Photo by Laura Olsen Imagery

Amanda Moreno Duke (left) of Cutie Pa Tutus, LLC, and BJ Rogers of Greenery Gallery Interiorscaping Services won the third annual Power Up — Inspire Others Contest.

Two women tied to win the Power Up -- Inspire Others Contest, held in conjunction with last week's Women in Business Conference.

Amanda Moreno Duke of Cutie Pa Tutus LLC and BJ Rogers of Greenery Gallery Interiorscaping Services won the third annual contest that challenged working women to share how they have been able to power up and inspire other women to succeed.

Duke and Rogers received free registration to the conference and a Charleston-inspired gift basket.

Here are their essays, which they read to the estimated 300 women in attendance at the conference, which was presented by Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and Center for Women.

BJ Rogers

Woman are nurturers and men are hunters. I think I have learned to do both in my last 24 years in business as a biz owner. I was audited by the S.C. Department of Revenue (routinely) in March 2008. They targeted me with a "little known" law ... ruling 06-9. This law was passed and enacted for enforcement beginning June 2005. So I began a "fight for all small businesses." This was one of the most pivotal points for small businesses in 2010! If all small businesses had been targeted (as the SCDOR was beginning to do) this would have bankrupted or closed hundreds of small businesses in South Carolina in the height of a recession! My fight was long and hard. The press could not jump on it; they had accuracy issues that had to be answered in order to talk about a law and what it was going to do to small biz. Politicians sat on their hands until I was facing a huge fine of $42k. Down to the wire and my employees in Charleston (mostly female) knew how deep this would be. I could see about 7 women and 2 men that contribute to their families ... possibly lose their jobs. Our argument was that this law was written for the sale of "extended warranties" on products like refrigerators. The law was twisted and stretched to fit something it was never intended for. Thank God I never quit fighting. My employees encouraged me and thanked me for fighting for many jobs for the people of S.C. They kept me going when I wanted to lay down and cry. One lady said to me ... "don't cry BJ ... fight it, you are right," and I did. We managed to "halt" all audits on small businesses and the law is being reworded for what it was meant for. Fooling the women of S.C. was not in my vocabulary; it should not have been in the DOR's either.

Amanda Moreno Duke

Cutie Pa Tutus LLC was basically born out of my desperation to afford Christmas presents for my children. At the end of 2008, after a long, hard year of struggling to make ends meet, my husband and I found ourselves unable to purchase Christmas presents for our children. Or rather, I purchased presents but then had to return them to pay for emergent bills like electricity. I'll never forget breaking down in tears in the return line of Target. I swore to myself that I would figure out a way to afford the kind of Christmas that I wanted for my two small children, then 1 year and 3 years old. Around the same time, my daughter was invited to her first princess party. Unable to buy the type of outfit that I really wanted her to wear to the party, I decided I would try to sew a tutu for her. I hadn't sewn in 20 years, but I borrowed a friend's sewing machine and tried to figure it out. After a few disastrous attempts, I came up with a pompom-filled tutu that was precious. When we went to the party, all the other moms just died over it, and begged me to make some for them. Which gave me an idea ... what if I could sell some to earn extra Christmas money? And that's just what I did. But I had no idea what sort of potential these tutus had. They began to attract more and more attention, and soon I was talking to boutiques about wholesaling them around town. I made a website (my day job at the time), and went to work marketing. With the help of some other "mom-preneurs" that I met, the tutus took off! Not long after, my son and I designed personalized super hero capes and I began to sell those, too. We were thrilled when Jessica Alba's daughter Honor was photographed wearing her pink super hero cape that I had sent her in a gifting in the LAX airport. My tutus and capes have also received praise from Denise Richards, Alison Sweeney, Nancy O'Dell and Tori Spelling. Within a year's time, I was able to get my tutus into five other countries, including Japan, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Russia and Guam. I'm in 28 retail stores across the U.S., and I've received accolades from experts in the children's apparel industry including Tot Trends Weekly's listing of our capes among their Editor's Picks for 2009. And I'm just getting started!