Name: Christy Duncan
Business: Josie’s Friends, LLC
Location: Smyrna, Georgia, U.S.
Industry: Apparel & Accessories
Reason for starting? In February 2015, I attended a sponsorship event with my step-daughter and my mother-in-law. We learned about the treacherous lives of impoverished children worldwide and the unfathomable obstacles they face at such a young age. It affected me profoundly. My heart ached at the idea of innocent children being subjected to such life-threatening dangers. We walked away sponsoring one little 8-year-old boy from Rwanda, but our hearts wanted to sponsor them all. The idea for Josie’s Friends had been brewing for years, as I found myself trying to keep up with local consignment events and seeking out consignment boutiques in various towns. While I spent my career supporting retail stores, I did most of my shopping online. It was that life-changing sponsorship event that inspired me to create and utilize Josie’s Friends LLC to aid impoverished children worldwide, while solving a need for convenient consignment.
How do you define success? The desire for giving back to my community and working for a greater cause has always been present in my life, but philanthropy wasn’t common place in my career. I found my passion within the retail industry. However, the work demands left me with little time and energy to be an involved citizen. As my personal life evolved, I found more people deserving of my time, and my family began to suffer due to my long work hours and the demands of my career. The craving for a greater purpose continued to push forward during these stressful times and, honestly, I felt as if I was failing my family, failing myself and failing at my career. I desperately wanted to marry my career with philanthropy. I always dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur, and I wanted to be available for my family, while providing for them at the same time. Creating this life for myself, my family and giving back to children in need worldwide is a great start to achieving total success.
Biggest success: Josie’s Friends LLC launched in July 2015, and we have been able to sponsor three children through Children International thus far. That’s three children who now have the chance to build a successful future for themselves and their family, who otherwise would still be facing the unfathomable struggles that exist within their communities. They now have access to an education, healthcare and other necessary supplies that will allow their family to prosper. Hearing about their growth, seeing pictures of their smiling faces and receiving their letters about what they are learning in school reminds us daily of our focus, our mission and we feel successful everyday being able to support these three deserving children. While the demands of starting a business are also great and they have put some financial strain on our family, the flexibility of being able to truly raise my daughter and spend quality time with my husband has been invaluable.
What is your top challenge and how you have addressed it? We have seen tremendous growth in our consignor business, adding an average of 400 units of product each month. Our sales have also grown, showing an increase each quarter. However, we need to convert more of our website visitors to customers in order to continue our growth. When we first launched, we were only focusing on children’s apparel, accessories and footwear, but we were missing out on categories that our customers were searching for and wanted to consign. We added maternity in January 2016 and women’s in August 2017. This has helped our positioning with customers in offering more desired categories of product and increased our consignor business. We have also added a fundraising component to our business, which has helped to drive sales and donations to schools and nonprofit organizations.
Who is your most important role model? While there are so many strong females out there who have been influential to me, my most important role model is Oprah Winfrey. She sticks with me time and time again throughout various stages of my career and my life. Her continued perseverance early in her life, her unbelievable work ethic that she relentlessly exuded throughout her career, her ability to brand her name and connect with others, while being such a positive source of inspiration for people of all ages, religions and races, is truly remarkable and someone that I admire greatly. She didn’t just put on a show for TV, she truly lives her life with spirit, compassion and the eagerness to continue learning. She has used her fame to spread goodness, to encourage others and to showcase ordinary people doing exceptional things for others and their community. I live my life and raise my children differently because of her and for that she will forever be my most important role model.
Edited by The Story Exchange