Women in Business: Ellen Johnson

Posted in: Women in Business


Ellen Johnson, owner of Sand ‘n’ Sea Boutique, sat down with us to chat about her entrepreneurial story. “Our daughters had move from Timmins to Ottawa wanted to be closer to them, but not in their backyard.” After putting a big ‘X’ over the Toronto area they began to look for a place they wanted to live. They came through Napanee on a motorcycle, had lunch in Confederation Park while they enjoyed the waterfall and then drove through the community. “This is where we want to be,” they agreed.

Ellen found work for a little while in a business that eventually closed. Her sister, owner of Sand ‘n’ Sea in Thunder Bay that had been in operation for three years prior to Ellen and her husband Terry moving to Napanee. “This was my semi-retirement plan, I just started a little earlier than expected. We knew this was a good location for it and I had a background in retail accounting so I certainly had the skill set to do this and it’s just a lot of fun!”

Ellen says she loves all parts of business. She enjoys doing accounting and back office support although she says that “customer service is what makes business interesting and we specialize in customer service and fitting our customers and making sure they are going to find something they are going to love.” She especially loves when people go in and tell her travel stories. “We learn a lot from our customers.”

Since opening in 2010 they have undergone three expansions and she is happy to be able to have grown to a size where she can rely on her remarkable staff who are “equally well trained and able to take care of everybody who comes in.” If she could pass on any information to new entrepreneurs it would be to market your business. “If you want people to know where you are than you have to let them know. You can’t think that you are going to open a business and people are just going to magically find you. That was the key to our success.” Marketing a product is easy enough, but Ellen says “I like to be in the background. It took me a long time, and everybody told me from the day I opened, that I needed to be the face of my business and I find it really difficult … because it’s not about me, it’s about our customers.”

We are so glad she found our little town and decided to stay. “We come from small town, we love small town. We love how people look out for one another. Most of the businesses make sure they are not carrying the same product as somebody else because that’s not exciting for the customer. The customer wants to discover something new every place they go. It’s nice to be part of a community that has an eye on the future and is looking towards growth.”