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Tracy Wooten is a fourth-generation owner of Young Floral Co. in Charleston.

As a child, I always wondered what it would be like to be a business owner. I would go around Charleston visiting various local restaurants and stores and wonder, who is the person that started it all? As I have grown, I consider this question more and more. Suddenly, now it is not only about the owner but also finding a role model. I try to see myself in their position one day. I always dreamed as a child of finding a strong woman business owner to look up to and to be mentored by.

In light of Women’s History Month and for fulfilling a childhood aspiration, I got in touch with two local women business owners. By sharing their stories, understanding their lives, and business, I hope to empower other girls and inspire someone as these women have inspired me.

I first spoke with Tracy Wooten of Young Floral Co. Wooten has been the owner of Young Floral Co. for about seven years, as it was passed down through her family since 1947.

After getting an understanding of how she took up the business, I asked Wooten what it was like being a woman business owner in Charleston. Wooten said that she loved it, and that she wanted to keep taking on challenges as she excitedly talked about her second location on Bridge Road, which opened in October.

The excitement had come after many challenges, though. Becoming a successful business owner doesn’t happen overnight. When asked what her biggest challenge has been on her journey, she said, “the hardest challenge was being a manager at Books A Million ... I was working like probably about 80 hours-plus a week and had two young children; it was very demanding.”

Being a mother and holding such a position comes with a lot of pressure and also admiration. On the subject of challenges, she also noted how coronavirus and the opening of her second location has been a new feat to overcome.

I then interviewed Wendy McCusky, who has owned Geraniums for almost five years. When asked about what it is like being a woman business owner in Charleston, she gave her reality of ownership. She said that being a business owner is a 24-hour job and requires much multitasking.

Her greatest challenge has been inventory management.

“It is hard when choosing what to buy, and how much to buy,” McCusky said. “We help young girls, many young as 13 that accompany their mother’s into the store, which means that we carry sizes and styles suitable for young women to adults of any age.”

Both women had much to give when it came to talking about their businesses and dynamics. I truly admire their work ethics, and the amount of passion that they have for their respective businesses. Both Wooten and McCusky talked about how they value teamwork, and strive to be flexible for the people they work with. They work among and with their employees, and make an effort to make an environment in which they build each other up.

One of the last questions I asked both Wooten and McCusky was whether they feel empowered by being a woman in business. They both gave very amazing responses.

Wooten agreed that she felt very empowered and touched upon how she values being treated equally.

“Just because I am a woman does not make me uninformed or any less,” she said. “I love my people (employees), my customers, and retail.”

McCusky, like Wooten, also agreed that she felt empowered, saying that her relationship with her employees is like a community.

“We try and build each other up,” McCusky said.

McCusky also noted that she employs other women, and that together they try to give back to the community and make people happy.

To tie these themes together, stemming from my childhood fantasy of talking with these wonderful women, culminated in my last question: to any young girl, woman or any reader looking to go into business, or looking for a role model, what advice would you give them? I found the connections between both women very touching. The theme can be summed up to this: confidence and dreaming big.

McCusky felt very strongly about having aspirations.

“If you dream it, then you’re going to aspire to do it, and then you’re going to go after that dream. If it’s your dream — do it,” she said.

This was advice she had been given, and felt had been so true in her success.

Wooten also gave great advice.

“The important thing is to trust your instincts and go with what you think is right even if it may not be the most popular choice,” Wooten said. “It is better to speak your mind rather than sitting around.”

Wooten talked about how her journey had been based on confidence and working her way to becoming the business owner she is today.

Truly, as a young woman, I find that it is inspiring to witness a few of many great women role models that are out there. I truly admire both McCusky and Wooten for sharing their stories with me. Both women are great leaders, and women who make their own mark in the Charleston community. By the end of the interview I realized how important it is for women to share their stories with one another, and to show what an empowered and independent woman can look like.

Not only that, but both McCusky and Wooten shared the exact words when talking about their love for their businesses, both saying, “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” I think this also reflects their feelings about their personal journeys. No matter the trepidation, they would not have traded the opportunities they received for the world. I certainly hope that future women, and aspiring individuals can grasp these feelings too.

FlipSide is the Charleston Gazette-Mail’s teen publication. You can read more stories at wvflipside.com.

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