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2022 Star Women in Grocery winner Sung Jo (Q&A)

Store Level Star
Sung Jo

Sung Jo

Store Manager
Mission Safeway, Calgary


How did you get into the grocery/CPG business? 

My journey with Safeway started in 2008 when I was looking for a part-time summer position. After working in the deli department for just one day, I knew this would be a special place to be. After a week, I knew I was here to stay! I’ve always been passionate about food, health, and business. But, this was a time when I was still grieving the loss of my mother to cancer. Being surrounded by a diverse team of ladies with common passions, along with a hard work ethic and love for making the best of every moment, I was able to heal and grow with the support of my work family. It was easy to fall in love with the culture and find passion for the business that has now turned into 14 years with the company.

Biggest challenge faced in your career?

These past few years have been the biggest growth spike for me as a business leader. I was tasked with balancing the needs of our employees and customers during the ongoing challenges that were being faced globally – supply chain, economy, regulations, and mental/physical health. This past year has been a reminder that a store is not just a simple grocery business, but a place where people from all walks of life come together to take care of one of the fundamental needs — food. It is also a place where a simple ten second interaction can cause a small, positive ripple effect on someone’s day. Our store is a familiar place for many of our customers, where our employees know them by their first name and share laughter with one another. It is a place where our employees come and feel pride. As a leader, I have been reminded of the importance of a successful business operation, but also what keeps it alive; the people and community within.

Balancing my personal growth and well-being while maintaining the above has been another challenge. With only so much time in a day, how do we maintain work-life balance when both aspects in life, work and home, are constantly expanding? My biggest challenge has been reconfiguring my task-oriented drive back to a passion driven mode, so that I am doing what I love in life all the time. Naturally, challenges just become opportunities.

Career highlight/greatest achievement?

The first time I met one of my mentors was during my interview for a management trainee position. He asked what my five-year goal was, to which I responded: “store manager.” Five years later, in the same room where that interview was conducted, we shook hands over the promotion as I had successfully achieved my goal. It was extra special as I was returning to the store I started at with Safeway, now as a store manager. That moment allowed me to finally take a step back, embrace my accomplishments and feel deep gratitude for the great mentors in my life.

Since then, I am currently operating the flagship Mission Safeway store, which generates one of the highest sales per square foot results in Alberta. Our departments have been winning sales contests developed by both company and vendors. As we are thrilled to provide healthier alternatives to our customers, we’ve reached top 10 in sales for Southern Alberta in the Organic/Natural Foods categories. Our team has been growing both the Diversity & Inclusion and Women’s Network Champion roles to continue to expand our bench strength and develop talent. But who are we without our community? We are now breaking records for company donation drives and independently supporting community fundraising efforts to help abused women and children in our downtown community. Our team is currently sponsoring three community groups to help feed the under privileged through our food rescue program.

Best career advice you have received? 

When success is generated, it becomes a repeatable process. Until then, create daily wins with a positive mind set, with intentions for growth and instilling successful habits. Never limit yourself to the title, or fear. Do what feels right. Invest in your wellbeing and growth.

What do you like most about your job?

People. Truth is, I am who I am in part to the guidance of countless mentors and kind words from people around me. It has been a nourishing career with tremendous support from my district operators, and I firmly believe my next goal is to create the same nourishing environment and opportunities to our growing stars. It is a proud moment to witness both the small and big wins of our employees. As success breeds success, it is satisfying to see all future leaders, both female and male, shine in the environment that supports diversity and equality.

What are your passions outside of work? 

I enjoy travelling to soak in the beauty of nature, food, and culture. Aside from spending time with people I love, I enjoy learning and taking on new hobbies such as fencing. It has been a personal tradition to select a simple yet meaningful theme on my birthday to dedicate the year to accomplish. As this year’s theme is ‘letting go of fear,’ I’m finally planning on multiple skydiving trips in B.C.

Click here for the full list of 2022 Star Women in Grocery award winners.

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