Three women cycling at “the Works”, a women owned business. (Provided)
Three women cycling at “the Works”, a women owned business.


Exploring women-owned businesses

March 30, 2022

Culture changes every day and every year. The last few years especially have been filled with change and societal movement. One thing that has changed considerably is the role women play in the business industry. The culture of what society knows as business owners and leaders has evolved and is not the same as it’s always been. Today, 40% of businesses are owned by women. In the past 20 years, women owned businesses have gone from nonexistent to very common and incredibly successful. In fact, there are 114% more women-owned businesses than there were 20 years ago. 

In a closer lens, Charleston has become an up and coming hub for women-owned businesses. In 2011, Charleston County had the highest rates in South Carolina for women-owned businesses. Local businesses in Mount Pleasant Dee Ruel jewelry shop and The Works A Sweat Studio are two examples of the rising and successful culture of Charleston’s women-owned businesses. 

15 years ago, Dee Ruel, the owner of Dee Ruel, a jewelry shop located on Coleman Boulevard in Mount Pleasant, laid eyes on her shop and knew it was going to be something special.

“I was working out of a studio in my house, doing pop-ups and trunk shows and I had always dreamed of a space. Literally dreamed, envisioned the exact layout, what my days would look like, etc. When I walked past my shop and saw a for rent sign, I had zero  doubts that it would be mine,” Ruel said.

Dee Ruel aims to create beautiful and affordable jewelry while using high quality materials.  

“They can shop and order with ease, they can create something for themselves or a loved one, knowing that the product will be beautiful  and finished quickly,” Ruel said.

Ruel feels deep pleasure and gratitude in being a female owner. Ruel has found an opportunity to make an impact on people through her work.

“I love being an inspiration for the generations behind me. I love that I  get to hire young impressionable girls, I have prompted a few of them to do their own thing throughout the years and that brings me so much joy,” Ruel said.

Having a woman-owned business has also created a different kind of atmosphere at the shop.

“This building  has always been filled with girls, so I think things are run differently just because we have never had to think about men. We are just inherently supportive of each other and our needs,” Ruel said.

Being an owner herself, Ruel understands the challenges and the difficulty that come with starting a business. She encourages those who are thinking about getting into the business culture.

“I am always here to support you, mentor you, lift you up. It is so much harder to start a business now than it was 15 years ago. I will be your cheerleader,” she said.

Being a part of the business industry for 15 years, Ruel has noticed a change in the dynamics of the business norms.

“I know more women-owned businesses than ever before. I think social media has really catapulted the acceptance of females doing their own things. I think it is awesome,” Ruel said.

 Charleston’s filled with different businesses owned by women, one of these being The Works. 

The Works, a sweat studio, is owned by Sarah Frick and currently is located in downtown Charleston as well as in Mount Pleasant. They offer a multitude of different classes offering a blend of powerful vinyasa yoga, cardio, meditation, plyometrics, sculpt and core. 

“I wanted a place to get great fitness, share our stories, our struggle, our pain, our joys, our wins and to connect honestly. Community is everything to me and I think our number one sell is just that,” Frick said.

Frick takes a lot of pride in being a female business owner and the opportunities that type of platform has to offer to the staff to enact change within the workplace and beyond the workplace. 

“I opened my first  studio when I was 26. Over the years as I have grown the business models have grown with me. I love using the studios platform for women to find themselves and to explore their strength and voice in a brave space. My staff is 90% female and being able to break up gossip culture and work on speaking our truth to each other in a work environment allows us to do that outside of work as well,” Frick said.

However, being a female owned business has carried some stereotypical challenges in the business industry.

“Sometimes when negotiating bigger deals we don’t get taken as seriously as our male counterparts. That part is frustrating, but it has made me boss up and thrive,” Frick said.

Being a female owner has shaped the way Frick’s business is run and has opened the doors to intimate relationships, conversations and growth at The Works.

“We aren’t scared to have hard conversations in a way that doesn’t have to feel threatening. Growth is not linear so we grow together and learn from each other. We listen. We deep dive into the why behind decisions and the work. I have an open door policy. My team knows they can come to me with anything and that even if we don’t see eye-to-eye we can have an honest and real conversation to move forward in,” Frick said.

Frick knows and hopes that the intimacy that being a women-owned business has offered does not just stay within her team, but the intimacy extends to her clients as well.

“My hope for anyone coming to The Works is that they feel seen, heard, and connected. The fitness gets people in the door and the hard work keeps them coming back. We want each client to feel valued and to leave feeling really strong, present, and rinsed. Come visit and see for yourself, doors are open to all levels and all people,” Frick said.

Charleston’s business industry is borderless, from food to fitness to jewelry and everything in between. The businesses are no longer dominated by men. Women are starting to shape what the business industry will look like now and into the future.

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