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Today’s founder is Jacquelyn Rodgers, CEO of Green Top Gifts, which can now be found in retail stores all across the country.

About Jacquelyn Rodgers:

Jacquelyn is one of those people who was able to leverage her full-time job to create a business empire. She knew how to stay long enough to leverage the relationships, her skills, and the money to build a successful business. She believes there is always an opportunity to learn from those around you, from your co-workers, from your board members, and even from your family. If you’re in a full-time job and you’re thinking about starting a business, Jacqueline has the best advice you will ever get.


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From Sermons Beyond Sunday and Kinetic Energy entertainment, this is Founder Hustle. 

And then here comes Clarence Claus.

Okay, so the truck shows up and then what?

We move all the cars out of the garage. We press go on the Shopify site and we start packing orders at night, while we work full-time jobs during the day. And my aunt came over to watch Eli, ’cause we didn’t have Cammy at the time. And we packed orders at night, we’d pack until we either ran out of orders or we were exhausted. And then I’d take them to the post office the next day on my lunch break, and we’d do it all over again until I realized we were not gonna be able to sustain it during Black Friday. And so we had to get a fulfillment company. 

Welcome to Founder Hustle, a podcast series by, for, and about the New Majority entrepreneur. I’m your host, Melissa Bradley, founder of 1863 Ventures.  In each episode, I interview a New Majority entrepreneur to create a safe space for them to be honest with you about their journey.  These founders will redefine and represent the true definition of what it means to hustle. And their stories will demystify, uplift, and educate anyone who is interested in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.  As the general partner of Venture Fund, I want to highlight the tools, strategies, lessons, and support systems that are the blueprint for becoming a successful entrepreneur, and shift your perspective on what it means to go from founder to CEO. 

0:00:02.2 Melissa: Today’s founder is Jacqueline Rogers, CEO of Green Top Gifts. And if you ever thought about being… Today’s founder is Jacqueline Rogers, CEO of Green Top Gifts. How many of us have been sitting in our full-time job thinking about “I know I could be doing so much better if I was running my own business.” We now know that that’s pretty common in America particularly amongst black women, sitting in a corporate job saying, “I know I could do better than this.” Well, Jacqueline is one of those people who was able to leverage her full-time job to create a business empire. She knew how to stay just long enough to leverage the relationships, the skills, and the money to launch this extremely successful… She knew how to stay long enough to leverage the relationships, her skills, and the money to build a successful business. If you’re in a full-time job and you’re thinking about starting a business, Jacqueline has the best advice you will ever get. 

0:07:07.9 S2: Alright, so Jacquelyn Rodgers is here today. All the way in from?  

0:07:13.7 JR: Atlanta, Geo rgia. 

0:07:14.6 S2: Atlanta, Georgia ’cause you sound like you’re from the far, far regions of the Southern Hemisphere. 

0:07:21.4 JR: I’m from North Carolina. Yes, where everything’s finer. I like to say. 

0:07:24.8 S2: Oh, okay. I’m gonna come back to that, that’s what they keep… That’s what they say. Okay. 

0:07:28.7 JR: Everything’s finer in North Carolina. 

0:07:30.9 S2: So what’s interesting is, this is the first time we’re actually meeting in person. So you look exactly like you do on Zoom. 

0:07:37.9 JR: Yeah. 

0:07:38.2 S2: Exactly. Except less your children running around in the back. 

0:07:41.1 JR: Yeah, there’s less background noise and clutter in the background. 

0:07:43.5 S2: Who I actually miss. Tell me about the kids. 

0:07:45.4 JR: They’re great. I have a 6-year-old… Sorry, 7-year-old just a few weeks ago and a 2-year-old who we affectionately call Suge Knight. And it’s never a dull moment in my house. Tired? Yes. Bored? No. 

0:08:00.1 S2: And I always see them running around on Zoom. 

0:08:02.1 JR: Yes. 

0:08:27.7 S2: I know I would see her in calls, it was great. 

0:08:29.8 JR: She was just running the house. 

0:21:31.0 S2: And what’s your husband’s name?  

0:21:34.3 JR: Sean. 

0:29:54.4 S2: Tell us about Sean. 

0:29:55.4 JR: Sean is my husband of… I’ve known him over 20 years, we’re married 12 years, and he’s my best friend and he pushed and encouraged me to quit my job before anybody else.  

0:30:26.3 S2: what does he do for a living?  

0:30:30.6 JR: Continue. He works as a Senior Vice President of a tech company, but his background was in finance, so he worked in sales and trading right after school, he worked on Wall Street and then we were trying to get back to North Carolina, so he kinda went the start-up route working with small tech companies. 

0:08:31.6 S2: So most people think entrepreneurship happens on the coasts, particularly Silicon Valley and New York, you have proven that’s not. A young lady from North Carolina, blowing up, killing it around one concept…Black Santa. 

0:08:48.3 JR: Yes, Clarence Claus. 

0:08:49.6 S2: Tell me all about Clarence Claus. 

0:08:51.5 JR: It really started from my son. I had my son, I wanted him to have wrapping paper with a Black Santa, and I couldn’t find any. I knew it exists, ’cause my mom growing up, always had Black Santas and Black angels and was super intentional about… 

0:09:04.2 S2: Black angels everywhere?  

0:09:05.3 JR: Yes. She would paint nativity scenes all round in our house. It was really important for her and for us to see it. So when I had my son I wanted those same things for him, and I couldn’t find it in the store, so I kind of jokingly told my husband I was gonna make my own. And then a few months later an 18-wheeler rolled up with a couple of pallets of paper to our garage. 

0:21:35.3 S2: What did Sean say? When the truck pulls up, he’s like, “I said, go for it, but I don’t really mean with the 18 wheeler and all the wrapping paper in the basement.” 

0:21:43.1 JR: Prior to the truck, like a few months before that, when I said I wanted to do this, he was like, “What are the numbers?” He’s a finance guy. 

0:21:51.3 S2: Amen hallelujah. 

0:21:52.5 JR: I’m creative, marketing, I’m glitter and he’s like, “Show me the Excel spreadsheet.” And so once I started looking at just size of the market and he saw $8.5 billion, he was like, “Okay, I’m in. You can proceed.” 

0:22:11.2 S2: Love that. 

0:22:11.9 JR: Yeah. Once he understood the size of the prize, he was all in. 

0:09:24.4 S2: Okay. ‘Cause a lot had to happen in that few months, so you said you were gonna make it. Then what’d you do?  

0:09:30.0 JR: I looked online and I was like, “Okay, maybe I’ll just go to Kinko’s and on Photoshop and I’ll create something and print some just for him to have.” And then I started reaching out to people and asking like, “Have you seen anything like this? Do you know if this exists?” They were like, “Well, when you find it, I’d like to buy some of that.” So then I was like, “Okay, well maybe this is more than just something for Eli, this is something for everyone.” And so then I started… I don’t know anything about wrapping paper at the time, I didn’t. I knew, I loved it. I knew I liked stationary, I knew I loved fine paper. 

0:10:00.1 S2: That’s a Southern thing. Y’all write notes. 

0:10:00.8 JR: Yes, we write thank you notes. We will write you a thank you note. 

0:10:25.1 JR: I love fine paper, stationary, all of that. So I knew what I liked, I didn’t know how to produce it or make it. So, I did a lot of Googling and YouTube videos, and then I knew enough of the knowledge and technology and the manufacturing aspects of it to talk intelligently to a manufacturer, and I had one that took my call and actually took time with me and explained it well. So yeah. 

0:10:49.7 S2: And who developed Clarence?  

0:10:51.7 JR: Clarence was developed by an illustrator that we worked with in Ghana actually. I’ve never met him. 

0:10:57.5 S2: In a virtual world strange things happen. 

0:11:00.2 JR: Pre-COVID, right? It’s even crazy. I Western Union’ed him a payment. 

0:11:04.2 S2: Wow. 

0:11:05.6 JR: So I was like, “Either this is a scam… ” 

0:11:06.6 S2: Western Union. I know that’s right ’cause I can at least get a Venmo where you can see a picture. Western Union?  

0:11:10.3 JR: Well, see that was 2016. He was like, “We don’t have PayPal.” He was like, “But you can Western Union.” And I was like… 

0:11:16.8 S2: Could you even find a Western Union?  

0:11:18.0 JR: I had to go to a Walmart. And then I found it and I prayed that it was actually not a scam, and I was gonna get… My money wasn’t just gonna go. 

0:11:25.6 S2: Can you say how much you sent?  

0:11:27.0 JR: Only $400. A deposit of $400. Yeah. So, it wasn’t a ton of money, but it was still like, “Do I really wanna blow $400 today?” 

0:11:33.8 S2: Right. Particularly when you’ve got kids. 

0:11:35.8 JR: Yeah, that’s a lot of Pampers or something. 

0:11:39.1 S2: What were you doing before Clarence Claus?  

0:11:41.7 JR: Before Clarence, I was working at Mars Wrigley as a senior customer sales rep. And so I called on retail stores and sold candy to retail stores, specialty stores and mass merchandisers, yeah. 

0:11:55.3 S2: So does that come in handy?  

0:11:56.7 JR: Very much so, every day. 

0:11:58.1 S2: What are three things you learned from Mars Wrigley that you’re doing now?  

0:12:02.0 JR: How to create a deck and pitch your product to a buyer. 

0:12:05.0 S2: That’s big. 

0:12:07.0 JR: The logistics of trucks and deliveries and freight. And new item paperwork, how to get an item set up, which is… Can be expensive if you have errors. So those are probably the three biggest that have been super helpful for me as we grow the business. 

0:12:23.0 S2: And so were you working at Mars when you started Clarence Claus?  

0:12:27.7 JR: I…..It’s a funny story. So I had gotten let go from my previous job on my first day back from maternity leave. 

0:12:33.1 S2: Oh wow. 

0:12:34.1 JR: And then… 

0:12:35.0 S2: I guess that’s somewhat legal. You technically came back. 

0:12:35.8 JR: I can talk about it a little bit. 

0:12:38.4 S2: Okay gotcha. 

0:12:39.5 JR: And then based on what we came to settle on… 

0:12:42.8 S2: Okay gotcha. 

0:12:43.0 JR: I have to stop. 

0:12:43.4 S2: Okay. [chuckle] 

0:12:44.1 JR: So yeah after that I had started thinking about the idea and I launched it right around the same time I started working at Mars. 

0:12:50.9 S2: Gotcha. 

0:12:51.0 JR: So yeah. So I say I double-dutched and did Greentop on the side and worked corporate. 

0:12:55.1 S2: I like that. Why Greentop?  

0:12:57.1 JR: So my grandfather had a restaurant/bar in the 40s called Greentop. 

0:13:01.5 S2: Oh wow. 

0:13:03.0 JR: And so it was a place of celebration. It was a place that people could come together and it was community and it was my family’s first start in entrepreneurship, so. 

0:13:11.2 S2: That’s awesome. 

0:13:12.4 JR: Yeah I wanted to… 

0:13:12.7 S2: Is that in North Carolina?  

0:13:13.7 JR: It was. It was in North Carolina. 

0:13:15.9 S2: And then what happened to it?  

0:13:16.9 JR: He kinda stopped after a while. He did a lot of different things. So my dad’s dad and my father were both entrepreneurs, and so they dibble-dabbled in a little bit of everything. So he was a restauranteur, I’d say for, maybe 10 years. 

0:13:29.0 S2: That’s a long time in the restaurant business. 

0:13:30.3 JR: Yeah. 

0:19:00.2 S2: So most parents tell their kids be a doctor, lawyer, some may say be happy, what did your parents tell you?  

0:19:07.6 JR: My dad encouraged business always. He dragged me along… He was an entrepreneur so he dragged me along everywhere he went, and I was fixing shingles on roofs with him, I was at board meetings trying to get approval for easements. For him, he wanted something business-related, so I definitely went to school for business, and then decided marketing, ’cause I thought I wanted to do sales and marketing. And then he was like, “You wanna come home and work in the family business,” and I was like, “I kinda wanna get some corporate experience, but I’ll help you on the side.” And so I helped him on the side, but I definitely decided to go the corporate route before. 

0:19:43.7 S2: And he has a construction company?  

0:19:45.5 JR: He did residential real estate and he was the school photographer for 40 years, so he did lots of school portraits, senior portraits and family portraits. 

0:19:54.6 S2: And so watching him, what was your take on entrepreneurship?  

0:20:00.6 JR: That it was a lot of work, but you worked for yourself. And he enjoyed it thoroughly, and I’ve never seen my dad… I never saw him work for anybody but himself growing up. So he worked really hard and was able to provide for our family. And so, yeah. 

0:20:17.8 S2: What were the sacrifices he made?  

0:20:19.5 JR: He traveled a lot when I was young, doing family portraits… Doing school photography, excuse me. And then he just worked long hours on the rental property and was not home a ton, but when he was home, he was very involved, but yeah he was gone a lot. 

0:20:33.8 S2: And what was your mom’s take on it?  

0:20:35.9 JR: She didn’t complain. She had retired right after she had me and kinda helped him manage the business, so she managed the books and the office aspects of it. But for the most part, she didn’t complain, that was their arrangement prior to me and they had an understanding. 

0:20:51.4 S2: It worked. I like that. Husband and wife got a plan, got it all together. 

0:20:55.6 JR: He didn’t bother in the books, in the office running and she didn’t bother in the business in the… 

0:21:00.2 S2: Gotcha, she wasn’t on the ladder. 

0:21:01.5 JR: No, she was not on the ladder. 

0:21:02.9 S2: Did you ever think fast forward that you would have a family business yourself?  

0:21:08.1 JR: I felt like I’d wanna do entrepreneurship. I had no idea it would be this. 

0:21:11.9 S2: What did you think it would be? ‘Cause I’m sure at some point, you were like, “What could I do?” 

0:21:16.1 JR: I kind of thought real estate ’cause my dad did that, and so I understood that. And then for a little while I was like, maybe it’ll be photography, but I didn’t enjoy like being away from my family on Saturdays. And so, but this was not ever a thought or a dream. 

0:21:31.0 S2: And then here comes Clarence Claus.  

0:22:12.6 S2: Okay, so the truck shows up and then what?  

0:22:14.6 JR: We move all the cars out of the garage. We press go on the Shopify site and we start packing orders at night, while we work full-time jobs during the day. And my aunt came over to watch Eli, ’cause we didn’t have Cammy at the time. And we packed orders at night, we’d pack until we either ran out of orders or we were exhausted. And then I’d take them to the post office the next day on my lunch break, and we’d do it all over again until I realized we were not gonna be able to sustain it during Black Friday. And so we had to get a fulfillment company. 

0:22:46.5 S2: And what was the significance in Black Friday? I mean we all know about it from the other side. We know we’re all logging on to get those deals at like 12:01 AM, what does that mean from your side as the seller?  

0:22:56.9 JR: As a side business, working a full-time corporate job, I knew I didn’t have time to fulfill the orders and get them to customers in a timely matter, and so I needed some help to get the orders out because I anticipated Black Friday, a increase in sales. 

0:23:12.0 S2: And so what had been your sales before Black Friday?  

0:23:14.3 JR: Before Black Friday we’d probably do like 30 orders a day, and then after Black Friday it started to get in the 100s. So it was like, “Okay. People want this… ” And think Black Friday for Christmas, you don’t think about Christmas really until after Thanksgiving. 

0:23:26.9 S2: You’ve got that right. 

0:23:28.5 JR: So nobody’s really buying it like they were after Black Friday. 

0:23:31.4 S2: And where could people find you?  

0:23:33.7 JR: The same Shopify site that we have now. We were online, just And that’s how… We did a couple of pop-ups in market places, just to kinda get the word out. We went to HBCU Homecomings and passed out stickers to promote the business ’cause that’s where all of our people were. And that’s kind of how we started it. 

0:23:53.3 S2: Is it only Black people buying Clarence Claus?  

0:23:55.7 JR: No, it’s not. We have families that are Black, we have people that are not Black, but want their kids to see diverse images. 

0:24:05.8 S2: Sure. 

0:24:06.5 JR: And then we have people who email us and say, “I have adopted children of color, or I have adopted Black children, or my grandbaby is Black, and I want… I’ve been looking for these items and I want them.” And so it’s a good mix of everyone.  

0:24:20.1 S2: Before you left your job, tell me what a day would be like? You get up in the morning, some point in time maybe you go to sleep. 

0:24:30.0 JR: Before I left my job, I would get up, check Greentop emails, wake up Eli, get dressed, get him off to school, Sean and I would do that. And then I would work, ’cause I worked from home and travelled for work. I would work, on lunch I would send a few emails, and then I would pick Eli from daycare, feed him, Sean and I watch PTI, and then hang out for a little bit. And then I would work from 10:00 o’clock until 2:00 to 3:00 AM until Sean would like nudge me to close the computer, and then I would go to sleep and do it all over again. But I loved it, I wasn’t exhausted, I wasn’t tired. It was so much fun because I wanted it. It’s like an entrepreneurship rush of like… 

0:25:17.3 S2: Yeah sure. You can see it. 

0:25:17.8 JR: I can see it, and so it was never… I never dreaded it. 

0:25:22.1 S2: And so what made the decision to finally give up what you called the full-time job, it really was the side hustle, ’cause you were much more passionate about running a company. 

0:25:29.9 JR: A couple of things. I would say I knew I couldn’t grow and scale the business working both jobs. I got a promotion at my day job, and so I got… I didn’t have any extra time, I was just the work load, I couldn’t do both, I couldn’t double that… 

0:25:43.6 S2: Well let me just pause there for a second, right? ‘Cause people are like, “Well, you can’t do both.” But you did both and you were killing it, you were selling Clarence Claus and you got a promotion. Most people are like, “I just hope they don’t know I’m missing,” so that’s pretty impressive. 

0:25:56.0 JR: Right. And that was also a fear, like whenever we would get press, I would be afraid, is HR gonna call me and say, “Oh, we saw you in People, on, or we saw you.” 

0:26:04.9 S2: Is this the same Jacquelyn Rodgers, do you have a twin?  

0:26:06.8 JR: Right, I’m like Lord please don’t let anybody at work Google me Lord. So and I never talked about it at work, I just… They were two different things because I never wanted my managers or directors to feel like, “Oh, you can’t do that, and possibly be doing well at your job,” but once I got the promotion, it was like, “Oh, this isn’t gonna work anymore.” So I did it for a little while. 

0:26:26.7 S2: So what did you say to them?  

0:26:26.9 JR: I really, really didn’t wanna quit, I was like, “I got this check, I got a company car, I travel, I work from home.” 

0:26:35.8 S2: Oh nice. 

0:26:36.8 JR: It was great, I didn’t wanna quit. 

0:26:37.5 S2: Right so in between meetings, you could be like making wrapping paper… 

0:26:40.1 JR: Right I could run a load of clothes, I could do a little call. I could do things. So no, I told them, I had a meeting I came out of the meeting, it was a really good meeting. I called my manager at the airport and she’s like, “How was the meeting?” I was like, “Great.” And she’s like, “Okay, we’ll get you scheduled, we’ll work on the next thing in a few weeks,” and I said, “Actually I’m calling you to let you know that I’m gonna resign.” And she was… 

0:27:00.5 S2: Wait, while you’re walking through the airport?  

0:27:01.6 JR: No, I was sitting in airport, but we normally check in ’cause it was a big meeting. I actually had a meeting with Party City that day. 

0:27:07.1 S2: Oh, wow, okay. 

0:27:08.1 JR: And I was calling to tell her about the wins from that meeting, and then I was like, “Yeah, I think I’m gonna resign,” and she was like, “Is everything okay?” 

0:27:15.2 S2: She’s like, “Wait, but you just told me you got this great contract, what are you talking about?” 

0:27:17.9 JR: “You’re leaving?” And I was like, “Yeah,” but it’s crazy. I was trying to… I scheduled it around when I knew we were getting our yearly bonus. 

0:27:26.2 S2: Gotcha. 

0:27:26.6 JR: So I was like, “Okay, I think I’m gonna give them notice this day. I’m gonna wait until they announce what the bonus numbers are, then I’ll resign.” So there was some planning. 

0:27:34.8 S2: Okay, that’s alright. But that was your ongoing seed money. And did you tell your manager you had started a company?  

0:27:41.3 JR: I didn’t tell her until I knew they were gonna honor my bonus, and HR agreed to like the date I wanted to leave, so I wanted to make sure I had all… 

0:27:51.5 S2: Ducks in a row. 

0:27:53.1 JR: Everything was in writing, and ducks in a row, and then once I knew that, she said, “Well, can you tell me where you’re going?” And I said, “I can just not yet,” and so I didn’t tell anybody. 

0:28:02.1 S2: You’re building up suspense. 

0:28:03.3 JR: And they all thought I was going to work for a competitor, and so they were like, well… 

0:28:06.5 S2: You going to Nestle, where are you going?  

0:28:09.0 JR: Where are you going, you going to Hershey, where are you going? Where you going? And so I didn’t tell anybody like where I was going until… I told her like the week of, and then I put in your good-bye email, I put, this is the next adventure I’m going to go do. So then people were like, “You have a whole business?” And I was like, “Yeah, I kinda have a whole business.” So that’s how I did it. 

0:28:28.0 S2: That’s awesome. What if people are sitting at their job listening to this and going, “Hmm, but I really wanna do my business,” what would you say to them?  

0:28:38.9 JR: I think it has to make sense in both senses of the world. Right, so it’s not lost on me… 

0:28:44.4 S2: So sense, S-E-N-S-E, C-E-N-T-S okay, I like it. 

0:28:50.0 JR: It’s not lost on me at all that I am married and have a spouse that has another income in our household, right? So there are a lot of solo entrepreneurs who they can’t just up and quit and decide tomorrow I’m gonna do this because rent is still due, gas in their car, paying the lease or whatever on a car, and then… Or they may have a co-founder, but for me, my husband encouraged me and he was like, “You need to quit, you need to quit. You need to quit.” And I knew no one was gonna take my business seriously as an investor or a brand or a company, if I wasn’t in it full time. 

0:29:22.6 S2: That’s right. 

0:29:23.2 JR: So I would say it has to make sense in both sense of the world, you have to definitely try it and make sure it’s thriving before you decide to make the leap. And then for me, it was, I can’t… I can no longer do both anymore, I could, but one of these is gonna go bad and I wanna leave in good standings, just in case it doesn’t go well. 

0:29:40.7 S2: Sure fall back, fall back. 

0:29:42.0 JR: So I think that’s probably the biggest thing, not being afraid to know that if you leave corporate, you can always go back. 

0:29:49.0 S2: Right, luckily that company will always be there. 

0:29:51.8 JR: It will always be there, or one similar. 

0:29:55.4 JR: my husband definitely encouraged and thought it was a good idea, and was like, “You really need to quit,” and was very supportive in that process, and definitely always asked the final question of, “How does this make us money?” And, “Well, what are you doing to continue to make money?” 

0:30:46.9 S2: Would you have done it if he wasn’t supportive?  

0:30:50.1 JR: Probably not. We are really good communicators, we’ve known each other for a really long time, and he’s like my best friend, our marriage, we have kids, and if he didn’t think it was the right time, I probably wouldn’t, ’cause we’ve always… We really communicate well, and bounce things off of each other and go, “Okay, does this make sense for our family, is now the right time?” And if he said, “No, now’s not the right time.” I know it’s not just a selfish reason. 

0:31:17.9 S2: Gotcha, he’s looking out for the whole collective. 

0:31:20.4 JR: In our marriage… It’s from the whole thing. So… Which may sound crazy to other people, but in our house, we work as a unit. So if one of us says no, we know that’s probably not good for the unit.  

0:31:30.6 S2: I like that. 

0:31:32.3 JR: Yeah. 

0:31:33.6 S2: Does he work at Greentop?  

0:31:35.0 JR: He works part-time at Greentop. 

0:31:36.8 S2: Okay, alright, good, good. What does he do?  

0:31:39.8 JR: He does… I would say right now he’s doing accounting. He works to get our accounting stuff to the accountant. 

0:31:44.0 S2: Amen, that’s important. And that helps him stay safe ’cause he can see what’s tracking… 

0:31:47.4 JR: He can see the numbers. 

0:31:49.0 S2: No stress for you, like, “Dude, there it is.” 

0:31:50.9 JR: He advises the sales channel right now, as we’re looking at other retailers and understanding the margins and how we decide on contracts and what’s a good idea. So I would say anything that revolves around the numbers, he’s definitely involved in. But he stays out of my hair. I think we both know our spaces, and so he advises but the decisions are always gonna come down to what I wanna decide for the company. 

0:32:18.8 S2: You are the CEO. 

0:32:19.8 JR: Yeah. But yeah, he helps with… He’s the money man, I’d say. He wants to see where the numbers are, but I’m kind of in all the different spots. 

1:02:26.0 S2: Okay. So it’s not normal that spouses can work together. So I think it’s a miracle. I look forward to meeting Sean one day. But kind of role, responsibility, who does what,… How do you manage that? Like, how do you manage family and business? And I guess maybe he does leave for work, but there’s a lot there and so, but it seems to be family is core to the business. So how do you manage that? And what does that look like?  

1:02:55.5 JR: Good communication. 

1:02:57.4 S2: Alright. 

1:03:00.3 JR: A family calendar printed upstairs, downstairs in the kitchen and on the phones. 

1:03:05.2 S2: Alright. 

1:03:05.7 JR: So we always know where everyone is, where they should be, what time they should be there and when we’re flying in and out. Two very helpful grandmothers who… 

1:03:12.8 S2: It takes a village. Takes a village. 

1:03:14.6 JR: It takes a village. I have some really good friends that are in Atlanta that are helpful and fill in the gaps when grandmas ca n’t get there from North Carolina and really love on our family and our babies. And then I think for Sean and I we really had to understand how to communicate with each other about the business, because we are married, and I’d like to stay that way, and running a business can be stressful with your spouse. And so we have learned… I wake up and I want to talk to you about 12 things at 6:00 AM, like he’s brushing his teeth and I’m like, so have you called the accountant back? Have you looked at that email I sent you?  

1:03:46.9 S2: Did you pay our friends back?  

1:03:50.2 JR: Did you pay the friends back? Benny sent the contract, it’s been redlined, Can you look at that again? And he’s like, I’m just trying to brush my teeth. 

1:03:57.3 S2: Right. 

1:03:58.8 JR: And then he comes home and wants to talk about everything at 12:00 midnight. And I’m like, I’m done, I’ve given everybody what I can give them. 

1:04:04.0 S2: You’re like Eli and Cami are still alive, be grateful. 

1:04:06.2 JR: That’s it. Everybody’s been fed and no one’s bleeding. Okay, good night. So we have learned that we have to schedule kind of like our huddles in the middle of the day. We schedule them, they’re on the calendar and then we check in that way or in the afternoons so that we’re not like yelling at each other or giving each other short answers because we don’t want to talk about it right then. 

1:04:23.0 S2: I love that. So, you’re intentional about that. 

1:04:25.0 JR: Yes, very intentional. And if we go to dinner, we can talk about business. And then there’s a point where we’re not to talking about business anymore on this discussion dinner. 

1:04:31.0 S2: Right. When my wife and I got out, we have date night. She’s like, you got about five minutes. ‘Cause I always wanna like catch her up to speed. You got about five more minutes to talk about the kids, and then it’s over. And I’m like, never mind. I can’t get it all out in five minutes. So never mind. 

1:04:41.1 JR: I’ll just wait. I’ll just wait. 

1:04:42.6 S2: Yeah. I like that. I like that. 

0:32:28.9 S2: So Clarence Claus, holiday. So people may say, “Okay, I like her story.” Seasonal business, talk to me about how has Clarence Claus become a big company. 

0:32:41.8 JR: When we started, it was seasonal. We really just did Christmas products, and then we were kind of dead in the water for the rest of the year. And I knew for it to grow and to engage our consumers year-round, I needed other products, but I was working full-time so I was like, “I can manage pretty much July to January with Clarence Claus.” 

0:33:00.1 S2: Have to manage Mr. Claus at Christmas. 

0:33:04.0 JR: But once I quit, it was like, “Okay, now I can grow into other holidays and moments so that we can have offerings to customers for the full year.” Because it’s hard if you don’t talk to people for half the year, then you send them an email, they’re like, “Who are you? What do you want?” So yeah, we expanded into a multicultural crew of kids we call our celebration crew, and they’re on birthday products. And they have all different skin tones and hair textures, freckles and gaps in their teeth, all different things that are, I think, reflective of our global society, and so I think it’s important for kids to see those things. And we’re doing that through our celebration circle. 

0:33:40.3 S2: So tell me about the crew, who are the characters?  

0:33:42.9 JR: So the crew, there are two kids that actually look like Eli and Cami so I definitely… They’re my kids, right? If I’m creating a product, I wanna have my kids to see themselves. So the illustrators definitely worked to create two characters like Cami and Eli, we have a little girl with a Muslim head covering, we have a little girl with vitiligo, we have an Indian kid, we have an Asian kid, we have a kid with red hair because… 

0:34:06.8 S2: A rainbow coalition. 

0:34:08.9 JR: Yeah, we got everybody. But we really… I was really thinking when creating those characters, there’s so many kids that go in the store and don’t see products that look like them. 

0:34:15.3 S2: That’s right. 

0:34:16.9 JR: And I had a neighbor tell me one time that her daughter kept saying, “Mommy, I want flat yellow hair.” And she couldn’t grasp… 

0:34:23.5 S2: She was like, “What is that?” 

0:34:24.8 JR: She wanted blonde hair, but when you go in the store, all the lunch boxes, the games, the toys have flat yellow hair, and so her daughter was having this issue of like not having self-pride, and so when creating the products, I wanted to make sure that kids that typically don’t see themselves, see themselves in these spaces of celebration. So that’s kind of how they came to be. 

0:34:45.4 S2: What do Eli and Cami say when they see themselves?  

0:34:47.7 JR: Eli knows exactly who his character is. When he sees it, he’s like, “That’s me.” Cami is… 

0:34:54.3 S2: And how old is Eli now?  

0:34:54.7 JR: He’s 7. 

0:34:54.7 S2: He’s 7, okay. 

0:34:55.2 JR: Cami is dead set on being one of the other little girls that looks nothing like her. 


0:34:58.7 S2: And how old is Cami?  

0:35:00.6 JR: She’s 2. 

0:35:00.7 S2: Okay, she’s like, “I don’t like that, that’s not me.” 

0:35:02.6 JR: She’s like, “That’s not me.” I’m like,”But it looks just like you.” So yeah, she’s 2. What are you gonna do?  

0:35:06.3 S2: So we’ll check in a year and see if Cami’s owning who her character is. 

0:35:09.6 JR: Yeah, but they have puffs, they’ve got braids, they’ve got all different types of hairstyles, and so I think she just likes the braids more than the puffs. 

0:35:18.0 S2: Gotcha. When they… Do they tell people about it? Do they say like, “My mom is an entrepreneur.” or “That’s me on the wrapping paper.” or?  

0:35:26.2 JR: Eli understands it. People will ask him and he’ll say, “We have a business that’s like Greentop.” 

0:35:30.4 S2: I like that we have a business. 

0:35:32.0 JR: It’s insane. I think that comes from like… We have incorporated them in like the FedEx thing that we did, so they understood. They were talking and kinda self-promoting the business in a pitch type video. So now, Cami, whenever I like take video of her and it’s like a selfie video, she’ll say, “Hi Greentop.” Like she’s talking to… 

0:35:50.5 S2: I love that. 

0:35:51.0 JR: The customers, which is hilarious, so they understand it. Eli definitely gets it, Cami is… She’s in promotion constantly. 

1:01:08.7 S2: So you said this FedEx thing. What is the FedEx thing?  

1:01:12.1 JR: They’ll probably be very upset that I called it that. 

1:01:14.0 S2: Yup. Well, here’s your chance to redeem… 

1:01:16.5 JR: So here it is. 

1:01:16.8 S2: Yourself. 

1:01:17.0 JR: Kelly, don’t call me. So we are a 2021 FedEx small business grant winner. 

1:01:23.9 S2: Wow. 

1:01:24.1 JR: That also allows us to be on the FedEx Entrepreneurship Advisory Board… 

1:01:28.5 S2: Nice. 

1:01:28.5 JR: For FedEx. And then eventually we’ll be in the FedEx store in Memphis. 

1:01:33.6 S2: Alright. 

1:01:34.7 JR: So they gave us a grant of $15,000, and they offer us discounted services and partnership with FedEx for the year, and it’s… 

1:01:45.2 S2: Nice. 

1:01:45.2 JR: Really kind of life-long in the business. So we had our first FedEx Advisory Board panel meeting last week. I think we have another one this week. 

1:01:53.3 S2: Wow. 

1:01:53.4 JR: So it’s been a great partnership so far to have FedEx on our site, so yeah. 

1:02:01.6 S2: See, most of us try to run there to get there by 8 o’clock like, racing the door, “Don’t, don’t close.” And you’re like, “Oh, no, FedEx is my partner. I got this. Don’t even worry about it.” 

1:02:08.4 JR: No, they close the door on me at 8 o’clock too. 

1:02:09.3 S2: Okay, alright, I was gonna say, ’cause… 

1:02:10.1 JR: They close the… 

1:02:10.4 S2: I’m gonna start sending my stuff up to you. Okay, okay. 

1:02:12.4 JR: No, no, no. They close the door on me 8 o’clock too. They’re probably like, “Oh, here comes Jackie with more stuff.” 

1:02:17.0 S2: I know. 


1:02:17.3 S2: They be like, “We’re trying to get out of here, and this gonna be until 8:20 trying to get these daggone boxes.” Well, congratulations on that. That sounds awesome, though. 

1:02:24.3 JR: Thank you. 

0:34:45.4 S2: Eli and Cami  

0:36:00.2 S2: 20 years from now, they come home and they say, “Yeah, I appreciate this degree, but I wanna start my own business.” What will you say?  

0:36:10.1 JR: What do you wanna do? Yeah, I definitely would support it. 

0:36:14.9 S2: Is your grandfather still alive?  

0:36:16.4 JR: No. 

0:36:16.6 S2: So what do you think he’s thinking about, like, “Somebody is using my name in vain. What is this Greentop mess?” What do you think he would say?  

0:36:25.2 JR: He would probably be very proud. My dad’s side of the family is… They are prideful people, so I’m certain that he would be proud. I know my dad definitely would be proud, even though Clarence’s name… Clarence… My dad’s name is Clarence, so he’s… 

0:36:39.9 S2: Okay. 

0:36:40.1 JR: But my dad didn’t look anything like Clause Claus. [chuckle] But yeah, I think they would be definitely proud and would appreciate the shout-out to their start in entrepreneurship. 

0:36:50.0 S2: That’s awesome. So when people talk about family business, it’s kind of like, “Yeah.” Like,”My whole family works there.” But yours is… Greentop name, Clarence is your dad, your kids are in the picture, what do you think that means for the business?  

0:37:05.7 JR: People connect to it. So we say like our three pillars are love, joy and family. So they’re on like the back of our thank you card in every order.  

0:37:50 S2: Are those you and Sean’s pillars? Are those Greentop pillars or both?  

0:37:54.1 JR: They’re both. 

0:37:55.9 S2: Okay. 

1:04:54.1 S2: Pillars of love, joy and family which no disrespect people say, Oh, yeah, that sounds pretty generic. But when you say it, like, I’m looking at you and they mean something. So where do they come from?  

1:05:06.8 JR: So I would say working corporate and I was working at a start-up, we both worked at places that had pillars or they had company values and they were …kind of drove how people went to business, right? And they were brought up in discussion like if you did an expense report, it was like, is that equitable? Like you know? And so we worked and I think having that background at corporate kind of blend into us starting our business and it was like, Well what should our pillars be? What are the things that we want to make sure our products resonate with, our customer services, all those different things, any of our marketing, kind of like the voice of our brand, right?  

1:05:45.6 JR: And so love, joy and family, when we… We had a brainstorming session and we had a couple of words, and I think those three just kind of stayed the most, ’cause obviously family, it started as a family business. Joy, our products bring you joy and celebration. 

1:06:02.6 S2: They do. They do. 

1:06:02.7 JR: And just a love of our passion for the business, and our passion for each other, and how we want to grow and have this product and the love, that when you give someone a gift. Right?  

1:06:14.5 S2: Yes. 

1:06:14.8 JR: So those are kinda how we it came to be them. So yeah. When people see them they probably just think, What is this picture with these people? And why does this say love, joy and family? But they actually mean something to us. They are definitely a big part of our business. 

1:06:25.0 S2: But I love that, that you built a business not just on your passion, but by a set of values, that’s awesome. 

1:06:30.7 JR: Yeah. They kind of drive and lead us, so. 

1:06:32.8 S2: Sure. And at the end of the day like business or not, I still have love, I still love joy, I still have my family. I love it. 

1:06:39.0 JR: Yes. Yes. I don’t want to work with any brands that those things aren’t important to them either. 

1:06:42.9 S2: I like it. 

0:30:51 JR: People connect to it. I try to think about that when we’re hiring people, when I’m working with people, when I’m working with brands, does this fall under at least two of those? Is there love, is there joy or does it bring a thought of family. And so if those… All those central things kinda come to be, I’m like, “Okay, we can check the box there.” So no, I think, you know… I think, yeah, definitely the kids would see it and they understand it, and I think that they understand… My dad, I felt like left a legacy and I want to leave that legacy to my kids, and they see that importance too. 

0:37:56.0 JR: I try to treat… It’s difficult to say family, but I try to treat everyone that we work with with a sense of like family. I want them to be excited to come to work, and I want them to put passion in what they’re doing, ’cause nobody wants to work for someone they don’t like. If you don’t like the culture, you’re not gonna wanna be there. So I try to be really nice to everybody that we work with, so they can put forward their best energy, and give me the best output on the projects that we’re working on. And it makes me think of those things when we’re working and looking at partnerships. Like does this meet these things, and the customers that we sell to, and that buy our products are mostly families. And so if they see that energy, and that in our products, then I feel like they buy into it and they’re receptive to the ideas of things we’re selling. So, yeah. 


0:38:42.9 S2: You are very process-oriented as you talk about this business. And most people are like “I’m just trying to make it through the day.” Where did that process orientation, being clear, having goals, having outputs, having that, where did all that come from?  

0:38:57.1 JR: I’d probably say my background working in corporate. I started as a Junior account… Junior Analyst and so when you have to do reporting, and you’re in Nilsen, and you’ve got to meet these requirements, and somebody wants the PowerPoint in a certain way, and if there’s an error on the numbers, then they get to blame you. I think that is what got me like, “Okay.” My husband says “You’re the only person that travels on vacation with an Excel spreadsheet of like, where we’re going, or what we’re doing.” I’m like, “It keeps me organized.” 

0:39:26.7 S2: Which I imagine brings you some peace. 

0:39:28.9 JR: It does. 

0:39:29.3 S2: Okay. 

0:39:29.6 JR: If there’s organization and there’s a system to it, then things are just… 

0:39:35.5 S2: It will manifest. 

0:39:36.0 JR: They manifest. It happens. 

0:39:37.7 S2: You know, you’re my kindred spirit ’cause not too many people love Excel sheets, but like they don’t lie. Like you put in a formula, garbage in, garbage out, you put in the right format, you get what you want. 

0:39:45.5 JR: That’s it, every time. So yeah, I like them. 

0:39:48.9 S2: What would you say to entrepreneurs who are listening around process ’cause for most people, Excel spreadsheets scare them. They feel like it’s gonna hold them back, and they’re overwhelmed. What are like two to three things that you would say, as folks are really thinking about growing their business? What are some systems or processes that you felt like, if you didn’t have them, they would not have gotten as successful as it is now?  

0:40:11.3 JR: I would say selling operations, right? When we started picking manufacturers, fulfillment, anyone that we worked with, I never looked at, can they handle our inventory now? I thought about, if this grows, and we get on Good Morning, America tomorrow, can they handle that order? So having sound operations and looking in the future, not just for right now I think are what has really helped our business, and those are things I’m always thinking about, because it allows us… As we get new opportunities, I can say confidently, “I can handle that. I can meet that drop ship. I can meet that order timeline.” So I would say having sound operations is a first one, having a good understanding of your customer and your market. 

0:40:53.7 S2: But that seems cliche, so what does that really mean, like how do you know?  

0:40:57.0 JR: Because I feel like I am our market. I’m a Black mom that wants these products, and so I feel like when I’m talking about what makes us different from a big mass retailer that can do the same thing that we do. I feel like I know the audience is authentic, it’s not just a buyer who’s trying to meet the requirements of what somebody’s told them somebody wants to buy. And so I think that’s what really makes us different and we’re small so we can be nimble. So we can move quickly with less red tape. 

0:41:25.3 S2: So let’s talk about money. Have you taken any money, raised any money?  

0:41:29.1 JR: I haven’t taken any money, I’ve taken… Well, we took a small friends and family round, we paid all those people back. 

0:41:36.9 S2: Oh, congratulations. Why did you pay them back? So soon?  

0:41:38.6 JR: ‘Cause I don’t like owing folks money. I don’t. And I was constantly asking Sean, “Have we paid everybody back?” Where are we? How many more payments we got? Where are we at?  

0:41:45.1 S2: And Sean was like, “Wait a minute you’re in my lane. You’re in my lane.” 

0:41:50.9 JR: And they’re friends and family, so I’m like, “We’re going to dinner with this person tonight.” It wasn’t a lot of friends and family but it was probably like six or seven people, and I’m like, “Have you made a payment to him before we go eat with him? He’s like “Yes” I’m like “Okay. I don’t want to be at dinner owing you money and I’m just over here, pass the bread and I owe you a check, like I don’t like that.” 

0:42:09.4 S2: Okay. 

0:42:10.1 JR: So no, we haven’t taken on any funding, [laughter] major funding. I want to be very careful about that. All investors are not good investors. 

0:42:17.8 S2: That’s right. 

0:42:18.6 JR: And I wanna make sure they’re people who allow me to be creative and continue to make cool things and not be in my space. But we also have gotten over $170,000 in grants and funding this past year, so that’s been very helpful. So yeah, that’s kind of how we’ve bootstrapped and took out some small loans to meet milestones along the way. 

0:42:43.5 S2: Got you. I’m sure they’re all paid back. 

0:42:44.8 JR: Yeah. 

0:42:45.3 S2: Yeah, I can imagine. Well, talk about the grants. 

0:42:47.7 JR: So the grants. So I always say, Black was in before 2020, right?  

0:42:54.5 S2: That’s correct, yes. 

0:42:55.0 JR: And we thought it was important for celebrations to see this diversity and then, unfortunately, George Floyd’s life was lost, and that brought Black business to a forefront, conversations about how to fund black founders and companies some more authentic than others looking to support Black business. And while it was a really horrible thing, and his life should have never been lost, it opened up conversations and opportunities for funding and for businesses to support Black businesses and brought discussions forward and we reaped some of the benefits of that. So we got funding last year from… Google most recently gave us $100,000 of funding we do not have to pay back. 

0:43:40.4 S2: Amen. 


0:43:41.1 S2: Well, one less thing for Sean to have to stress about, poor thing. 

0:43:44.3 JR: And a lot of access to other great Google softwares and programming. We got money from Beyoncé and BE Good, and NAACP, JP Morgan Chase, New Voices, and Target Accelerator. IFundWomen. So we got a little bit of change, yeah. 

0:44:02.4 S2: That’s a lot. That’s a lot. Of those, some of those are pretty big names, like Beyonce and, as a finance person, JPMorgan. What was more important? The money or the validation and, in some cases, marketing. 

0:44:15.8 JR: The validation. ’cause I applied for one of them for a long time. 


0:44:19.4 JR: I think he might have read some of them applications. I applied for what… New Voices? It took a long time to get in New Voices’ family. 

0:44:26.3 S2: It’s a competitive space. It’s a competitive space. 

0:44:28.8 JR: It’s competitive. 

0:44:29.7 S2: Yes. 

0:44:29.9 JR: So, I had a friend the other day tell me, she’s like, “I applied, I didn’t get in.” I was like, Do you know how many times I applied? The applications to get a no?” So yeah, I applied… 

0:44:36.1 S2: I can look it up. [laughter] 

0:44:37.9 JR: A lot, a lot. I applied a lot. And then finally, I guess the numbers started… The math was mathing, as we joke. [laughter] 

0:44:43.3 S2: The math made sense. Yes, that’s correct. 

0:44:45.4 JR: So yeah, a couple of different times we applied and then got an opportunity, but I would say it’s… The funding is great. To answer your question, the validation that other people see that what you’re doing is impactful and that there’s an opportunity there, or they feel like there’s success coming is important, and I consider them as blue checks because once we started to get one… 

0:45:07.8 S2: Yep. 

0:45:08.4 JR: Then you apply and you put that on that one, people see… 

0:45:10.7 S2: That’s right. 

0:45:10.9 JR: Somebody has vetted you and thought that you’re capable of receiving this funding and not blowing it on something stupid. 

0:45:17.4 S2: Right. 

0:45:18.1 JR: So I think that’s probably the most important part. It validates your business.  So George Floyd unfortunately lost his life. Lots of companies and organizations stepped forward to make commitments, some followed through, some didn’t, some are still manifesting. How has that benefited you or not?  

0:46:22.4 JR: I think we definitely have benefited from it. I think we had a strong product before. It was just like there’s so many households who didn’t even know we exist, right? There was 495 million Black households that are buying our type of products. And so it gave us… Obviously you need to have a larger platform to reach those customers, and I think it also opened up for partnerships, allowed us to be a part of accelerators to help grow our business even more. So yeah, I think it’s been a little bit of both. 

0:46:54.3 S2: Yeah. Do you think as people start businesses now, because Black is popular, more popular than usual. Is that a good enough reason to start business? Do you think these commitments are gonna create a enough of a stepping stone for businesses to get started?  

0:47:09.2 JR: I keep saying, how long is this train gonna ride… 

0:47:11.5 S2: You and me both. 

0:47:12.3 JR: I’m like, “We’re trendy, if people are… How long… It still seems to be riding, I still see applications and programs. There still seems to be funding, but I do think people have to have legit products in places, you gotta do the work, right?  

0:47:25.6 S2: Right. 

0:47:26.8 JR: But I do think it is opening up more conversations around funding Black founders and giving us more looks and opportunities, and I think it’s putting black founders… Putting a spotlight on them to allow VC’s or investors that may have not thought about funding Black founders, to look at them outside of just hair care. 

0:47:44.9 S2: Yeah. 

0:47:45.3 JR: Looks at us, you know. 

0:47:46.0 S2: That’s key. Outside of hair care. ’cause we can… 


0:47:47.6 JR: Now I’m not hating hair care. [laughter] 

0:47:49.7 S2: I feel like we own the beauty market. 

0:47:51.8 JR: Why?  

0:47:51.9 S2: You walk down any retailer I’m like, “They’re all our people,” they’re all our products. 

0:47:54.9 JR: Yeah. 

0:47:55.1 S2: Yeah. 

0:47:55.4 JR: So people are… They’re eager to invest in black hair founders. 

0:48:00.4 S2: Yep. 

0:48:00.5 JR: But they’re more hesitant… 

0:48:00.8 S2: But there’s also market data that says it’s gonna sell. 

0:48:01.6 JR: That we’re gonna buy. Right. 

0:48:02.7 S2: So when you started talking about Clarence, what did people say? Ain’t no black people buying no wrapping papers. 

0:48:06.0 JR: It was hard at the beginning to get buy-in, people who later invested are people who now are like, “Hey, this is… Congratulations.” Very early on were like, “I don’t know if that’s a good idea.” 

0:48:17.0 S2: You and Clarence should just stay a hobby. 

0:48:18.7 JR: Right, keep that… Just keep that at your house for Christmas. And I know who those people are… 


0:48:24.1 JR: I could tell you by name. I could make you a list of those people. But yeah, I would say everybody didn’t believe in it, they didn’t see it, I felt like I understood it and saw a vision, and the conversations that I’m having with you and with other people about other ways we can go to market and grow the business, continue to validate that it’s a thing and that there is space, and we’re filling a white wide space with Clarence Clause. 

0:48:50.3 S2: So you have a job, you’re working with your husband, you’re doing stuff in your basement and your garage, now you’re free and clear of corporate change, you’re running a business, your kids and other people’s kids can see themselves on it. Where are you 18 and 24 months from now?  

0:49:06.0 JR: We’re in some big retailers. We’re doing some partnerships that I’ve started talking about that I hope I can share soon. 

0:49:12.6 S2: Okay. 

0:49:14.6 JR: We are on some networks, hopefully. 

0:49:16.8 S2: Okay, so the characters come to life?  

0:49:19.4 JR: Characters come to life… 

0:49:20.4 S2: Love it. 

0:49:21.9 JR: And we expand into… Our assortment expands and grows, and so we can be more of a lifestyle brand that people… Not a lifestyle brand, but people can incorporate our products into their life. 

0:49:33.3 S2: Sure. Sure. When you were sitting in the airport, quitting your job, did you ever think you would have characters that could potentially come to life on TV?  

0:49:40.7 JR: I felt like it was an opportunity. Yeah, which is what made me quit ’cause I knew I couldn’t do it if I stayed at work. 

0:49:49.0 S2: Are you paying yourself yet?  

0:49:50.6 JR: We had this conversation. Kind of, not really. It’s a line. 

0:49:55.8 S2: It’s a line. 

0:49:56.0 JR: I might not be taking it… 

0:49:56.1 S2: It’s a salary payable at least. 

0:49:56.2 JR: But as you told me to add it and make sure it was there for when I was ready to take it. 

0:50:02.9 S2: Sure. 

0:50:03.1 JR: It’s a line, I’m not quite taking it, but I have started to get opportunities where they are paying me to participate in things, so I do take that. I take some speaker fees in some moments that I get, which is still crazy that people are paying me to talk about Clarence Claus and Greentop. But yeah. 

0:50:20.6 S2: But it’s a great story. Why not? Think about it… What’s so exciting… Particularly ’cause I actually got to meet you in person, but what’s so exciting is your story. Most people, when you hear their entrepreneurial story, it’s like they came from nothing to everything. But to just think about the power of entrepreneurship and the lineage, the history of entrepreneurship in your family is huge. And it’s not always the case, it’s certainly not a narrative. 

0:50:48.5 S2: My great-grandfather had a restaurant on Columbus Avenue, New York City, and my mom was like, “Yeah, that’s right, he was.” And so I don’t know whether it was like your DNA, but it just really creates a sense of possibility, and so I think people should pay you, I mean it’s an amazing story. And let’s be honest, we got hair care, we’re athletes. You don’t see a lot of us doing wrapping paper and other things, and certainly not helping characters come to life. 

0:51:17.3 S2: ‘Cause obviously my kids are older now, but I watch TV and there were characters of color, but they weren’t done by people of color, and so the story would not resonate. And so I think it’s pretty amazing that Clarence Claus has really birthed or manifested this entire story about a community of kids of color. That’s pretty cool. 

0:51:39.5 JR: Yeah. It’s exciting. 

0:51:39.6 S2: Does that scare you? Or does that excite you?  

0:51:42.0 JR: I told somebody today, if it doesn’t scare you, it’s not big enough, so yeah, it’s exciting. It doesn’t scare me, I’m excited to see where he goes and I think a lot of it as a mom, I know I want my kids to see it, so there’s this push of like it’s more than just my kids now. But… 

0:51:57.6 S2: I was about to say it’s everybody’s kids. 

0:52:00.8 JR: It’s everybody’s kids. 

0:52:00.9 S2: Your kids, Bebe’s kids, everybody’s kids. 

0:52:01.3 JR: Everybody’s kids. But yeah there’s something special. I love the holidays, I love Christmas, I all things celebration and birthday. So getting to play in this space and create things around that is super exciting to me.  

0:54:37.5 S2: Let’s assume… Well, actually no, I think business is extremely successful. Five years from now, you’re a multi-million dollar business, what do you do then?  

0:54:50.2 JR: I feel like once you start entrepreneurship, you just don’t stop. There is some other idea, my sister has something she wants to do and I would like to help her with, but I’m not quite ready to do that. I am very early in my entrepreneurial journey, but I feel like I have friends that have also just started like a few months ago, and so I’m dragging them through doors with me constantly like, “Hey, this cool thing is happening, come on, come on, come on.” So it may be in that space, but I definitely wanna continue to grow the brand and see it just continue to grow into some many celebrations. Selling it? I feel like I would just still wanna be a part of it. I love to party too much to give it all away ’cause it’s important to me. So yeah I feel like it would be another product or another… It’d be another something I just wouldn’t be like, “Okay, I’m done. I’m just gonna sit around.” 

0:55:37.4 S2: Right. ‘Cause you can’t have the trees up all year round. Sean will be like, “There’s no more themes come June or July.” 

0:55:42.4 JR: Yeah, but I think that’s something to it though with entrepreneurship, like people… You do it, if you do it well, then it’s like, “Well can I do it again?” You wanna try it again. 

0:55:49.4 S2: And if you don’t do it well you’re like, “I know I can get this right.” 

0:55:51.8 JR: Right. 

0:55:53.2 S2: Yeah. You said you’re dragging some entrepreneur with you, which I think is amazing. What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to them?  

0:56:00.8 JR: Ideas have expiration dates. And so if you have an idea, don’t sit on it, make sure it makes sense, but try it, put it in the atmosphere, figure it out. It needs to function and work if it’s an app or a product, but you can continue to evolve it and make it better as it goes, but don’t sit around on it forever. 

0:56:19.9 S2: I love that. 

0:56:20.6 JR: That’s what I would say. 

0:56:21.4 S2: Will Clarence Claus ever expire?  

0:56:24.3 JR: I don’t think so. I don’t think so. I think he’s around for a while. 

0:56:27.3 S2: He’s around for a while?  

0:56:28.1 JR: I think he’s around for a while. 

0:56:28.9 S2: Well, hopefully for Eli and Cami he is. That’s for sure. 

0:56:32.9 JR: For sure. If you don’t believe, you don’t receive. So… 

0:56:35.8 S2: Look at you. 


0:56:36.6 S2: Little Southern quotes here. I like that. I love it. If I could get on the phone with Cami, and I’d get her on Zoom like, “What’s your quote for the day, Cami?” 

0:56:42.8 JR: Well, sure, she’s probably got some. 

0:56:44.1 S2: I’m sure. 

0:56:44.6 JR: She probably does. 

0:56:45.2 S2: So I’m seeing some inspirational messaging… 

0:56:47.2 JR: I don’t know. 

0:56:47.7 S2: Coming across now?  

0:56:48.5 JR: I don’t know. 

0:56:49.1 S2: Here’s your quote of the day from Jacquelyn Rodgers?  

0:56:52.4 JR: I don’t know, that’s a lot. Packing lunch every day is hard, I don’t know if I can give y’all quotes of the day too. Somewhere I gotta get a new lunch today, two new lunches. 

0:57:00.9 S2: Grandma can’t order food?  

0:57:03.6 JR: One, I can, but she won’t, so… 

0:57:05.6 S2: She wants some homemade meals. 

0:57:07.1 JR: Yeah, so I try to get creative with that. It started into a whole nother thing where I’m like packing lunches with themes. Don’t start things you don’t wanna keep up. 

0:57:16.4 S2: I’m noticing a pattern here. 


0:57:19.0 S2: You gave your hours when we first started this conversation. If you’re packing lunches and still spending time with your kids, have the hours changed?  

0:57:26.0 JR: The hours have changed. On a good day I get up and do some work before them, and then on a day when I’m like, “I need a few more hours of sleep,” I get up with them and then they get to school. I work full day, I might pick them up around… Everybody’s at school and out of the house by 7:30. And then depending on the day and the traffic in Atlanta, carpool pick-up can start between 4:00 to 5:00, or depending on the calls for the day, and then once they’re down for the night, then it’s like the second shift kicks in. 

0:58:00.1 S2: Uh, oh. 

0:58:00.4 JR: And then I might work. Sean and I might catch up on stuff and do our check-in of like what’s going on with the business. And then I can work. I try to shut it down by 11:00 or 12:00, but some nights it’s much later than that. It just depends on where we are in the season and what products. And then manufacturers in China that I’m talking to, which keep me up way past 11:00 PM. 


0:58:21.9 JR: And graphic designers that are not in the US that keep me up at that time, so yeah. It depends on the day and the project. 

0:58:27.8 S2: I like it. I like it. 

0:58:29.1 JR: But I try to get my sleep in, ’cause I don’t function without sleep. 

0:58:31.6 S2: I don’t think anybody does, but that’s key. But I think what’s amazing, is that even with those crazy hours, I think most people are spending time within that. I mean, 7:00 to 11:00 is not unrealistic. It’s what we do with it. And that’s why I think you have shown that you can be a wife, you can be a mother, and you can still run a multi-million dollar business. 

0:58:51.1 JR: From your mouth to God’s ears. 

0:58:51.9 S2: Amen. Amen. It’s been truly a pleasure. I heard Greentop Gifts, everybody in the office is like, “What does that mean?” I was like, “I don’t know, but let’s just focus on Clarence Claus. Who really… She could change the name.” And it’s funny, ’cause I was like, “What does Greentop Gifts mean?” So I’m pretty impressed. I’m humbled, right, of what you’re doing, and I hope that somewhere at some point in time on the packaging, or somewhere in your keynote, we get to hear the story of your grandfather and Greentop. 

0:59:19.6 JR: I know. I had an investor tell me recently to change the name, and I… 

0:59:23.8 S2: Well, I don’t think you should now. Now that we know what it means, but… 

0:59:25.9 JR: Yeah. I was like, “I’m not changing… ” I might drop gifts, but I’m not… Definitely not changing Greentop. It has meaning to us, so yeah. 

0:59:32.5 S2: I think you gotta share that with the world, because part of the challenge that you talked about, and post George Floyd, is ’cause people don’t have a remembrance, or a record of our entrepreneurship, and the fact that your grandfather was in North Carolina running a restaurant where all types of people had to come through, it’s pretty frigging amazing. 

0:59:52.2 JR: He’s pretty awesome. 

0:59:54.6 S2: Yeah, well, I know everybody in the family is proud. We’re proud of you. I look forward to meeting Eli and Cami in person. Thank you. 

1:00:02.0 JR: I’ll Uber them over. 

1:00:03.1 S2: Hey, we’ll take it. 


1:00:19.1 JR: Thank you. 

1:00:19.5 S2: Wishing you much success. 

1:00:20.4 JR: This was so much fun, thank you. 

1:00:21.5 S2: Thank you. added MEL: appreciate you. 

0:01:20.2 S2: Today’s lesson on your journey from founder to CEO is all about leverage, recognizing that when you start your own business, it is not like you’re starting a whole new chapter from the beginning with no history, no context and no experience. The reality is, your success is based on your ability to leverage all of your prior roles in life, to utilize every single skill that you have been trained upon, and also to reach out to your social capital that you have built over time. Jacqueline taught us that lessons come when you least expect them. She explained to us that learning is exponential, and there is always an opportunity to learn from those around you; from your co-workers, from your board members, and even from your family. She leveraged the legacy and the generational lessons of her family, from her grandfather to her father, on what does it mean to be an entrepreneur? But more importantly, what does it mean to be an entrepreneur representing your community?

0:02:44.5 S2: She was able to take all of her corporate learnings and background and apply that to her business that allowed her to learn so much more. If you remember, she said the math was math-ing, and she was able to build the business that now can be found in retail stores all across the country. She also shared that leaving her job was challenging because there really was no one to say all was going well, and she recognized that validation is key for every single entrepreneur. So if you’re out there sitting at your desk with a full-time job and thinking about making that entrepreneur leap, or you’ve just made that leap and you’re not really sure what the hell is waiting in front of you, know that there are those like Jacqueline who can say, “It is an opportunity to learn from what you have done and succeeded, do not negate all the successes that you have, continue to build upon who you are as a person, who you are as a professional, and know that everything that you have done to date in your life has prepared you for what is next in your journey.  As always, thank you for listening.

Don’t forget to subscribe and feel free to give us five stars.  We’ll put a link to a blog post about this episode in the show notes.  The blog will be full of tidbits mentioned throughout the episode, information on our guests and anything else we think feels right and is needed for your entrepreneurial journey.  For additional information on our guests and links to their businesses, please go to our site,  And while you’re there, download the resource guides provided by 1863 ventures.  I promise you, they will empower you with practical tools and advice. 

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Founder Hustle and the Deep Cut are produced by Kinetic Energy Entertainment. 

Edited and mixed by Anne Kane.

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Music is Ratata by Curtis Cole. 

And remember, knowledge is crucial, because knowledge is power.

Founder Hustle was recorded at Clean Cuts in Washington DC. 

And to all the founders out there, remember to leverage your history and your legacy.  

Melissa Bradley

Melissa Bradley

Melissa L. Bradley is the Founder and Managing Partner of 1863 Ventures, a business development program that accelerates New Majority entrepreneurs from high potential to high growth and Co-founder of New Majority Ventures, a purpose-driven media brand featuring content that is entertaining, inspirational and actionable so that these entrepreneurs and their businesses survive and thrive.