Judy Boyce (Picture by Christoff Griffith.)
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Judy Boyce stands today a proud mother of two, grandmother and a successful business owner.
But there was a time when the world didn’t see her in this light and only had negative vibes towards and about her. In fact, she admitted that there was a time when she was going in a completely different direction.
At just 16 years old, she left the St Leonard’s Girl’s School with a son and uneducated and went in search of quick money. Unfortunately, that ‘fast life’ caught up with her quickly and she ran afoul of the law and ended up being arrested and charged with drug trafficking in Trinidad and Tobago.
She was sentenced to four years in prison.
“I was incarcerated in Trinidad in 1996. I was basically uneducated at the time because I had no qualifications and because of that I sought to go on the negative side to seek ‘employment’ and ended up in trouble,” she recalled.
Being locked up in a foreign country, Judy said she had a lot of time to sit and reflect on where she had gone wrong and tried to make things right in her life.
“During my incarceration, I had enough time to reflect on my past and what I wanted for my future. I must say that being locked up has taught me many things. I thought a lot about motherhood. I had two young sons at the time and I missed them a lot.”
“During my incarceration, I went back to school from remedial up to CXC and I was able to get my certificates back at Is and IIs,” she said.
But on her return to Barbados, her troubles were now beginning to mount, even though she was successful on educating herself while in prison.
“No one wants to hire someone who has been to jail. After I came back to Barbados on November 22, 2000, I tried to get myself involved in wholesome activities and to seek a job but it was a great challenge. Once people hear that you were incarcerated, they tend to stereotype you and put you in a bracket. I couldn’t find a job at all,” she said.
Judy, now 44, decided then that she had to make something happen on her own in order to provide for herself and her sons.
“A lady by the name of Cheryl Sandler although she knew that I was incarcerated, she took a chance on me and I got a job at Cobblers Cove. After I was laid off from Cobblers Cove, I decided that I was going to go out and do my own thing.’
“I started selling panties on the streets. Things were really hard at the time and I really didn’t want to be put in a position where people would keep telling me ‘because you were incarcerated we can’t hire you or we have to dismiss you’.
“I started to buy panties wholesale and go out on the road and hustle. After a while, people would start to ask if I sold anything else. So I decided that I would move away from hustling on the road and open my own business,” she revealed.
But as with all entrepreneurs, Judy had it rough in every sense of the world while trying to start up.
“After selling clothing in Bridgetown, no one really knew about the Kenju’s brand. One day, all I made was $10 for the entire day. And I went home and I cried and cried. I got up the next day and decided that I couldn’t do it alone. I knew I had to come up with something else because $10 couldn’t pay my rent for the store. I had to be able to make $67.50 a day in order to cover my rent,” she said.
With that in mind, a very determined Judy sought out to educate herself in other areas which could make her money. And that she did and worked her way up.
“I bought a Wednesday NATION and I saw a nail course being advertised by Strands Beauty Salon and I decided to join. Eventually, started to do nails. I wasn’t that good but I would talk to my customers and let them know that I’m now starting out and they were very patient with me and gave me chances over and over so I could better myself. I decided to further the nail courses and went overseas doing other courses and also local classes that led me to where I am today. Now I’m doing nails, manicures, pedicures, hair, facials, waxing, body piercings, massages and I have now introduced make-up by JBW artistry after doing my course at REI academy,” she said proudly.
She is also the proud owner of nails and clothing stores which carry the Kenju brand, Stush Styles and she is also the Director of Miss Plus Sized Diva Barbados.
Judy said life for her has been going well since then and though things may be tough because of the current economic climate, she is grateful for all her blessings and the work that she’s getting.
“I’ve been in business with nails fully for ten years. And even though business is slow in Barbados over all, I do appreciate my clientele, they are very supportive of me and that’s what keeps me going. I have customers from the minute I started up to now. They’re very loyal,” she said.
And overall, she said her life has made a 180–turn and she couldn’t be more thankful it did. Judy said she was always proud to say that she went from being someone who was all about parties and getting quick money to being focused on her children and businesses.
“I often tell people that I took my scar and turned it into a star. Because you have done something negative in your life, doesn’t mean it has to follow you in a negative way. My life has changed tremendously. As a young mother of two children struggling with no education, being incarcerated, coming back into society and getting my life together. I can thank prison for who I am today. At the end of the day, it has taught me to be a better person and a better mother,” she said with a huge smile.
Judy who is preparing to represent Barbados on December 9 in St Marteen in an international Elegant Mother’s Pageant, cautioned members of society not to be so hard on young people who make mistakes, get into trouble and end up in jail. She said she tries to be a positive voice of reason for any young person who would listen, in the same way she guides and advises her sons, now 28 and 24.
“I find that a lot of us make mistakes in our lives and when we see the young people doing it we try to cry them down instead of trying to uplift them in the way that they need to go. I see myself as a role model to a lot of these young girls especially when they come into the salon. They always have a lot of negative vibes, I sit them down and I speak to them, I try to guide them into what I would like to see in society today instead of just crying down young people,” she added.
And for those young people who stumbled while growing up, Judy told them to keep their head up and strive to be better.
“Hold up your head, be proud, do what you have to do. Stop the violence, it doesn’t pay in the end, stay focused and you will achieve success. Choosing drugs is a definite no. Choosing bad company makes no sense because at the end of the day it’s only you that will be in that situation. No matter how bad of a situation you are in, you can still come out and do good.” (DB)