Sometimes life decides to truly test our strength, and that was definitely the case for Tessa Chamberlin of Coolz, a smoke shop in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Just a few years ago, Tessa had life figured out. She was busy working in the corporate world for an oil company and life was good; things were secure and busy. But as a single mom of two daughters, the fast-paced corporate world was no longer something that worked for her. Tessa wanted to be around her daughters, now seven and nine, much more than she could be while working in the field she was in. She decided to leave corporate America and found a job at the school her daughters attended to be closer to them.
Tessa worked at the school for a while as a paraprofessional helping autistic children and coached the girl’s basketball team as well. Then, due to budget cuts, Tessa found her hours greatly reduced and eventually no longer had a job. So she went out to find something new.
However, finding a new place in the workforce would prove to be a true test of character, strength and flexibility. She was too skilled for most of the positions in her area. “McDonalds would not even hire me,” she recalled, “they actually told me I was over qualified to work there.” Tessa eventually found a bookkeeping job, but that alone was not enough. So she continued her search.
“Then I heard that this smoke shop in the area was hiring. And I didn’t even know anything about smoke shops or the products that they sold,” admits Tessa, “but I drove to the smoke shop anyways.” After driving by three times building up the nerve to go in, Tessa finally went inside and ended up getting hired that day as a cashier.
Tessa initially planned on only working there for two weeks, “I remember telling them just two weeks, just two paychecks,” she said. However, less than 30 days later she became a manager, 45 days in she was completely managing the books, and within 90 days of hire, Tessa was running the shop. She began to make changes to the shop and, with the help of her partner Billy Martin, eventually turned it into one of the most successful smoke shops in Oklahoma City.
One of the biggest factors of Tessa’s success is customer service. “We have people that come
In less than a year, while working at the shop, Tessa has personally helped 111 customers become clean and sober of all drugs by teaching them about a product called Kratom and what it can be used for. Since working in the shop, Tessa has found that her passion lies with people, and more importantly, helping them lead better lives. This dedication to her customers and taking the time to truly get to know them is a big part of the success she has found. “I know each one of [the people I’ve helped] individually, they all have my cell phone number and I offer support to them. Its just an amazing thing,” she says.
The process of helping those who visit her shop break free from the constraints of addiction is not something the shop advertises, this is the extra effort Tessa puts in to her business to really make the atmosphere of the shop one that is truly welcoming and comforting. “When certain people come in, I look at them and I just know. And then I’ll tell them, ‘I can help you.’ And I do,” she says. “These people come in and they don’t know what they are looking for but they know they need a change in their life,” Tessa continues. A change she can help them achieve. Tessa types up brochures for her customers with information about counseling and AA, and things that can be beneficial to those who truly need it on their journey to become sober.
After three months of meeting people from all walks of life and helping people with Kratom, Tessa met a man who’s story is one worth sharing. “This bum came in,” she begins, “He smelled. He scared me; I wasn’t even going to talk to him. So I walked back in to the break room to get away and desperately wanted to just leave the store.” The man was looking for something, and wandered around the shop for a while. Once she built up the courage, Tessa headed out to talk to him.
“I found out that he had been a Heroin IV user for over 17 years and 11 years prior he had lost touch with his wife and kids because of his Heroin addiction,” Tessa recalls. “Something in my heart told me to help him. So I helped him with the Kratom regiment,” she says.
Flash forward 30 days. “This really handsome man can in to the shop with a beautiful woman and he said, ‘Do you remember me?’ And I told him I was sorry but I didn’t remember him at all,” she continues. The man soon told Tessa that he had been in 30 days prior and that he was in fact the bum from the street she was initially going to avoid. To Tessa’s surprise the man told her that the woman he was with was his wife he had not seen in 11 years, and he was coming in to thank her. “I get choked up,” Tessa admits, “Because it’s not just that story, there’s so many. I never did drugs, but I grew up around drugs and they had an impact on my life. So I really feel like this is why this smoke shop had an opening for me.” Today the man, who was once a bum, resides in Texas with his wife and gets to see his children and grandchildren thanks to Tessa and her dedication to going above and beyond for her customers. “It was honestly a wake up call for me,” says Tessa, “I stereotyped that man, and ever since then, I make an effort talk to everybody. I don’t judge. It was such a humbling experience.”
“I used to hate on smoke shops and now I’m just loving this life and everything that I’ve accomplished. We have people come from all over to visit our shop and it makes me feel proud that I could be a part of that. I’ve never been in this world before, but I’ve met many wonderful vendors who have really helped me achieve success. Now I can’t think of doing anything else,” Tessa confesses.
“My staff is also huge part of my success,” she continues. “They are like a family to me and have been here with me since I started. Without them I honestly wouldn’t be here. It’s unusual to have such a strong crew in a smoke shop; it’s the type of business that normally sees multiple employees move through, but for me it was different. I’m really thankful for that,” adds Tessa.
“I want more women to know that they can be successful, and to know that we don’t have to put ourselves in a box and do one kind of job. I want people in general to know they can do this,” she says.
The journey that Tessa Chamberlin endured to get where she is now was hard. It tested her in a million and one ways and taught her to work hard to build relationships. Armed with a an amazing dedication to customer service, a strong staff, and a heart that truly cares about every face that walks into Coolz, Tessa has found success and will continue to do so in the years to come. SSA