When Faces DaySpa of Hilton Head, South Carolina, captured the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Small Business of the Year Award for the Southeastern United States, Owner Patricia Owen never dreamed it would lead to a trip to Washington D.C. and an opportunity to meet the President. But in mid-October, Owen found herself sharing her spa success story with attendees of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's launch event for its American Free Enterprise, Dream Big program. And a few weeks later, that opportunity led to a trip to the White House and an introduction to President Barack Obama.
Patricia Owen shares her spa success story at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Dream Big event.
Like many salon and spa owners, Owen took a leap of faith when she and her husband opened their state-of-the-art spa business in the early 1980s. Addressing an unmet need on Hilton Head Island, the retail-centered business thrived. Soon after, a large shopping mall opened nearby with its own department store cosmetics counter, in direct competition with Owen. She was forced to reevaluate and reinvent her business, which she's continued to do over the decades to meet competitive pressures. Today, Faces employs 23 people, doing its part to keep the local economy strong.
"I represent what small business is all about," Owen told attendees. "The U.S. Chamber thought that my story of how I've survived 26 years by making over my business was a good example of free enterprise. Being able to makeover your business when you have to, that's small business in action."
American Free Enterprise, Dream Big is an unprecedented campaign is designed to raise awareness among all Americans about the essential role that free enterprise plays in the success of our country. The U.S. Chamber says it intends to play and important role in the comprehensive, multiyear campaign. Nationwide, the U.S. Chamber estimates 20 million jobs will be needed in the next decade to keep America competitive.
Toward the end of October, Owen found herself in Washington again--this time as an invited guest to the White House Press Briefing Room where President Barack Obama addressed a group of small business owners about his health care reform package.
Owen gets a front row seat at the White House Press Briefing Room.
Owen waits her turn to meet President Barack Obama.
Before Owen's returned to South Carolina, she took a moment to e-mail SALON TODAY a few of her impressions from the day:
"I just wanted to give you an update on yesterday's excitement. When I arrived at the Chamber, before heading to the White House, J.P. Fielder, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's press contact, pulled me aside to tell me that I would be sitting in the center of the front row and could possibly be contacted by reporters afterward. OMG!
"Together we walked a couple of blocks, passed through security and entered the press briefing room at the White House. There were around 100 people there and a dozen or so cameramen.
"After a 20-minute speech, the President went along the front row shaking hands. When he got to the gentleman right before me and shook his hand, he began to move onto me. But the man kept talking, so President Obama and I were in a handshake hold for close to a minute. It was quite a thrill, but almost awkward. Finally, he turned to me and I said something like, 'Thanks for warming up my hand,' and we both laughed. Then I introduced myself, and when I mentioned Faces DaySpa, he said, 'I could probably use your place right now.'"
"As President Obama began to move on, I went on to tell him that we are the Small Business of the Year winner for the Southeast United States. He actually doubled back around to me and said, 'What did you say? Small Business of the entire Southeast US? Really? That is so great, congratulations!"
"Can you believe it? It was such a kick!" said Owen.