Ep4: You will be blown away by the courage and determination of our guest Jo Miller — on the June episode of the Women of Color Empowered show

Listen to the podcast on Inkandescent Radio Meet the Program Coordinator at Ready to Werk, Fashion Educator at Hocking College, and Board Member at Passport 2 Fashion

Jo Miller shares: "I was raised and homeschooled in an Amish community and education was just not a priority, so when I left in my early 20s I struggled to live on my own let alone go to college." How did she accomplish so much? Kimberly finds out in this month's interview. Don't miss it.

June 2024: A Note from Kimberly Lee Minor, host, Women of Color Empowered and CEO of Women of Color Retail AllianceHello! I invite you to tune in for this week’s episode of our podcast and video show, Women of Color Empowered, where for 30 minutes each month, we bring allies and trailblazing women of color from various professional sectors to the air.

Meet our guest: Jo Miller — Program Coordinator at Ready to Werk, Fashion Educator at Hocking College, and Board Member at Passport 2 Fashion

About Jo: Truly amazing Jo Miller is a passionate fashion educator, consultant, and workforce professional committed to bridging the gaps between my love of fashion, education, and professional success through accessible and inclusive learning pathways. She is an instructor at Hocking College’s 2-year Fashion Design & Retail Merchandising program where she teaches a range of lecture/lab courses, as well as the Program Coordinator for the CFA x Franklin County fashion retail workforce development program “Ready to WERK”. Her passion is to empower students and professionals through experiential learning, culture building, and community engagement. Her mission is to transform the fashion industry into a more inclusive, sustainable, and innovative space, where diversity thrives and innovation knows no bounds.

Scroll down for our Q&A with Jo, and don’t miss our podcast, and our video interview on WomenofColorEmpowered.tv.

Learn more about the Women of Color Retail Alliance: wocretailalliance.org

Kimberly Lee Minor, CEO, Women of Color Retail Alliance and host, Women of Color Empowered show

Kimberly Lee Minor, host, Women of Color Empowered show: What project are you working on currently

Jo Miller: I am the Program Coordinator for CFA’s Ready to WERK program, and we just started a new 6-month student cohort this week! Ready to WERK provides young adults of color ages 18-24 with fashion industry and retail readiness training for participants interested in working in retail management. There is also a track for brands looking to grow into retail which provides them with additional training and support as well as a retail space for 6 months. We are supported by the Franklin County Commissioners’ Office as well as brand and organizational partners from around central Ohio. I am also the co-chair and a board member for Passport 2 Fashion which was founded in 2018 to address, support, and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion issues within the fashion industry through accessible runway shows for aspiring and emerging designers from around the world as well as programming to educate the public on the importance of an inclusive industry. We are currently planning our 2024 show and programming.

Kimberly: How did you get here?

Jo: I have been designing and sewing for 25+ years, but I have been directly involved in the fashion community here in Columbus for about 7 years, starting when I signed up as a volunteer for Fashion Week Columbus in 2017 while researching how to start and grow my brand. When COVID put a halt to my brand launch, I looked for other ways to continue putting my skills to work and started an internship/incubator program that worked with students from OSU’s fashion retail program and used CFA as our main meeting place once restrictions were lifted. In 2021 I was hired at Hocking College to teach a variety of fashion courses for their associate degree fashion program, and began planning out some workshop and training ideas that would later help me launch CFA’s Ready to WERK program.

Kimberly: What is the biggest hurdle that you had to overcome that was your biggest catapult?

Jo: I am not a traditionally trained fashion designer/educator. In fact, until this spring, I had no formal education at all. I was raised and homeschooled in an Amish community and education was just not a priority, so when I left in my early 20s I struggled to live on my own let alone go to college. Everything I have learned up until now has been by maximizing any opportunities for research, training, and mentorship that I could find on my own even if not in a college setting. My career as an educator started because my boss and the administration at Hocking College agreed to take a chance on me based on the real-world experience and skill sets that I’ve fought hard to learn and grow. The struggles I’ve experienced to gain an education, and the acknowledgment from others that I have legitimate experience and a lot of hard-won knowledge to share, is now the catapult that has propelled me into the workforce training and development space because I firmly believe that institutions and business need to see that skills-based training programs and 2-year degree tracks, combined with real-world experience, can be just as legitimate as a 4 year+ degree tracks and should be included when considering DEI hiring and training practices.

Kimberly: What are you most proud of in your career?

Jo: That I can now take everything I’ve learned- and continue to learn- about the fashion and retail industry and methods of learning and teaching, and apply it in a way that provides and supports affordable accessibility to fashion industry training and careers for others. I’ve also recently graduated with my associate degree and will be pursuing a bachelor’s degree this fall (at 40 years old) because I can now use it to further support my mission of creating and providing affordable and accessible education for others by giving me additional tools of my own as well as access to additional networks and support that I simply haven’t experienced yet.

Kimberly: Let’s talk about the topic of Intersectionality in Action. How do you manage the intersectionality of your identity in workspaces dominated by the majority?

Jo: In my case, intersectionality has meant working through being disabled (rheumatoid arthritis), neurodivergent (ADHD and having autism), having been raised below the poverty line and not formally educated until recently, and being a woman working in an industry seen as unimportant and “for women” but dominated by men. For me, managing this has consisted of learning how to largely ignore the people who have been naysayers as best I could and focusing on what I could physically do each day that might move me forward, volunteering for free whenever I could afford it to build skills and connections, and on finding people who would support that either through teaching me a skill, giving me advice, or introducing me to someone else who might help. I’ve also had to learn how to give myself a little grace-there will be things outside my control at times, so can I somehow find an alternative or two that will work around my health issues, my education issues, my neurodivergence, etc?

Kimberly: Tell us about your thoughts on Mentorship and Support. How has mentorship impacted your career, and how do you pay it forward to support other women of color?

Jo: I truly believe having mentors and supporters is the only way I have succeeded this long. Even if I had done everything else the same, done research, sought out resources and trainings, etc., without the supporters and mentors in my life that I have gone to for advice and assistance, without the instruction and training they’ve given me or told me about, without them talking about me to others when I’m not around, I think I wouldn’t have found my way here to where I am right now. Having even one mentor who is on your side is life-changing, and is a HUGE reason I’m now attempting to pay it forward to others in whatever way I can by using the skills I’ve gained because of my mentors throughout the years.

Kimberly: Now let’s talk about Empowering the Next Generation. What advice would you give to young women of color who are just starting their careers? And, what is the biggest behavior you see young professionals make in the workplace? Do you think they are oblivious to the impression that they are making? What can they do to shift their approach?

Jo: Be confident in who you are and the vision you have to offer the world, and then find the mentors that align with that. Be open to listening to the advice that they will give you, even if you don’t initially agree with it, because many times mentors can see a little farther down the road and know what pitfalls to avoid that you don’t even know about yet. No opportunity is too small, nor will you ever be too big, too old, or too famous to learn something new. So many huge things in my life have happened that stemmed from something seemingly insignificant a few years before and I will never take them for granted again. At the same time, do your research to make sure opportunities are legitimate and won’t put you in debt or in harm’s way. Be professional…and I mean that in the sense that you should put your best foot forward, be respectful to your peers, communicate, be on time, and don’t assume that you have nothing more to learn even from those “below” you. Don’t be bullied into changing yourself just because “that’s the way it’s always been”.

Please share the Top 3 things you want our audience to know about you:

  1. I am perseverant. Even when my goals have to take a backseat, I will still inch forward whenever and however I can.
  2. I love meeting new people despite being an introvert. I’ve been told I can give off unapproachable vibes at times that’s just the autism mask dropping, please come talk to me anyway.
  3. I am passionate about diversity, equity, and inclusion within the fashion industry. I think having been raised outside that environment and traditional education but now working in both, I have an interesting perspective and strong opinions on how things can and should change.

Thank you so much, Jo! We look forward to watching your amazing career unfold!