Consultant Profile: Lorie Graham
Area Center: Newberry
Title: Business Consultant
Start Date: August 16, 2023
QUESTION: What was your career track prior to joining the SC SBDC network?
ANSWER: As a graduate of Marshall University with a degree in Criminal Justice Legal Studies, I began my career as a paralegal in West Virginia and later in Chicago, Illinois, with an emphasis on litigation. When my family moved to South Carolina in 1996, my husband and I started our small business, with my husband providing consulting services to the food manufacturing industry. After working several years as a paralegal in South Carolina, I started my 10-year career with the state as an investigator at LLR, Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. In that position, I had jurisdiction in all of South Carolina. I worked with every kind of business, enforcing SC Code compliance as a Labor/Wage Investigator and a Licensing Board Investigator. I also provided training and conducted seminars for the LLR Department of Labor with DHEC and other state agencies. In 2021, I left the state to pursue my own consulting business, which offered services to dental practices. My business enjoyed limited success as the impact of COVID-19 on small dental practices greatly affected the industry's ability to spend money on services that were not directly operational.
QUESTION: What motivated you to become an SC SBDC consultant?
ANSWER: I knew Barbara Miller, the previous Newberry Consultant, through our mutual affiliation with the Newberry County Animal Shelter. She made me aware of her retirement and informed me of this position. Most of my interactions with small dental practices revealed their need for help and lack of finances due to pandemic-related shutdowns. As a former DOL investigator and small business owner, I understood the struggles facing the self-employed and the wide-ranging effects on all the citizens of South Carolina who work as either employers or employees.
QUESTION: What is the best piece of advice you would offer aspiring business owners?
ANSWER: Always ask questions because you don't know what you don't know! Learn from other people's mistakes.
QUESTION: Do you have a particular area of interest/expertise that you offer clients?
ANSWER: As a former paralegal and investigator, I understand that many state and federal compliance areas need to be understood and followed. I also spent years resolving conflicts between employers and employees. I spent most of my time investigating complaints jointly with DHEC, DEA and OSHA, so I understand their role as it relates to various industries. My areas of expertise are conflict resolution, compliance and organizational efficiency.
QUESTION: What is your greatest accomplish since becoming an SC SBDC consultant?
ANSWER: Since I’m new to the network, I’ve interacted with only two small business owners, both of whom are very grateful to have an SBDC Area Center in Newberry where they can find the guidance, resources and support they need.
QUESTION: Why is the SBDC an important resource for small business owners in South Carolina?
ANSWER: Because South Carolina has so many small businesses that provide a variety of goods and services, the SBDC offers a wide range of experienced experts to help navigate them to success no matter what industry they are in or what problems they are experiencing. The fact that the SC SBDC offers no-fee consulting is critical to many small businesses still trying to recoup revenue lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
QUESTION: What is your favorite part about working for the SC SBDC?
ANSWER: Small businesses are the backbone of South Carolina, and their success affects the whole state. I love being able to help them resolve issues at no cost to them. If my husband and I had known about the SBDC when we started our small business, we could have avoided many costly mistakes. So, it's rewarding to serve in a position where I can help entrepreneurs avoid the pitfalls and build successful, enduring businesses.
QUESTION: What quote/saying/maxim expresses your philosophy toward work and/or life?
ANSWER: The following quote from Rick Warren: "What gives me the most hope every day is God's GRACE; knowing that His grace is going to give me the strength for whatever I face, knowing that nothing is a surprise to God."
QUESTION: Describe your approach to consulting.
ANSWER: I am a team player and view the client's issue as "ours." I listen and tell them they are not alone in solving it. In fact, they have a whole network of SC SBDC consultants ready and eager to help--at no cost to them!
QUESTION: What keeps you busy when you’re not at work? What is your hobby and/or passion?
ANSWER: Jesus is the Lord of my life, and I desire to be a good witness every day. My husband and I are in leadership positions at our church, we have two grown children we are blessed to see frequently, and we have four dogs. I recently started a 501(c)(3) charity called Shelter Volunteer Network of Newberry for the Newberry County Animal Shelter. My whole family loves to scuba dive, and we all go together at least once a year.
QUESTION: What else would you like for people to know about you?
ANSWER: I founded a non-profit charity and can direct anyone contacting the SC SBDC to the best resources serving this sector.