Anthony Mock, owner of a Monroeville-based jewelry business, and employee Terri Hogan-Williams talk about the importance of relationships at work following the pandemic. Mock also lifts the curtain on how doing what you love matters and on his journey into the custom-made jewelry business.
Jourdan: Welcome back. We are here with another episode of “From the Source” with another interesting source, another Pittsburgher, in this case, two people you should know. Their names are Terri and Anthony, and they are boss and employee. But they would probably describe the relationship as brother and sister.
Terri: Before, in the past going to work, you wake up like, oh, my gosh, OK, I can't. I don't do that. I'm OK to come to work and go home and I'm not stressed out from work. We really have like a family.
Anthony: I'm not that type of person who will just start cutting people because things get bad. Naw, let's just figure this out. You know, we have to, there's a remedy to all this. It's dollars.
Jourdan: You'll be hearing more from them later. Let's start with this. There's a nonprofit called SaverLife. They assist people in saving money by making it a game, making it fun, giving them challenges and goals to complete saving with a twist. The goal is to make sure that people are able to save enough money for emergencies and to be financially stable so that they can plan the future of their dreams in a more long term and assured way.
Neha Gupta- VP, Market Development at SaverLife: Really trying to help people actually save for those emergencies. And then they feel kind of more stable financially so that they can actually start planning longer term after that.
Jourdan: This is Neha Gupta, the vice president of SaverLife. Every year in March, SaverLife sponsors a contest called Tax Time Story, and it's intentional that they plan around tax time.
Neha: The tax refund that people receive is usually actually the single most important time that they could save. So like the biggest check that they might see. And so as part of trying to make it fun, interesting, we have the story contest where we decided to ask people, hey, if you could actually gift your tax refund to somebody, let's say we're asking you normally to save it, but can you think about who you'd want to help with it?
Jourdan: This year's contest was focused on a theme of giving; they asked SaverLife participants who they would give their tax refund check to and why. The winner would receive $5,000 and split it with the person they nominated in their submission. Around 200 submissions were entered, but the winning submission came from Pittsburgh, from a woman named Terri Hogan-Williams. She wrote about her boss, Anthony Mock, owner of Mock and Company Jewelry in Monroeville.
Neha Gupta: What stood out for us about Terri's story was that she was nominating, her boss, honestly, like there's a lot of mother daughter stories, family members, which we love, too. I mean, there's no harm in nominating that as well. But like the idea that an employee would be so grateful to her boss that she would actually nominate this person. And then when we heard Anthony's story, just that whole I mean, obviously just seems like such a great person for us to honor.
Jourdan: Apparently, Anthony had been blessing people all throughout the pandemic. He gave his employees a very generous Christmas bonus, paid for not one, not two, but 25 families’ utility bills during the Christmas season to give them a little hope during a very trying time and often does random acts of kindness for people all while running his own business and taking care of his own family, which includes his wife and four children, making sure that the paycheck was never missed and that everyone feels respected and cared for.
Terri: And they, like you, will do nothing for yourself. But he'll give, give, give, and he makes sure that we're always OK no matter what. And he can't help it if it's out of his heart. That's why a lot of he's like I don't want nobody to know, but sometimes I want them to know because I want them to know that, like, it's not where it comes from, this is just who he is.
Jourdan: Terri said she would give her tax return to Anthony in a heartbeat just to let him know how appreciated he truly was.
Anthony: I've always worked for people who are just like tyrants. Were just so mean. And you'd be so nervous going to work the next day and like, what did I do wrong and make a mistake. I didn't want an environment for the people I work with. I love every single person I work with. I want to make sure their family is fed just as much as I see my family being fed.
Jourdan: Isn't their dynamic super unique? I mean, people work together in the same context and environments day in and day out, and often it fosters special relationships, special bonds, but theirs is a little bit different because of the giving nature that Anthony has expressed and shown his staff. So this got me thinking on this question: What is the working relationship of your dreams that you would, that you really can't even imagine having with your boss, what does it look like? How does it function? What are your boundaries? What are you asking for? How do you show mutual respect? How do they show mutual respect? How amazing would it have to be for you to willingly offer your tax return to them? On this 11th episode of From the Source, in just a minute you'll hear more from Anthony and Terri on the dynamics of their work relationship, what respect looks like, boundaries, and how far bosses should be willing to go to look out for their employees.
Jourdan: When you applied, were you hoping that you would win or did you know that you would win?
Terri: See the crazy thing is, I kind of knew. I told him about it and it's like he's going to kill me because No. 1, he does not like anybody knowing nothing he does. And for me to keep quiet even when he just does I'm like Anthony you should. I mean, you know, he's like no. And I was reading other people's stories that were entering the contest, too. And I was just like, well, you know what at least somebody else might read it, just I just felt compelled to write it. I was blown away then. I kinda was like, oh my gosh, when they the news, they were like the news is out, I was like, Anthony is going to kill me.
Terri: I mean, his phone and the news calling. So he's like, Terri, what did you do? I'm like, Oh, gosh.
News Segment: And while Anthony didn't want the attention shining the light on helping other people, he says, it’s a blessing.
Anthony: Because it makes me happy to have someone say that they're happy being an employee here, you can't beat that. I mean, it’s the world to me, because it's almost like a family.
News Segment: Humble hero there. Terri and Anthony will split the $5,000...
Terri: But at the end of the day, I'm really, really, really grateful, I think being a Black jeweler. That's not something that young Black kids even think about.
Anthony: We were booming in COVID and we did really, really good. So my heart and then my path has always to take care of people, take care of me. I'm just happy that we were able to survive and sustain during that time. I never was a person that like ya know, I give and looking for the camera, hey, look what I did. I was always taught that give and it'll come back to you. But give out of your heart; it's not meant for, ‘I did this. This is me.’ This person needs to be blessed, and you bless them without looking for a handout.
Jourdan: How did you get into that? What was the family business? Did you work for someone? What did you like, what attracted you to it?
Anthony: I was a troublemaker in school and my principal was like, you need to find a job. You need to find something to do. And I'm tired of seeing you in this office. So I was like, OK, I'll go look for a job. And then I went to the mall and I found a little kiosk and I applied there and I got the job and he did repairs on jewelry. And I was like, man, like I'm going to learn this you know, I was never really into school. I was never a college type of person, but I always was good with my hands. I was like, well, maybe I could learn this. I was watching him do it. And I was like, can I learn? He was like, no, I'm not teaching you. So when I would study his hands while he was working and when he would leave to go home for the day, I would mimic what he did. So I would practice. And he was like, are you touching my tools? Are you using my stuff? I'm like, no, no, I'm not using, I just I sat at your bench. And then one day he was like, we're on the like the lower floor of the mall. And he was walking around the mall watching me practice. And he's like, you're really practicing what I did today. I'm like yeah, I really want to learn this. And he said, well, I'll teach you some things. And there was another teacher who taught me some things. I worked there also. So I got good really quick. The mentors I have in this business, I made them notice me where I was like, look, you know, I know this. I'm already by myself in this world, there's no other Black person. So I found a lot of like Jewish mentors and just say, hey, look, can you teach me, can you let me just... I'll work for you for free. You know, I'll clean your desk and do whatever you want me to do. Just can you just teach me? And they did teach me. I learned a lot, but it wasn't like, you know, showed me how, they just let me study. They're like with jewelry, you study their hand, the hand movement and with like the diamond side, I would study how they would order the diamonds. I would study how they would loot the diamonds and look for the clarity and color and all where now I'm one of the best eyes in the business where I can study a stone and I don't even have to really spend too much time with it, you know. But it's something I've sort of made my mentors like, you know, notice me. With my first mentor, I think we went to his house, me and my wife went to his house for the first time. I dressed up like I was going to prom. Like I was, I was like look you don't know me. You don't notice me. You're going to help me get to where I want to be in life. And, you know, I was like, this is my girlfriend at the time. You know, I want to show this man that I'm not playing around. You know, I'm about business. And if you give me the opportunity, I won't disappoint you. And he gave me the biggest, gave me like $25 an hour to do his repairs. He also gave me like one hundred grand in diamonds. Here you go, I trust you just sell my diamonds and whatever. You get my money back, whatever. You don't sell it, give it back. I did that for close to five to six years and I was selling loose diamonds out of Giant Eagle bags. You know, I would sell them to good friends and trust me, it was a hustle. It was a straight-up hustle. I was doing things out the basement, out of the Giant Eagle bags. People would be like what's in your bag? I'd be like nothing, nothing at all. Not know I had like a million dollars in diamonds.
Jourdan: What I typically see when it comes to employee-employer relationships, the representation of that is a relationship that is fraught, that's uneven, that's unfair, that's hostile, that's filled with fear and anxiety because someone has say-so over if you can receive funds, take care of yourself and your responsibility to live. Please tell me about ya'll relationship as employee and employer and what's like your theory, like your vibe, your belief on how that relationship should go, what you do to keep that respectful, to keep it to where she wanted to give you her income tax.
Terri: I woulda scrolled right past that contest at any other place. Like that's not for me. Like nobody.
Anthony: We're like a family. It's all brother, sister relationships here. I want to make sure their family is fed just as much as I see my family being fed and. ya know whatever I got to do to make it happen, I'm going to make it happen, so I'm not that type of person who, you know, you know, we'll just start cutting people because things get bad. Naw. Let's just figure this out, because we have there's a remedy to all this. all it is is dollars. So we just got to try to find a way to get more of it and make sure we take care of. And I just like said, the relationship we have is I want to know more than you would working here. What is your husband like? What is your children like? You know, those type of environments where your her daughter is like my nieces, you know, and that's what I want to have that family relationship. And in a business atmosphere, you know, because it's pointless that you've been here eight hours in your day, you're clocking out and go home. And I don't know nothing about you. You know, you have your cover, you're watching over my diamonds a million dollars. And, you know, you go home and I don't know what your life is like if you're stressed out, baba ba ba, you know,I need to know if you're coming in under stress and you're, you know, something ain't right. I need to, you know, make sure you OK. You know, this is a lot of money. There's a lot of things involved here. And you can you can't tell someone you owe a bill to aye, you know, my sister stressed out we going to be able to pay, you know, so it's getting the details. Right. And each each person's relationship I work with. So.
Jourdan: What I'm taking away from Anthony and Terri is that if you don't genuinely care about the people who you work for, you work with, you're going to struggle with being a decent employee or employer. Now, it's between you and HR and your employees. Employers, what a caring, nurturing, respectful working relationship will look like. But I hope that wherever you are, wherever you are on the pyramid of work, that you're finding time to have real conversations about the emotional energy it takes to complete tasks to show up for your team and the things that will and won't be tolerated in trying to achieve success and whatever that means. For your context, it's clear here that the way we typically see the employee-employer relationship being depicted, doesn’t have to be the end-all-be-all, the hostile, fearful, anxiety-driven, unfair, fraught with tension-like relationship. Doesn't have to be, it doesn't have to be. It doesn't have to be. And maybe if people begin to implement Anthony's theory of how to build meaningful relationships, how work and what that takes, we can create a better working environment for our region and for our future.
This podcast was produced by Jourdan Hicks and Andy Kubis and edited by Halle Stockton. If you have a story you'd like to share, please get in touch with me, you can send me an email at J-O-U-R-D-A-N @ publicsource.org PublicSource is an independent nonprofit newsroom in Pittsburgh. You can find all of our reporting and storytelling at PublicSource dot org. I'm Jourdan Hicks. Stay safe and be well.