Women & Work
Work Done Well: Leanne Waugh
Owner & Operator of Southern Traditions
Leanne Waugh was born and raised in West Monroe, Louisiana, where she met and married her high school sweetheart, Nick. They have been married for 36 wonderful years and have 2 grown children and have been blessed with 8 year old twin granddaughters.
For 8 years, she has owned and operated Southern Traditions, a gift shop in the small town of Jackson, Alabama. It is a unique little gift shop that tries to provide excellent personal service and to show the love of Christ to everyone that enters their doors. Leanne’s prayer is that everyone who enters feels welcome and loved, and above all, the presence of God.
She and her husband believe that it’s important to come alongside other married couples to bring them encouragement and to help them understand the importance of biblical marriage. They both have come from divorced homes where biblical marriage was not modeled for them so they strive to share God’s design for marriage as a picture of His union with the Church.
They also enjoy co-teaching a couples Sunday school class with some close friends where they have the opportunity to encourage others to gain a deeper understanding of God’s Word. Their prayer is that the class will apply biblical principles in their lives in order to grow in their faith and become well grounded, committed disciple makers. Lastly, Leanne and her husband are involved with Baptist Medical and Dental Missions International (BMDMI) based in Hattiesburg, MS, and they co-captain a team that serves in Nicaragua. They have been on mission with them since 2008.
When Leanne is not working or visiting with her grandchildren in New Orleans, she and her husband enjoy traveling to explore new places and finding cozy little cabins in the mountains. She also loves college football and cheering for The University of Alabama Crimson Tide. Roll Tide!
Leanne, thank you so much for joining us today on our work done well blog. Please share with us a little bit about yourself and how you decided to start a small business.
I believe my identity is not in what I do or have done in my past, but my identity is found in who God says I am. First, He tells me that I am a child of the living God and a joint heir with Jesus. I’m a new creation and I’m a chosen generation. I am a royal priesthood and a holy nation. I am no longer a slave to sin. The old Leanne is gone and behold all things are new! Second, I am a wife to the most incredible husband, Nick. We have been married for thirty six years. We have two beautiful children, Nicholas and Caroline, and two precious twin granddaughters, Lilly and Laine, who are eight years old.
My love for retail started when I was 15 years old and went to work at JCPenney, and continued later when I worked at Nick’s mother’s children’s store. From these experiences, I realized my dream job would be to one day have my own store. The retail business has provided me the chance to meet lots of new people and hear their stories. We all have a story to tell, and I love hearing about other people.
In the early years of our marriage, my husband was pursuing his career in the insurance industry, and I was a stay at home mom, but would occasionally work part time jobs as my kids got older. Years later when our kids were grown and gone, and my favorite store in town was closing, Nick and I decided it was the right time to pursue my dream. After supporting him through college and building his career, Nick told me he fully supported me in pursuing this opportunity.
We opened Southern Traditions in November of 2014, and everyday since then, I get to live out my dream. Traditionally we are known for our bridal and baby registries, but we have a large variety of other gifts items as well. Nick and I want this business to be a ministry so we have added Bibles, Christian books and devotions. I truly believe the most impactful and long-lasting gift we can give someone is the Word of God. It’s really the only hope we have.
As a leader in your community, as well as a friend and confidant to so many, how do you pour into those around you and make Jesus known?
I believe God created us for relationships. We are to carry each other’s burdens and to comfort and edify one another. I’ve learned the value of investing in people because some amazing people have invested in me. There are many aspects of who I am today because of people taking the time to get to know me, pray with me, correct me, challenge me, and care deeply about my potential and future.
Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” That is a command for Christians to pour into the lives of others, investing time in them so as they grow in their faith, they will go out and invest in others.
My husband and I are very involved in missions and every day we try to be the hands and feet of Christ. I see my store as my mission field. There is a lost world out there that may not come to church on Sunday, but they may come in my store. Everyday, people come in with real hurts and pains, and I have the opportunity to love on them and to share the love of Christ with them. In other words, be the hands and feet of Jesus!
What have been some of the joys and challenges of starting and owning a business? And what advice would you have for other women who are interested in doing it?
Owning your my business has many joys and challenges. I would say definitely the joys far outweigh the challenges in this job. One of the joys of this business is the privilege I have to be involved with major events in people’s lives, such as weddings, the birth of a child, or helping them decorate their homes.
Another joy is the reactions we get from our customers when they walk in and say that our store has a very inviting atmosphere, they feel something different, and they feel God’s presence. That is a sweet affirmation that God is at work! Also, I am always happy and humbled that people actually like and buy the things I have in my store. Everything in the store is something I have personally picked so I get a little attached.
Along with all the good of owning a business comes many challenges, and if you’re allergic to long hours with little or no pay, then this is not the job for you! I never dreamed owning my own business would take up so much of my time, but I am learning more than I ever imagined. I am enjoying every minute! I will say the missed time with family and friends that you can’t get back is the worst!
Since money issues and no prior business experience are the most common reasons many first-time businesses fail, I would advise others to seek sound advice to gain an understanding of the many facets of running a business, including financial management, prior to starting their own business.
As a young married couple, we didn’t have a lot of money to be charitable but we had a desire to be. This business has given me the opportunity to give, and give generously. My husband jokingly says, “Honey, you work to just give it all away!” That is true, but it gives me great joy!
I will say that none of this would be possible if I was not surrounded and supported by the most powerful group of praying women. Women who invest in me and my life. My advice would be to purposely plant yourself in a community. It doesn’t matter where you live or what you have going on, being planted into a community where you’re allowing someone to pour into you in all seasons of life is crucial. Find someone who is capable and willing to pray with you, walk beside you, and encourage you to become who God has called you to be.
Is there a specific story of someone you have been able to impact with the gospel that you can share with us?
While I’ve had many opportunities to talk with, listen to, pray with people that come into my store, there’s one lady that has changed me as much as I have changed her, and that’s my employee Joy. I really can’t tell my story without telling her story. We have built this store together.
I serve on our church’s preschool committee, and I first met Joy while interviewing her for a job at the church. Even though she didn’t get that job, there was something about her that I was drawn to. We connected. She needed a job, and I needed an employee. I called her and asked her if she would be willing to help me through Christmas. She agreed with the caveat that she didn’t know anything about the gift shop business. But she had the best attitude and a very rare work ethic that is not common these days. She poured herself into learning everything about the business. She studied our products and learned about each of them. She Youtubed, “how to wrap the perfect gift”, and now we are known for the best gift wrapping in town. That is all her and I give her all the credit. She is now the store manager and I can leave without a second thought. She has poured herself into learning every aspect of the business as if it’s her own. l realize how very rare it is to find an employee that will give herself to a business like she does. She shares in my desire to help others and is the most giving person I’ve ever met.
After we had been working together for a few years, she asked me to mentor her and study the Bible with her. I was very humbled and honored that she wanted to share that with me. We decided to come early one day a week. We would pray, and read God’s word together. As time has passed, the business has grown, and we have hired two more employees who have joined us in Bible study.
When it comes to Joy, I don’t know how big of an impact I’ve made on her, but she’s made a huge impact on my life. I cherish her and her family has become my family.
A special note from Joy, Leanne’s store manager mentioned above:
Working for Leanne is one of the best things that has ever happened in my life. I know that may sound extreme, but bare with me. Being an introverted, organized, over-thinker, I would nestle into a daily, pre-planned routine. Just when I thought that was the best way to live life, here comes Leanne Waugh.
At the very beginning of working with Leanne, I realized we had two very, very different personalities. One would even say “God has a sense of humor “ putting us together. I love my personal space, and she loves my personal space as well. I’m quiet and she is quite the opposite. I’m behind the scenes and Leanne is the star of the show. Completely two different puzzle pieces. And that’s exactly what we are for each other. She is the left hand and I’m the right. She loosens me up and I reel her back in. It works.
Southern Traditions is different from any place I have ever worked. Our mission is that we honor God and that every person that walks in our door feels His presence. Our desk has seen happiness, brokenness, tears of joy and of sadness. Raw, unfiltered emotions. We’ve prayed with customers, grabbed tissue, and sat and visited instead of putting up inventory because we know this customer needs our company. Working with Leanne has filled gaps that I didn’t know existed. She is my mentor, sister, and friend. God’s plans are beautiful and require faith. I am so grateful He brought her into our lives.
How do you keep yourself encouraged at the work you’re doing is valuable and worthwhile when the world’s temps women to believe otherwise? Are there any scriptures God has given you to keep you present in the work to which he’s called you?
Well, that’s a great question. For me, I think it comes down to my personal time with God, because when I neglect that, everything suffers. I don’t do this perfectly for sure. I mess up every day. But when I neglect that time with God, the world gets louder and the temptations get stronger, so I must stay on my knees. I must listen to the truth and guard my mind. What I listen to, who I listen to and just staying in His word keeps me encouraged day in and day out.
One of the first verses I learned in my Christian life was Luke 9:23. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
I think the Bible clearly teaches that we are born with a sinful nature, and we don’t need any help loving ourselves. We are very good at that. But Jesus said to deny ourselves and if we want to be his disciples, it is going to cost us. God is calling us to give up our will and our ambition, our sinful and selfish desires, to allow ourselves to be conformed into the image of Jesus. When we do that I think we discover His will and purpose for our lives. Following Jesus is easy when life runs smoothly; our true commitment to Him is revealed during trials. Jesus assured us that trials will come to His followers. Discipleship demands sacrifice, and Jesus never hid that cost.
The part about “taking up your cross” is something I’ve struggled with through the years. Why did he say that? What does that mean? In Roman times if you were carrying a cross, you were on your way to be crucified. Jesus was saying that following Him means you must be prepared for death if necessary.
The Bible says that we must be willing, if necessary, to forsake all that this world holds – even a relationship with our family if necessary – in order to follow Him. A.W. Tozer quoted this great illustration of the Christian life. “In every Christian’s heart there is a cross and a throne, and the Christian is on the throne till he puts himself on the cross. If he refuses the cross he remains on the throne. We want to be saved, but we insist that Christ do all the dying.” I’m convicted every time I hear that quote because there are days I want to be on the throne of my life. I want to be the king, the ruler of my life. I don’t want to relinquish control, but thankfully, we serve a loving God who loves and accepts us and forgives our sins. I realized that everything I’m doing is because of His great love and everything He’s given me is not of myself. It is all about Him and His honor and glory.
How can women find out more about your store?
We are Southern Traditions and our address is 3016 North College Avenue in Jackson, Alabama. Our phone number is 251-246-7321. We are on Instagram and Facebook. We’re still working on getting a website up and running. Please visit us on social media, and we will be happy to help you. We are happy to ship anywhere. You can call and speak to one of our amazing employees who would be more than happy to assist you by phone.
Work Done Well: Joanna Dennstaedt Joanna Dennstaedt Executive Director of Radiant Hope Connect with Joanna Dennstaedt Instagram Facebook Link Joanna is the founder and Executive