Ann Carmichael: From Higher Education to Entrepreneur

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By CINDY CROSBY

When Ann Carmichael retired as Dean of the University of South Carolina Palmetto College’s USC Salkehatchie Campus at the end of December 2018, following a 35-year career in higher education, many people who knew her best predicted her “retirement” would be a creation entirely to her own liking. It appears they were exactly right.

Carmichael recently added entrepreneur to her already stellar and impressive resume with the creation of a hat band design called Breezy Beach.

“Several years ago, we were boating, and my friend and I were complaining that they did not make an attractive hat that would stay on and provided adequate sun coverage,” said Carmichael. “Most wide brim hats have a constricting inner band or an unsightly chin strap. I told her that when I retired, I was going to add ‘creating a device that would hold your hat on your head in the windiest conditions’ to my Bucket List.”

When Carmichael sets her mind to something, little can stand in her way, and this instance was certainly no different. “It took much trial and error to make it perfect,” said Carmichael. “The secret to the band is in the physics of it – meaning I had to give it enough weight to be effective but distribute the weight so not to cause a headache. This is where my tagline, Blending Science with Beauty, comes from.

“After I created and did multiple tests on my design, the next logical step was to protect my invention,” said Carmichael. “I worked with an attorney to apply for a patent and submitted a very detailed application. Once accepted, they verified that while there are other devices that will hold a hat in place, there is not one that does not have an inner band or chin strap. This basically validated what I already knew – if there would have been such a product, I would have bought it long ago.”

“Although my major goal was to solve a problem, but since it is something I believe others may like, I thought I should share it,” said Carmichael. “I needed someone to help me produce, so I approached Cobia Burris, owner of Sweet Dreams, Sewn Seams and Jellybeans, in downtown Walterboro. Her sister sews and is making these hat bands for me. Cobia offered to sell them in her store, which really appealed to me, because I wanted to make these available to the people of Walterboro first. I am a big proponent of shopping locally whenever you can, as it supports local businesses and helps us grow our economy.”

Although Carmichael originally planned to launch Summer 2022, she was able to move production forward earlier to benefit a good cause. “A friend in Charleston, who is a member of the Carolina Lady Anglers, wanted to raffle a hat band as part of their ‘Angling for a Cure’ fishing tournament taking place September 29 – October 2, which benefits cancer research. This seemed like another way to promote my product while helping a good cause, so I agreed.”

With the weather still warm and football season in full swing, Carmichael is excited to see her soft launch come at an opportune time. “With people attending football games and the weather still being so warm, Cobia and I decided to do a soft launch and make these available now,” said Carmichael.

“My signature band color is Seabra, which is Irish Galic for Zebra,” said Carmichael. “My mother was an O’Shields, so a tip of the hat to her, pardon the pun, but we are also providing other color choices and lengths, as some may want to tie in a bow in the back or others may want a short tie.”

“This project has been so much fun,” said Carmichael. “While it may appear to be going in a totally different direction from my former profession, it does have some parallels. One reason I am such a proponent of education, is at the highest level you learn how to think, apply knowledge, and solve problems. In that regard, this invention required me to use the same skill sets I used every day when I was Dean at USC Salkehatchie. The major difference was that there was absolutely no pressure as this is more of a hobby than a business.”

“I absolutely loved my career in higher education, and I will forever be grateful that the good Lord used me to serve Him in this way, but I was also ready to close that chapter in my life and enjoy more time with my family,” said Carmichael. “I was excited to see what was on the horizon , because an educator never quits learning, and my personality won’t allow me to slow down. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Ephesians 3::20. He is speaking to the church, but I think He is speaking to all of us. Expect big things from the Lord if you allow him to work through you.”

Breezy Beach’s logo was a collaboration between Carmichael and former Salk student, Alexis Jones. Jones, now a graphic artist in Columbia, was hired by Carmichael to complete the artwork.

Breezy Beach is scheduled to be available at Sweet Dreams, Sewn Seams and Jellybeans located on Washington Street in Downtown Walterboro this week and will retail for $25.

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