October 20, 2022
We’re excited to announce the $10,000 September Amber Grant recipient. Congratulations to Brandy Witherow, Owner of Lemon Island Seafood. They are the September qualifier for the 2022 year-end Amber Grant ($25,000).
Recently, WomensNet Advisory Board member Marcia Layton Turner sat down with Brandy for an exclusive interview. You can listen to their conversation and view the transcript below.
WomensNet: Hi everyone. Welcome to a conversation with our Amber Grant winner for September, 2022. Today we’re speaking with Brandy Witherow, who’s the owner of Lemon Island Seafood on the coast of South Carolina. I’m Marcia Layton Turner, and I’m one of several WomensNet Advisory Board members.
So Brandy, thank you so much for chatting with me today. I know business is crazy busy, so thank you.
Brandy: Yes ma’am. Thank you.
WomensNet: Tell us about Lemon Island Seafood.
Brandy: We’re a local seafood market. We offer a lot of local seafood. And when I say local, I mean the southeast; it’s mostly North Carolina through Florida on the southeast coast. So we’re just a little seafood market on a river in South Carolina on the coast.
WomensNet: What percent of your customer consists of individual customers who were coming in to buy their food to cook up for dinner versus restaurants and other food service businesses?
Brandy: So mostly it’s just customers coming in, hearing about us, or wanting to just see what we’re about. And I’m always looking to talk.
WomensNet: And what kind of seafood do you sell?
Brandy: We have 16 different filets of fish. We’ve got about five different whole fish at all times, and I try to mix that up. Anything from whiting, flounder, red snapper, grouper, salmon, cod…obviously those are from up north though. We do scallops, oysters, shrimp, crabs…we do it all.
I’m always looking to get new stuff in, so when a customer asks for something I’m known for that. People love that and they always talk about it like, if you ever want anything, just go to her. She’ll find it.
They’re teaching me at the same time. I’m like, what is that? So I’m intrigued. And then I find out about it and I’ll see how it works in the market, and if it does good, we’ll keep it, if not, well it’s just one thing we tried.
WomensNet: And so you’re selling it uncooked… you don’t do any kind of preparation on-site?
Brandy: Correct. We were working on maybe doing a couple things cooked, because we’ve been asked a lot for that. We have a lot of people asking us how to cook stuff. So we’re also thinking about doing some recipes here in the future.
WomensNet: So what do you think has been the secret to your success thus far?
Brandy: I tell everybody that comes on board with me, customer service has been huge. You can be outta everything. As long as you have good customer service, they’ll be back.
And, I believe, it’s my ambition.
WomensNet: You had mentioned that you’re one of very few women locally in the seafood business?
Brandy: Yes ma’am. From what I know, I am the only woman in the area doing this. And like I said, my father started doing it when I was two years old as a fisherman. And the market where I’m at now used to be a marina, and my father ran that for years until it closed down. And then a non-profit organization came in called Port Royal Sound Foundation. And now it’s the Maritime Center.
And so they preserved a lot of the old marina, and they got a bunch of aquariums that they teach people about the waters around and they helped preserve a lot of the oyster reefs. They do a lot of good things for our waters around here.
So they invited us to start the market up there, and that’s how it all started.
WomensNet: How long have you been in business?
Brandy: 2016 is when it originally started. My father did start it. And then I moved back to take it over. And he owns his own business too — another seafood market, so he just didn’t want anything else
WomensNet: So now that you’ve won the $10,000 Amber Grant, tell us a little bit about how you’re expecting to use that money to grow the business.
Brandy: The building that I just bought, I’m going to open that up to a little retail area that you can walk into and move more into tackle and bait — not just seafood, raw seafood. Bait tackle and produce is gonna be what my next step is to focus on.
WomensNet: And so you need equipment to be able to do that?
Brandy: Yes. I’m gonna have to rebuild the inside of the building for retail. Counter space…obviously a freezer for the bait. And then I need aquariums to do live bait. So that’s another thing I would like to do as well.
WomensNet: And so is the building that you just got — is this gonna be a new location or are you going to move everything into that?
Brandy: It’s all one little location now. I’m hoping next year I open a second location, but we’ll see.
WomensNet: That was gonna be my next question. If that’s the immediate plan — to work on fixing up the building that you just got — you said long term, you want to get another location?
Brandy: Oh yeah, absolutely. In a perfect world, I would like it sooner than it’s probably gonna happen. I don’t wanna give myself more than three to five years I guess. A year would be awesome, and if it works out that way awesome… but we’ll see.
WomensNet: And and where would it be?
Brandy: I would like to keep it in Savannah, Georgia. It’s about 30 minutes from us and I know that they don’t have a whole lot of seafood markets in that area. So I’ve been asked by several people to come that way…they drive to see me already, so you know, it would be a bonus and I’d get more clients, more customers.
WomensNet: So based on the success that you’ve had thus far, what kind of advice might you give another woman business owner who’s kind of just getting started? Is there anything that you think you did really well early on or that you’ve learned through the years that might help them?
Brandy: I learned through the years with the father that I have…don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do something because you’re a woman. That is a huge thing that I had dealt with. Just getting my daughter to realize that I’m worthy of being in this field. So, he was surprised, and I was like, don’t doubt me ever again… So just don’t ever let anybody tell you you can’t do anything. That’s the biggest thing and that’s what drives me more to wanna do it.
I think the biggest part is just keep your head up.
WomensNet: It sounds like believing in your own abilities is important, too. You knew you could do it.
Brandy: Exactly. And don’t let anybody ever tell you different. No matter your gender or whatever you choose, you can do whatever you want, really. It might be hard, but you can do.
WomensNet: Well, thank you so much for giving me a little bit of your time today to talk about Lemon Island Seafood, Brandy. I really appreciate it. Congratulations again on winning the Amber Grant for September.
Brandy: Thank you. You guys keep doing what you do. It’s awesome. Thank you.