When Christie Johnson came up with the idea to combine her gift of style with her love for people, she had no idea that the small business she started out of her living room would turn into a venture that is changing lives all over the world.
Johnson dreamt of opening a clothing boutique that people would love and would also give generously to those in need. A boutique with “purpose” is how she found herself referring to her idea over and over again.
But with two babies and a husband in the Navy, she had her work cut out for her. So to get this idea off the ground, Johnson started selling clothes out of her home, and when that took off, she took the plunge and opened the first Purpose Boutique in August 2013 in Bremerton, Washington.
One look at Purpose and it’s easy to see that this is not your average boutique. Their business model defines their purpose and has been a central contributor to their rapid growth and success. “Our business model resembles a “people first” servant leadership with an upside down triangle,” explains Johnson.
“Our customers are at the top—our stylists next and all the way down to our owners. Our owners exist to support everyone above them—providing the tools, support and personal development for success,” she says.
Johnson and her husband, Flip, began Purpose with a personal investment of $30,000, and after the original store had gained success, they opened two more boutique’s loan-free.
In addition to investing upfront, they have chosen to forgo a personal paycheck and instead have introduced a profit-sharing model across the company, with the intent of spreading the wealth to their employees.
Through donations, partnerships with brands which support a variety of causes, and their dress line crafted by refugee women, Purpose provides a place for women to experience shopping and pampering with a whole lot of giving back.
The store’s motto: “How you shop can change a life,” is what drives all of the savvy business decisions of this unique boutique. “We believe that when you choose to shop intentionally, thinking about the person behind the product, it can result in a changed life,” explains Johnson.
And when you shop at Purpose, 1% of every sale is donated to Rescue:Freedom International, a worldwide organization that provides aftercare services for women and children in modern-day slavery-sex trafficking. “We love that Rescue:Freedom works with local organizations, on the ground, who are familiar with the culture, needs and local struggles of the trade,” says Johnson.
With all of the charities available to donate time and money to, Johnson says that they chose to focus on fighting sex trafficking out of a personal drive to see this life-stealing industry go extinct.
In addition to the charitable side of the business, Johnson also believes in selling products that have a purpose. “We have started working with manufacturers around the world to produce our own empowerment clothing and accessories lines that pay fair wages and provide job opportunities for people who need them most,” she says.
Currently, the team buys almost all of their clothes from different boutique lines at apparel markets, and their eventual goal is for all Purpose offerings to convey stories of empowerment. “The best part of having a business that gives back is just that. We can use what we love—styling and empowering customers—as a job,” says Johnson. “And when we work hard, we change lives of customers who walk in, and their stories change us.”
It’s no wonder that this business model works for so many. When you provide a place of employment where people can flourish and feel a part of something bigger than themselves, while also giving customers a product that makes them feel good, it’s a win-win for all.
“When our customers purchase items, we’re able to change lives around the world by providing dignified work for women who would otherwise not have a chance. When we work hard, we provide jobs for others in our community and globally, which in turn, changes more lives,” explains Johnson.
At Purpose, the customer is still at the center of business. “The success of our boutique has in large part been due to them, as they have loved Purpose and keep shopping and sharing our business with their friends. Purpose would not exist without our customers; they are our everything,” she adds.
But the effects of shopping at this boutique go far beyond many other retail businesses. When you choose to do your shopping with Purpose, you are choosing to shop differently – to change a life with your purchase, one outfit at a time. “We are just trying to be good stewards of the growth and success, says Johnson. “We hope to expand all over the US so we can impact even more lives.”