By Kimberlei N. Davis
The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, S.C.
The second week of the 2009-10 school term at Elloree Elementary had just begun when Evelyn left her job after 27 years.
It wasn’t a voluntary decision; however it was one that was non-negotiable, she noted.
The South Carolina State University alumna’s leap of faith paid off and this year it landed her recognition as the grand prize winner of Black Enterprise Small Business University powered by AARP.
As the owner and operator of Creative Expressions and Gifts, the then-50-year-old launched her business full time in 2010 and says that her return for listening to God when others thought she was insane is paying off in dividends that money can’t buy.
From flower arrangements, greeting cards, T-shirts and balloons to her best sellers: personalized gift baskets and buttons, Evelyn believes her business is well on its way to providing jobs in Orangeburg.
The newlywed’s store sits along Neeses Highway in what used to be her garage.
Starting out, Haye-Primus said she pulled out of her 401k to pay off her mortgage.
The renovations she made to retrofit her home and the purchase of a new minivan were all paid in cash, a fact that she is very proud of.
As the grand prize winner of SBU, the Philadelphia native took a four-week course that provided advice from industry experts, Black Enterprise editors and fellow entrepreneurs on marketing, financing and investing, managing your team, upgrading your technology finding balance and more.
As part of her winnings, she received an all-expense-paid trip to Columbus, Ohio, to attend the 19th annual Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo, hosted by Nationwide.
During the three-day conference, Walmart hosted two 20/20 Vision Forums addressing supplier diversity: “Get On the Shelf” and “Calling All Female Entrepreneurs: How to Gain Your Piece of the $20 Billion Contracting Pie.”
Her time at the expo and meeting with Black Enterprise CEO Earl Graves, Jr. was a humbling opportunity that she plans to use to help fine tune her business and bring her greeting card and product line to stores nationwide.
The bride of Early Scott Primus wears several hats in the community and church but says she hasn’t totally given up her duties as an educator.
As a yearly participant in the three Orangeburg County school districts’ career day, Evelyn said she is also a business partner with Consolidated District Three.
During last month’s Orangeburg County Fair, Primus ran into one of her former third-grade student’s who is now an adult.
“When I was a teacher, I did home visits up until my last year,” she said. “This particular young lady was physically abusing her grandmother at the time, but it took one meeting with her and that one caring conversation with the family turned her life around.”
Primus is working on a book that “will tell my testimony and how I got to where I am.”
During a church conference and a series of events that followed in 2010, Haye-Primus, a member of Right Direction Church International of Orangeburg, said that “God spoke to me about doing my business full time, because I had been working it part-time and when God says move, you move.”
It’s been four years since then and she said she hasn’t been lacking financially.
Primus’ decision to go against the grain as a business owner and an educator has brought about change in her life and in the lives of others. “It’s really been a blessing.”