HAMPTON, Va. (April 30, 2019) – The Executive Chairman & CEO of Ashley Stewart, plus-sized clothing store, James Rhee, visited Hampton University to speak to students about how to be successful in life.
“We welcome Mr. Rhee to our ‘Home by the Sea.’ Thank you for sharing your experiences and business acumen with our students. Your leadership exemplifies THE Standard of Excellence we strive to instill in each of our students,” said Dr. William R. Harvey, Hampton University President.
Students from the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications, and from the James T. George School of Business, were invited to listen to Mr. Rhee talk about, “Money/Life - How it all Works,” where he spoke about things in life that are empirically true, like time, math, kindness and love. “How can you invest your money well if you can’t invest your time well?” Rhee asked. “If you invest your time wisely, you’ll get a return.”
Mr. Rhee spoke about coming across Ashley Stewart boutique stores, primarily serving plus-sized women in urban communities, which was founded in 1991 but was facing bankruptcy. Mr. Rhee said, “It was a failed business. There was no Wi-Fi in the stores, no computers, they were behind and there was a toxic work culture.” He said he would give it six months to try and turn the stores around. “I’m relentless. I’ll fight,” Rhee said.
Ashley Stewart has become a safe space for the women who not only work there, but that come into the stores. “It’s not about the clothes. It’s about friendship, self-esteem, kindness, and confidence,” said Rhee. Thanks to his leadership, sales have gone up, e-commerce has gone up and Ashley Stewart now even gives out scholarships.
The Hampton University students who attended Mr. Rhee’s presentation gained knowledge and information they can use not only in their future careers, but in life.
“I wanted to gain more insight on the business world and opportunities you never think you may have. It’s not every day you get to sit down with a CEO of a major company and learn from his business model and what steps he took to get where he is today. Mr. Rhee is a minority leading a minority fashion business and that’s not really something that happens in your day-to-day world,” said Brenton Nesbit, sophomore, business management major from Atlanta, Ga.
Kenya Waugh, senior, strategic communications major from Washington D.C., has been aware of Ashley Stewart for many years, mainly due to her mom. “My mom has been a big fan of Ashley Stewart since I was young and I’ve always admired their company values, how they uplift women that aren’t as accepted in society, and I’ve always liked what they stood for as a company,” said Waugh. Even though she has mainly spent the past four years studying public relations, Waugh saw a need to attend the presentation for her future career. “PR’s focus is about branding, how a company is perceived, down to the logo, the colors you choose, and that’s what we’ve been studying, but I wanted to learn the business side as well, because it will make it easier for me to brand a company if I understand the business side,” said Waugh.