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Charleston Business

Entrepreneur and Business Coach Sallie Holder Encourages Women to ‘Embrace What We Want’

Sep 12, 2023 05:08PM ● By Donna Isbell Walker

Sallie Holder has been an entrepreneur for most of her life – ever since she and twin sister Stacy Smallwood opened their first lemonade stand. One twin was in charge of running the stand, the other of recruiting customers, and they took turns doing the two jobs.

Holder, who saw her parents succeed in their own business endeavors, grew up to be an attorney, but after a decade in the legal field, realized she wanted something different for her life.

These days, she is a business coach and founder of The Brimm, which provides resources for female entrepreneurs. She’s also the author of the Amazon best-seller “Hitting Rock Middle: The Road From Empty Success to True Fulfillment.”

Holder, who was the keynote speaker at the Women in Business recognition luncheon on Aug. 17 at Judson Mills, said she encourages other women to embrace their abilities and pursue their dreams and goals.

So often, women get so caught up in the often-demanding roles of their lives – parent, caretaker, wife – that they don’t take the time to think about what they would most like to do.

“Our default is to put ourselves on the back burner and never really consider what it is that we want, especially here in the South,” Holder said in a recent phone interview. “…I’m not saying we have to put ourselves first in every context, but when it comes to business, we just bring that default mode in, and it allows ourselves to still be in the servant mode. And what I want to encourage women everywhere to do is to switch when we come into the business world and really embrace what it is that we want. This is your place, to be able to pursue that. And I think that’s the key to finding fulfillment in your work.”

A woman who pursues her own dreams may be able to make more of an impact than a woman who follows what is expected of her, and studies have shown, Holder said, that women in general are driven more by impact than by money.

Holder’s parents shaped her views on work and life. Her father was a commercial real estate developer, and “very often I saw him create something out of nothing, literally from the ground up, whether it was a commercial shopping center or Kellett Park here in Greenville. I remember being a kid running around there as he was building it. I really loved that idea. And I guess all that ties back to impact, too. I watched them making their impact on the world, and I knew that I wanted to be able to do the same, in my own way.”

The inspiration started early, around the age of 7, when Holder and her sister operated lemonade stands every weekend, whether they were home, at a friend’s house, or on vacation at the beach.

“We had goals,” Holder said. “I don’t know any 7- and 8-year-old who had goals like this, and I don’t remember whether they were self-inflicted or created, or whether they were things my parents said to us, but I clearly remember trying to make $20, and we weren’t going to leave there until we did.”

They had a well-defined system, realizing that one of them had to recruit cars far enough away from the stand that the drivers would see them in time to stop and buy a cold glass of lemonade.

As she grew up and gave up the lemonade stand, she pursued a career as a labor and employment attorney. But eventually she realized that her parents had something that was rare in the corporate world: freedom of time, and she knew that’s what she wanted in her own life. 

After a decade in the legal field, Holder stepped away to make her own path. Her siblings, who are also entrepreneurs, were role models as well.

“I watched them create something out of nothing,” said Holder, whose twin sister Stacy owns Hampden, a clothing boutique in Charleston. Holder also works with Hampden as a consultant and is now the CEO.

While her career keeps her busy, she’s fulfilled, and Holder said she’s not a fan of the phrase “work-life balance,” because it’s frequently asked of women and rarely of men.

In her view, the goal is putting the right amount of time into each aspect of her life. And that time allotment will look different for every woman as she makes the necessary adjustments in her own life, Holder said.

“I try to achieve fulfillment, happiness, contentment instead of balance, and I feel like that’s really important,” she said. “I feel like balance is someone else’s standard; fulfillment and happiness are mine.”