Today: How a widowed single mother with an 11 month old child built 2 successful businesses.
Joan Castle, known as J.C., born in 1912, graduated from UCLA with a psychology degree in the 1930’s, at a time when there were few female college graduates. It was a wonderful achievement but this was during the Great Depression and jobs were scarce.
To find work, J.C. swallowed her pride and attended Sawyer Business College to learn secretarial skills and in 1938, became a secretary to Eugene Joseff, a business powerhouse.
Known as Joseff, he ran Burbank, CA based Joseff of Hollywood which designed and created the magnificent costume jewelry worn by actresses in many of the major movies of that era, including “Gone with the Wind.”
But life wasn’t so glamorous for J.C. who, thankful to have a job, worked long hours to get ahead and to learn a wide range of business skills. Her hard work and knowledge paid off when in 1940, she became the office manager and she had already become indispensable to Joseff.
A crucial business tip she gave him, and then with his agreement, implemented, was to market his Hollywood costume jewelry through retailers to the public. It was a very profitable move for millions of women wanted to feel as pretty as the enticing actresses they saw on the screen and bought his costume jewelry.
When World War ll began in 1941, Joseff saw a great business opportunity and started a manufacturing operation to produce parts for U.S. military aircraft. By the time he and J.C. were married in 1942, making her Joan Castle Joseff, the military parts business was booming, and he turned the jewelry business over to her to run.
J.C. handled the costume jewelry sales and rentals to the movie studios, and also the retail sales and retailer publicity and promotions across the U.S. Both businesses were winners.
After the War, J.C. gave birth to the couple’s son Jeffrey and life couldn’t have been better as she was a wife and a new mother and she had a successful business career.
But suddenly tragedy struck. In 1948, when tiny Jeffrey was just 11 months old, Joseff was killed in a plane crash.
Like Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind,” J.C. had to wipe away her tears and become strong for her family and for her employees, as she helped them grieve, nurtured her baby and took over both businesses for in real life, there was no longer a Rhett Butler to help her.
J.C. did it with flying colors. Under her leadership, Joseff of Hollywood provided costume jewelry to thousands of movies and television shows and to many of the actresses at awards shows. She also oversaw the retail operations and even led the firm into the Internet age.
Aside from having sharp business acumen, how did this 5 foot tall dynamo do it? With Hollywood flash. A natural brunette, in the 1950’s and 60’s she died her hair blue, bright red, blond or other colors and had beautiful outfits to match.
J.C. was no shrinking violet, but a charming, determined entrepreneur who grabbed attention and closed deals.
As for the military business, J.C. became involved in government affairs and Republican politics and developed senior level professional relationships that even took her into social events at the White House. She could access decision makers.
Today, Joseff of Hollywood continues to market its classic costume jewelry, while Joseff Precision Metal Products makes aircraft and missile components. Both companies are led by Tina Joseff, Jeffrey’s wife and J.C.’s daughter-in-law.
As for J.C., she never remarried and she never retired.
But then at the age of 97, in March 2010, J.C. passed away of heart failure. However, that was a medical term for her condition. In life, her heart was always strong as she remained president of the companies, staying active to her final days, both as a businesswoman and as a grandmother to her two grandchildren and as a great-grandmother to their two children.
Success Tip of the Week:
As J.C. showed us, your ideal job may not at first appear but get in the door someplace and all sorts of wonderful opportunities may present themselves if you work hard enough for them.
The primary source for this piece was a Los Angeles Times obituary, “Joan Castle Joseff, Head of 2 successful Burbank companies.” http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/afterword/2010/04/joan-castle-joseff-jewelry-movie-stars.html
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