Gulfport Woman Turns Her Struggle Into Success

Imagine being rejected again and again. Would you have what is takes to keep going?

One Gulfport business owner isn't afraid to keep trying.

Ethel Shaw spent 29 years working at one department store. Her career had its highs and lows, but she took what she learned working for others to add a touch of fashion to South Mississippi.

"When I went into the bank to get the loan, I was told that it was too large of a start-up project for a single woman. So I had to do something else," says Shaw.

When Ethel Shaw needed money to open her own business ten years ago, she heard 'no' more than once.  Roadblocks to success were common, especially in 1970s when she was denied a department store job because of her race.

"I was told by one of my personnel managers, I won't say his name, that I wasn't qualified to go out into the store and be a sales person. But he was building an upstairs and he needed someone else to help the lady downstairs. He needed a maid to go out into the store to do bathrooms," says Shaw.

That led to a discrimination suit Shaw describes as a nightmare.

"It took them five years and I went through hell. I went through hell," says Shaw.

She won the suit and promotions. After leaving the department store, she opened Fashion Touch Boutique and Hair Salon. Her success shows others what determination and dedication can do.

"She's a big influence on a lot of young black women especially, to actually go out and try to start something on her own. I would never done it if she didn't inspire me," says Sally Lewis.

Lewis has worked in the Fashion Touch Salon for more than three years. Now because of a woman she says is like a mother, she is moving on to open her own salon.

Meanwhile, as 65-year-old Shaw prepares to celebrate 10 years as a business owner, she says there is still much more to come.

"My life is just beginning. Just beginning."

The Fashion Touch Boutique and Hair Salon is located on Watkins Avenue in Gulfport.