Jaime Johnson’s entrepreneurism started as a story of survival. Over 10 years ago she was unhoused and battling addiction. After some turbulent years, she landed at the abused women’s shelter in Trinidad where she was only allowed to stay for 30 days as a single woman without children. Instead of going back to the streets, Jaime decided to get sober.
“I was gonna become a strong woman.” She says of this time, “So I heard about roller derby and I joined to be a strong woman.”
Resilience & Roller Skates
Her intuition told her that the roller derby at Skateland in Trinidad would help her conquer her past and start a better life. And in more ways than one, it did.
After her allotted time at the shelter, Jaime didn’t have anywhere to go. She knew the owners of Skateland through roller derby, and they told her about an empty apartment above Skateland.
“So they let me move above Skateland. Roller derby saved me,” she says.
Jaime had been living at Skateland for nine months when the people that were leasing the business couldn’t afford it anymore. Jaime didn’t want to see it shut down, not only because she was working there, but also because it was the only place here in Trinidad for kids to go.
“The kids at Skateland reminded me of me. They just wanted a safe place – that’s all I wanted as a kid, you know?”
By rallying the community, she raised enough money to save Skateland and pay off the bills. The old managers kept it in their name for a few more years until Jaime could afford to take it over completely.
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
As the new owner of Skateland, Jaime followed the lead of the original owners, who founded the place in 1942. She had known the original owners’ son, Bronco Billy who died in 2001. In honor of Billy and his family, she restored the place to its original glory.
Jaime credits her success to the stellar leadership of the original owners, the Simolas; “It was very important for me to find out what they did, and how they made it successful. Everyone else was running it to the ground.”
In addition to re-inventing Skateland as a successful business, Jaime also started a new nonprofit program for the local kids.
The nonprofit, SoCo Clubhouse, helps at-risk youth find community by providing them with access to the fun things that keep all kids healthy.
For example, if kids can’t afford to skate, they can sign up as Skate Guards (for 12 years old and up) or Skate Ambassadors (for 8 – 12). By volunteering during the week, these kids can participate in Skateland programming for free.
Going Farther Faster with RMMFI
When Jaime started RMMFI’s Business Idea Lab, she needed support. As a formerly incarcerated person working several jobs in addition to running a business, she ran up against numerous business and personal problems that she didn’t know how to solve.
“I can’t thank this program enough.” Jaime says; “The marketing, the tracking – I didn’t know how to do any of that. I’ve already seen a huge improvement.”
As Jaime has continued into the Launch and the Thrive phases of RMMFI, she has nothing but gratitude for the lessons she’s learning. She shares that gratitude with her local community through her charity, but also, as a community advocate. Recently, she was invited to speak about her experience with currently incarcerated people.
“I’ve spent so many years trying to get that second chance and, but on paper, it’s almost impossible. Now, getting this experience [with RMMFI], I actually get a second chance and I can help people like me know that they can get a second chance too.”