Rachelle Jamerson-Holmes beams with pride when she thinks about the opportunity she has to help other women grow personally and professionally through leadership, education, network support and national recognition.

The longtime Orangeburg businesswoman has that potential after being named the 2023-24 national president of the American Business Women’s Association, or ABWA.

Rachelle Jamerson-Holmes, who is owner of Rachelle’s Island Inc. and Thee Matriarch Bed & Breakfast, Meeting and Events Venue, has been na…

Rachelle Jamerson-Holmes, who is owner of Rachelle’s Island Inc. and Thee Matriarch Bed & Breakfast, Meeting and Events Venue, said the appointment is an achievement other women can share in, as well.

“It’s not just how I feel about being the 74th national president of ABWA. It’s how I feel as a founder of a local chapter in my community that’s impacting the women in my community personally and professionally. That was the vision,” she said.

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“I’m happy to say that we are journeying into our 75th anniversary Sept. 20 of 2024. We’re having a grand celebration in Kansas, which is the home of ABWA …  I’ve named our board the Visionary All-Stars Board,” Jamerson-Holmes said.

Rachelle Jamerson-Holmes is the founder of the local EmpowerHer ABWA Chapter in Orangeburg.

“I feel as though we are the Olympic team to journey ABWA into its 75th anniversary (and) for the next 75 to 100 years so we can be here and pay it forward for other women to be able to have this opportunity to enhance themselves personally and professionally on a national level,” she said.

Jamerson-Holmes founded the local EmpowerHer ABWA Chapter in Orangeburg. The chapter was chartered on May 20, 2018 with more than 100 women.

“I was a 16-year vision for what I wanted to start in Orangeburg. That vision came to fruition in 2018. So it was a dream. It was something I wanted to do to leave a legacy for my community,” she said.

Jamerson-Holmes continued, “Even though we have the word business in our name, we are a women’s professional organization. So any woman that is a working professional, entrepreneur, retiree, student, if she has a desire to enhance herself personally and professionally, then this association is for her. … I love the fact that we are a diverse and inclusive organization.”

The organization also accepts men for membership, she said. 

The EmpowerHer ABWA chapter has garnered several awards and recognitions since its inception, including reaching ABWA Level 1 Best Practices In League Management for five consecutive years from 2019 to 2023. The local chapter also earned the ABWA Brilliance Unleashed Award in 2019 for being one of the Top 10 chapters in the nation.

“My goal is to enhance our members’ mindset that the investment in themselves is the best investment that they could ever make. How do you maximize and leverage on the return of your membership upon a national level? … How do you take that and expand your network? If you expand your network, you expand your net worth,” Jamerson-Holmes said.

She continued, “You expand your network also through professional development. Every chapter in ABWA has a monthly professional development speaker and session … that you can attend in person or virtually … either free or at a nominal coast for membership. That’s what we’re doing.”

There are currently 65 members of the local EmpowerHer ABWA Chapter, with Dr. Gail Hamilton serving as president.

Jamerson-Holmes said an ABWA chapter actually existed in Orangeburg decades ago. While that chapter had long since disbanded, its president was her former teacher and her mother had been a member. Jamerson-Holmes said her mother is now a charter member of the EmpowerHer chapter.

“It was in existence 30 years. It’s been disbanded now about 15 years. It was called the Orangeburg Charter Chapter of ABWA. … Even though the local chapter had disbanded … quite a few of them still continue to keep their national membership,” Jamerson-Holmes said.

“That goes to show you that our ABWA association is her for every step of a woman’s life, and not just when she’s working. We give relevant information for women throughout every stage of their life,” she said.

The businesswoman said being able to carry on the legacy of ABWA in the local community is important to her.

“The vision has come to fruition not just in saying we’re a chapter, but in knowing the women that we’ve impacted (and) how they’ve grown personally and professionally. They’ve been able to take that recognition and the information that they have learned through our APEX online courses,” she said, as well as attend monthly professional development sessions and network.

“Through that our members have gotten raises, promotions, gone into business for themselves. Their businesses have flourished, they’ve been able to start nonprofits,” Jamerson-Holmes said, noting that ABWA also offers student memberships.

“It was very important that our chapter paid it forward and that we were a bridge between college students going into their career. With that, we’re able to mentor them. We’re able to partner with them to say, ‘OK, what career are you looking at going into? Who can we tap you into?’ … Those things were very important to me as founder of the chapter and also as the national president,” she said.

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ABWA has awarded nearly $18 million in scholarships to more than 18,000 for higher education through its Stephen Bufton Memorial Educational Fund, or SBMEF. As national president, Jamerson-Holmes had a scholarship named in her honor.

“I’m happy to say that quite a few women in Orangeburg have gotten scholarships from SBMEF. So I’m excited to say that as the national president, a $10,000 scholarship will be named in my honor through SBMEF,” she said.

“So I get the opportunity to set the criteria and to also name the institution that a student could go to that would have the opportunity to receive this award that will be awarded in 2025. My request is that the student would be attending South Carolina State University or Claflin University to be able to receive this $10,000 scholarship in my name,” Jamerson-Holmes said.

The local EmpowerHer ABWA chapter has been recognized with proclamations from both Orangeburg County Council and Orangeburg City Council. The S.C. House of Representatives also presented the chapter with a resolution on the chapter’s fifth anniversary.

“Last year our chapter presented the inaugural South Carolina ABWA Say at the State House and (2023 Founders’ Day Luncheon) during Women’s History Month. It is our signature Women’s History Month program. We will host the second one on March 7, 2024,” Jamerson-Holmes said.

She said she has been “fueled with encouragement and inspiration to be able to go after dreams” through the support of the local community she grew up in.

“That’s what my community has done for me, whether I’ve lived in Orangeburg, I was at school at Winthrop University, or I lived in New York. It didn’t matter where I was, my community always supported and backed me,” she said.

“This is the way as a philanthropist that I’m giving back to my community because this will live on far beyond me, and that’s the purpose,” Jamerson-Holmes said.

Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow “Good News with Gleaton” on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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