It started as a way to get help a group of teenagers stop getting into trouble.
Now, it’s blossomed into those very same teenagers launching their own shoe store — what one of the teens describes as the biggest opportunity he’s ever had in his life.
It all started when Nora Nivens’ 15-year-old son Dominic went briefly missing for 24 hours. His family filed a missing person report and his group of friends spent the day driving around looking for him.
He was found safe, but that prompted a serious talk from his step-father Adrian Nivens, who offered the teens a chance of a lifetime.
A chance to turn their lives around
“My husband sat with them and simply asked them, ‘Do you want an opportunity to change your future?’ They all nodded yes as they sat sprawled about our living room,” Nora explains.
“He told them he would help open a retail store of their choice for them to not only be employed at but to show them how to start a business and run a business. I have never witnessed so much hope in a teenager’s eyes as I did at that moment.”
Each of the teens has a story, and each found themselves a bit lost, getting into trouble, getting into fights, and skipping school.
“From the death of a parent to being attacked and beaten by adults resulting in permanent back injuries, to mental health and addictions. The one thing I have witnessed in their friendship is their loyalty and wish for something different,” Nora explains.
That’s how the idea to open a sneaker store called DRIP was born
“I have watched six boys who skipped school every day to smoke pot, drink, and fight now attend class, participate in a group chat professionally with our marketing manager we hired and do research for their business.”
Part of the problem was that the Airdrie teens were having trouble finding work, especially during the pandemic.
“They were just not able to get employment. And when they can’t get employment, they tend to get in trouble as teenage boys,” Nora says.
Nora and her husband Adrian decided to help fund DRIP by hiring a marketing manager, stocking the merchandise, and renovating the store for the boys.
They’ve spent the past few months planning for the store’s opening this weekend while training the teens in business, conducting weekly staff meetings, and learning how to run a business themselves.
Now, the teens have hope, ideas, and a business plan
While Nora and her husband are teaching the boys about business, the teens are tapping into their natural skills. The one thing they have in common? They all love their kicks.
“They all have ideas of what they want to do and they want to be able to give back to the community, and they have their own entrepreneurial ideas. And we support that,” Nora says.
They have had some mentorship from Lex Clarke, founder of the Lexington Ave shoe store.
“He showed up for their photoshoot for their Instagram, and they were really stoked about that because Lex is basically the man when it comes to sneakers in Calgary.”
An opportunity of a lifetime
For 17-year-old Tejay Watson, it’s the “biggest opportunity” he’s ever had in his life.
“Same for all the boys. We’re going from doing street stuff and being stupid little teens, to having to manage our business. It’s pretty crazy. It’s a big opportunity,” he says.
“We were all getting into some pretty dumb trouble for almost no reason. But this is definitely going to help us create our future and shape our future.”
It’s a daunting challenge but one the boys are ready to face head-on together as a team, Watson adds.
“We’re all really excited to do this together. When you work with your friends, it’s more cooperative and you’ll have the motivation to get the job done.”
For Nora and her husband, they’re proud of the transition they’re witnessing in the teens.
“I hope it works out for all of them. I think each of them is trying to find their path within it. And we’re here to support that. We want them to be a team… and just give them a taste of what it’s like to have their own space. We’re just guiding it from behind.”
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