Balancing Life and Business, a conversation with Jenna Hill owner of Frock Box
Meet Jenna Hill, a busy mama & owner of the fabulous subscription service, Frock Box. In just two years, she's grown from a small business that operated out of her basement to moving to a new commercial space in St. Albert at the beginning of December. YEG Inspired, had the joy of being able to sit down with Jenna for a few moments where she shared with us the challenges of business, life, motherhood and how the creation of Frock Box came to be.
YEG INSPIRED : Jenna, can you tell us how FrockBox began?
Jenna : We had just had our second baby, and it was hard to get out. It became where going out was a lot harder, it wasn't as easy as it was with one baby. You know, it’s hard, you’re being pulled in different directions, pushing strollers, juggling a baby & toddler. And, it was so expensive! Hiring a babysitter for two, seemed that much more challenging and the added costs just built up. Going to the mall with kids in tow, added new dynamics, it’s hard to take the time to coordinate outfits when you’re focusing on your kids. And then add in the challenge of dressing your body, with all the changes postpartum you go thru, knowing you don’t just magically fit into all your clothes again! There's that feeling during that period of time where you’re learning to dress your new body, for us the idea stemmed from that and it grew into so much more.
YEG INSPIRED: I love shopping, finding a great new top or pair of jeans but I absolutely hate having to shop from a store that's sized for just plus sized woman, I'm somewhere in the middle of a size 14 & 16. Making it sometimes difficult to find that trendy cute piece, I don't want to be labelled or categorized by a size. What makes Frock Box service different?
JENNA: We dress a wide range, from busy women, corporate women, the sixteen to the eighty year olds, to those that are limited in time and in a wide range of sizes from xs to size 3XL . Often we're limited by what the manufacturer sells or from the supplier but it's our goal to dress everyone in a multitude of sizes. When we started this, there was a real problem with plus size and the fact that we have to categorize it, into regular and plus, is disturbing. We are up against different challenges, vendors, manufacturers but to us, it’s important to bring in a lot of the same pieces in all sizes (though we can’t do it all the time because of those limitations), we believe everyone should be able to wear the same thing & not feel like they’ve been given restrictions. We want people to love where they are right now. Whatever you decide to do, for now just love what you have and hopefully, we can help find those pieces that make people feel great.
YEG INSPIRED: What’s your background?
JENNA : Nothing to do with this, I never worked retail, I didn’t know how to tag a shirt. I really didn’t know anything. What’s a SKU? I didn't know, I had to learn quickly. My original background is marketing, sales, photography and design. Really, I love building companies. I love seeing something go from nothing to something! I’m drawn to that. So when this happened, it drew a little more from my interests, which were fashion and then the rest was a whole bunch of learning because nobody, really has a background in subscription boxes. It’s such a new thing!
YEG INSPIRED. I had heard of the kids-craft style subscription boxes through educating circles three or four years ago, and now there's more catering to a wide variety of interests, fashion, fitness, dogs but mostly I find they are out of the States.
JENNA : That is what we come against up against all the time, we have lots of great options in Canada but the reality is lots of subscription boxes are out of the states and if they do ship to Canada you have to pay duty, the exchange rate plus any custom fees. You never know what extra fees will be added on and then as a consumer you begin to wonder "is it even worth it in the end" but the amazing thing is Frock Box is here in Saint Albert! Which always surprises people because they think were in Ontario or Toronto, its a common misconception and not that long ago we were in my basement at my house. But you know it worked, that's what I learned along the way that you don't have to have everything perfect to start.
YEG INSPIRED: How are you managing home life and your ever growing business?
JENNA: Oh my goodness, this may be a better question for my husband.. Well we have two girls and it's funny because it's been 2 years growing Frock Box in my house, my kids have grown up seeing these women (our stylists) come to work in our home, choose clothes for clients pretty much every single day and now my girls ask “Where are they? Why don't we see this person or that person?" and I have to tell them that Frock Box isn't at home anymore, which is It's kind of sad in a way to have that big change.
YEG INSPIRED: What are the biggest challenges?
JENNA: I would say that the challenges were a lot of boundaries, and separating work from home life. I think it became too hard running it in my home when I got to a certain point where it started to be all consuming. Its so hard to shut it off, so having it out of my house now brings a different kind of stress but also a different kind of pride. Because, really it’s been a great opportunity for me to learn some balance, now that we're in our current space and if my mind begins to think about something at ten at night, I'm not going to the basement to work on whatever I've just remembered and I’m not driving over to the shop to do the small tasks. I also find now that I have to prioritize a lot more, which is good for me, for us as a family. I really have to be a little bit more focused on what I'm doing , I can’t jump back and forth anymore.
YEG INSPIRED: Now that your attention isn’t as divided, did you find that separating work from home, helped your girls?
JENNA: I can see it in my kids already It was hard not to be making our family supper but then I'd be distracted by people coming in and out of our home. I'm wanting to say goodbye but my kids are hungry and my attention is torn in two different directions. I want to have conversations and I'm constantly having to say to my kids I'm sorry all day long “Just a minute, hold on, just a minute” and then when you hear them say "just a minute back" to you or "can you be patient mom!" there's a reality check that kinda slaps you in the face. I found I was doing a double take saying “I have no clue where you got that from” and yet I knew. It’s a really great reminder that they need my time too. And not having it at home anymore, means we get to stay in our pyjama’s a little longer, something we didn’t get to do for a couple of years.
YEG INSPIRED: What do you hope your daughters learn from this?
JENNA: That’s tough, I hope they pick up my drive & ambition. I’m proud of how hard I work, I think there’s something so rewarding about watching something you’ve created in whatever realm that is and see it grow. I hope they see that they can do anything that they put their minds towards. Sometimes, they’ll say to me “I wanna work for Frock Box” I’ll reply back with “ You should create whatever your mind and heart wants to!"
YEG INSPIRED: What other boundaries did you need to reinforce to help bring in that balance?
JENNA It’s so easy to pick up my phone, to be on it with the kids and I’m not an expert on this, I still pick it up all the time. It’s bad, and at the same time you know there are things that need to be done and followed up, I’m trying to set those.
YEG INSPIRED: Especially when people have this expectation in todays world with instant replies on social media.
JENNA Absolutely, social media drives your business, it’s 24/7. It can be really challenging and when you have a customer that needs your help and you want to help right away, it's a challenge to set those boundaries.
Then the other boundary that has helped has been staffing. This time last year I think there was only five of us and now we have a team of fifteen! We have an office manager and that really freed me up, scheduling is so much work, so having her on board really helped so I could focus on things that are important for the growth of the business, plus then there’s also a little separation and that's been really helpful. That was the best decision, as it took so many things off the to-do list that aren’t always the best of use of time.
YEG INSPIRED:Now that life is a little more separated with Frock Box in this great new space, what do you like you to do with your family?
JENNA: Travelling somewhere with my family where I can’t do the work or I can’t drive over to check on things is a great step in slowing down and spending time together. And my husband, is so great through all of this. He showed me a different side of him with this last stretch, this crazy month of moving into this space and I don’t feel guilty that he’s been doing all the fun stuff with them. Taking them sledding and swimming to the pool. It feels good! So ya, for right now it’s travel, hopefully in the future I can add relaxing at home. It still so new.
YEG INSPIRED: What helps get your head out of “Frock Box”?
JENNA: If we can travel that helps but sometimes I’m at home, and I’m just a little bit on edge about what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s hard to slow down, but I’m going to get there. I have faith!
YEG INSPIRED: “Just keep swimming!” Go Dory!
JENNA: Yes, I need that on a wine glass as a reminder!
YEG INSPIRED: Your ultimate dream reward to treat yourself for creating all of this?
JENNA: My ultimate dream would be to give back, where in some way or another we can give back to women because we started out of a need. I love hearing from women say "it's like Christmas every day when I get your box!" or "I never received so many compliments" or "I've never felt so good, I put it on & my husband looked at me, like he’s never looked at me before" Those kind of comments that just build you up, to find some way to give that feeling to women in need without the expense one day would be amazing!! And then the sheer growth, I think it would be amazing if people all across the country knew about Frock Box and use it to save time because it’s something I so value. So, I guess I'd say my ultimate dream reward would be to give back and save time!
YEG INSPIRED: What's next for Frock Box?
JENNA: I'd love to grow and build on what we've done and then to add a men’s and children line, so I'm throwing that out there! hahaha
YEG INSPIRED: When I arrived you mentioned about holding parties and events, can you tell me a little bit more on that?
JENNA. So, what we’ve learned is that having women try on clothes in store, really helps as a stylist. Because when you’re sending an item to someone, and you can’t see them, it can be a bit of a challenge to see how an item fits even though we try on all the different pieces we get in (our stylists range from size small to 3xl) having them know what something will look like on, is really important. We really believe in relating to your own size. But, what we want to do is host events and do some fundraising, which is hopefully somewhere in the near future. The proceeds would go to the charity. It would be really rewarding.
YEG INSPIRED: That sounds amazing!
JENNA: I love all the fundraisers that are out there! The cookie dough, the popcorn and sausage ones are wonderful! But to be able to go and purchase a piece that works for you, that you’ve selected and purchased and then have it go back to the charity or group that you’re working with I think is going to be pretty cool!
YEG INSPIRED: Which do you like better, cat or dog?
JENNA: DOG, 100 percent, times a million!
YEG INSPIRED: Last question, beverage of choice, coffee or tea?
JENNA: Tea, I drink an iced chai tea everyday… bad, bad, habit. There’s something about a chai! It’s the experience, there’s something about ordering . Getting out of the house. It’s not about going into my kitchen to make it.. it's all in the ordering!
YEG INSPIRED: Im in total agreement. It reminds me of You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan & Tom Hanks. When she describes people ordering at Starbucks, there's a personal satisfaction in it! Tall, Decaf, Half-fat, Extra shot!