so many business, large and small, failing. However, I’m convinced we’re entering the era of Entrepreneurism 2.0, and that small and local businesses are primed to be the big winners in the aftermath of this pandemic.

I recently heard Bette Midler singing “Wind Beneath My Wings,” which gave me pause. While I am the face and voice of the The F-Suite, I have a mind-blowing team that produces this magazine and helps grow the business. The superstar is Kristina, our graphic designer, who is actually the backbone of the business. She wraps it up in the pretty package you’re staring at right now. A friend made me realize we need to profile her business, so we have on page 16. Then there’s April Blake, who not only writes for us, but is always available to problem solve and offer me fresh perspective. Best of all, she seems to know (or know about) everyone in town, info that I often find to be quite useful! My printing rep, Stanley McCloy, and website designer, Doug Adam, are the best in their fields. More importantly, they’re both extremely generous, kind men who always send me into gales of laughter during what are supposed to be business phone calls and meetings. And I can’t say enough good things about the energy and professionalism all our writers, editors and photographers bring to the table— they sure make me and the magazine look good. Then there’s my friend Kathy, who recently stepped up to the plate in a big way when she saw I needed help with budgeting, sales goals and the ugly numbers side of running a business. She’s the human equivalent of Xanax and is a walking, talking spreadsheet. Kathy personifies the notion that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in the most delightful way! If you haven’t lately, please tell your team you appreciate how good they make you and your business look!

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Attitudes & Etiquette


COVID-19 put a lot of us (including me) in a rut. Here’s your blueprint for getting unstuck By Caroline Crowder


t this point in quarantine, you have probably been forced to let at least one employee go. You feel an insurmountable level of guilt for this, causing you to question your leadership. You have probably put on a few pounds from working at the dining room table and snacking on those brownies you made with the kids last night that are calling your name from the kitchen counter. Dare I assume you have become incredibly discouraged by the continuously rising number of C-19 cases, causing you to question the leadership of our government (if you weren’t already)? Everything in life feels so uncertain at the moment. As entrepreneurs, we should be able to thrive in uncertainty. It is something we should cling to and be attracted to. Because where there is uncertainty, there is opportunity. Where there is opportunity, there is impact (and money) to be made. You are not stuck, just complacent. Hence, it is time to check (and change) your mindset to… Discipline eats motivation for breakfast. You are not always going to be motivated or “feel like” balancing your books – yet, it must get done. Many people lost motivation during quarantine and struggled to virtually manage teams while working from home. And with no end in sight, we have an absurd amount of uncertainty ahead of us. This is not an easy time for anyone. But especially

as business owners, we feel as though we have lost complete control over what we once dominated. You must train your mind to remember that you are the leader. You are responsible for setting the tone for your business. Whether you set a sense of urgency or daydream about moving to Canada, your employees will mirror your work ethic. I want to challenge you to do a few things: Return to the basics Remember those periodic check in calls you used to make to your clients before you got “too busy?” Use this time to pick up the phone and call those individuals or send a thoughtful card in the mail with a handwritten note. Remind yourself how you got your first customers; it was likely because of existing relationships in your network. Never stop nurturing those relationships. Experiment with digital marketing Never tried Facebook Ads? Now is a great time to start! Use this time to learn a new digital marketing skill, and start to experiment with it. Digital marketing is a marginal monetary investment with the potential to exponentially grow your business when executed properly. Make your goals and vision BIGGER People want to work for people who have audacious goals with the potential to impact the community or an industry in pioneering ways. Rather than scaling down, set bold, strategic goals, and execute a tactical plan. There will always be periods throughout the

entrepreneurial journey when we become complacent; it’s normal. Reaching a level of sustainability causes us to want to coast for just a couple of weeks, which too often turns into years. I dare you to revisit your original tenacious and driven mindset, and push your boundaries as hard as you did when you first started your journey. Do not lose your hunger to grow and be better. Celebrate key accomplishments for 24 hours, then get back to work. Quoted multiple times in Inc Magazine, Caroline Crowder is a passionate advocate for the state of South Carolina as fertile breeding grounds for entrepreneurship.

HELP US GROW! Believe in our mission? Know the Columbia metropolitan business community?

Help Columbia businesses get to know and partner with The F-Suite.


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Think of facing difficult circumstances as an opportunity to think creatively and innovate

Photograph: Samantha Moore


By Martie Cowsert Streit he pandemic is global. Every community, organization and individual has been impacted. We have navigated eight months of unprecedented disruption to our businesses and lifestyles. How have we pivoted to accommodate the “new normal?” How will this shape us for a post-pandemic world? Some questions remain unanswered for now. We are still adapting, learning, defining the new normal. For some that means simply staying afloat with a laser focus on the light at the end of the tunnel, although admittedly we do not yet see that light. Others look for alternate revenue streams or innovative ways to help others sustain through the crisis. By Invitation Only, a Columbia-based event planning and design firm, specializes in weddings. While the company has not lost business due to the pandemic, 75% of the events have been postponed. “We continue to plan events with new dates, locations and guidelines,” stated owner Melanie Murphy. Murphy said that while her firm always makes an effort to ensure safety and comfort, she is implementing new practices to accom-

Photograph: Melanie Murphy


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modate social distancing and reduce close contact interactions. “We are also partnering with other area vendors to produce safe, comfortable event experiences.” However, Murphy states that the term “new normal” is not uttered among her staff. “We call it the ‘new now’. Each event is unique and specific to the client, and legislative decisions result in changing market restrictions and guidelines. We adapt each day and encourage clients to plan accordingly, making sure they are knowledgeable about updated policies and practices, and taking steps to ensure safety. We always help review contracts, but as new Force Majeure policies are included, we’re taking extra time to ensure clients understand them and are prepared for future hiccups.” Summerville’s Simple to Sublime, a retail gift shop, has taken extensive pivotal measures throughout the pandemic. “We had to lay off, reduce hours; we negotiated with our creditors, added an online shopping platform, offered personal and virtual shopping appointments, held live sales on social media, and have offered virtual events, such as bingo, trivia, vendor spotlights and fashion shows,” explained owner Samantha Moore. “We added masks to our assortment and offer free local delivery as well as curbside pickup. We recently invested in ongoing staff development to stay ahead of the curve and have changed buying patterns and how we pay for goods and services.” These changes have paid off for Simple to Sublime, as the retailer has met 75% of its pre-pandemic sales objectives for the first half of the year and 80% of its adjusted objectives. Asked which elements of Simple to Sublime’s new normal will carry forward into the post-pandemic world, Moore replied, “Almost all of them! We will continue to offer our products digitally and host virtual events, which was not in our plan prior to COVID-19.”

femme x COLUMBIA is a social club and co-workspace founded by Stephanie Isaacs and Nell Fuller. The downtown space is set to open in October. Because femme x COLUMBIA is a startup, Isaacs and Fuller feel lucky to have formed their policies around evolving COVID-19 guidlines. “We’ve included guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our rules and policies,” stated Fuller. “We adjusted our approach to membership recruitment by scheduling private tours, limiting in-person and large events. We had to move our femme CULTIVATE programming to virtual platforms, a move that has enabled us to reach more people in different areas and preserve programming for future use.” Isaacs said femme x COLUMBIA has achieved its objectives for the first half of 2020, albeit with some delays. “Delays in securing property pushed back our construction start date and shifted opening from the summer to the fall. We initially planned to host events in person but shifted to virtual using Zoom and Facebook Live. Along the way we definitely experienced ‘Zoom fatigue’ and look forward to hosting events when the space opens.” Isaacs and Fuller agree that community support has kept them going. They are now even more committed to providing a network of support for Columbia’s entrepreneurs, professionals, and leaders. “Our space exists to support community creation and encourage disruptive ideas,” stated Fuller. While these business owners have taken different approaches to sustaining profitability during challenging times, it is clear the policies, practices, goods and services that have resulted from the pandemic are here to stay. Perhaps, then, we can consider “new normal” to mean continuous improvement and innovation, in which case we can, in fact, see the light at the end of the tunnel. Martie Cowsert Streit is the CMO of Lilichuks, a Charleston-based firm offering a portfolio of marketing, communications and sales operations services. www.lilichuks.com




the first male to grace the cover of The F-Suite?

We want you to have “that” talk By Lydia Royals


man on our cover!

HE’S SO F-SUITE! Coming Soon


f you work with youth, have children, or are a trusted adult, chances are you’ve been asked an uncomfortable question you weren’t ready for. Often these questions are about topics that feel embarrassing or awkward. Adolescents are constantly curious and often want information from the trusted adults in their life. That’s where Fact Forward comes in. According to a survey conducted by the University of South Carolina Institute for Public Service and Policy, 94% of South Carolinians said that teen pregnancy is an important problem. Fact Forward thinks it’s an important problem, too. Fact Forward is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health and economic well-being of individuals, communities, and the State of South Carolina and beyond by preventing teen pregnancy and advancing adolescent reproductive health. Every 154 minutes, a teen in South Carolina gives birth. In addition to that, South Carolina is ranked fourth in the country for infection rates of chlamydia AND third for gonorrhea among all ages. Fact Forward is dedicated to ensuring young people get effective health education that will change these numbers. How do we do this? Through the parents, teachers, clinicians, and community members who youth trust. We train and educate professionals who work with young adults so they can provide medically accurate and age appropriate information about healthy relationships, birth control and safer sex. Fact Forward partners with a variety of organizations to do this –

public and private schools, community-based organizations and clinics. We support and work with parents who want help with starting “the talk” or want to practice answering those uncomfortable questions from adolescents. Research shows that teens want to hear about love, sex and relationships from their parents. When parents can’t have that conversation, adolescents often resort to learning from their friends or TV/the internet. “A 70% decline in our state’s teen birth rate since 1991 is a point of pride for our state. While we are impressed with the declines, we recognize work must continue by all of us to maintain success. We cannot make an impact on teen pregnancy rates without teams of dedicated professionals willing to engage young folks across the state. At its core, our job is to support their work, and to make sure South Carolina's youth receive effective health education, as well as access to quality reproductive health services. With 3,425 births to teens in 2019 and a continual increase in STI rates, we must continue to reach youth where they need it the most.” – Beth De Santis, Fact Forward CEO. Fact Forward is supported through federal grants, state grants, private grants and generous donations from people who think this work matters. If you’re interested in our work and want to learn more, please visit factforward.org. Lydia Royals is the public relations coordinator for Fact Forward.

Columbia, SC


Do you know a successful male business owner who exemplifies the mission of The F-Suite and is supportive of gender equality in the workplace?


Post your referral on our Facebook page in the man-on-the cover post comment section. Then tag him and his business. If his business makes the cover, your business gets a 1/6-page ad in that issue. BONUS: Post a Facebook or Google review of The F-Suite and we’ll bump that up to a 1/4-page ad.

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Our job is to make you look good!


Your words matter when marketing through web content, emails, newsletters and social media posts. Every issue of The F-Suite offers writing tips to add to your professional toolbox.


Most people capitalize job positions and titles far more often than necessary By Dr. Nancy Tuten







e don’t need to capitalize the title/rank/position of a person (1) when it follows the individual’s name; (2) when it is used with the name of a company, an agency, an office, and the like; or (3) when it is used alone. Simply put, a title/rank/position is a common noun or adjective unless it immediately precedes a person’s name. The phrase “lieutenant colonel,” for example, should be capitalized only when it is used as a title before a name but not when it is used generically: 1. Lieutenant Colonel Peterson commanded 2. Jack Peterson, a lieutenant colonel, commanded the operation. 3. A lieutenant colonel, Jack Peterson, commanded the operation. Sentence 1 employs the rank as a title, as a proper adjective immediately preceding the person’s name. The rank “Lieutenant Colonel” is, therefore, capitalized. But in sentence 2, the rank is simply a common noun, a generic designation rather than a title because it follows the person’s name. In sentence 3, the rank is also being used generically. It precedes the person’s name, but it is not being used as a title. Instead, it is the subject of the verb commanded, with the name “Jack Peterson” functioning as an appositive.


The use of the article "a" before the phrase is a clue that we are using it generically. Think of the sentence as saying, in essence, “A lieutenant colonel (just one of many lieutenant colonels) whose name is Jack Peterson commanded the operation.” These principles apply to any title/ rank/position. In the following sentences, the positions in bold are appropriately not capitalized: • Digitech is advertising for the position of comptroller. • John Smith, dean of the ULS School of Medicine, will be the keynote speaker. • Tia Doe, former president of UniCorp, was born in Columbia, Missouri. • Planning activities will resume when the DHEC infrastructure director and the director of the Division of Water Safety are fully on board. • The roles of the director of training and the training coordinator will continue to be vital as we begin our intensive planning. • “Participants will learn how to take tests and fill out job applications,” said Juan Mora, district superintendent. • Regional School Health Coordinator Brian Wilson will work with DHEC regional community development specialists. In short, capitalize positions used as proper titles but not those used generically.

Attitudes & Etiquette Want to write for The F-Suite?

We welcome articles and editorials that are educational and engaging. We also accept personal and humor essays relevant to the small business community. And while we are a women’s magazine, we do accept submissions by male writers.

CONTRIBUTOR GUIDELINES • Length: 250 to 750 words. Stress is something we all deal with, but the pandemic has most of us on overload. In each issue we’ll look at different ways to soothe or bust the stress.


Calming your stress (pandemic or not) is as easy as “A B C, 1 2 3…” By Karen Campbell friend recently invited me to “silent disco” on the beach. I was intrigued. Besides us, there were six other women and a leader who distributed among us wireless headphones, explained how to operate them, and then we were off! Our leader began dancing down the boardwalk, arms swaying, fingers wiggling, motioning for us to follow. As baby ducks follow their mother, we, too, fell in line, bopping to music that only the nine of us could hear. It was in that moment the meaning of “silent disco” registered with me. I laughed out loud, exhaled a nervous “woo hoo,” tuned in to Gloria Gaynor’s soulful voice declaring “I Will Survive” and, without thought, gleefully descended onto the beach. I was liberated by the overwhelming energy. For a sun-soaked hour, my inner-child emerged, bouncing, pirouetting, twisting, and singing my stress and inhibitions away along the shore. Other beach goers waved, laughed and cheered. A few even joined us while the likes of Kool & the Gang, Michael Jackson, RUN-D.M.C., Chubby Checker, Bon Jovi and Aretha silently sustained our enthusiastic parade. Stevie Wonder said, “Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand.” This was certainly true that day. It was the BEST. DAY. EVER!


When life is hard to navigate and we lose our joy, music can help. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” Again, truth! Music doesn’t discriminate. Music decreases anxiety, depression, and blood pressure, and it boosts mood, cognitive function, imagination, relaxation and sleep for all of us. Music can change our perception of things. It is a humble companion to wellness, easily accessible and applicable to everything. You can cook while crooning to Frank Sinatra, burn calories to Beyoncé, read with Beethoven, sing in the rain with Gene Kelly, have a sad-song day with Elton, curse your ex with Carrie Underwood, ride like the wind with Christopher Cross, vacuum with Aerosmith’s guitar, garden and yodel with Julie Andrews, walk with Bruno Mars, tailgate with Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup” and Hootie holding your hand, belt out the Hamilton soundtrack in the car with kids, sing silly love songs like Paul McCartney, or just turn on a local radio station. You choose the genre, the volume and the setting–and voila! Instant physical and emotional wellness can be yours! That’s music to all ears! With Gloria, I survived that day, and so can you. Reclaim your inner child, listen to your soul, create your own silent or out-loud disco. Darius Rucker has his comeback song. What is yours? Tune it up!

• Articles should be written in layman’s terms and free of industry jargon as much as possible. • Please include a suggested title, 1 to 2-line bio, and headshot. • We reserve the right to edit all submissions for content and length if necessary. Revised copy will be returned to the author for approval prior to publication. SUBMIT ARTICLES AT

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GETTING BACK ON TRACK WHEN THE WHEELS FALL OFF Using the current situation to reassess, plan and recharge By Earl Gregorich

o, here we sit. Some of us are still at home in our makeshift workspace, home office or simply the dining room table. Others of us made our way back to a “real-world” office with all the safety precautions and worries that come with that. However, regardless of where you are or whether you think we are over COVID, in the middle of the battle or still haven’t seen the worst of it, you are probably faced with getting business back on track. So, how might we go about this?


Damage Assessment First, we need to determine what is working and what isn’t. The key is to figure out those

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things we have at our disposal that can move us forward and not dwell on those things that are no longer relevant or available. When in battle, you have to work with the tools you have and build a strategy that uses them to their fullest capability. This might include restructuring the way you deliver a service if you can’t meet a client face-to-face. You may have to switch what you manufacture if the raw materials you normally use are no longer available or the market has shifted away from your everyday product. Or, you may have to change your product packaging to allow online sales or long-distance shipping rather than in-store pickup. Look for what services the needs of the customer, using the resources you have at the lowest cost to pivot

based on your assessment of the damage your company has suffered from COVID-19. Lessons Learned Your day-to-day has changed dramatically, and there are many opportunities to learn when nobody knows what tomorrow may bring. My advice would be to keep a log of your journey and periodically revisit how you arrived where you are today. When faced with making quick decisions and going down unfamiliar paths, we tend to be so focused on survival that we don’t always see the bigger picture. Sometimes, going back and reading through your notes will help you see an opportunity that wasn’t apparent before. Or a solution may present itself because now you

ry atmosphere put an additional strain on the bottom line. Companies that knew the numbers behind their businesses and could produce credible financial reports not only had valuable information on which to base their decisions, they were also prepared to apply for relief funding. Businesses without credible financial documents could not make sound projections and, in many cases, lost out on disaster funding. Be proactive, know your numbers and make sound plans and financial projections to navigate your way through the balance of COVID-19. Mental and Physical Care The last area you need to address is the mental and physical safety of you and your employees. People do not perform well if they feel unsafe or are unsure of what is expected of them, especially when so few things in their life are normal. You have to be a leader, and that involves keeping yourself healthy and maintaining a positive attitude. Communication with your employees and those you work closely with will prove invaluable to shortening the recovery time and making it easier on the folks on whom you depend. This may mean that you have to deliver bad news or discuss issues outside the normal workplace challenges. But, if you do this right, can see more of the moving parts of your business and how they are working (or not). As you learn what works and what not to do, write it down! Hopefully, after COVID-19, you will never have to read those notes again. But, if you do, you will want to remember how you did things last time and what not to do along the way. Proactive Planning In the case of COVID-19, the only way around the problem is through it, and that takes planning. We have all been fighting to stay afloat long enough by now that we should be more aware of what needs shortterm decision making and what can wait for long-term planning. You should be getting into a rhythm of planning short-term daily or weekly courses of action based on current changes to regulatory constraints and community reactions. You should also be taking time to map out a 6, 12 or 18-month plan to keep things going long-term. This is especially needed for financial stability. Every business going into this crisis was faced with immediate financial changes. Most saw sales decline (fall off a cliff!) and some saw sales grow. Cost structures changed. Labor became a huge unknown and the regulato-

everyone comes out feeling better and your company becomes stronger because of it. No one knows for sure how this is all going to work out, and few of us were able to plan for the situation we are in. No matter your experience, education or planning prowess, you could not have foreseen COVID-19 and planned your way around it without incident. So, as you take the steps outlined above, stop looking back and beating yourself up. Instead, look forward and focus on the opportunities being presented. Strive for a stronger, more vibrant business. Pull from that passion you had when you started this entrepreneurial journey. Rekindle that fire that kept you going through long days and sleepless nights. You most likely didn’t know the outcome then, much like you don’t know the outcome now. That didn’t stop you from pressing on and neither should this. Remember, if you need a little pep talk or just someone to bounce an idea off of, I’m here, working the Zoom sessions and staring out my window right alongside you. Earl Gregorich is a Certified Business Advisor and Area Manager of the Small Business Development Center in Greenville, SC, a U.S. Air Force veteran and instructor of several small business programs throughout South Carolina.


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Jada Willis provides the secret sauce for managing remote work forces By Haley Kellner Photographs by Sally Scott t the center of every successful company is a group of people working together to effectively and efficiently complete a collective mission. Take these people out of an office, that goal doesn’t change. And while many company leaders still fear the boogeyman of unaccountable, chemistry-less remote work, Jada Willis is proving that with the right practices, working from home might make teams more interconnected than ever. As the CEO of Willis HR and leader of her own remote team, and having worked in HR since she was 16, Willis knows what companies transitioning to remote work are up against. And, while she doesn’t claim to have all the answers, she knows leaders willing to put in the work can foster that long-sought-after remote team chemistry. In fact, she wrote the book on it.


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Pantsless Nation: HR Guidance for Mastering Remote Work is exactly what is says on the cover: “a leadership guide to creating an unstoppable team.” Despite common hesitancy, the book introduction claims, “This can be awesome for everyone.” To help make that happen, Pantsless Nation aims to advise leadership on building a foundation of best practices, to break down the barriers of building remote relationships, and to demystify leadership of remote employees. In addition to Willis’s own leadership strategies, the book pulls from the experience of Willis HR, managing the human resource and recruitment processes of small businesses, as well as the transitions to full-time or hybrid remote work. Her company is built on the belief that people come first, as is her team. Willis herself “stumbled” into remote work when she saw military spouses struggling to find employment, given traditional employers’ concern with their frequent moves. “I can’t do much,” she explains. “I’m not a nurse.” But called to do what she could, her remote team was born. Since then, Willis has only continued to concern herself with the wellbeing of the individual, sometimes even describing relationships between coworkers as if they were friends or family. “We start getting upset with someone because they’re not meeting our expectations, but have we stopped and communicated our expectations?” she asks. Willis believes managing these expectations through a system of trust and communication is key for any successful workforce. More importantly, it’s the key to having the chemistry and accountability of an in-person workforce from the comfort of home. An integral part of that system is what Willis calls a cadence, a day-to-day communication system that builds on the team’s “inherent level of trust.” Just like in our personal relationships, Willis says trust is “built through continued patterns of expectations” and the daily fulfillment of those expectations. By following through on this communication plan, soliciting feedback from her team, and following up on their concerns, Willis can count on their productivity with-

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out micromanagement. For companies unable to build their remote teams from the ground up, Willis suggests remote work assessments, finding volunteers, and taking it slow through a phase approach. But really, she says success lies in the hands of company leadership. Connecting with employees is easy in an office with the physical reminders of someone walking past your office or an upset coworker’s body language. Remote leaders must be far more intentional. “If you neglect your team and communication and the care and concern that you have because they’re out of sight, out of mind, it will be extremely detrimental to turnover, retention, and just ultimately the business as a whole.” Things that might have happened naturally in an office suddenly require set structures and intentional follow-through. “Everything has to have a plan,” she affirms, “and has to have a documented process.” While Willis isn’t shy about the amount of work this transition requires, she says there’s no shortage of tools and technology ready to help. In the end, “you’re going to be the roadblock,” she says, not any lack of resources. Helping company leaders get past that remote leadership roadblock is exactly what Willis hopes to achieve with Pantsless Nation. Not only does her experience disprove remote companies’ inevitable isolation, it reveals their inherent connection. Unencumbered by a physical office, bonds form from more than occupying the same space, and leaders like Willis can intentionally focus on individual needs. This actually can be awesome for everyone. Learn more about Willis HR and Pantsless Nation at www.WillisHR.com.

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WORKSPACE PARADISE Working from home doesn’t have to entail a dining room table and pajamas By April Blake n the same way that there are people whose homes look like something out of a fairy tale or a movie set just because they're so different, there are people whose home workspaces are beyond nontraditional. During a time when many people had to create home offices out of thin air in a matter of days, creativity has been a key component to a successful transition to new work-fromhome offices.


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For the on-a-dime workers, it’s an easier transition to turn a corner of a living room into a workspace by adding a desk, chair, and an outlet strip to accommodate a laptop, extra monitor, printer, and phone charger. Others with less space have emptied out a closet to make a mini-workspace that can be closed off at the end of the workday. Then you have people who just need to have a transition to another place, even if it’s just down the lightly worn path in the backyard—like entrepreneur Jenny Harrison of Seminole

Candle Company. Harrison has been a longtime home-worker. Before going exclusively to working on her candle business, she worked remotely for a large corporation. She craved the separation and began plotting with her husband to create a backyard workspace. “I struggled with the balance of being focused on work when I’m in the house, so I wanted a place to go. I set this up initially as an office, with the back for my hobby of candle making,” said Harrison. And plot they did, eventually placing an old shipping crate in the backyard. The 8x20 foot half crate needed work, so they DIY’d a front door, two windows, a window A/C unit, insulation, drywall, floors, and electricity for the entire space for around $6000 over 16 months. She recommends using a company that will do all of the placement work. “Call around and get quotes,” said Harrison. “Find a good person to deliver who will take the time to deliver and put it on the base and help level it as needed.” Her workspace includes nontraditional equipment, like a big slow cooker-type device for melting candle ingredients, packaging and labels. But anyone can turn a shipping container into a regular office or hobby shop themselves. Those newer to the work-from-home game, like blogger Jillian Owens of Refashionista.net, also need workspaces that put the fun in functional. When she isn’t leaned over the sewing machine, Owens can often be found in her new outdoor space, tapping away at the latest blog post or working on her SEO and social media presence. The two main features of her space are a refurbished outdoor table and chairs that were salvaged from the curb, and a kiddie pool. The pool, which is for after the blogging is done, doesn’t have a pump, but she does use chlorine and a pool net to keep it clean. “Since Mr. Refashionista and I are staying home a lot more than usual, I really wanted to make our small backyard patio into something special,” said Owens. “My paradise needed to be super low-budget, since, like many others, I was laid off at the beginning of the pandemic—which doesn’t make one feel super spendy.” Working from home gives people so much more freedom to design their space to their comfort levels, which helps with productivity. Not being huddled under a blanket in a frigid office or interrupted by a nearby colleague’s repetitive coughs is as much as part of the design as the feel of the chair or the ability to enjoy working in nature. Creativity in workspace design is key.

Photograph: April Blake


That's So F- Sweet!

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Remedy Skin Care, designed specifically for age management by founder Marci Delaney, only available at Spa 131–where gorgeous art by local female artists is on display for sale. Current Artist in Residence is Amanda Harmon Spartanburg, SC. And gift certificates are a year-round hit! www.spa131.com

Wanna profile your product or service in That's So F-Sweet? Contact info@thefsuite.com facebook.com/TheFSuite | 15

Photograph: Marley Brothers



The bluebird of happiness sits over Kristina’s shoulder every day in her bedroom office.

Kristina Parella works in a room where dreams actually come true By Carolyn Culbertson Photographs by Kristina Parella

ristina Parella worked from home before it was popular. And like any single mother, she can tell you it’s not as peaceful as people like to think. She shares a home with her two daughters and her mother, but she has only one room where she can get work done because it’s the only space that belongs to her and her alone. “I’ve had my office everywhere possible in this house, and the best place I’ve found is in my bedroom because I can lock everybody out of it,” she says. Parella has two growing girls with lots of energy and out-of-the-box ideas. One stir-crazy day in quarantine while she was on the phone with a client, they dragged the slip and slide to the backyard so they could launch themselves into the pool while riding a blow-up unicorn. Another stir-crazy day in quarantine during a family paint night, her 6-year-old stepped in the paint and started tracking it across the floor.


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Work samples by Kristina Parella Design.

Parella went to help with mixed results. “I tried to clean it up and I ended up stepping in the paint and there was paint everywhere,” she says. Like mother, like daughter. Parella is a freelance graphic designer and artist, and she is the face behind the facade of The F-Suite. She does design work for clients around the country, from South Carolina to Arizona, New Jersey to Florida. She knew from a very young age that she wanted to be known as an artist, but she didn’t know how to get there. “There was no way you were going to make money just to sit around with your paint and paintbrushes,” she says. That’s why she did some wayward career exploration — culinary school, nursing, and nutrition.

It was only when Parella hit her mid20s that she says she started to take graphic design seriously. She had been managing a restaurant, which ate up most of her waking hours. Then her father got sick. She realized how much she missed spending time with her family. When Parella happened to hear about a graphic design program at Gibbs College, she dove in and earned an associate’s degree in visual communications. Her father passed away shortly after that. “I looked up to him in every way possible,” Parella says. In addition to making art of his own, her father also liked to cook and build train sets and tracks with tiny houses along the way. To Parella, he was always kind and

encouraging. When she was young, he told her to find a job she loves so that she would never work a day in her life. Graphic art gives Parella a fresh perspective every day. It’s a steady, reliable job without the tedium. “It’s never the same thing every day. I don’t care for monotonous tasks,” she says. But even after she earned her degree, Parella didn’t truly believe she could make art for a living until she landed a job as a graphic artist at a sign company. When she got pregnant, though, Parella had to let go of her office job and work from home so she could raise her daughters. Though it was an adjustment at first, that’s when her freelance work serendipitously evolved through word of mouth. The editor of Natural Awakenings Grand Strand saw one of her ads and asked her to design the magazine’s layout. Now, Parella lays out Natural Awakenings magazines in several locations, as well as Columbia Living Magazine, and helps all kinds of clients with ads, logo designs, signage, and more. Whether it was mourning her father, becoming pregnant, sharing a workspace with two daughters and mom, Parella’s family at every turn has unwittingly played an essential role in her professional life. Not as an obligation she’s beholden to, but as an engine to keep her on her path as an artist. For women in business, a room of one’s own is ideal. But most women get a room attached to another room attached to another room, all of them shared with someone else, all of them in need of care and upkeep. Women like Parella know the challenge well and bring light, shade, and color to every single space. See Kristina’s full portfolio at www.kristinaparelladesign.com.

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She grew her business by turning the COVID-19 shutdown on its head By Diane J. Epperly Photographs by Whitley N. Bell efore most people have had their first cup of morning coffee, Tamara Brown has already jump-started her day. Clad in a hot pink tank top and workout pants, she greets each of the women by name in her 5:30 a.m. small


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group training class. For the next 60 minutes she leads them through an intense exercise session from her living room. When Brown steps up to the screen, it is like she is right there, guiding and encouraging her clients. “Keep those hips up. Really try to stretch those hamstrings. You’re looking great.”

Throughout this spring’s COVID-19 lockdown, Brown also launched into another exercise class at dinnertime. Once a week she hosted a cardio dance party, an hour of high energy dance fitness to a hip-hop beat–all from the confines of her own home. Before the coronavirus changed everyday

love with fitness,” she explained of the hobby that morphed into a life-changing passion. What started out as a way to lose extra pounds and release stress took her down a road to achieve certification as a personal trainer and a health and wellness educator. She initially took on a couple of clients. Then a couple more. As Brown provided coaching on fitness and nutrition, her clientele steadily grew. Soon it was becoming difficult to juggle training with a full-time job. “I prayed about it,” she recalled. “I was in the kitchen washing dishes one day when God told me to leave my job.” While Brown was excited about her new business, Not Your Average Trainer, she was also keenly aware of what she didn’t know. “I went to school to be an English teacher; business was not in my repertoire. I was jumping out in faith, believing I could help other women look good and feel good.” She found that women responded to her you-can-do-this attitude and the energy she poured into them. “I don’t just want to train you to lose weight. I want to inform you, educate you, and empower you to have a total life transformation.” THE FIRST PIVOT As women worked to lose weight and build strength, something else happened as well: they began encouraging and supporting each other. When she decided to take the next step, moving from holding classes in someone else’s gym to getting a place of her own, these women came to support her as well. “I didn’t even have money in the bank for the first’s month rent when I signed the lease,” she recalled. Her clients’ financial backing helped open TamB. Fitness studio in Northeast Columbia. “I moved in with nothing–not a jump rope, not a dumbbell. I bought equipment on Facebook Marketplace and Craig’s List and made it work with what I had,” she said. Outgrowing that space only a year later, Brown is thrilled with growth on many fronts. Clients have lost up to 100 pounds. Women of all ages have discovered how to get beyond self-limiting beliefs. She’s celebrated with them as they became wives, mothers, small business owners. “We have grown to be an amazingly tight-knit community. I had no idea of how big the impact would be,” she said.

life, the Columbia native and owner of TamB. Fitness, a women-specific wellness studio, had been a staunch opponent to online training. “I want to be engaged with my clients, to reach out and touch them. I didn’t think it could be the same.” When the governor temporarily shuttered the doors of gyms this spring, she was concerned. What would happen to the business she had built? Brown didn’t start her career motivating women to get fit. She earned a degree in English from the University of South Carolina and subsequently enjoyed the management position she held at Amazon. “I fell in

THE LATEST PIVOT Her fears about transitioning to a virtual format seemed unwarranted when her clients immediately embraced the concept. “The only negative feedback I got was, ‘Why didn’t you do this sooner?’” Brown said. The state lockdown also brought unanticipated opportunities for TamB Fitness. Brown added out-of-state clients who found her on social media. Since gyms were allowed to reopen in June, she is now operating locally and online. Bringing on additional instructors to teach in the studio, Brown is excited about the direction her business is headed. “COVID-19 has actually aligned me to a position that I’ve always wanted. “I’m able to employ more people, impact more people, and give more of myself to my clients.” Learn more about Tamara and her training at www.notyouraveragetrainer.com.

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At the height of popularity, coworking spaces are resituating themselves By Carolyn Culbertson Photograph by Sally Scott ince the founding of the first coworking space 15 years ago in San Francisco, the more social alternative to working from home has slowly grown in popularity, blowing up in major and midsized cities in the past five years. But with a business model that’s built on face-to-face connection, what happens to these trendy working spaces when the majority of the population quarantines for months on end? Coworking spaces offer infrastructure to support small businesses, start-ups, and the gig economy. Like hackerspaces—public spaces in the early days of the internet for people who shared interests to meet up and get online together — each coworking space has its own unique thumbprint meant to resonate with certain types of people. Femme x COLUMBIA, which officially opens in October in downtown Columbia will be a workspace for all kinds of women. CoCreate Lexington is a


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space for creatives with family flexible options. SOCO in the Vista draws in established small businesses and start-ups. The appeal of a coworking space lies in its “alone togetherness,” independently running a business while still getting the benefits of a coffee break (or craft beer or yoga break) with coworkers. COVID-19 has made such a possibility dangerous. Like every other business that involves human contact, many coworking spaces have had to take measures to protect their businesses and their patrons. Companies like WeWork, which has had its fair share of management scandals, saw a drastic decrease in demand and subsequent membership during the early days of shelterat-home orders. Even though coworking spaces are hurting right now, some journalists and business analysts see a hopeful outlook for them. Vox writer Rani Molla thinks that coworking is not doomed but it is destined to change, with safe-

ty precautions and social distancing measures becoming the new normal in their business models. Forbes contributor Dane Stangler predicts that coworking spaces will be key in COVID-19 market recovery because community support is central to any healing process. Stephanie Isaacs, femme x co-founder, agrees with him. “What we want our environment to look like is welcoming, inclusive, kind,” she says. Self-care and healing are built into femme x’s stated values—work, cultivate, socialize, revive, and fuel—all of which embody the goal of giving women equitable access to social, political, and financial capital. Although the pandemic indirectly set their opening date back, Isaacs and co-founder Nell Fuller have stayed busy raising the buzz around their business, launching some services virtually, and taking a hard look at financials. “When we shift and things move, it gives us an opportunity to think more mindfully about how we do things,” Isaacs says. “I think that’s what we found through the pandemic.” When they officially open in October, femme x plans to use the outdoor space and reserve the indoors for safe, socially distanced use. Needless to say, the pandemic has forced existing coworking spaces—let alone brand new businesses—to pivot in order to stay afloat. If they’ve prioritized their space’s community all along, then their patrons will easily pivot with them.

Attitudes & Etiquette

WILL CLASSROOM TEACHERS SEND THEMSELVES TO THE OFFICE? Educators find less demanding career opportunities teaching within corporate America By Haley Kellner


f you were out and about in Columbia on May 1st, 2019, you likely saw a sea of red t-shirts, or at least the occasional puddle of them around Main Street. Deemed “All Out May 1,” it was a day for teachers to don the color red and let it be known they’re sick and tired of being undervalued and underpaid by the American government. As more and more teachers have taken the opportunity to speak out, the overworked, poorly funded lifestyle most teachers live has become common knowledge. But it seems nothing much has changed. The same mystery question still hangs in the air: Why isn’t the profession of teacher, the work of providing our nation’s children with the skills to succeed, deemed worthy of a competitive salary? Consider in comparison the increasingly common role of corporate educator or trainer. While this job title may be unfamiliar to some, it’s exactly what you’d guess: individuals hired by a company to train employees on a certain topic, skill, or way of thinking – anything from basic HR guidelines to more advanced tips of the trade. Basically, the

teachers of the office. It’s a job that offers another avenue for those interested in teaching, as well as a few sweet perks. While school teachers are expected to enter the field with a degree in education, passed assessments, and student teaching experience, corporate trainers come from a variety of backgrounds, be it 18 years at the company in another role or recently graduated with a major in biology. Additionally, corporate trainers bypass the extra stress brought on by hours of additional duties, the difficulty of handling students from a variety of backgrounds, and the pressure to crank out good grades at any cost. Most noteworthy is the fact that, despite these disparate levels of stress and required experience, both jobs garner similar salaries. According to data pulled in by job information sites like Linkedin, Glassdoor, PayScale, and Salary.com, corporate trainers in the Columbia metropolitan area make between $33,000 and $76,000 a year, with the average starting at $50,000. Meanwhile, public school teachers in Columbia school districts are reported to make an average of $50,000 a year and up to about $70,000. Subtract from these

salaries the hard-earned dollars spent on classroom supplies, necessary resources schools often fail to provide or reimburse. All in all, it’s no surprise the corporate trainer I spoke with was grateful to be living out her dream of teaching, while the public school teacher questioned how long she’ll have the strength to stay in the classroom. Businesses readily investing in corporate education have figured out what our government cannot. When employees are fully trained through properly funded programs, the whole company benefits. And thus, those providing that valuable education are worth paying a competitive salary. America is not a business, and yet the parallel stands. Children given the tools to succeed grow into self-sufficient, contributing adults, able to bolster the community that surrounds them, proving a team of properly funded, fully supported teachers to be essential for the growth of the nation. With this advent of the corporate trainer, not only is corporate America offering a viable career alternative for frustrated teachers, but an important suggestion for those in power determining what an educator is worth. facebook.com/TheFSuite | 21



Embracing an Authentic Life, for Women 45+ By Sylvie Golod

or many years, I, like many women, have had an ongoing dialogue with my headmate, Vulnerability. It’s produced shame, imposter syndrome and other debilitating fear-driven thoughts throughout my personal and professional life experiences and seasons. Now embracing what I like to call my Silver Years, I find that life experience and hindsight can be good friends that encourage and empower me. Jon Bon Jovi likened them to fine wine, saying, “There is a vintage which comes with age and experience.” Most profound for me in this period of ageism has been and continues to be my relationships with other women. This “Silver Tones” column intends to empower and encourage women of a certain age who feel vulnerable: those who may have recently lost a job, need to find work following the loss of a partner, are empty nesters or who may


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simply want to start afresh. The F-Suite editor models the mission of the magazine, which is to empower women in business. I once shared with her my desire to moonlight as a freelance writer, focusing on the knowledge I’ve gained over my career. Her response was to challenge me as writer by giving me this column. I didn’t see that coming! Though terrified to put myself out there so publicly, I couldn’t ignore the gauntlet she tossed at my feet. I accepted the challenge and decided to grasp onto the ABILITY portion of vulnerability. Literally! Ongoing self-reflection offers me an awareness of the many skills I garnered over the years. I call this reflection habit “reintroducing yourself to yourself.” It requires weekly appointments with yourself to discover and understand your abilities and their power to move you forward. I assess my ABILITY weekly and perhaps, you can, too: Accept fear as my friend: I have developed a healthy relationship with fear. I’ve

learned to calmly ask myself, “What is the worst that can happen if I ...?” Then I develop an action to minimize or alleviate that particular scenario. Bolster self-awareness: I am a unique individual and have knowledge, abilities and talents that are my strengths. Ignite curiosity: I examine my “what if ” scenarios by researching possibilities and asking experts or mentors for advice. The possibilities fire me up and give me confidence. Laugh: I applaud and find humor in my mistakes, and then encourage myself to try again. Inject self-control: I review my cues, replacing them if necessary with better habits. Instead of having coffee and cookies every day at 3 p.m., I now I refill my water bottle and eat my pre-prepared healthy snack (which includes one piece of dark chocolate). Yell: I look ahead with curiosity, courage and commitment with a loud “Yes, bring it!” At this stage in our lives, we realize that life is not a sprint, but a marathon. And I am enjoying becoming more authentic and confident with each mile or new grey hair–what the poet Maya Angelou calls a “Phenomenal Woman.” Let’s become that together. Join in the Silver Tones conversation. E-mail Sylvie Golod your questions and comments to Designing4careers@gmail.com



Are the recent copyright issues in the news pertinent to you? By Doug Lineberry

ven the most well-intentioned use of another's copyright-protected material may be subject to legal action and possible monetary damages. Several recent examples have come to light in the news highlighting this issue. On June 2, 2020, music artist Don Henley asked Congress for changes to the 1988 Copyright Act, claiming the current enforcement mechanisms simply cannot keep pace with infringers. While Henley’s testimony focused on music and "big tech," everyone needs to be mindful of using any creative work (aka intellectual property) on social media, websites, and marketing materials. Images, audio files, video files, literature, logos, etc. are only some of the creative works protected by copyright laws. If you use such works to help your business venture earn profit, you are likely committing copyright infringement, even if you attribute the song to its singer or author, image to the photographer, or article to the publisher. The internet provides a fantastic medium for interacting with others, posting ideas, promoting business, networking, and remaining connected, even while remaining


socially distanced. However, this silver-lining sometimes comes with a dark cloud, accidental infringement of others’ copyright materials. A simple “cut and paste” of an image you find particularly striking, an article that expresses a point you are trying to make, a snippet of music you think draws attention, or a slogan you think might help build your business can lead to dire consequences. While it is a simple matter to obtain an image, sound file, piece of writing, etc., from the internet and use it, doing so may constitute copyright infringement. Please do not simply “cut, paste, forget” because the owner of the material is likely to “see, get upset, tell you to cease and desist,” or worse, file a lawsuit seeking damages, which can quickly cost tens of thousands of dollars to defend. Using purchased stock art, licenses from artists/authors, or simply obtaining written permission can help avoid copyright infringement. Therefore, before adding someone else’s work to your website, advertising materials, publications, etc., confirm you can do so legally without risk of running afoul of copyright laws. A perfect example is American Idol® or The Voice®. When these shows have performers sing a song, they have

previously secured the right to do so. Taking this precaution can help you and your business thrive while avoiding potentially costly infringement scenarios. Quite simply, without a license or written permission, do not use any creative work you did not create because this constitutes copyright infringement. Doug Lineberry is a partner at Burr & Forman LLP where he assists clients with protecting intellectual property through patent, trademark, and copyright prosecution, as well as intellectual property litigation. For more information, email dlineberry@burr.com.

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803-608-0035 LLEconstructiongroup.com MODERN EXTERMINATING COMPANY, INC. Full-service pest control serving the greater Columbia, SC area. We offer pest, termite, and mold/ moisture solutions for residential and commercial property. 803-765-2315 @ModernExterminating

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Book Review

How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, & Be Generally Amazing on All Social Networks That Matter by Dave Kerpen

Dave Kerpen is the CEO of the social media marketing firm Likeable Media, which he founded in 2006. His “Likeable Social Media,” first published in 2011 and now in its third edition, is a primer on the use of social media for business marketing. The audience for this book has likely changed since the first edition appeared, considering that most businesses now routinely have a presence on Facebook, Twitter and other platform. But Kerpen’s advice is still relevant for its scope and detail. To his credit, the 2019 edition actually incorporates updated information (such as on the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica controversy), which isn’t always the case with new editions. While Kerpen guides readers through the workings of each major social media site, his main concern is with the business-customer relationship and how it has been transformed by social media, which allows even the smallest businesses to cultivate lasting relationships with customers by engaging with them meaningfully–even on a miniscule budget. As he puts it, “The loudest, biggest spenders don’t win anymore. The smartest, most flexible listeners do.” Kerpen believes listening and being responsive to customers has more value than simply landing a sale, citing the way Facebook “likes” create lasting relationships with customers that often generate sales growth in the future. He illustrates this and similar arguments with examples drawn from his own firm’s work with clients, such as Allergan, Pure Barre and Fannie Mae. Throughout, Kerpen’s lessons are worthwhile - not only for large organizations like these, but also (or even especially) for small businesses. —Bland Lawson, Richland Library facebook.com/TheFSuite | 25

Attitudes & Etiquette

THE TRANSITION TO HOME It took some work to get used to working remotely By April Blake orking from home—this phrase inspires either anxiety or great delight in people. There are those who truly believe their happiness comes from sitting under fluorescent lights surrounded by the humming and throat clearings of busy office mates. Then there are those who feel trapped, drained, and stressed by those same things. No matter what anyone feels about it, working from home became a new reality for many office workers in 2020. I’ve always wanted to work from home, but very rarely got the chance. When I did, those days flew by. The next day, unfortunately, I was again waking up an hour and a half before having to be at work—looking presentable, with everything I needed to survive away from home for the next 10 hours, and a long commute ahead. But suddenly, the pandemic hit a tipping point, and the government was actually trying to keep us safe at that point. Many businesses, including the corporation I work for, instructed workers to work remotely in late March. I didn’t think it would last long, but I brought my office plants home to be on the safe side. I was sure we’d be back in the office by Memorial Day, but by that point, COVID cases had skyrocketed. At this point in time, I’m not forecasted to go


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back to the office for the remainder of 2020. So, what was it like finally getting to live the dream? Disconcerting. I felt like the rug would be pulled out from under me at any moment during the first month. Time felt like wet sand and, for a few weeks, I looked at my phone constantly to confirm the day, date, and time. But after about four weeks of working from home, my new routines fell into place, and I got a feel for days and times again. Technical issues were resolved by that point, and it finally became enjoyable. Of course, while not everyone is well-suited for this lifestyle, when it is necessary, you should try to let go and embrace it. Find the good side of things, and let your days unfold naturally. See what feels good, and what needs to be tweaked to make the day feel better for you. For some people, that means getting dressed in work clothes. For others, it may mean finding an office space that’s separate from the rest of the home. Then there are those of us who are content to work in pajamas and enjoy the extra time in the mornings to not be rushing around in a tired fog. I hope companies begin to use the word “when” instead of “if ” when it comes to returning to the office. It may increase both their bottom line and employee happiness more than they ever could have predicted.

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Profile for The F-Suite

The F-Suite Fall 2020 Edition  

Working Remotely

The F-Suite Fall 2020 Edition  

Working Remotely

Profile for thefsuite

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