Grit, transparency and integrity are a few words that come to mind when Shelly Walsh is asked how she weathered two bankruptcies and two sales of her brand in five years.
As president of the children’s clothing brand Janie and Jack, Walsh doesn’t hold back when speaking about the setbacks she’s had in her career, which she shared at the retailX 2021 conference in August.
Since its founding in 2002, San Francisco-based Janie and Jack has built a modern classic brand that focuses on elevated design and details, offering sizes from newborn through tween. Walsh, who has been with Janie and Jack for nine years, described the majority of her tenure there as turbulent.
The Gymboree Group, which included Crazy 8 and Janie and Jack, filed for bankruptcy in 2017, then again in 2019. The second time, it closed more than 800 Gymboree and Crazy 8 stores and put Janie and Jack up for sale.
In March 2019, Gap Inc. bought Janie and Jack. Then, COVID-19 hit, and two years later, Go Global Retail announced it was acquiring Janie and Jack from Gap Inc. The founder and managing partner of Go Global said in a press release in March the company’s plan was to “expand [Janie and Jack’s] digital capabilities and accelerate online growth globally.”
Walsh said she relied on grit and fortitude to get her and her brand through the turmoil of bankruptcies and sales.
“There’s no easy day or coasting in business,” said Walsh. “You really have to dig in and want to be there.”
Walsh led by being truthful and transparent as much as possible — even when the bankruptcies prevented her from disclosing legal information. What she found was that she was dishing out perseverance to teammates as they watched their colleagues at Gymboree and Crazy 8 lose their jobs.
After the sale of Janie and Jack to Gap Inc., Walsh found that mindfulness was still missing from the company, even though its employees had a strong sense of community. To remedy this problem, she hired vedic meditation coaches and made them available to any employee who wanted to be trained in the practice.
Now, 80 percent to 85 percent of Janie and Jack’s staff practice meditation daily. Walsh blocked off everyone’s calendars for a half-hour in the afternoon and encouraged them to meditate — or at least take a break — without phones or computers.
As a result, Walsh said her team has become more productive since introducing meditation into the workday, and some of her staff has described it as life changing.
Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Walsh and her team have largely been working remotely. Walsh said she’s excited about the opportunity to “reimagine the workplace” thanks to the stabilization that being sold to Go Global Retail brought the brand.
“I think that’s a really wonderful part of the pandemic and what it forced everybody to do,” noted Walsh.