Archive | April, 2013

April Employee of the Month

30 Apr

Every month we pick an employee of the month.  The employee of the month is someone who works hard and meets or exceeds our employee expectations. These expectations include:

  • following directions
  • having a positive attitude
  • practicing good customer service including making eye contact & smiling
  • wearing a uniform when scheduled to work
  • washing their hands before working and practicing proper food handling
  • increasing knowledge of prices & products
  • Making an effort to learn money math skills including adding purchases, making change and using a cash register

This month, Marlena Williams, was our employee of the month.

photo (2)


Marlena is one of our happiest employees. She is always smiling, joking and making everyone laugh.  She has learned a lot over the past year. She understands that to be a good employee, it is important to have a good attitude even if you might not feel like working.  She knows all of the store’s prices and can ring up purchases on our cash register.

Marlena said, “I like working at the Swanky Swine because I get to work with my friends.  I also really like wearing the shirt.  My favorite thing is doing the cashier so I can learn how to give out money to the customers.”

Marlena commented that the the hardest thing about work is “when the kids (the customers)  try to rush me and everybody wants this and that right now. It’s ok though,  I just say wait your turn and I’ll help you when I’m done.”

She also talked about how she learned to handle the stress of working a busy shift.  “When I’m stressed out I tell myself in my mind to stay calm and don’t worry and all that other stuff  and most of the time that helps.”

Congratulations Marlena!


The Tampa Bay Times

27 Apr

Last week we were so excited about being featured in the Tampa Bay Times!

Click here to see the article on their website.  The students were thrilled to read the story and to see their names in print.  One of them said, “I can’t believe our store is so popular!”


After the excitement died down, we shifted our focus to our upcoming golf tournament. The parent board at our school, Woodlawn Community Academy, is sponsoring a charity golf tournament on May 4th to raise funds for our  transition program.  We’ve been asked to set up a drink stand on the course.  This will be our very first public event and we can’t wait.  We spent this week perfecting our customer service skills for the event.

photo (1)

We developed a script for closing out sales.  In class, we practiced ringing up orders and making eye contact at appropriate points in the conversation.  Everyone had a turn playing both the employee and the customer. During our weekly shifts at the Swanky Swine, we practiced with real customers.  Everyone has learned so much this year and it was great watching them put their new skills to work.

DSC_0093 DSC_0098

If you are interested in being a part of our golf tournament you can click here to find our more information.  As of today, there are over 100 golfers registered! If you are already signed up, be sure to stop by hole 14 where we will be selling several flavors of lemonade, swanky swine sugar cookies, bacon bourbon brownies and of course our Swanky Swag.  See you there!

“Making Change” in Chiang Mai

17 Apr

The Swanky Swine was created to “make change” in the lives of our students.

We believe that every person was created with a divine purpose and that each of us has the opportunity to “make change” wherever we happen to be.  We’re inspired by other individuals and organizations who work tirelessly and often sacrificially to transform lives.   We want to come alongside those people who are building bridges of hope out of hopeless situations.  We want to promote and support people who are “making change” all over the world.

At this time, we’ve decided to give a portion of our store’s earnings to Connie’s Home in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  You can read about this incredible organization and their mission below.  As we grow, we hope to support more non-profit organizations in different areas of the world.  We hope that this exercise will broaden our student’s worldview and teach them the importance of giving.

Making Change in Chiang Mai

Connie’s Home in Chiang Mai Thailand was started in 2001 by Americans, Richard and Connie Cummins.   This orphanage accepts babies and small children from the local government orphanage and from the national emergency hotline.  Right now, they have 15 children in their home whose ages range from 7 months to 4 years. Can you imagine having so many small children in one house?!

cummins 2connie 1

Most of the babies that live in the home were unwanted by their families.  Some were born to girls who did not want their families to know they had given birth.  Some families are too poor to raise another child so they give them up. Other mothers determine that their baby isn’t perfect enough and abandon them.  Connie and her staff believe that every child is a gift from God and has a divine purpose.  They welcome these babies into their home and love them and teach them until they are adopted by families.

new babykids in box

Connie commented, “We have one little baby boy that was left in a temple with a flower and the emergency hotline brought him to us.  I also just got a call the other day when they found a 2 hour old baby in the bushes. They were asking me to take it after it got out of ICU.” Unfortunately, this baby never made it out of the hospital.

Connie and Richard adopted one of the girls, Tip, into their own family.  “We brought Tip home when she was 3 months old weighing only 4 pounds and 10 ounces.  Tip is from a failed abortion.  She was sick for the first year of her life. She is now 12 years old.  She is a living testimony of God’s work and healing power.”

girls at table

Caring for this many small children is obviously a huge job! Connie and Richard have Thai girls from the juvenile center who serve out their time by working at the home.  While living at the home, these girls learn valuable vocational skills that will help them find work when they finish their sentence.  As we are also discovering, work gives young people purpose and drive and can be quite therapeutic.  One of the girls wanted to earn some extra money on top of her salary so Connie and Richard helped her start her own drink stand.  She is learning hands on some of the same skills that the staff at the Swanky Swine are learning! After she completes her sentence she now wants to attend business school and Connie and Richard will help her raise the tuition.

drink stand

While there are many challenges, Connie considers the work she does an honor.  It is hard to say goodbye to the children when they leave but Connie says the most rewarding part of what she does is “seeing God heal the babies and allowing them to be adopted by a loving family.  All the children that we get are weak, sick or under birth weight.” When they leave they are healthy, happy, accepted and no longer alone.

We are so thankful for people like Richard and Connie who selflessly give their lives to “make change” for children and young adults.  We are proud to support their orphanage and the important work that they are doing in Thailand.

eating dinnerlittle girlsdrawing

Our Newest Employee

16 Apr


This week our store is closed for our school wide standardized testing.  However, in the midst of our number two pencils and scantran forms we wanted to take a minute to introduce our newest staff member, Victoria.  Victoria is 18 years old.  She is the first new person our staff has had the opportunity to train.  On Friday, during Victoria’s first shift,  each employee took turns describing their jobs and sharing tips on being a good employee. It was great to listen to them share all they have learned including words of wisdom like these:

“Sometimes the customers order too fast but you can ask them nicely to slow down”

and “When you get stressed out, the best thing to do is to take a deep breath and calm down.”

Welcome Victoria! We are so glad to have you on our team!

Old Pros

5 Apr

After a great spring break, the staff at the Swanky Swine hit the ground running.  On Wednesday, a reporter from the Tampa Bay Times came to observe the store and interview our employees.  Logan talked to the reporter a long time and did a great job answering all her questions (even if he did tell her that math wasn’t his favorite class). Dimitri also showed her how to add new items to the inventory and Marlena gave her a full tour of the school.  Now that the employees have been on TV, the nerves seems to be gone. They are acting like old pros and absolutely love talking to the press.

The story is supposed to come out next week (4/10/13) and we can’t wait to read it.  We hope it brings attention to not only the importance of transitional service but also to our school, Woodlawn Community Academy.


We were also featured in this month’s issue of Good Living magazine!   You can see the issue by clicking here and we’ve posted a screenshot below.  Thank you to our parents and supporters who have shared our story!

Screen Shot 2013-04-05 at 6.36.54 PM

Today was also our busiest and most profitable day to date! The employees worked really hard and ran the whole shift with limited teacher support.  It’s amazing to see them gain confidence and improve their skills.  We are so proud to see how far they have all come this year and are excited to see them continue to grow in future years.


There are several ways to help support our students in this endeavor.  We are selling brand new t-shirts that were printed by our friends Merica and Jake Stum at Brooks Screen Printing (pictured below. Thanks Merica!).  They come in several shades of grey, are vintage cut and are only $20 (100% of the profits support the Swanky Swine).   We don’t have an online shopping cart set up yet but if you’d like one you can email us at or on Facebook.  We even have kids sizes!


We also have a golf tournament coming up on May 4th that will benefit our transition program. We will even have a Swanky Swine booth set up on the golf  course. Our employees are thrilled about our first public event! We’re looking for golfers and hole sponsors.  For more information visit our event page by clicking here.