By Miela Fetaw
It doesn’t take much to get JohnRaé Stowers talking. The vibrant owner of JazzyRaé Jewels & Accessories is passionate about the role her business and black women play in the community.
After seeing a family member in a fashion show in St. Louis, she returned to Milwaukee inspired by what she had seen. She knew Milwaukee “needed this.” She soon started planning her business in her basement in May of 2011. She called it JazzyRaé, a combination of her name and the word ‘jazzy’. Her cousin had a boutique in East St. Louis called Jezebel and for a while were sister stores. On Saturday mornings she’d provide coffee and doughnuts and women would come in her home and shop.
“Women would linger and talk, but we didn’t have the space to do it,” Stowers said.
After running a business in the basement of her home for three years, she realized she needed a larger space.
In 2014, she rented a studio space from RJ Harris Photography.
“It was small, but it was mine,” Stowers said.
She wouldn’t rent for long before she realized she needed an even larger space.
In late 2014, she found the perfect place.
“I remember being really nervous about it and having my husband come and take a look at it and say, ‘This is the one’” was reassuring,” Stowers said.
Stowers would acquire the space in January of 2015 before opening in March of that same year.
But it isn’t the clothing and accessories that makes the brand.
JazzyRaé is a place to be comfortable, talk and laugh.
“We talk about everything from being a wife, to being a mom, to our careers, to networking… This is the one place where it’s all about the customer,” Stowers said.
Her business focuses on all aspects of womanhood. Annually, they hold a Diva Brunch focused on the importance of girl empowerment. The all-woman vendor event highlights real estate, financial planning, career help, hair and clothing, shoes and much more.
They also put together a team for V100.7’s Sista Strut Walk to raise money for breast cancer awareness and recently held a vision board party.
“It doesn’t feel like work here. Of course we have to price and advertise, but I can be honest with people and I can be myself,” Shop Manager Marina Murphy said.
Murphy and Stowers met at Marquette University while Murphy was a student in the Office of Student Educational Services (OSES) and Stowers worked at the university.
Murphy started as a social media intern and now manages shop operations.
“JazzyRaé is a brand to believe in. Not only is it a bomb place, and not only is our stuff cute, but the culture is very empowerment focused,” Murphy said. “It’s bigger than us.”
Murphy credits the environment for the success and safety of the business.
“It’s a place of peace for a lot of women,” Murphy said. “They come here to chill and listen to music and celebrate with us.”
The business has hosted several in-store events, even bringing in a bartender to the shop for wine-tasting.
The shop’s values include: community engagement, girl power and statement accessories. This year’s initiative is on creating financial peace.
Stowers commends good customer service on returning customers and making women feel known and appreciated.
“The ladies that shop with us are divas,” Stowers said. “Being a diva is a superpower.”
Back in the day, her mother would win all the fashion shows. Stowers gets easily excited about fashion when she finds something new or different. She believes fashion can be a form of expression and liberation.
She strives to be an example of a businesswoman, being an example of possibility.
“May God bless me so I can bless others. I can’t walk in my purpose if I’m struggling,” she said.
Her store currently hosts other smaller businesses or “girl power partnerships”, including: Distinctive Designs by Tomira, Shoe Therapy and Tckld Pnk.
She praises God, her family and support system and good energy to helping her be successful.
“When you’re in a position, you have a responsibility.”
Stowers wants other black women to be encouraged to create and own something for themselves.
“I don’t know a successful business person that can help me, so I want people to be successful based off my trial and error,” Stowers said. “I want to show the community that black women are here and we are doing things,” Stowers said.
Her biggest tips on starting a business?
1. Just do it.
2. Write your plan as you go.
3. Stay true to what’s for you and walk in your purpose.
4. Trust the process.
Stowers hopes to continue to be an example and highlight the magic of black womanhood and providing a sanctuary space for black women at her shop.
JazzyRaé Jewels & Accessories is located online or in store at 4307 W. Vliet St. or at jazzyraejewels.com