Elizabeth G. Pou, '81
Originally published in June 2010
Elizabeth Pou may just be the Martha Stewart of Carolina. Her medium may not be painting and sculpting, but make no mistake, whether it is interior design or culinary master pieces, she is an artist.
“In some arenas I’ve been referred to as the black Martha Stewart,” Elizabeth laughs. “I say no, I’m the high heel homemaker.”
If you get to Williams-Brice Stadium during football season or the Colonial Life Arena for men’s basketball, you may have seen her. This multi-talented Carolina alumnus has also been seen on a national television home improvement show, and she has not forgotten the University which helped her to realize her dreams.
All Roads Lead Back to Carolina
Elizabeth was born in Hawaii, but she spent part of her childhood living in places around the world as her father was in the United States Army. After stops in Oklahoma and Europe, she and her family moved to Columbia. This was home for her parents, who grew up in the Orangeburg area.
“I more or less grew up in South Carolina,” Elizabeth recalls. “Dad was stationed at Fort Jackson. This is where we always came back to. This is home.”
As the middle child in the Pou family where it was common to finishing high school early, Elizabeth came to the University of Carolina early at the age of 16.
“I wanted to be a fashion designer,” Elizabeth says. “I made my first dress when I was five or six years old. That was my goal in life. At that point I had been creating items, making things, and designing things for fashion shows. I wanted to go to New York and eventually work in one of the design houses in France as a young teenager, but my mother was insistent on us being educated.”
Having second thoughts about college initially, a conversation with her mother made her realize that this is where she needed to be.
“Because I started, I knew I had to finish,” Elizabeth says. “I’ve always been goal and task oriented. Maybe it’s due to my training from my parents since my father was in the military, and maybe it was because my mom was an educator who taught overseas and here in the South Carolina school system.”
Once she was able get into a routine and realized the differences between college and high school, she was able to adjust.
“I had good study habits,” Elizabeth says. “When you want to do well and achieve, you put in place what you’ve been taught, and that’s what I ended up doing.”
Elizabeth received an Associate’s degree in retailing initially, but she realized she still had more to learn.
“From there I realized that if you don’t have a concentration, you’re not taken seriously,” Elizabeth says. “My advisor once asked me, ‘do you know what a bachelor’s degree actually tells people? It tells people that you are actually capable of comprehending material and that you have staying power because you finished.”
Looking fondly back at her days on campus, Elizabeth is appreciative of the opportunities her degree from Carolina has provided.
“Once I got here, I found it to be most advantageous to be a student here at the University of South Carolina,” Elizabeth says. “I enjoyed it. I knew once I got through everything, I could go out into the world and be the person I wanted to be, equipped with the knowledge, skills and abilities I had obtained here. I had good professors, and I met a lot of people. So you make a lot of connections here.”
Out in the World
After earning her Bachelor’s degree in business in 1981, Elizabeth’s corporate career began when she became a Discover Card service representative. She was then promoted to an account executive and worked with the company for over 13 years. Her family and friends always commented on how she did her homemaking in high heel shoes.
“I was always designing and creating,” Elizabeth says. “Crafting custom pieces from a very young age, I would make drapes, house ensembles, clothing, meals and desserts, and just about anything for anyone who commissioned me to do so. All while allowing the artist in me to grow as I worked with my dad on the weekends at Peoples Upholstery.”
Word of her skills spread primarily by word of mouth and referrals. Eventually she started doing events, gatherings and parties under her own company, LizBeth’s™ and designed tangible items leading to the emergence of another endeavor, ZilBeth’s™.
Food was also part of her creativity, as Elizabeth’s culinary expertise grew as she grew.
Things changed in 1998 when Discover Card reorganized leaving many of its field representatives without a job. She sees this as a major turning point in her life.
“That’s understandable because things change,” Elizabeth says. “I saw it as a wonderful opportunity for me because I wanted to utilize my creativeness on a daily basis. Discover Card was the best education I could have ever had business-wise, second only to my University of South Carolina education. The University of South Carolina gave me a formal education, while Discover Card gave me an actual business education. I learned what was right and wrong in a corporate environment.”
It wasn’t long before she would take her “how-to-do” skills to a national audience. In December 2005 Elizabeth was casted in a Turner South reality television program, “Homemakers.” She, along with five other ladies took a 100 year old house located in Charlotte’s No Do community down to the studs and rebuilt it.
“I learned so much doing that,” Elizabeth says. “My hands-on training had not necessarily been in construction, but I was able to use all of my knowledge obtained through working with my dad. So I knew how to use all the tools, and equipment needed for the job.”
The program ran for approximately two seasons, and from there she went back to producing and creating for her own company. Wanting to keep her business moving forward, she decided to tweak it once again and met with Bob Petit at the Moore School of Business.
“I was telling him about this wonderful dessert line I had,” Elizabeth says. “I have this special cake I make called the Sheldonia™. Bob said to me, ‘I have been going to the Carolina football games all my life, and never have I been able to purchase a dessert.’ He recommended that I contact the USC food service providers, so I looked into bringing the dessert line to the 85,000 fans at the University of South Carolina football games.”
That’s exactly what she did, and it wasn’t long before she had worked out an arrangement to have her own spot as a vendor at Williams-Brice Stadium, and later a spot in the Colonial Life Arena for men’s basketball games.
The “High Heel Homemaker Café” is located in sections five and six on the main level of the West Stands at Williams-Brice Stadium, and next to the President’s suite in the Colonial Life Arena. She says the reaction from fans at the games has been great.
“Being a vendor and working off site was a new venue for me,” Elizabeth says. “So it was a challenge, one that I have met. I carry the cake line which includes Pineapple Coconut, Golden Chocolate, Carrot, Pound and yes, Red Velvet which is best known here at the University of South Carolina as Gamecock Cake.”
There is much more to her menu, Elizabeth offers hot brewed coffee, and she’s emphatic that it’s not instant coffee. She also offers teas and ciders, and fresh and unique sandwiches.
“People don’t think that you can get gourmet desserts at a game,” Elizabeth says. “I want the fans that came to my location to be able to have a complete meal,” Elizabeth says. “And one of the most important things is for the product to be the best that it can be. I don’t have institutional food that came out of a box. Many of my items are made that day.”
As her businesses continue to grow, Elizabeth is filling more and more requests for her services, so there is no off-season. In March 2010 the main campus dining facilities began offering to USC students, staff and faculty an opportunity to taste the sweet morsels that she creates.
While she has made most of her success through her own entrepreneurial spirit and hard work, she is quick to point out that her degree from the University of South Carolina has certainly helped her reach her goals.
“I’m an artist and I work in various venues, and food happens to be one of them,” Elizabeth says. “There are a lot of opportunities that become available and a certain weight that comes from earning a degree from the University of South Carolina. It’s a very positive thing not only here in South Carolina, but around the world. I would recommend anyone come here. It’s a great school. The University of South Carolina can give you the education you need to succeed anywhere in the world based on what it is you desire to be. You can learn it here.”