So what does a young female, fresh out of college with a dual major in International Studies and Russian, and a minor in Criminal Justice have in common with a 20 year jewelry industry veteran who owns his own store? Plenty. Joanna Gruver Hudzik and Harold Ingram have overcome large generational gaps and opposing genders to expand upon an already established strong business brand in their small Virginia communities. What most of society considers an odd couple, Harold and Joanna consider an ideal business relationship.
“Harold and I have a great relationship,” states Joanna. “I couldn’t ask for a better business partner. I run the Hardy store and he has the Rocky Mount store and he lets me make my own decisions and my own mistakes.”
What started off as a part-time job while Joanna attended college quickly revealed tremendous career potential. Harold took notice of Joanna’s natural business talent during those first few years of employment and realized that “she was just a natural born salesperson.”
Joanna’s willingness to do more than what was asked of her confirmed Harold’s opinion that she would be successful in the industry.
“She brought me customers while she was working part-time and going to school,” Harold recalls. “She worked as much for us out in the community as she did behind the counter. She never just did her job and left. She always did more. I had no idea we’d be partners someday though.”
Harold had been running Haywood’s Jewelers since the mid ‘70s, after coming to work for his father-in-law, Rudy Haywood, in 1968. Learning every aspect of the business made him the logical choice to succeed his father-in-law in 1998 when Rudy decided to retire.
When Joanna came to work for Harold in the late ‘90s neither had any idea a new business partnership was right around the corner. When Joanna’s dream job didn’t work out after graduation she realized she didn’t want to leave the store or the industry. Harold wanted to keep her, but knew his daughter was ready to join the family business at the same time, and Haywood’s budget couldn’t sustain two new salaries.
Joanna proposed they open a second store which she would head up. After much conversation Harold finally looked at Joanna and said, “You come up with your half and I’ll come up with mine and we will open another store.” Joanna became an official business partner at 24 years old.
“Harold and I share everything relating to the business. I’ll call and discuss a situation and ask for advice and, undoubtedly, we think alike in the response. Although our partnership is different, we both care deeply about our customers, our community and our business ethics, and we really do see things in the same way.”
This “Odd Couple” shares more than just business philosophy. Joanna and Harold share a college alma mater as well as a love for running. Citing Harold’s ability to “run me under the table,” Joanna’s enthusiasm for her business partner is evident when she talks about Harold’s influence on her desire to run. The two have made it a tradition to jog together while on buying trips and have run races together.
“The first time we ran together my pride made me ask him to run behind so people wouldn’t think a 60 year old man was faster than I was,” laughs Joanna. “We always give each other a hard time.”
For Harold the advantage of having someone 30 years younger join the business has been great. When you ask him what she’s brought to the table he’s quick to tell you – youth. Having someone with youthful ideas, eager to learn better, new ways to run the business has been a huge advantage for the store. Harold sees the positive impact her enthusiasm has had on their business both in the community and in the industry.
“She’s brought youth to our business which is a very good thing. My staff and I are older and she’s brought new ideas to us and she attends seminars at tradeshows seeking out new information. She gets to know people easily and helps keep our business on the minds of the people around her. For someone so young her business sense has been amazing and our second store has thrived because of it.”
Together, this unlikely pair shares the same business priorities, the same desire to do whatever is necessary to keep their customers happy and the same drive to give back. They work alongside many charities including the Children’s Miracle Network, Roanoke Symphony, their local chambers, the Lions Club and the Rotary Club.
In fact, Joanna served as past president for their local Rotary Club and is currently president of the Lions Club. She is a past member of the board of directors for the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce, and is on the Alumni Board for Ferrum College.
Haywood’s Jewelers was awarded the Small Business of the Year from the Franklin County Chamber and Smith Lake Chamber, and is currently nominated for the small business of the year through the Roanoke Regional Chamber. They were awarded the Service Excellence Award from the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce and Joanna was awarded one of the SML Regional Chamber’s highest honors, The Norma Jean Teass Award for community leadership.
Together these two have made Haywood’s a thriving brand, full of possibility, with the side benefit of forging a strong business and personal friendship among two very unlikely people. The respect, admiration and freedom they give to one another is the core of such a strong bond.
As Joanna says, “Harold has run this store for so long people think he’s the actual Mr. Haywood and he never corrects them. He is the most selfless man who loves people and his community. We are such good business partners because we both have a love for the people in our community and we run our business based on what’s best for our communities. We love our customers and we both really, really love what we do.”