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EASY MAGAZINE: She likes being the boss


KIMBERLEY CUMMINS

EASY MAGAZINE: She likes being the boss

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HAVE YOU ever been so tired and frustrated in your career that you just felt like quitting?

Well, meet Colette Johnson who overcame her fear and walked away from a “stable” job.

Most people have thought of making that big step, but then the doubts sets in.

You have bills to pay, children to support, a household to run. The creditors don’t care that you are unhappy in your career – they want their money. As a result, you regain your senses and everyday thereafter, you journey to a job that you no longer enjoy, you labour in a position that brings you no joy but rather pure misery.

After working for the same employer for three decades, Colette tendered her resignation on May 31 this year to, in her words, take a risk by starting her own business.

“I just figured it was time for me to move on,” she told EASY during an interview at new her office in Mall 34, The City.

Colette started her career in the retail business back in 1985 while still a student of Alexandra School. It was around the age of 15 when she took a job as a sales clerk at a City shoe store to help her mother, who was a single parent, support the family.

The last of five children, Colette had intended it would be a weekend job, but she was so good at sales and the customers liked her so much that this plan was quickly dashed. Before the young woman knew it, she was looking forward to working on evenings after school and also during vacations.

Over the years she was promoted, ultimately to the position of buyer and then store manager until she resigned.

During those years she developed a family-type relationship with her bosses and this made her decision to leave even more difficult. But Colette just wasn’t happy in the job anymore.

“I am really a people’s person and people came to me all the time and they would ask me for new [shoe] releases and it got to the point where we weren’t getting what I knew the customers wanted and I kind of felt bad. Even though another retailer here might have it, they would wait on us and I wasn’t able to provide them with that and I started to feel like I couldn’t give the people what they wanted. I felt restricted, so I just figured it was time for me to branch out,” she explained.

Originally from Sion Hill, St James, the St Michael resident said that even with 30 years of experience in the retail business, she still had some doubts about whether or not resigning was the right decision for her and her family.

A devout Christian, Johnson turned to the Lord for an answer.

“It was kind of scary at first because being in a place for 30 years you feel secure. It was a stable environment, a steady pay cheque and you know for sure you are not going anywhere.

“But my family was really supportive because they figured I was doing it long enough and I would know what to do. I had the support of the suppliers, but what scared me most was the fact that some of the employees that were there at the other company with me, wanted to come with me. So that now felt like a burden. 

“If they were new employees they wouldn’t have so much expectations of me. Starting a job, if it doesn’t work it doesn’t work but these were people there for 18 years and they wanted to leave and come with me. That was my main fear but then to be quite honest, I prayed on it and . . . I asked for guidance. I gave it to the Lord and left it there.”

After struggling for months, the mother of one gave two weeks’ notice of her decision to quit.

“I was praying a lot and I still felt like I should stay where I was. But on the night of May 2, I felt peaceful. I actually felt like this was the right thing to do finally and I just decided then. I had already finished . . . typed it [the resignation letter] since April and just held onto it because I didn’t feel it was the right thing to do still. I had an extremely good relationship with my former employer and I felt like I was betraying him but that night in particular I felt peaceful. I got up the next morning and handed in my resignation.”

On August 8, Johnson officially opened the doors of Sneaker Heads.

A sneakerhead is an urban term referring to a person who collects, trades or admires sneakers as a hobby. So Colette’s aim with the business was to satisfy sneakerheads with the latest and most popular sneakers first. According to its slogan, it is the place where winners go.

“The availability for me is easier because of the relationship I built with suppliers. I am able to get shoes first and I’m able to buy shoes from places some people here don’t know about because if my suppliers didn’t have it they were able to direct me where to get it,” she said.

On whether there was intimidation competing against her former boss’ more established brand, Colette maintained there wasn’t and wished them continued success.

“I am not intimidated at all about competing  . . . . My concern really is to make sure that I continue doing what I was doing then, now. And that is trying to get the best deal for people. My mother used to say all the time, she doesn’t need a plate full of food, in the same way I don’t want to have a $300 markup on stuff. I just want to be able to get authentic products at a reasonable price. It is kind of difficult sometime to even with the 2 per cent that was just introduced and the different levies and taxes but as I continue getting the support of the suppliers and the employees are happy, we in turn will make the customers happy.”

Since the launch of Sneaker Heads customers have been quite supportive. And even though the store opened midway through the month, they were able to exceed August’s target.

There are many plans for Sneaker Heads going forward, among them Colette hopes that her maths whiz son, Mico, will one day continue the family business.

However, there was one regret – that her mother, Verona Turney, died before she could see her last child’s success.

“. . . [But] I think she is extremely proud. She always wanted us to do the best that we could and I am sure she would be proud to know that I own my own store. And I know she would be prouder because two of her grandsons work here also and all the people that are here she knew personally. I feel bad that it happened a year after she died and she didn’t get to witness it but I feel her presence. I felt her presence when I prayed about it so I knew I was doing the right thing.

 “If you had asked me in January this year was it a resolution? No. Was it something I thought would be possible? No. It was scary but it happened; everything just fell into place and I feel good that I have achieved this.” (SDB Media)

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