Local entrepreneurs find success online in down economy

WEST ASHLEY, SC (WCSC) - When the going gets tough, the tough get going. That is what two Lowcountry entrepreneurs chose to do when the economy turned bad.

They work out of their homes on Johns Island and West Ashley. They are finding success on the Internet where hard work is paying off.

Donna Powell has two darling dogs. She didn't know the passion for her pups would become a business venture from her townhouse after becoming unemployed a few years ago.

"I had just lost a very lucrative sales and marketing position and I needed to continue to work because I couldn't afford not to work and I just didn't know what to do at that point in my life," Powell said.

Powell enrolled in a web design class and later, she and some friends created CharlestonDoggyTown.com, a website for anyone who loves dogs.

"Initially it was a hobby, but now we're starting to monetize it," Powell said. "It has taken off like such a rocket and it has really filled a real need within the community."

The site has everything dog owners need to know about local events and resources to keep man's best friend happy. Powell's supervisors are Zorro and Casper. They keep an eye on content.

"It isn't salesy. It really is there to inform and assist people in the community," Powell said.

The small business association says there are more than 27 million small companies in the U.S. While there are vague numbers on how many entrepreneurs there are, 60 to 80 percent of all new jobs can be attributed to small business.

Kelly Gaskins recently launched her own fragrance line. Charleston Girl Perfume is Gaskins' creation. She, too turned a hobby into a labor of love.

"I just tried to hone in on a passion of mine and i love perfume and I love Charleston," Gaskins said. "It just kinda made sense to couple the two, and try to make a run of the perfume business."

In her apartment, Gaskins spent a year crunching numbers, researching and building a website all while economic news was grim.

"I knew it would be a challenge to try to start a business in a bad economy, but i definitely was optimistic and positive about my prospects," Gaskins said."

Gaskins says her perfume is a hit online and in stores.

"I am a one woman operation right now," Gaskins said. "I do the sales, the marketing, the PR and its really fun. I really enjoy it."

Powell sees the benefits of turning a love for pets into a product.

"When i lost my job, I was terrified," Powell said. "I didn't turn to another profession because i thought this was a great idea."

Charlestondoggytown.com launched July 15. Powell says it is already getting 10,000 hits a month.

Gaskins' website, CharlestonGirlPerfume.com is doing well. She says her fragrance is already in several local stores. She hopes to expand her business very soon.

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