Ellen Joy Entrepreneur Profile

July 24, 2019

Ellen has a diverse professional background that is centered around retail. She once moved to New York City to pursue acting and decided early on that she didn’t like the professional performance world and shifted gears. Her love of reading led her to work in used bookstores in her 20’s, where she quickly became a manager. Then she moved into food industry and was a kitchen manager for a small restaurant in Brooklyn for 5 years. She left her kitchen career to go back to school for pre-med, and while in school landed a job at a small upscale boutique called Bird in Brooklyn. This job led to a long career in fashion: her last position was as a retail director for the designer Maria Cornejo. When she moved to Charlottesville with her husband, she started to envision the kind of children’s bookshop she would like to visit and was convinced by her friend to apply with her for CIC’s Entrepreneur Workshop. Ellen enrolled in the workshop and when she was close to graduation she received word from CIC that a toy store was soon going to be for sale on Charlottesville’s downtown mall. A few months later, Ellen was the proud owner of Alakazam!

Ellen had big plans for Alakazam. She thought about renovating and expanding to update the interior of the store and create more selling space, build an online store, and start hosting events and community building activities in the space. These are still goals of Ellens, but when embarking on running her newly purchased business realized she has more pressing things to do in the next few months. She plans to host a weekly storytime (and possibly a book club) and initiate monthly “donation days” where 10% of all sales for that day goes to an organization that aids children. She has already substantially expanded their book selection with great results, books are now one of their largest selling categories!

“If it weren’t for CIC I would not even have known about the opportunity to purchase Alakazam” explains Ellen. She explains that she feels the workshop itself was enormously helpful, and that she pulls things she learned out of her pocket all the time. CIC also funded the actual down payment for the purchase of Alakazam through the microlending program. After being home with her kids for many years and living on a single income, small business loans were out of reach for Ellen. 

During CIC’s Entrepreneur Workshop, Ellen explained that “the break-even classes were very helpful, especially in planning and budgeting”. She felt that the workshop helped her think a lot about who her customer is and that her ideal customer informs her social media strategies, and where she decides to put her advertising dollars. Ellen feels that “one of the best resources CIC has to offer is its community, I have been so grateful to get to know and be able to lean on other entrepreneurs in CIC’s network”. 

Ellen says “If anyone had told me a year ago that this is what I would be doing I wouldn’t have believed them. I recommend future CIC entrepreneurs stay open to new possibilities, and don’t be afraid to jump in when an opportunity arrives.”