After a decade in business, Horton still finds joy in her job
With a significant milestone just over the horizon, Jennifer Horton of the Curvy Chick Boutique in downtown Fort Frances reflects on what a decade in business looks like when you put the time and passion into making work fun.
Horton is marking 10 years in business this year at the Curvy Chick Boutique, a store that began life as a destination for lingerie in town before eventually becoming the store it is today, a home for not only lingerie, but sweaters, apparel, accessories, candles and more, everything and anything you could think of to wear or make your personal space feel a bit more personal.
“It’s just mindblowing that it’s been 10 years already,” Horton said.
“It’s gone by so fast. I had started doing photography, kind of boudoir and things like that, and thought that my customers needed some lingerie because there wasn’t a store here. I thought that maybe I would bring in a little bit of lingerie so my clients have it, and then it turned into opening a whole store.”
Horton said she had a friend and mentor in Dryden to rely on when it came to learning the ins and outs of running her own similar business, and after a handful of locations, the store has carved out its niche as a fixture of the downtown shopping scene. Curvy Chick has evolved into the boutique that, in Horton’s words, offers shoppers the feeling of not shopping in Fort Frances, in Fort Frances.
“It’s definitely grown over the years,” Horton explained.
“It’s evolved by finding out from customers what they’re needing or what they want to see. COVID was a huge shock and I somehow got through it, but at that time people couldn’t go out of town or travel, so it became ‘ok, what do people need?’ and expanding on that. I’ve built those relationships over the years so that people keep coming back, and I’m still seeing new customers. It’s surprising, almost every week I have someone coming in being like ‘I haven’t been in here before,’ or ‘how long have you been here?’ So it’s still great.”
Over the pandemic, Horton made full use of her store’s social media platforms to continue to engage with her customers and let them know what new and exciting items she had available, which helped to foster a sense of community and purpose not only for the store owner, but also for those customers and supporters who were also stuck at home looking for something to do. While Horton said she’s beginning to wind down the social media videos now that restrictions have mostly lifted, there are other plans she has for the business moving forward.
Horton said she still finds fun and joy in her business life, and said she learned that as a business owner, and human being, sometimes you just have to ask for help.
“Asking for help was a big thing,” she said.
“It’s ok if you don’t know everything, I still don’t know everything. I’m still making mistakes and hopefully learning from those mistakes. But finding a group of women or other business owners that you can talk to, because sometimes it can feel lonely, about things like cash flow or inventory. So I’m always learning different strategies and how to make better decisions.”
Horton also said finding a mentor in business can be a huge asset, particularly for those who are thinking of starting off their own business ideas, and that those individuals should also make sure to take full advantage of the many different organizations that are set up to help new and established businesses succeed.
“I think finding a mentor, finding someone you can bounce ideas off of [is important],” she said.
“I know lots of people have reached out to me in the past, and I’m always up for helping others, or putting them in connection with the right people, like reach out to this person, reach out to Rainy River Future Development. Angela [Halvorsen] is amazing, I still meet with them. There’s other organizations like PARO Centre in Thunder Bay and the Northwest Business Centre out of Kenora. There are so many different organizations that are willing to help or have information about grants or loans or just advice or helping with business plans.”
However, Horton cautions that it’s also important to keep your work-life balance in perspective, as it’s one of the reasons she thinks she still finds so much joy in coming to work.
“It’s taken me a long time to get where I am, and there’s this mentality that you have to work work work, and it’s so toxic,” she said.
“I’ve had to really work on the work-life balance, and realizing that things will be there tomorrow. Spending time with your family and just living your life so that you can come back to work or your business and just be refreshed and excited about it. There’s always going to be times where you have to work a little bit more, but especially being your own business, it’s important to make sure you’re taking that time, and customers will learn to respect that. I still love coming here every day and meeting new people.”
Horton said there are plans to celebrate the store’s milestone anniversary this year, so in order to keep apprised on all things Curvy Chick, follow their Facebook and Instagram pages at “curvychickff” or visit their website at curvychickff.com.