By Barney Blakeney
Her earlier career in corporate America taught Georgetown native Jocelyn Patterson many things, among them is that success can be obtainable when one pursues their passion. Patterson’s passion is shoes. In April she’s launching production of a line of shoes which incorporates her passion, business acumen and her love of Gullah culture. She hopes others will share in her pursuit.
Patterson is a former financial advisor. After spending much of her adult life since graduating from Clark Atlanta University with a B.A. Degree in Mass Media Arts/Public Relations, she wanted to make changes. While still working in Los Angeles as a financial advisor, she decided to engage her passion – shoes – and opened an online shoe store. Following her nature and training, for more than two years she meticulously built the business with help from a marketing team. Eventually she stepped out on faith and quit her day job. Again nature and training kicked in. Patterson decided to buck the trends and develop her own shoes.
Her business ties led her to one of Europe’s most prestigious shoe design schools, Italy’s Ars Sutoria Footwear Development School. While taking a 13-week course she lived in Italy and learned to design shoes. “The journey I took that got me to Milan was remarkable! That sense of purpose I was searching for was driving me. April 2013 I was back in the U.S. ready to begin my purpose driven life!” Patterson reflected.
Back in New York she slept on her step-sister’s sofa and found work as an unpaid intern for an emerging shoe designer. That job led her to freelance work marketing shoes for two African shoe companies seeking to enter the U.S. market. “It was a great opportunity at the time, but shortly after I knew it wasn’t the right opportunity for me,” Patterson says. “After a year and half of hustling in New York and freelancing for other footwear designers, I decided to return to Georgetown in 2015.”
Patterson says she was a little disheartened, but still was determined. “I got a job to pay my bills and the journey to starting my own shoe collection began. From 9-5 I worked at my job and from 5-9 I worked on my shoe line. I had no idea what kind of shoes I wanted to design, but I kept sketching and visualizing what my collection would be.”
A day trip to Charleston led Patterson to an epiphany. “There’s something about the ‘Holy City’, I felt a sense of inspiration,” Patterson recalls. “As I was walking down King Street, I came to the market center. It was a hot day and very crowded. I saw all the Sweetgrass basket vendors – women and men sitting weaving baskets and selling them to tourists from all over the world! It was a moment of joy because I knew that a piece of the Gullah Geechee culture was going with those tourists. In that moment I knew what I wanted to design! For the next two years, I researched the Gullah Geechee culture, spoke with many Sweetgrass basket weavers and began to design my collection. After a couple false starts, moments of giving up and not having funding, I am proud to announce the Gola Sweetgrass Collection!
In April Patterson will begin production of her collection of sandals inspired by Sweetgrass baskets.
The design of her Sweetgrass sandals is a mix of sweetgrass basketweaving materials and quality leather. The sandals are designed in Italy and made locally and in Mexico guaranteeing quality made sandals at an affordable price.
“Our sandals and location makes it possible for tourists to learn more about our company and the Gullah Geechee history, as well as create a buzz around the culture and community,” Patterson said. “What gives us the advantage are the quality, trend and style of our sandals, as well as, the history of the Gullah Geechee culture reflected in our sandals. Our sandals are for the young, middle aged and elder persons.”
Patterson sees her business as an expression of her passion and culture, but also as an opportunity. She hopes others will share her passion both as consumers and investors. Some 6.9 million visitors came to the Greater Charleston Area in 2017, a 26 percent increase from 2016, she notes. The economic impact in 2017 was $7.37 billion. That represents significant economic opportunities, says the former financial advisor.
She invites others to find out more about her product and its opportunities by contacting her at: www.golasweetgrass.com where subscribers may leave their email address so they can be notified when the brand launches; email address, [email protected]; or phone number, 424.248.9775.