PURSUER of Truth and Justice

Past Articles:
ONE ON ONE WITH JUNE ABOKSIS

By: Ellen Geller Kamaras

I’m very passionate about anything I get involved inHashem gave me the beracha of a successful business so that I could use the profits to help peoplewhat else is the money for?

I’mhonored to introduce you to June Aboksis, the woman who created Junee, the leading provider of modest clothing for girls and women.  In 2005, June became the innovator who opened the door to female apparel that was not only modest but also affordable, fashionable, and cool.

Let’s go back to June’s childhood and follow her on her trajectory to wife,mother, fashion trendsetter, baalat hesed,and grandmother.

Growing Up

Born and bred in the heart of Midwood, Brooklyn, to Sharon and Raymond Ashkenazi, June describes herself as a “regular Syrian girl.”  Her father is of Syrian and Halab descent and her motheris also Syrian and a native New Yorker.  Raymond, the oldest of eight children, was born in Syria. When he was five his family escaped to Israel where they struggled to make ends meet.  June says her father was always a giver, passing on hisown small portions of food to his younger siblings and children on the street.

Her parents met in Brooklyn when her maternal grandmother (a Syrian American) invited Raymond into her home, and the rest is history!

Raymond was an entrepreneur, primarily in the “shmata” business. Sharon wasa stay-at-home momwho also assisted Raymondwith business paperwork.  June’s parents were, and still are, her role models, motivating her to help people in any capacity that she can (more on that below).

June is the middle child, one of four children (her one brother, Joey, a”h,was tragically killed at 16 by a drunk driver).

June is an open book about her school years.  Academics were not her strong suit and she honestly says, “I truly believe I had major ADHD - I couldn’t make it in yeshiva or public school. I was not book smart, but I was always street smart.”

June attended East Midwood Jewish Center elementary school and public high school (she also tried other yeshivot). When she was 16, she told her mother that she was leaving school. Her mother said she could quit school if she worked, and June quickly found a full-timejob in a Wall Street jewelry store.  June always loved working, starting at 12 when she went to work for her dadduring winter break.  She prides herself on her strong business sense that she inherited from her father.  Raymond was self-educated and was a successful clothing entrepreneur.

Marriage and Family

June met her husband, David Aboksis, at 22.  His brother’s friend introduced them and they were married before her 23rd birthday.  Like her father, David was in the “shmata business.” David is of Moroccan descent.

From a religious perspective, June calls their observance during the first years of her marriage to David as traditional.  She makes a distinction about the lives they led with their first three children, versus the yearsafter she gave birth to her second three children.  The couple gradually became more observant, and David longed to close his business on Shabbat.  He started to study with Rabbi David Cohen at Beth Shaul U Miriam, and both June and David understood that they could provide a better, more spiritual life for their family by becoming shomer Shabbat.

June’s initial foray into business ownership was when she bought closeouts of pajamas for babies and children and sold them for $5 each.  She was a big hit and became known as the pajama lady.

David decided to partner with his savvy wife. June and David opened their first women’s clothing store, Junee, on 46thStreet and 18thAvenue in Boro Park in 2005.  The Avenue J store followed six months later.  Both stores were a big success and David closed his own business.  Thirteen years later, June lovinglysays, “David is still the best partner.”

Junee

I was in awe of the massive warehouse that I walked into on McDonald Avenue.  Racks and racks of colorful clothes reached to the ceiling. Young men and women were at their desks talking to customers and filling wholesale and online orders.  June also supervises a number of designers and merchandisers.

June was dressed casually and modestly. She nonchalantly mentioned that she was sitting in her husband’s office and doesn’thave an office of her own.  Consistent with the line of clothing she created, June is a very unassuming person.

Down to earth and unpretentious, June considers herself an ethical entrepreneur who totally believes in healthy competition and that there is enough business to go around.

June’s vision was to provide affordable and tzanua clothes for women.  This dream developed as she and David became more religious.  She explained that when she started her business in 2005, there was no Zara, no Forever 21,or H&M.  June was the first to come up with Junee, the forerunner and modest version of the affordable and hip women’s clothing stores that exist today.

Junecreated a niche in the community and brought “modest, inexpensive clothes to life-clothes you wear if you are Jewish-for teenagers to women-clothes to wear on Shabbat, to parties, on dates, and to school.”

June is especially proud of the Junee shell and the Junee skirt (the wrap skirt) that she crafted.

Accomplishments and Challenges

June has been able to keep her unassuming and laid-back nature throughout her skyrocketing career.

She and David grew Junee and now have retail stores in Brooklyn (Boro Park and Flatbush), Lakewood, NJ, and Lawrence, Long Island.  Their wholesale business is global (U.S. includes cities such as New York, Chicago, Denver, and more), Canada, Israel, France, Italy, the U.K., and Panama). Junee also has a large online presence.

June and David worked very hard during the early years.  “For eight years, we put our lives into Junee.”  Now they are so proud to be training their children to take over.  I met two of their sons when I visited the warehouse.  June’s sister Jaclyn has also been a valuable partner in Junee since 2008 and helped to launch Junee Juniors. 

What Excites June About Her Business?

June believes that Hashem blessed her with a successful business so that she could help people.  Simply put, she says, “What else is the money for?”  Her favorite project is the Hanukah toy drive when June, her family, and staff, deliver games and toys to children in seven local hospitals and other organizations that provide services to children and adults with special needs and challenges.  June is passionate about not-for-profits, such as Yachad, HASC, Otsar, and Kids for Courage.  She also employs young people from Yachad and HASC at Junee.

June is an inspirational speaker. She works with young girls at risk, and she fervently supports the programs at Ohr Naava Women’s Torah Center.  During Hurricane Harvey, Junee sent $50,000 worth of clothes (wholesale price) and obtained 700 pairs of shoes from other vendors to send to the Jewish community in Houston.  June jokingly told me, “I know I did something right. My son said, ‘Mom, we have to send more.’”

All Junee clothes left over from end of season sales are donated to not-for-profits.  People come to the warehouse and are given large black garbage bags to fill with clothes for $5 each.  I saw this first hand when I exited the Junee headquarters.

June’s parents modeled the values of kindness, generosity, compassion, and empathy, fueling her burning desire to help people.  Her father’s benevolence as a poor child in Israel and his philosophy of hakarat hatov and giving back, all contributed to who June is today.

Passions and Hobbies

June’s #1 passion is her family.  She “worked crazy hard” for many years to build Junee and now her priority is family, and the business is #2.

“Now is the time for the new me,” June says. “I babysit for my grandchildren before going to work. I am learning to chill out, sitting at a pool or on the beach, reading a book.”

June also carves out alone time to travelwith her husband.

June’s Secret Sauce

June shared that her secret to success and the qualities needed for an entrepreneur to thrive. She includes being confident, believing in yourself, listening to other people who are smarter than you and have more experience, and having an open mind.

What’s Next?

A new Junee mega department store is coming soon to Brooklyn.  June is also working on a Plus size line.

Advice to Aspiring Entrepreneurs?

“Keep your eyes open, there is always something new to learn. That’s the challenge of life.”

Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach.  Her coaching specialties include life, career, and dating coaching.  Ellen helps people find their passion, purpose, and positivity in life and relationships. Ellen can be contacted at ellen@lifecoachellen.com(www.lifecoachellen.com).