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Columbia Business Monthly

Honoring Our Black Entrepreneurs: Mike Chestnut

Feb 01, 2024 10:21AM ● By Genna Contino

In 2022, more than 20 percent of South Carolina businesses were owned by people from racial minorities, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Of those businesses, more than 72,000 were owned by Black entrepreneurs.

A 2023 study conducted by Lendio, a company that specializes in loans to small businesses, used data from the Census Bureau and the U.S. Small Business Administration to rank each state’s support of minority-owned businesses.

The study ranked South Carolina 14th in the nation, citing a 147-percent job growth at minority-owned businesses.

Every entrepreneur faces challenges in getting a business off the ground and keeping it on a growth trajectory through the ups and downs of the economy and the upheaval of the Covid-19 pandemic. And many minority business owners face additional hurdles ranging from discrimination to a lack of mentorship opportunities, according to Lendio.

Meet some Black entrepreneurs around South Carolina who are navigating the challenges and putting their own stamp on the business world.

Mike Chestnut

Big Mike’s Soul Food

Myrtle Beach

You might know Mike Chestnut as the face of Big Mike’s Soul Food, but the restaurateur wears many hats. He’s served on the Myrtle Beach City Council for more than two decades, and is a proud father, husband, real estate agent, and church deacon. 

His passion for food started at a young age. Chestnut has been in the restaurant industry since he was 12, finding work in local restaurants around Myrtle Beach. But Chestnut’s love for cooking stemmed from working alongside his mother in the kitchen, who always produced flavorful meals seemingly from nothing. 

He attended culinary school at Horry-Georgetown Technical College and has experience in fine dining, but his passion lies in soul food. Chestnut opened Big Mike’s in March 2012, running on two slogans: “soul food the way your momma made it” and “good food at a fair price.” Popular dishes include fried chicken, fried fish, collard greens, macaroni and cheese and corn bread.

“We take pride preparing our dishes to order and delivering a quality Southern soul food experience,” Chestnut said. “We put our heart and full effort into providing the best quality of food and service to our guests.”

Chestnut loves the Myrtle Beach community and works to inspire other minority-owned business ventures in the Grand Strand. He shares the family-owned business with his partner and wife, Maxine. The Chestnuts have three children who work at the restaurant.