Pamela Evette has never done anything “halfway” in her entire life. According to the entrepreneur, it’s not even in her vocabulary. So it makes sense that when she decided to run for an elected office — something she has wanted to do for a long time — it wasn’t for city council; it was for lieutenant governor.
It’s a seemingly big jump for Evette, who is best known for her leadership of Quality Business Solutions, an outsourced payroll and HR benefits firm based in the Upstate. Under her, QBS has become known for its growth and impact — showing up regularly on lists for fastest growing companies, best places to work, and Top 20 across the state. At the same time, Evette has been recognized for her own work, from the Athena Leadership award locally to the Enterprising Women of the Year award, which recognizes female entrepreneurship globally.
That leadership has offered her a number of opportunities, one of which was sitting at a dinner table with then-Gov. Nikki Haley and a few other businesswomen a little more than a year ago. It was there that she asked Haley, “So what’s next for you?” At that point, prior to her appointment to the United Nations as U.S. ambassador, Haley reportedly shrugged it off and turned the question back to Evette. To which Evette replied, “I want to be you.”
Not long after, at an inaugural event for newly elected President Donald Trump, Evette met the incoming Gov. Henry McMaster through mutual friends. They aligned over casual conversation about state issues and business and, with no other agenda, left the event on common ground. Evette was impressed by McMaster, and not long after, McMaster called her to Columbia for a meeting, where he asked her to run alongside him in the 2018 campaign.
While it wasn’t an easy decision, Evette notes, it was one she quickly settled into, and she quickly came to see McMaster as a mentor in this new venture.
“I got excited; I’ve always wanted to do something bigger than myself, and with more potential. It’s bigger than just making something for my family,” she says. “This has the potential for me to help a much greater group of people. Not because I’m some savant, but I think I come at it with a fresh set of eyes and a fresh perspective.”
With that fresh perspective comes another driving force: the desire to uphold and promote the American dream, something Evette feels has been lost in recent years. Drawing on her own family history of “crazy Polish immigrants,” as she affectionately calls them, the concept of hoping big and working together toward common successes has resonated with her.
“I felt like I needed to get more involved because I thought the American dream was something that we’re losing grip of,” Evette says. “My family … didn’t know the language or the people. They relied on all the people who came before them. It was instilled in them that you can’t get the American dream on your own. Everybody helping helps get you there.”
However, she notes, part of attaining that dream has been hindered by business regulation — something she wants to address head on.
“I think I bring a great perspective coming from business, because I deal with businesses of all sizes — from large publicly traded companies to small one-man groups,” she notes. “When you are overburdened and overtaxed, there’s nothing left, and now you can’t offer what you want to give to your employees.”
The example is personal, of course, as Evette and her husband, David, have had to address those same issues in their own business — to the point where there were years when they debated growing the business any more, to avoid the additional burdens.
“I completely believe that people do not start a business to not offer a great environment for their employees,” she says. “I think what happens is you start a business and you have all these amazing intentions, and the bigger you get, you get hit with more and more regulations. Then before you know it, you’re scaling back.”
Now, as she faces what will undoubtedly be a significant campaign with at least eight gubernatorial contenders coming to a head this year, Evette’s focus remains on growing the business economy in South Carolina to the benefit of all its citizens.
“If you can get more businesses in the state and provide a great place for them to thrive, then you can attract more quality teachers, build infrastructure, and really turn around some of our cities,” Evette says. “But if you can’t get jobs there and you can’t get infrastructure better, how can you help them?”
Evette, who firmly believes in the motto “a high tide raises all ships,” knows that such a change will take time, but she is willing to take that time to give back to create a true legacy — not only in honor of her “crazy immigrant” family, but out of respect for the state she calls home.
“Small business is what keeps this state going,” she says. “Throwing money at a problem is only going to fix a problem temporarily, so we really have to come up with strategic solutions. I think that’s what I’m passionate about: How do we really make an impact where it’s most needed?”
Who’s Announced They’re Running in 2018?
Your cheat sheet for this year’s S.C. Gubernatorial Race
- Kevin Bryant (R), lieutenant governor
- Phil Cheney (D), director, Oconee County Public Library
- Yancey McGill (R), former state senator
- Henry McMaster (R), South Carolina governor (incumbent)
- Phil Noble (D), co-founder, Envision South Carolina; owner, Phil Noble and Associates
- James Smith (D), state representative
- Catherine Templeton (R), former director, S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control; former director, S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation
- John Warren (R), CEO, LimaOne