by Neechi Marupa-Ombima
As a student at St. Albans, I spend a lot of time on the Close; we all do. We come to school five days a week, spend five to six hours in classes each day, and most of us attend athletic or theater practices for another two to four hours to top it all off. Most of the time we spend on the close is with our friends, teachers, and classmates, and most of the important things we do at school are known. However, we all still have our lives outside of school where we do equally noteworthy things, and it might just be that people don't know about it. For me, this is helping my mom with the small business she started sixteen years ago.
My mother started her business after a long stint of working in finance at a banking company. She was looking for something that would be more fulfilling and that she could have every part in managing, this would be her project and her challenge. The store began in Georgetown on one of the side streets of Wisconsin Avenue. My mom got very lucky and got a retail space almost rent free as her first land-lord wanted to give her a shot at her business. She began by selling children’s clothing with an emphasis on eco-friendly clothing. Clothing was her choice because she didn’t like the irritable and mass-produced children’s clothing she saw in stores for me as a child. The clothing sales were initially not the greatest, but soon they picked up. The store, originally selling children’s clothing, expanded to toys, games, and eventually candy. The one store in Georgetown turned into three stores. There were two stores in Georgetown, one selling candy and the other toys and clothing, and another clothing and toy store in Bethesda. At this time I was about seven years old, and my mom began to bring me with her to the stores more and more. I started to see how the whole business operated, how items would be sold at checkout, how employees would help customers find what they were looking for, and how inventory was managed.
As I got older, slowly, my mom would teach me how to do things that some of her employees did, like scanning items at the checkout counter or putting price tags on new inventory. I began to enjoy helping out at the store on the weekends, as I had just started my time at St. Albans. Often, I looked forward to helping on a Saturday morning after a long week at school. Eventually, I became her assistant manager. I now felt some responsibility in the whole ordeal; my mom trusted me with evaluating and training some of her new employees. It might have been a bit awkward to be trained at your job by someone half your age, but my mom said I was doing a good job. I don’t know how true that was, because she would always get the final say in hiring and training, but hey, at least I got the title next to my name. One might consider it early job experience, but it never feels like a job to me. I work with legos, monopoly, and college students who probably tell me a bit too much, and I don’t have to worry about a paycheck.
I never really talk about the work I do at my mom’s store because most of the time I figure that my friends at school would not really be interested. Sometimes, I run into friends or the parents of friends who come into my mom’s store. No-one really asks about it after, and I don’t bring it up either. My work at my mom’s store is something between my mom and me that we can both relate to, sort of like a giant take-your-kid-to-work day. However, I took this opportunity to talk about it as I feel it's a great example of some of the cool things we all do outside of Cathedral Close, and I can't imagine I am the only person who has an interesting story to tell.