I’ll never forget the day I decided to forego a career practicing law. A recent graduate of law school at Ole Miss, I moved to Jackson, Mississippi, married my husband Kyle, a practicing attorney, and was in the final stages of filling out my application to take the Mississippi Bar Exam. As I ran around town collecting the last few documents necessary to complete my application, I asked myself, “Do I really want to go through with this?”
Taking the bar exam is a grueling process that consists of months of preparation, but it was not the exam that gave me an uneasy feeling every time I thought about my future career in the legal world. In fact, I enjoyed law school and was interested in many areas of the law I studied throughout my three years of class and clinical work. The feeling of uncertainty stemmed from my realization that there was no potential career in law I could see myself passionately pursuing long-term.
So, what did I do following this realization? I called my parents and told them I decided not to take the bar exam. As you can imagine, that declaration was met with warranted resistance and followed by many questions regarding my future plans. The truth was, I did not have a plan, and I spent the next few weeks compiling my thoughts.
During that time of uncertainty, two things became clear. First, the thought of owning my own business excited me. Second, I love fashion. Those points of clarity are where Monkee’s entered the picture, and my future path began to take shape.
Growing up in Greenville, North Carolina, I was familiar with Monkee’s stores around the state. When I was in high school, my next door neighbor opened Monkee’s of Greenville and my love affair with Monkee’s began. Following high school, I attended college at Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi, which brought me back to my home state. While I enjoyed shopping at local boutiques in Oxford, I rarely saw the special items I found at Monkee’s back in North Carolina. My mom and I would always say, “A Monkee’s store would do so well in Mississippi.” But, the conversation would end there.
Fast forward to my search for career direction, and the thought about Monkee’s being a hit in Mississippi re-entered my mind. That night I sent an email to Monkee’s corporate office asking if they would be interested in expanding to include a store in Mississippi. I received a positive response within twenty-four hours, and when I found out they were in the beginning of franchise expansion, I knew we had to be a part of that plan.
My husband and I approached my parents with the idea of becoming business partners to open Mississippi’s first Monkee’s location, and we discussed why we believed our collective knowledge and skills put us in a position to be successful in the fashion retail business.
First on the list was the advantage of my mother’s family background in retail. My grandparents owned their own small chain of department stores, Efird’s, in south Mississippi. She worked with them on the floor, attended market, and saw the back-end, behind the scenes parts of the business throughout her adolescence and young adult life. Second, both my parents have MBA degrees, and are well versed and proficient in matters of finance and accounting. Combine their strengths in those areas with the legal, communication, and problem solving knowledge both my husband and I possess as lawyers, and we knew we could create a solid foundation on which to build our business. Thankfully, Monkee’s agreed, and as they say, the rest is history. We opened our doors ten months later in August 2019, and Monkee’s has been supportive every step of the way.
The balance of assistance that is available where you need it, coupled with the independent, franchisee led autonomy with which we are able to run our store, is what I believe sets Monkee’s apart from other boutique franchises. As an owner, I enjoy great freedom when it comes to buying and day-to-day operations. On the other hand, it is beneficial to have the support of the corporate office in areas such as marketing and graphic design where our skills are not as strong.
Our partnership with Monkee’s proved to be especially valuable when dealing with the pressures and changes brought on by the global pandemic. We opened eight months before the world shut down, and it was a scary time to be a business owner in general, much less in your first year. Support from the corporate office, and the strong network amongst Monkee’s store owners are two reasons I believe were able to successfully navigate the challenging landscape this crisis created for us all.
This is also the time I realized the true value of my law degree. Before the pandemic I relied on the strong writing and communication skills gained in law school as I performed the day-to-day responsibilities of business ownership. As soon as the pandemic hit, my ability to read and understand our lease agreement and insurance policies, as well as the complex documents of the Payroll Protection Plan, served me well as we moved forward through that trying time.
We are celebrating two years of business this month, and continue to exceed our projected growth. I am happy I chose to follow my heart and pursue small business ownership in an industry I love and that excites me on a daily basis. My advice to anyone looking to enter the world of franchising or make a career change is simple: 1) Ask yourself how you can use your unique skill set to your advantage in your chosen industry and; 2) Partner with/hire people who are strong in areas you are not. Work hard, be kind always, surround yourself with good people, follow your passion, and trust your instincts…they just might lead you to the place you were always meant to be!
To learn more about owning a Monkee’s franchise, visit www.ownamonkees.com