There are some things Maria Velez de Berliner can’t tell you about her life — classified information she’s been privy to as part of her role with the U.S. Department of Defense and Homeland Security, and through her teaching on strategic and tactical intelligence with the U.S. Air Force’s Special Operations division.


When she was just a young woman attending boarding school outside of Paris, Beverly O’Connor’s headmaster imparted to her father what turned out to be a pretty on-the-nose prediction.

Owners of A Floral Affair have adjusted to Lowcountry pace

A Floral Affair is a bride’s one-stop shop when it comes to making her wedding flower fantasies bloom true, mostly thanks to shop owner Dawn Kiritsy. She and her husband, Stephen, opened the shop in 1997 on Dillon Road a year after relocating to the Lowcountry from New Hampshire. They were sick of the North’s snow and were ready for warmer weather, so their favorite vacation spot — Hilton Head Island — soon became their home, and their new place of business.

Everything falling into place for Hilton Head Island businesswoman Donna D’Amico

Having a son with cystic fibrosis means Donna D’Amico understands the importance of health insurance and adequate preventive care.

Thanks to a career shift she attributes to “divine intervention,” the savvy Hilton Head businesswoman now gets to help healthcare providers make sure their patients have access to those things as well.

After an overwhelming response from the entrepreneurial community and 73 entries submitted from around the country, winners have been chosen for Hilton Head Island Economic Development Corporation's first-ever "Bring Your Business Idea to Life" contest. The contest was created to give entrepreneurs the opportunity to win a comprehensive array of prizes and support to help launch their businesses.

More than 150 business and community leaders attended the pitch competition on Feb. 23 at Poseidon Restaurant, where the six finalists gave “fast pitches” to a panel of well-known business leaders in the community serving as contest judges. Judges were Jason Allen, of Chatham Capital Group; Terry Brubaker, of Gladstone Investments; Jim Macleod, of Coastal States Bank; and Leslie Richardson, of Coligny Plaza. 


After jet-setting around the world, celebrity hairstylist Dennis Stokely has returned to his Southern roots. Best known as Paula Abdul’’s hairstylist during seasons seven and eight of “American Idol,” Stokely has settled in the Lowcountry and has launched a brand of hair shears for the beauty industry.

Now living on Hilton Head Island, Stokely moved to the area to take care of his mother, who lives in Savannah.

“I’m a Southern kid, raised by a single mother, who went to public school in Georgia,” Stokely said. “While working on ‘American Idol’ was the gig of a lifetime, I believe my Southern sensibilities set me apart from others in L.A. It seems only natural for me to return to a place that feels like home.”


Wayne Beckley is a company CEO, product developer, expert marketer and chemist. But perhaps what he does best is ask questions nobody else has asked.

Beckley founded Merlot Natural Grape Seed Skin Care in 2001 after asking himself one simple question: If drinking a glass or two of red wine a day is supposedly good for your body, what could a lotion made with the powerful ingredients in the grape seeds do for your skin?

Hickory Tavern, a casual dining restaurant with a sports passion, is opening its fifth South Carolina location at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 16, at 44 Shelter Cove Lane on Hilton Head Island. The Hilton Head restaurant expands the brand’s footprint in the state. Hickory Tavern also has locations in Columbia, Spartanburg, Indian Land and Rock Hill. A Myrtle Beach location is slated to open this fall.

Jiva Yoga Center owner Jean Rioux understands the people who don’t believe yoga can be a sweat-inducing, muscle-fatiguing workout. She used to be one of them.

“I was always into high-impact aerobics and running, so I wasn’t ready for what I thought would be sitting on the floor and stretching,” shey says. “But what I found was that yoga can be a lot more dynamic. I was very satisfied with the vigorousness of it, as well as how it took me to a relaxed state of mind and body. As opposed to just running with a pair of headphones on and escaping something, it took me deeper into myself, basically. So I was hooked.”

Cheryl Klippel is not afraid to fail, a fact the local entrepreneur says is the reason she has such a solid record of success.

“So many famous people make reference to jumping off a cliff. In life you can jump off and take that leap of faith that your parachute will eventually open, or you can back off and never take that risk. I’m not afraid to take that risk; I’m not afraid to fail,” says Klippel, who owns three island retail stores and one bustling café. “You’ll scrape across the rocks, but if you don’t take that jump, you’ll never soar.”