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Charleston Business

Honoring Our Black Entrepreneurs: Pontheolla and Paul Abernathy

Feb 01, 2024 10:19AM ● By Angelia Davis

In 2022, more than 20 percent of South Carolina businesses were owned by people from racial minorities, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Of those businesses, more than 72,000 were owned by Black entrepreneurs.

A 2023 study conducted by Lendio, a company that specializes in loans to small businesses, used data from the Census Bureau and the U.S. Small Business Administration to rank each state’s support of minority-owned businesses.

The study ranked South Carolina 14th in the nation, citing a 147-percent job growth at minority-owned businesses.

Every entrepreneur faces challenges in getting a business off the ground and keeping it on a growth trajectory through the ups and downs of the economy and the upheaval of the Covid-19 pandemic. And many minority business owners face additional hurdles ranging from discrimination to a lack of mentorship opportunities, according to Lendio.

Meet some Black entrepreneurs around South Carolina who are navigating the challenges and putting their own stamp on the business world.

Pontheolla and Paul Abernathy

Clevedale Historic Inn & Gardens


Pontheolla and Paul Abernathy cleared a number of hurdles to open their Clevedale Historic Inn & Gardens in Spartanburg in 2013.

Now that they’ve entered the 10th year of being in business, “I think the next hurdle is what happens next, how do we reset, realign, and recreate the next phase of our business,” Pontheolla Abernathy said.

The couple initially transformed the 111-year-old house on Willis Road into just a bed and breakfast venue. They’ve added events like weddings and receptions, film productions, photo sessions, and some TV filming on the property.

“Now it’s like, ‘What is next for us in terms of taking us to the next level?’” she said.

 A long-term goal, she said, involves an old tree house in one of the magnolia trees on the property.

“We would like to expand our bed and breakfast offerings to attract people who want experiences because that’s what most travelers want these days,” she said. “They want experiences.”

Among the challenges the couple experienced to open Clevedale were purchasing the house, which sits on four acres, and getting permits. Another challenge, Pontheolla Abernathy said, was getting the right construction to renovate the property.

Clevedale has since welcomed guests from around the world.

Pontheolla attributes their success to relationships with the people they’ve hosted, relationships they’ve developed with business owners in Spartanburg and surrounding areas, and relationships with the family and friends who spread their name around.

“It’s all about those relationships, and I believe that those relationships are the reason why most small businesses like ourselves are successful,” she said.