“We’re not done yet”

Daniel Island retirees become businesswomen in Chapter Two of their lives
Whoever said their 60s is the time to retire clearly hadn’t met Joyce Erb, Mollie Vardell, or Marnee Robinson. These three Daniel Island residents are redefining what it means to be an entrepreneur. 
Spoiler alert: you don’t need to be young to start your own business. 
Joyce Erb: Joyce Erb Fine art
While most of her fellow law school peers are retiring, Joyce Erb is busy painting the people and landscape of the Lowcountry. 
“Starting my own business as a fine artist was a natural progression from my hobby as a painter,” Erb said.
After relocating from New York almost a decade ago, the former Wall Street lawyer found herself overjoyed when she started capturing Daniel Island’s landscapes on canvas. 
“I got so much pleasure from painting our beautiful landscapes and flowers that I just wanted to paint all the time,” she recalled.
Art transformed from a hobby to a profession during an unexpected moment in her home. “I was having a small party and when the guests left, they bought up the paintings on my walls, and I was in business!” 
From there, Erb gradually formalized her gift into Joyce Erb Fine Art, a business decision made in the height of the pandemic. “That’s when I pulled my paintings from my downtown gallery and renovated part of my home to create a studio and gallery, where I show my work by appointment,” she said.
Erb’s artistic process blends studio work with plein air painting, often loading her painting gear on her bike to explore inspiring spots around the island.
“Biking to the waterfront or a creekside makes me feel like a kid again, which is the perfect way to approach a painting!” she said. 
Her background as a corporate lawyer might seem worlds apart from her current artistic pursuits, but she finds common ground in the skills honed during her legal career. 
“The discipline and perseverance I cultivated during that time are qualities that I call on every day in my work,” she said, referring to relationship building with clients and determining costs. 
Today, Erb operates her own studio-gallery at home, a space that evolved from a corner of her screened-in porch to a full-fledged creative sanctuary. Her paintings, which often capture the essence of Charleston’s landscapes and historic charm, have garnered attention through exhibitions like the Charleston Artist Guild. 
Despite the modern challenges of running a business, like creating a website and managing social media posts, Erb feels fortunate that her business grew from a longtime passion. 
“I count myself very lucky that at this stage of my life, I can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning to get to my studio,” she said.
For Erb, the most rewarding aspect of her post-retirement career is clear: “Something that brings me joy also sparks joy in the people who hang my paintings in their homes,” she beamed. “It feels good to be in the joy business!” 
Mollie Vardell: Painterly Home
Mollie Vardell put it this way: “I have had many chapters in my career, but my newest one might be my favorite!”
From commercial interior design to professional artistry, Vardell’s professions have always been creative. Now, she’s the visionary behind Painterly Home. 
Her transition into entrepreneurship post-retirement was a natural progression.
“I am a creative soul,” Vardell shared. “Growing up with a mother, grandmother, and sister who were always creating, from lampshades to handbags, shoe bows to belts, sewing, painting, cooking, decorating and doing things with our hands. Some would call it osmosis, but creativity is in my blood and always has been.” 
Her decision to start a business after retiring came during the pandemic, when she started a new painting series focusing on the tropics. 
“My first was a series of leaf paintings including monstera, bird of paradise, and split-leaf philodendron. A friend loved them and said they would make great pillows!” 
This compliment led Vardell to explore having her artwork transferred to fabric, a step that evolved into a broader product line including pillows, tea towels, and other gift items featuring fine art images. 
“I had always planned to continue oil painting, but this side hustle kind of hit me over the head and grew organically to what it is now,” she said. 
At Painterly Home, Vardell oversees the meticulous process of turning art into tangible products. 
“Any artwork considered for pillows must be professionally photographed. The photographs are then sent to a commercial fabric printer who prints the images on fine fabric,” she detailed. The finished products are then assembled and prepared for sale, ensuring quality and artistic integrity.
Starting slowly and expanding has been key to Vardell’s approach. “First it was just pillows and my artwork,” she said. Over time, Painterly Home expanded to include work from other artists who receive commissions on sales. “Next, we experimented with other products that would translate well and fit with our tropical aesthetic,” she added.
As a fairly new business owner, Vardell had to adapt to the digital realm and figure out how to set up a website and hire a social media director to get her products out in the open. Despite the hurdles, the most rewarding part of running Painterly Home has been the customers’ reactions.
“Having a happy customer is the best reward,” she said. She recalled one customer that told her, “We love your pillows, they are like art for my sofa!” 
Vardell works out of her Charleston-based studio and features her products as a vendor at pop-up events and galleries. 
“These products are colorful, coastal, and bring a smile to people,” she said. “They certainly make me happy, and I love that they bring joy to others.” 
Marnee Robinson: Seamstress to concierge extraordinaire
An entrepreneur at heart, Marnee Robinson has dipped her toe in a few different professions.  
“I’ve worn many hats over the years, from a cushion designer and fabricator to a cookie baker to a concierge,” she listed. “I loved them all.”
Most recently, she moved to Daniel Island to work as a lifestyle concierge for the island’s Overture apartments. She had retired during the pandemic, but it just didn’t sit right with her.
“I felt I still had work to do and services that I could offer folks,” she said.
She decided to combine the skills she had picked up all her life and turn it into one business. Under her name, Marnee Robinson, she now offers a blend of custom cushion design and concierge services. 
“I love to sew. I love to be creative. I love the attention to detail. I love the job to be beautifully crafted,” she said about her custom cushions. 
Designed for both indoor and outdoor living spaces, her cushions range from porch and patio cushions to custom-built seating for commercial projects. 
“I transform living spaces for years – from design, templating, fabric and foam to completion,” she said. 
In addition to her creative work, Robinson offers concierge services with a focus on helping seniors. 
“I love to help people. I love to simplify one’s life and cross out the to-do list,” she said, emphasizing the joy she finds in making life easier for others. “It’s about the little things that make someone feel special or makes life easier for them.”
Choosing this path was a natural extension of her passions and skills. “I’ve enjoyed my various professional hats, so I wanted to turn my skills into businesses that allow flexibility for other pursuits, volunteer work, and walks on the beach,” she said.  
The most rewarding part of running your own business is the connections made along the way, Robinson said. “I like meeting new people, the diversity of projects, doing good work every day, and taking pleasure in making folks happy,” she said. 
Robinson said her second chapter has been full of endless possibilities. Her advice to other retirees considering starting their own business is practical and encouraging. 
“Ask yourself a few simple questions – are you ready for an adventure? Why do you want to start this business? Does your business offer folks something that they want or need? Do you have the time, money, and the skills to embark on this adventure? And remember– it is always an adventure.”

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555


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