Sometimes we don’t know how strong we are until we are tested in one way or another. Joni Haynes of Moon Tuxedo in Kingsport, Tennessee, has needed to call upon her deep well of strength a great deal in the past five years as she supported her husband and business partner, Brian Haynes, through his cancer journey. Unfortunately, Brian passed away in January of 2019, after enduring constant chemotherapy treatments for Stage 4 colon cancer.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. I was born in Kingsport, Tennessee, and was in a military family that moved around a lot. We made our way back to the area for my high school years and I graduated in the top ten of my class with Honors from Sullivan North High School in 1997. I then attended ETSU and graduated in 2002, cum laude with a bachelor’s degree, and received the Faculty Award. I married Brian Haynes in 2003 and gave birth to Corbin Haynes in 2004. When Brian was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer in 2014, I started homeschooling Corbin and taking care of Brian, while continuing to run Moon Tuxedo, the business we purchased together in 2010.
Define a great leader. What are some traits you think great leaders possess? There is a notable difference between a great leader and a boss. A great leader can work with their employees, not just delegate orders. A great leader needs to understand the demands of the job, and how to teach by example and experience. She puts herself on the work schedule and continues to be an active participant in the daily tasks. A great leader listens to both her employees and her customers and is willing to make the necessary changes to be successful.
Tell me about how you got into your line of work. In 1999, one of my best friends was working at Moon Tuxedo. She suggested that I work temporarily during prom season. What started as a temporary position gradually became a permanent position, and I have been a “Moon Girl” off and on for 20 years.
How do you achieve work-life balance? Prioritize, organize, plan, and follow through. Try to eliminate the insignificant details, and get enough sleep. Take care of the caretaker. Create a schedule so that you end each day knowing you did your best, especially for your family.
Name three words that describe you. Hilarious. Dependable. Patient.
Do you have any hobbies or special interests? In addition to my love of formalwear and Moon Tuxedo, I am a cake decorator. Prior to purchasing Moon Tuxedo, I had a cake decorating side business called “Cakes by Joni”. I truly enjoy decorating cakes, baking, and making candy. In addition, as a young child I liked to write poems, short stories, and did journaling. I have continued writing and have even started a few novels that I never seem to finish. Perhaps one day I will write something that could be worthy of publishing!
How do you push through your worst times? I listen to my inner voice and follow my instincts. God will tell you how to survive if you listen carefully. I pray, I trust God will get me through, and I eat the damn cookie, just not the whole box.
What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization. As a formalwear store, my business is seasonal, so I budget accordingly. I make sure to hire employees who will care about the tuxedo being rented as much as the customer does. I strive to create a professional and modern image through advertisements, wedding show booth décor, and how the store’s showroom is displayed. Also, I work carefully to choose reliable companies to supply my tuxedo orders.
As a mentor to us all, what is one piece of advice you would give to readers? It can always get worse, but it can also get better. Time can’t be replenished, so cherish each second of everyday, even if the right now is terrible. Don’t forget to say, “I love you,” and just breathe.
What’s your superpower?My superpower is being able to maintain my sensibilities with humor and responsiveness, even during the most chaotic and stressful situations.