A new pathPenlee Griffith- Jordan says she has a habit of turning negatives into positives. (Pictures by Rawle Culbard.)
By Sherie Holder-Olutayo | Wed, November 07, 2012 - 12:01 AM
Penlee Griffith-Jordan knows all about the art of reinvention. After all, it is something that she is currently in the process of doing.
After spending more than 20 years working at the Nation Publishing Company in customer service, she is on the entrepreneur track, making a go of her company Penlee’s New Me Designs, which sells handbags.
Yes, if the business name is a dead giveaway, it is because this new path of her life signals a shift in behaviour, attitude and more importantly direction for Penlee. It all started with a simple shopping trip to a local store.
“One day I went into town looking for a bag, and after browsing around and not finding anything I said I could do this, I could make this bag,” Penlee said. “I said I could make my bag for work, so why do I need to spend so much money.
So I went browsing around looking at some material and it took off from there.”
After buying the material, Penlee went home and started to make the bag.
“I’m totally self-taught. I didn’t go anywhere to learn how to make this,” she said.
While Penlee never doubted her ability to make the bag, she was blown away by the support of her family who encouraged her in her new endeavour.
“My daughter took the bag to school, and so many of her friends liked it,” Penlee revealed. “That gave me more encouragement from there.”
Sewing is nothing new for Penlee, who always seemed to have a love and penchant for sewing clothes.
“I can sew. I’ve always made clothes,” she said. “I did a lingerie class a long time ago making panties, bras, you name it. “Since I left the Nation I went and did a four-week class making sandals. I made a pair for myself, my daughter and everyone tells me they look good. Somehow I enjoy doing things with my hands.”
That sense of enjoyment has really been able to flourish in the second half of her life. With more time now to focus on her business, and with her children all grown up and in college, Penlee is now living this time of life for herself.
“I’m 50 now and it’s great,” she revealed. “I’ve come along hearing that life begins at 40, so I feel energized.”
Though Penlee admits that something she surprises herself with what she is able to create, she does find she works better at night.
“Maybe because it’s quiet, but I find that’s the time I’m most creative,” she said. “I find that they come to be better at night.”
Unlike some designers who sketch their creations before working on them, Penlee keeps everything in her head.
“You know as I tell people, when you have God in your life you can’t go wrong,” the mother of three said.
“I have recommitted myself to God over the last two years and taken my relationship with Him to another level.
From that, everything is just flowing. I’m just listening and obeying Him.”
Part of that recommitment comes after going through personal struggles, in which she was forced to rely more heavily on God. Through that she has seen herself become stronger and blossom into a different woman.
Over the last three years I went through some challenges and I’ve seen myself become stronger as a result,” she said. “I’m a very shy person and hardly talk to people, but that recommitment to God has strengthened every aspect of my life.”
But this new direction in her life has been championed by her children in ways that have warmed Penlee’s heart.
“My oldest son called me from England and said he was so proud of me,” she said. “I don’t want to say it’s late in my life, but I think everything happens in its own time and God has a reason for everything he does.
“For my daughter, I hope this gives her encouragement and she’ll understand not to wait so late to use your talents or go after your dreams.”
But for Penlee, this period of entrepreneurship is happening right on time.
“I don’t think I was ready for this before,” she said candidly. “I dedicated all of my time to my work and children. Now this period of my life is for me.”
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