Liz Stewart: Helping the Aiken Community with Business Expertise | Sunday clothes
Liz Stewart is not referring to the stage of life she is in now as retired.
Instead, “shifting gears” is the term used by Stewart.
“I have just moved to a new phase,” she said. “I tell people that I am in my inheritance phase. It’s partly to keep myself busy, but I’m very attached to the causes that I support.
Stewart, 75, sits on the board of directors of Rural Health Services and will soon become its chairman.
She also chairs the parish council of the Catholic Church of St. Mary Help of Christians.
Additionally, Stewart serves on executive committees that help guide the Aiken Technical College Foundation, USC Aiken’s Aiken Partnership Council, and the Aiken Rotary Club.
She is also the treasurer of the board of directors of the Aiken County Child Advocacy Center and the vice-chair of the Aiken County Planning Commission.
“I believe we have an obligation to serve in the community that we benefit from,” said Stewart, who has been a local resident since 1989. “I have enjoyed life in Aiken so much that I think I should give back. “
Stewart is a past president of the Aiken Rotary Club and a past chair of the Aiken Planning Commission.
In 2008, the Aiken Chamber of Commerce awarded her the title of Woman of the Year.
Stewart received the USC Aiken Distinguished Partner Award in 2014, and she was the school’s Distinguished Citizen of the Year in 2020.
And these are just a few of Stewart’s many accolades.
“His skills and extensive knowledge of things are very broad and deep,” said Aiken Town Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh. “She has a lot of talent and is very generous with her time. When I read something that is happening in a nonprofit or community organization, it is always at the heart of the matter.
In 1984, Stewart founded Stewart and Associates Inc., a national consulting firm whose clients over the years have included Xerox, 3M, IBM, Atlantic Broadband, and the Florida Power & Light Company.
Stewart and Associates offers various surveys and assessments to its clients and provides assistance with leadership development and organizational processes such as strategic planning and succession planning.
There are branches in San Francisco, Tampa, Atlanta, Houston, and three other locations.
One of his proudest moments, said Stewart, was the launch of Stewart and Associates.
Another married her second husband, Ray Jewell, who died in 2018.
“He was the love of my life,” said Stewart.
Her third proudest moment was when she handed over Stewart and Associates to her employees after Jewell’s death.
“I knew over 200 people and their families were going to have a bright future,” said Stewart.
But they do not move forward alone. She stays in touch.
“Even though I have transferred ownership to the staff, I still own the copyright to a lot of things, so I get royalties. It’s my retirement plan, ”said Stewart. “I attend the weekly Zoom management team meetings, and they call me once or twice a week with questions.”
Meanwhile, Stewart uses his business consulting expertise to help others.
She serves as a mentor to young professional women.
“They deal with a lot of the same issues that women did 30 to 40 years ago,” said Stewart. “Some of the solutions we tried back then didn’t work, so I’m helping them develop different strategies. “
During the novel coronavirus pandemic, Stewart gave advice to business owners on how they can adapt to changing circumstances.
“Everyone kind of had to redefine themselves a bit, and that’s where innovative thinking came in,” she said. “I tell them, ‘This was your business, but it can’t be like this now, so how do you do it differently?’ I challenge them.
“There were retail businesses that didn’t have an online presence,” Stewart continued. “Well, if you’re closed, you’ve got to have an online presence.”
Stewart has also advised contractors.
“I think very strongly in the business world that nothing really exciting or innovative happens until an entrepreneur starts, so I think fostering entrepreneurship is absolutely crucial,” he said. she declared. “A lot of entrepreneurs have special passion and skills, but the business side – hiring people and managing them – is often a weakness. “
Some of the aspiring business owners who have thrived under Stewart’s leadership are Ashley Elvis and Casey Young, who founded Board in Aiken, which offers custom charcuterie platters, and artist Cara Leverette, who creates paintings in watercolor and acrylic.
“There are some things now that make when my brain and my heart say go for it, my body says, ‘No, not today’. But I can still think and I want to share my knowledge for as long as I can, ”said Stewart. “I would someday look down from the sky and say, ‘Wow, these companies are doing well. I’m so glad I helped. “
A native of Daytona Beach, Florida, Stewart grew up with six brothers, five of whom were adopted.
“My dad gave us an allowance of 15 cents a week, and he gave it to us in three cents,” she said. “We had to put a dime in our piggy banks. We had to do something right with a nickel. If you couldn’t think of anything, you would put it in the church offering dish. And we could spend and enjoy the third nickel. It helped me prioritize things. You save some, you help other people and then you’re going to have fun.
Additionally, Stewart and his brothers each had to participate in at least one sport.
Surfing became a passion for Stewart, and she competed for over 50 years.
“There is a unity with nature,” she said. “When you ride this wave you realize that nature is in full control and that you are kind of a guest. This wave could knock you over at any time. Mastering it is a challenge because it is unpredictable.
Stewart was also good enough at tennis to earn a scholarship to the University of Florida, where his studies did not give way to athletics.
Stewart obtained bachelor’s degrees in French, Spanish and education.
Later, she added a master’s degree in psychology, a doctorate in economics, and a law degree.
“I tend to move fast and not get much sleep,” said Stewart. “I’ve always been like that.
While at the University of Florida, Stewart stayed with Jane Slagsvol, singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffett’s second wife.
“They are some of my oldest friends,” said Stewart.
She described the man who made “Margaritaville” famous “as a great guy and a great trader.”
When he’s not playing, “he’s a pretty normal person,” said Stewart. “He’s the one who turns the pancakes for the kids on Sunday mornings.”
Prior to founding Stewart and Associates, Stewart taught high school French and Spanish for a year in the late 1960s.
One of her biggest disappointments in this profession, she said, was discovering that men were paid “25 to 30 percent more” than women.
That’s why, when Stewart learned that there might be a job opportunity at a large company, she decided to explore a new career.
The husband of a neighbor of the apartment complex where she lived at the time had been promoted to a managerial position at Xerox.
His wife told Stewart that she should talk to him because the company “was considering hiring women.”
Stewart did and was encouraged.
“Some things he said resonated with me,” Stewart recalls. “One was that selling is just teaching people about your product, so if you can teach you can sell. But the most important thing he said was that everyone would be paid based on the number of copiers sold. If you sold more copiers than anyone else, you were going to get paid more than anyone else. It started my 15 year career at Xerox.
From a sales position, she rose through the ranks to become vice president of the company’s South East region.
“For a few years, I was part of the internal legal team,” said Stewart. “I was a copyright infringement lawyer. Yes, we have sued people for saying, “Leave us Xerox.” Most of them have settled down.
Because Stewart was also involved in strategic planning, she knew when Xerox would become most important to executives and cut expenses.
Additionally, the company wanted her to move to Rochester, New York, and Stewart was reluctant.
“They gave us an early exit option that was really, really good,” she said, and so Stewart went on her own and created Stewart and Associates.
Today, she is too busy to spend much time remembering what she has accomplished.
“I hang out with a lot of young people who are doing exciting things, and I’m happy to be a part of and help them,” she said. “I’ve never been the type of person to just sit there and do nothing. It would drive me crazy. “