What’s a Girl Like You Doing in Retail? The Bliss Story
MCL: Before you opened Bliss, what did your career resume look like?
Cathy Joyner: I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Business Administration degree in Marketing. I started fresh out of college in commercial real estate managing the office and financial aspects of the business, but also was the marketing director for one of the shopping centers owned by my boss.
But the primary focus of my career was in financial management in the healthcare industry. I shifted to healthcare and worked for an Orlando-based management company that handled the accounts receivable/payable, payroll, etc. for a private duty nursing company, home health agency and hospice. I was privileged to be part of the group that created Hospice of Central Mississippi (now Hospice Ministries) so it was through that I was exposed to what it takes to start something from the ground up.
I “retired” from paid employment after I started my family and found myself volunteering with several non-profits while the children were in school. Many experiences with the Junior League of Jackson and the Mississippi Children’s Museum equipped me to even ponder this venture.
MCL: What lead you to jump into retail?
Cathy: I worked retail in high school and college for a little extra spending money. Ironically, I can’t say that I particularly liked it and I was more intrigued with the business side of retail more than the long hours and minimal pay. I dabbled in retail again with booth space at Antique Shops of Jackson and found that I loved the thrill of the hunt for fabulous merchandise and I so enjoyed the people.
Four years ago when my oldest child turned 18 and graduated from high school, it hit me like a ton of bricks that the three children WOULD grow up and eventually leave me. Having been widowed six years before that and left with raising three children alone, I couldn’t see my life past raising them. I never really thought about it. We were just getting through a day at a time, a prom, a driver’s license, a college application at a time. It was after her 18th birthday that I began praying for eyes wide open to what God’s will would be for MY life after getting them out of high school. I NEVER would have imagined owning my own business, much less a retail store that demands so much attention, but this is where He led me and it continues to be an amazing experience.
MCL: What would be your best short advice to someone who was thinking of starting a business?Cathy: Make a list of the pros and cons—look long and hard at the cons. Dig deep and consider every ramification to your personal life. Consider every possible challenge and be fully prepared to deal with even more. For me and this venture, it was definitely the hours—particularly Saturdays. I never imagined scheduling would be so difficult.
MCL: How does your Christian faith impact your philosophy of doing business successfully? What are the things that you consider “successful” with your store?
Cathy: I struggled at first with opening a business that is full of material possessions! But, the premise of this business is celebrating friendships, weddings, birthdays, and so many events and occasions that bring us all great joy, or help comfort a friend when it’s not so joyful. Our loving God gives us friends, co-workers, and mates to prop us up when we need it, share in our joys and successes—people who just make life more “blissful.”
As I pondered a name for the store, I wanted something that depicted what we are about but I also wanted it to have a spiritual connotation. One of the definitions of “bliss” is “the ultimate spiritual joy.” I want Bliss to be a blessing to the buyer, the recipient, and the employees.
When we were in the renovation phase and boxes of merchandise were pouring in, I found myself getting a little overwhelmed with the uncertainty of what was ahead. Would it be well received? Would brides come to register? Would it be thought of as a place to enhance occasions rather than a place all about the money?
It was then that I began playing “Surely the Presence of the Lord Is in This Place” to start each day. The night we unveiled Bliss to friends and family (November 2014), we held a small, private “Bliss blessing.” A group of church friends and some of my closest friends gathered and circled up for prayer; then we opened the doors. It was such a meaningful beginning. As we approach the holiday season and our second year in business, we recently gathered once again for prayer. We plan to take things up a notch and expand our business, SO I feel the need to MAKE SURE we start with the Holy Spirit in the midst of it all!
MCL: Obviously you need to turn a profit, but beyond operating in the black, how do you measure success?
Cathy: Success for me at Bliss is when a couple leaves excited about the selections they have made for their home as they start their life together; when a man leaves the store saying “that was easy,” or a customer comes in saying how much they loved the birthday gift they received from here. The greatest measure of “success” was just a few weeks ago when my son, Thomas, and I sent a cancer patient a book from Bliss that is specifically for those battling the disease. She sent me a Facebook message saying she woke up that morning discouraged and just not feeling well. The Lord led her to the book we gave her and she said it was just what she needed to push her ahead to face another day of treatment.
MCL: What are your favorite tasks associated with owning Bliss?
Cathy: I love the buying and the selling. It is great fun to seek out fabulous treasures—but the ultimate joy is in working with the customers to find just the right thing. One customer left with a wedding gift, baby gift, male and female birthday gifts, a sympathy gift AND something for herself. She left so excited and said she had more time in the day to enjoy her family because she got it all finished in one stop.
MCL: Anything you would want us to know about Bliss?
Cathy: Bliss is located at Banner Hall in the heart of Jackson at 4465 I-55 North Frontage Rd. One of the aspects of this business that has been so rewarding is our love for helping future brides and grooms find their style and prepare their beautiful home through our bridal registry. Our bridal registry business has been growing very quickly and we are in the process of adding a professional consultant to help guide our brides through a list of decor selections and personal keepsakes, from one-of-a-kind accessories to everyday tableware. This concierge service will offer engaged couples a one stop shopping experience from everything to bridesmaids and groomsmen gifts, hostess gifts, out-of-town guest welcome baskets—you name it. We truly want to make it easy for couples and their parents to keep the focus on beginning their lives together rather than bogging down in the details of gifts. Also, registered “Bliss Brides” receive a ten percent discount on hostess/bridesmaids/groomsmen gifts and if that isn’t enough, they receive a ten percent store credit of all the gifts purchased for them. This is our gift to them for giving us the honor of being part of their wedding experience.
We are celebrating our one-year store anniversary and I can’t tell you how fast time has flown by! The store has grown over the past year and we have many exciting plans that we will unveil over this next year.