"The last job I had before I left to start Jack Jones full-time was in marketing. I worked under a woman who found her power in making other people uncomfortable, and subservient. It was very important to her to know that someone else was ordering her lunch, bringing her dry cleaning, or doing her minor tasks. It's one thing to have an assistant, and that person does those things for you. It's another thing if having that is important for your identity.
"But, when I was in college, I worked for a small, leather goods store, and I was employed by a Jewish woman named Mrs. C. and her husband, Mr. C. It was family-owned, and had been owned by their parents, and they were wonderful people. She gave me flexibility with my schedule because she understood that I was in school. Obviously, she had a schedule to keep — this was retail, and Christmas was really heavy, like any other retail space. But it was also very important to her that I do well in school, and she checked in on that. She never said anything like, Well, if you don't keep your GPA up, you can't have the job
. It was more that I was ringing up expensive leather wallets, Montblanc pens, and Tumi luggage, and this woman was devoted to making sure that I did well. She understood that in two years, I was going to graduate from college and I needed to do a certain set of things with my life.
"Mrs. C. also offered commission. We got our basic pay rate, which was well above minimum wage at the time, and again, is something I totally applaud her for. I know it's hard for small-business owners to pay well, and she always did. But if we sold a certain amount of luggage in a certain timeframe, we received commission on top of our check, and holiday bonuses. There was always an opportunity to do a good job, and to make more money for doing that good job.
"She implemented a points system program, which was important to me, and for all the young people who worked for her, in which you would get a piece of luggage for however much money you [made]. When I left that job, I already had all the luggage I'd need, that I still use to this day. She would always say, 'A woman doesn't need diamonds. A woman who's going to be in the world needs good luggage.' This idea that you need luggage to get you around all the places you really
want to go. She kind of instilled that in me.
"I was able to go abroad when I was in undergrad, and I went to Spain for several months. Mrs. C. held my job, obviously something a small retailer doesn't have to do. She just took an interest in me as a person, as a student, and as a woman out in the world. She made sure that part of my edification was seeing the value in the small things I was doing now, that would set me up for the large things I would do later.
"When I think about some of my own business practices, I think back to Mrs. C. because I think that giving a woman a job is not a feminist act in and of itself. That means you've done that woman a solid. Feminism is about empowering, and uplifting, and nurturing, and growing, so once you've given that woman the job, what kind
of job are you giving that woman? Too many people are patting themselves on the back for just having signed a check. To me, where the feminist part of this all comes in is, how am I helping this woman see herself in the world?"