Are successful entrepreneurs lucky? Here’s what Savannah founders had to say

You’ve probably heard the phrase, the luck of the Irish, but have you ever heard of the luck of the entrepreneur? There are many challenges in the entrepreneurial world, which makes associating luck with entrepreneurship somewhat of an aberration. Running a business takes both smarts and a lot of work, after all. Furthermore, even despite a startup founder making all of the right moves and being the hardest worker, their startup can still fail due to a sudden, uncontrollable misfortune. It’s a risky lifestyle.

However, some successful startup founders do believe that luck plays a role in being an entrepreneur. Some even say that they wouldn’t have started their business if it weren’t for luck in the first place.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day happening this week, we asked local startup founders if luck played a role in the success of their business. Here’s what they had to say…

 

“In entrepreneurship, you have to fail A LOT just to see a little bit of LUCK!”

Kewaan Drayton

Kewaan Drayton, Co-founder & Owner of Red Eye Films & The Savannah Underground

–Kewaan Drayton, Co-founder & Owner of Red Eye Films & The Savannah Underground & Co-owner of the coffee shop at Mailbox Cafe

Drayton is a serial entrepreneur and a business development strategist. He knows a thing or two about trial and error when it comes to testing business ideas. Along with his brother JT, he’s spent the past decade launching his ventures Red Eye Films and The Savannah Underground. Together with very little capital, they’ve grown both into booming and successful ventures.

Most recently Drayton teamed up with owners of the long-operated and beloved Mailbox Cafe to renovate and relaunch the coffee shop portion of the business.

We spoke with Drayton last year regarding his and his brother’s journey to entrepreneurship and he said, “For us, it is because we want to do what we love and we want freedom. It is worth the risk to attempt to be an entrepreneur while you have the time at an early age. Just because the outcome – – being able to work when we want – – is worth it. We don’t want to work on a normal nine-to-five schedule.”

 

While I’d like to say success is equal parts Good Luck and Hard Work, our reality starting and running a software company in Savannah is that Hard Work makes up 90% of the success equation and is typically counted on to carry the day, but the other 10% –Good Luck- is often what makes the difference in our realizing our successes.”

–Robert Gadd, Cofounder, President & Chief Strategist at OnPoint Digital, Inc.

According to the “2019 Small Business Failure Rate: Startup Statistics by Industry” article from the National Business Capital, by the 10th year of business, 70% of startups fail. Last year OnPoint Digital celebrated its 20th anniversary of business here in Savannah! A huge accomplishment. The company has over 25 employees ranging from customer support specialists to project managers to software engineers and is a global provider of technology-enabled learning solutions for many of the world’s leading organizations. Gadd cofounded OnPoint Digital along with Katherine Guest in 2001 and they’ve been working together with their team to pioneer learning technology ever since.

Gadd elaborated on OnPoints successes by saying, “Our Hard Work positions us to be ready to take advantage of Good Luck whenever it presents itself. We can’t count on good luck, but we certainly appreciate it whenever it decides to show up and make that extra difference.”

 

“The reason Salacia Salts started was 100% pure luck. The success of it was not. Running a company takes a lot of tenacity and work.”

–Cari Clark Phelps, Founder & Creative Director of Salacia Salts; Founder & CEO of Clark Creative Communications
Cari Clark Phelps

Cari Clark Phelps, Founder & Creative Director of Salacia Salts & Founder & CEO of Clark Creative Communications

Phelps is well known in Savannah as the CEO of Clark Creative Communications, a business she launched almost 20 years ago after graduating from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Like Drayton, she’s a serial entrepreneur. She is also the founder of Salacia Salts , a company that offers a high-quality collection of salt soaks, moisturizers, scrubs and other skin care and home fragrance products made with natural ingredients.

Phelps says that as a creative she relies on her subconscious and imagination to inspire her great ideas. This most often happens when she’s sleeping:

“A lot of times I wake up, and I have an idea. In the case of Salacia starting, I had a dream that I was working with a client and packaging salts that I had dug up out of the ground in Savannah. When I woke up I told my husband about the dream, and he said, ‘You know, Tybee is the Native American word for salt – a name the Euchee Indians gave the island.’

I had that dream on a Friday night. If it would have been a normal day, I would have jumped out of bed and gone through my day without giving it another thought. If I had not had a moment to simmer on it, Salacia might not have happened. Also, I had a packaging and design background which gave me the knowledge to get started, and I already owned my own [brand design and communications] business, which allowed me to take advantage of my situation. Plus, nobody was doing anything with this history, this knowledge. I think it was really lucky that I had a dream that I could turn into something and everything in my life aligned perfectly.  It’s kind of wild.”
As for the hard work portion of running her companies, Phelps said during our 2020 recording of Entrperneuers Night that it’s not as easy as it may appear. Phelps shared laughing, “My friend tells me I fly around on a golden horseshoe, but I polish that thing all of the time. It’s NOT easy! She makes it sound like I just hop on and [am successful]. I do work hard…most of the ideas I put forth I believe in, and I feel like it’s going to work and I just work until it does.”

“It’s luck when the opportunity comes across. The rest, to its completion, is a combination of hard work, persistence, good mood, and skill.” 

–Mary Githens, Cofounder & Owner of Latin Chicks; Founder & Owner of Mint to Be Mojito

Being a Restaurateur is not for the faint of heart. Githens is the founder of not one food and drink establishment, but two, and both of which she operates simultaneously today: Latin Chicks and Mint to Be Mojito. What makes this even more impressive is that every time Githens has launched a new restaurant endeavor it has been unexpectedly during an economic crisis or period of uncertainty. She first launched Latin Chicks, along with fellow Armstrong State University alum Mari Ruiz, in 2009 right after the economic crisis affected the real estate bubble. In 2019 she purchased the Latin Chicks food truck and was all set to launch in February of 2020. She also began renovations on the current space of Mint to Be Mojito in late 2019 with the first day of operation on February 29, 2020. We all know the story of what happened in March of 2020…

Despite these hurdles and potential setbacks, Latin chicks and Mint to Be Mojito are going strong. Elaborating on the importance of taking advantage of an opportunity, Githens expresses, “Sometimes I feel like the luckiest person, but I know luck depends on many other factors. One minute you have luck, and the next you don’t. Whether you did something with the opportunity when you got luck is based on your decisions.”

 

“Network your luck.” 

–Rodrika Bailey Scott, Founder and CEO of Bailey’s Belles LTD
Rodrika Bailey Scott

Rodrika Bailey Scott, Founder and CEO of Bailey’s Belles LTD.

An Armstrong State University Alumn, Scott fell into entrepreneurship while studying at the university when a mentor asked her to cover cleaning her AirBnB while she was out of town. She took care of the cleanings for almost a year and as her mentor and husband took on more properties, she picked up more customers. Scott soon decided to start her own vacation rental cleaning business, launching Bailey’s Belles as her full-time gig. From there, she hired contractors as she continued to grow. Today, Bailey’s Belles cleans vacation rentals and commercial businesses and focuses on hiring women seeking a flexible work situation that pays well and affords them the time to be with their kids.

In 2021, Bailey’s Belles was voted Best of Georgia by the Georgia Business Journal. Scott credits the success (and luck) of her business, to the phenomenal cleaning work Bailey’s Belles does and word of mouth. She says, “It’s true what they say, ‘Make your first impression your best impression.’ Most of my success comes from past connections. Word of mouth will always be your greatest advertisement.”

 

“Of course, I believe that any well-conceived business will profit from perseverance and hard work. Where I feel so lucky is that my business is not only successful (finally), but it is filled with meaning and purpose –that’s the luck.”

–Ted Dennard, Owner and Head Beekeeper of Savannah Bee Company

Walk down Broughton Street and throughout most stores around Savannah, and you’ll come across a bottle of Savannah Bee Company’s famous honey for sale. The company stems from Dennard’s passion and love for bees and beekeeping. As the Savannah Bee Company’s website shares, he “backed into business in 1999” after a local friend and store owner began selling his Tupelo honey to traction and success. Dennard launched Savannah Bee Company officially in 2002 and business has been rolling ever since.

Another mission of his company is to educate all about the important role bees play as pollinators of our food. This includes spreading awareness about how to protect bees from the threats they currently face and to help them thrive.  Dennard elaborates on the quote above with, “I work with earth-saving bees and sell delicious honey! I feel so fulfilled knowing that my good fortune leaves good in its wake.”

Running a company built around his passion hasn’t come without jeopardy. “’Better lucky than good’ is the saying and I am heavy on the lucky. Yes, these past 20 years I’ve worked hard, risked great financial resources, and never given up. But more than anything, I am lucky to have been born with a guiding star that led me to work with, and for the bees,” he concludes.

 

“I don’t necessarily believe in ‘luck’ per se. I do, however, believe in what I call the ‘Divine Blueprint.'”

–Sabrina Newby, Founder & CEO of the Coastal Georgia Minority Chamber of Commerce

Sabrina Newby, Founder & CEO of the Coastal Georgia Minority Chamber of Commerce

Newby may not believe in chance, but she does believe in living out her purpose and inspiring others to do so. When she organized the 501(c)3 Coastal Georgia Minority Chamber of Commerce in 2016, she was on a mission to assist minority business professionals headquartered within the Coastal Georgia region by providing education and the sharing of resources.

She herself has run several successful businesses including BouGie Natural® Salon, a salon selling hair care products internationally. Through the Coastal Georgia Minority Chamber, she has been able to help other businesses by connecting them to the network they need to prosper.

Newby says her belief in the “Divine Blueprint” means that if it’s supposed to happen, it will happen. “That, to some extent, may be viewed as luck,” she says.

 

 

Sign up for The Creative Coast’s weekly newsletter to get all of our featured news stories on innovation and startups in the coastal region delivered to your inbox.

About Kait Lance

Kait has been writing for The Creative Coast since 2014. A self-proclaimed "startup hype-woman," Kait is passionate about storytelling that shines a light on new ideas, innovation, and entrepreneurial opportunities in the southeastern Georgia region.