As the owner of a small business that caters largely to fixed-income clients, Laurinburg resident Stephanie Parsons is no stranger to the vagaries of a sluggish economy.
But when Parsons realized that Scotland County claims the state’s highest unemployment rate, her reaction was a mix of surprise and consternation, especially with the negative attitude with which some view the county.
“For us to have the highest unemployment rate is really disturbing, especially as we are centralized,” said Parsons. “We can go out and find employment 30 or 40 minutes away. People don’t have a right to sit there and complain about how poor their community is unless they’re doing something about it.”
Parsons is the owner of Domestic Divas, a cleaning service that serves Moore, Cumberland and Hoke counties, and is expanding into Scotland County. The business currently employs three other people in its Moore County and Fayetteville locations, two of whom live in Scotland County. About half of Domestic Divas’ clients live on a fixed income.
“There’s kind of a stigma, people think that only people with money have someone come and clean their house,” Parsons said. “But for so many, it’s something that they need. With the elderly especially, some are actually creating an unsafe and unsanitary environment for themselves.”
But Parsons, who started the business in honor of her grandmother, who worked as a janitor, wanted her cleaning service to be available to everyone. Prices are kept reasonable in part by offering a la carte services for those who may need help only in specific areas of housekeeping.
“We have designed ourselves to be everyone’s cleaning business: for the elderly, those on disability, single mothers, we take all of that into consideration when pricing,” said Parsons. “If we have a single mother of three, and she’s working all these hours and she just needs help with laundry or bathrooms, we will help just with that.”
A native of East Tennessee, Parsons moved to Laurinburg after working in Moore County, where she met her fiance, a Scotland County native. Parsons has noted a defeatist attitude in many area residents toward the county’s economic prospects, but it is, she says, up to them to turn things around.
“Everybody who is already here has something that they can bring to the table,” said Parsons. “If I can do this job fair and not one of the 17 plus percent comes to this and uses it to their benefit to potentially gain from this and become more productive - then that proves them right, that we’re in a position where no one wants to do anything about it.”
In addition to expanding her own business into Scotland County, Parsons is also exploring the idea of a nonprofit designed to help the unemployed, especially women, with job-seeking skills.
“I do a lot of workshops and seminars and I’m in the process of building a nonprofit called Project Diva - giving women resources and leading them in the right direction,” Parsons said. “We would do seminars and workshops on things like resume building, dressing for success, helping them with interview skills - giving them the tools that they need so that they’re not going blindly out into the workforce and seeking employment.”
As Domestic Divas has successfully found a client base outside of the county, Parsons promotes looking for work elsewhere as a viable tactic in getting Scotland County residents employed, at least in the short term.
“We have a lot of businesses and industries right outside of this county,” she said. “I’m not for that in that I want to push everybody out of the county to work, but I want to find people jobs no matter what avenue we have to take to get them there.”