Like many founders of non profit organizations, when Yes She Can was launched and Girl AGain opened in 2014, I performed just about every job. Fortunately, I had volunteer job coaches to help, but I ran Girl AGain boutique myself. When we had enough money to pay someone, the first person I hired was Chandra Russell to run the boutique. I told her that her goal was to double store revenue, so we could pay rent and hire job coaches. (Grants were hard to come by.) Neither of us had a background in retail, but together we figured out how to create a wonderful store offering a great customer experience – while being an effective job skills teaching environment.
Chandra became an expert in retired American Girl merchandise, in running Saturday craft events in the store for kids, in e-newsletters to customers and website updates, in packaging customer orders for the lowest possible USPS cost, in setting priorities for the Yes She Can trainees and assessing their work, in posting our merchandise and message on Instagram and responding to Facebook fan requests, in unpacking 20 pound boxes of donations and not getting too upset when one had mouse evidence.
She was gracious when a customer attempted to haggle over prices. She negotiated with publishers for advertising and editorial (her background), and she recruited Girl Scout troupes to fund raise on Giving Tuesday.
She increased web sales when we shut down last March and made sure that customers wear masks and gloves when we reopened in June.
Her greatest feat has been balancing the store revenue goals with the mission of our non-profit: accepting barely legible handwriting on hang tags and sales receipts, or an under-priced doll, or two items left off a customer sales tally. Even with her revenue target, she has appreciated that we were not in the doll business but in the job skills business.
The pandemic has been especially cruel to working mothers. Chandra’s two middle school children are attending classes fully remotely and she can now no longer come to the boutique in White Plains. I am very sorry to share that after 4 years with Yes She Can, Chandra made the difficult decision to resign as Retail Operations Manager. It’s a great loss to our organization.
I shared this sad news with our trainees this week at our regular core skills meeting session, and of course they were devastated. Izzie cried hysterically. The coaches and I spent the class time discussing this, their feelings, and a model on how to leave a job. We then made plans to have a Zoom party for Chandra on her last day.
I am sure many customers appreciated Chandra’s patience and kindness.
If you would like to send a message to Chandra, please leave a comment on this page and she will see it.