Business owner Jessica Blair opened her clothing store, verge, in downtown Albany. She says running the boutique is her way to help revitalize downtown. (Special photo)
Jessica Blair has managed to combine several of the important things in her life every day.
Previously working in elementary education, Blair now home-schools her two daughters each day. The difference is that she teaches them at her business — Verge in downtown Albany. So she is able to combine family, education and business at the same time.
Blair opted to open Verge after moving to Albany with her husband, Aaron Blair, who is head of ADICA and Downtown Manager. She says running the boutique is her way to help revitalize downtown.
“I chose downtown because it has so much potential, and in other cities, that is the cool place to be,” she said.
In between preparing for an upcoming fashion show, Blair recently shared a question-and-answer session with Danny Carter.
Q. What was your first job?
A. My first job was working at JC Penney Outlet. I started it the day I turned 16 and got my driver’s license.
Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?
A. Probably Taco Bell and clothes.
Q. What’s the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?
A. Good compensation and respect.
Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to operate your own business?
A. When we moved to Albany from Naples, Fla., I was working in elementary education. I have been told how difficult it is to secure a similar position in this area. I applied to every school district available with no job offer. With no job in sight and too much free time, I decided it was an excellent opportunity to open a boutique in downtown Albany. I chose downtown because it has so much potential and in other cities, that is the cool place to be. Opening Verge was my effort to help the revitalization efforts.
Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?
A. My mom has been a huge help to me. She is an amazing bookkeeper and helps me keep that end of the business going strong. Without her guidance in this area, I would definitely be overwhelmed.
Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?
A. When business is good, save, save, save. Don’t just sit around and wait for people to come to you. Find creative ways to reach new people and get the community involved. Sell online and tap into a larger market or make contacts with other people and learn from them.
Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology — examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. — what would you most like to see go away?
A. The Internet in general. It can be a huge blessing, but its also a double-edged sword. There are too many things at our disposal with the click of a button. Raising teenagers in this firestorm of social media is a total nightmare. There has never been another generation who have dealt with these type of issues and as a parent. We must blaze our own trail to combat the virtual world that bombards our families every day, 24 hours a day.
Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?
Q. What is your favorite tradition?
A. Going to the Japanese steakhouse for hibachi on Christmas Eve.
Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?
A. “My Jesus Year.” It is a book written by a Orthodox Jewish Rabbi’s son and his journey to explore the Christian faith for a year. I found it to be comical and I learned a lot about the Jewish customs; Jewish life is fascinating to me. I try to read my Bible app scripture daily and I have a devotional called “Sparkling Gems” that I love. I also read the list of things that our family is believing for in 2013 out loud every day. It activated my faith and reminds me of God’s faithfulness. I often incorporate the “Pauline Prayers” as well. These are the the prayers Paul prayed — Ephesians 1:16-23 3:16-21; Colossians 1:9-14; Phillipians1:6 and 1:9-11
Q. I’m up and going by …? And what is your morning routine?
A. Usually 8 a.m. I get up, let my two elderly Bassett hounds outside, make a cup of coffee, turn on GMA (“Good Morning America”) and many mornings I either take a 30-minute walk or run through beautiful Rawson Circle. Get myself and my teenage daughters ready for work at Verge and a day of home school at the shop.
Q. What famous person would you like to meet, and Why?
A. Kelly Ripa. I love her spirit and personality. She has a dream job, a beautiful family, an amazing life in New York City and she still manages to take care of herself at the age of 43.
Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?
A. Waterskiing, going to the beach, hiking, snorkeling, traveling — anything adventurous!!
Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?
A. Not to get legal representation during important decisions.
Q. Best thing about your job?
A. Helping people look amazing and gain confidence.
Q. Worst thing about your job?
A. Slow days. Trying to go out of town and still run a business.
Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was …?
A. College algebra.
Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?
A. Either teaching scuba in a tropical place or being a news anchor for GMA or similar.
Q. Finish this thought: “On the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself …”
A. Traveling much more.
Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?
A. People skills. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, but you must be able to read people and diffuse difficult situations.
Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?
A. A Crazy mix! Rap, country, Christian, reggae, folk, hip-hop, jazz.
Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?
A. Continued growth in the downtown
Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Why?
A. We’ve been all over the world but I think the best family vacation we took was last Thanksgiving. We took a road trip to Ohio. We stopped in Chattanooga and then went to see the Rockettes in Nashville. We then spent a few days with family in Cincinnati followed by several days in Columbus, Ohio. We attended the Ohio State/Michigan game, where it snowed. My girls had never seen snow, as they were raised in Naples. Shopping on Black Friday with so many amazing store options was heavenly. It was an amazing and fun trip.