Jeff Burrus, 41, turned what could have been a difficult loss into a learning experience that has strengthened his marriage, increased his quality time with his two children and allowed him opportunities to mentor young adults and improve the world.
After 18 years in the mortgage industry, Burrus lost his job in February 2009 due to the economic downturn. He then used his financial skills to open a business with his wife, Pam, 39.
While looking for a job, Burrus realized he wanted something that would allow him more time with his family and enable him to use his talents in finance, sales, operations and leadership. Opening a franchise with his wife fit the bill.
The Ballantyne husband-and-wife team opened a Flip Flop Shops franchise in Carolina Place Mall last year and are set to open a second shop in the Blakeney Shopping Center on March 3.
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Turning adversity into opportunity
Flip Flop Shops sell sandals and similar footwear.
"We work as a team, and that is the only way we could do this," said Pam Burrus, describing how she and her husband share responsibilities at work and home.
"It's made our marriage stronger, and I think I have a stronger relationship with my children," said Jeff Burrus of his two sons: Rob, 10, and Mitch, 4.
Burrus said he also enjoys working with young employees whom he can teach and mentor. He helps mold their job assignments into resume builders.
"We realize we are trying to pinpoint what each of their gifts are," said Pam Burrus of the high school and college-age employees. "We're hoping to empower these young people."
One employee is the editor for his high school yearbook, so they asked him to build a Facebook fan page and take all the product photographs for the shop. Another employee showed initiative by creating reports and rearranging stock, so the Burruses gave her additional responsibilities including scheduling and inventory management.
Through his business, Burrus also has the opportunity to make a positive impact for both the environment and disenfranchised people worldwide.
Several of the brands the Burruses sell in their shop are ecologically friendly. One style of flip flops is made from recycled yoga mats. Another brand uses a percentage of its proceeds to participate in an ocean reef redemption program.
One style of flip flops has decorative beads made from old magazine paper by displaced Ugandan women; a portion of the proceeds from the sale of those sandals benefits those women.
The Burruses' shop also is a collection site for Soles4Souls. Using a bin in the shop, the Burrus team has collected hundreds of new and gently used shoes.
Soles4Souls ships the shoes to people in need in 70 countries.