Since joining National 4‑H Council 14 years ago, I’ve had the honor of meeting and building relationships with 4‑H alumni and supporters who are serving and leading with purpose. I thought now would be a great opportunity to reconnect with my colleagues for a new virtual series, 4 for 4. 4 questions. The concept of these talks is simple. We ask four questions in four minutes.
I’m excited to launch the 4 for 4 series with Wade Miquelon, president and CEO of JOANN Stores and a member of the National 4‑H Council Board of Trustees. We discuss how stores have supported communities during COVID-19. The concept of these talks is simple.
So, Wade, looking back on your life’s journey so far, who or what helped you to succeed?
Wade Miquelon (WM): I would say more than anything, you know, it’s really the word others. At an early age, having role models to look up to. Having mentors, seeking them out. Having good bosses and taking their advice. Also working with peers and collaborating to work together versus trying to work as a silo. Hiring good people and letting them run and do their job and supporting them. It’s really about others. And one person can only do so much, but if you can surround yourself in all directions with great people then great things happen.
You’re the chief executive of one of the nation’s most well-known brands. What advice would you give young people who want to succeed and aim high like you?
WM: I would say first and foremost, I think it’s critical that you really find something you love and you do it will all your heart and you’ll be successful. You know, there’s no right or wrong. I was originally an engineer and I felt I wasn’t a great engineer and I didn’t love engineering. It was a great background. Then I found something I loved in business and I went for it with my heart. No matter what it is, put your passion into it. And the other thing too is that life gives us certain windows of opportunity, and when you see those opportunity windows, step through them because they close very quickly. Create an eye for seeing opportunities and not being afraid to take some personal risks.
Well over the last few months, JOANN has stepped up with volunteers to make and donate over 100 million masks for those in need during this COVID-19 pandemic. So, why from your perspective is this commitment to service so important to you and the JOANN family?
WM: You know, our customers are unique people. They almost all come into the store to make something. Most of the time, 70% of the time they are making something to give to a sister, a friend, a daughter, a child. And almost 30% of the time they are making to give to charities. It could be blankets for children in hospitals. It could be blankets for people in shelters. It could be quilts for people with cancer. It could be things for veterans. You name it and for the homeless and so that’s who pays our bills is a very giving customer and so we need to be giving back and be authentic about it.
Do you have any words of encouragement for kids who are home right now because of the coronavirus and are thinking about their futures?
WM: Yeah, I do. The first thing I would say is, you know, don’t worry about the future. Things are going to be okay. There will be a great future there. There’s going to be great opportunities. This too will pass like so many other things. So, I’d say, try to do sometimes when you’re without from within. I read a story once about a man who was in a prison camp basically in Vietnam and basically for many years he wrote several books in his head. Every day he would write the next page and memorize and when he was released, he put them quickly to paper and won multiple awards. And, I say it because you should use your time productively. You know, you may not have time like this where you can learn new skills. You can research new things. You can find new ways of communicating. So, don’t waste this precious time. Look at it as a gift to do all of the things that maybe you didn’t have time to learn and do and when you’re without, do from within and I think you will be so much stronger than you would have been otherwise. And this too will pass, and your opportunities will be there for you.