In this interview, we have the pleasure of speaking with Ashley Kidd, the owner and founder of Ashley Jean Boutique, an online children’s clothing store. Ashley is a driven entrepreneur and a busy mom who has overcome challenges and found success in the business world. In this interview, she shares her journey of starting Ashley Jean Boutique, balancing work and personal life, and offers advice for women looking to start their own business. Join us as we delve into Ashley’s background, inspiration behind her business, and learn more about her selection process for choosing the items she sells in her boutique.
A Journey of Success with Ashley Kidd, Owner and Founder of Ashley Jean Boutique
Tell us something about yourself in your own words
My name is Ashley Kidd. I am 41 years young. My family of four and I live in Mason, Ohio. Both my husband and I are energetic entrepreneurs driven by a desire to serve our customers. Ashley Jean Boutique was born from an amalgam of passion, creativity, love for design, and high ambition. We are currently operating exclusively online as new-comers to the children’s clothing market.
Growing up in a small country town, I was raised to take care of my responsibilities, work hard, and be kind. With those values as a foundation, I determined to build a meaningful life as well as meaningful opportunities for myself and others. Having been blessed with a creative drive, I strive to look at the world differently, and approach challenges and opportunities from a unique perspective. I encourage that same objective to anyone willing to listen, especially my own children. I urge others to see life in a different light and have committed myself to lead by example.
Can you tell us about your background and how you started your boutique?
At a young age, I was immersed in real estate as an appraiser, a mortgage closer, a licensed CAM and, ultimately, a property manager. I started as a leasing agent and worked my way up to property manager, then district manager followed by corporate trainer. I was tasked to write and construct an extensive training manual and schedule, which was used to teach and train all new staff members corporate wide. That was a challenging and educational journey that allowed me the opportunity to develop important skills I am able to apply as a bourgeoning entrepreneur. Throughout that demanding career track, my heart was craving for something different, something more fulfilling and more compatible with my passions. I was realizing my destiny was to follow my vision and pursue a venture I could create from my talent and spirit. Furthermore, I was ready to take more control of my future, my time and my life in general.
Simultaneous with that journey were years of multiple miscarriages, struggles with infertility, a still born child, and having to end a pregnancy at 6 months due to trisomy 18. It was a roller coaster of relentless heartbreak and tears, erratic hormones, and oppressive stress. But miracles do happen! At the end of that dark tunnel there was a beautiful ray of light that gets brighter every day. Wyatt Lane Kidd was born Aug 27, 2021 on a shimmering sunny morning. I felt the presence of the angels celebrating with us that morning. It wasn’t long after the birth of Wyatt, Ashley Jean Boutique was born.
What inspired you to start a business focused on baby clothing?
Wyatt was the inspiration for me to start Ashley Jean. I wanted to take his goodness, superseding the pain of past, and create something in his honor. And so my thoughts led me to sketch out my ideas. I had no experience or formal credentials in the clothing industry, but I had no intention of allowing that to stop me. I had an idea, passion and determination. I knew my sketches and designs had to be unique so they would stand out. I wanted pieces that could not be found in the competitive market of children’s clothing.
So I developed baby printed overalls with interchangeable straps. This is what separates us from other options. One strap option is for a Birthday Boy or Birthday Girl. They are all gender neutral and made for every season. We provide guidance to help customers know how to pair with the seasons. We also offer glow in the dark onesies where the back lettering glows in the dark allowing parents or guardians to see their baby in the crib at night. This also keeps these pieces boutique like and BOHO.
How do you balance work and personal life?
Work is at the top of my list right now. My goal is to get this company thriving, so it’s business before pleasure. I have a calendar where I schedule nights out with my husband and other friends or couples to enjoy and recharge. Since recreational times are scheduled, I’m able to look forward to that weekly night out. I also book myself weekly yoga on another evening so my mind, body and spirit can recharge. Mixing in a good healthy habit with a fun night out makes for a balanced mama/boss.
How do you maintain a work-life balance as a busy mom and business owner?
Raising a teenager and a toddler takes me to two opposite ends of the spectrum every day. Additionally, keeping up on the household, while trying to build an empire, certainly has its challenges. As I noted previously, however, my drive and excitement about building a business with my own brand keeps me going. Let’s just say I’m a pro at multitasking. I’m learning to love chasing my ever-so-curious toddler around while preparing dinner, posting on social media, packaging orders and writing short notes of heartfelt gratitude to my customers.
Can you share some advice for women who are looking to start their own business?
Don’t talk about it, be about it. If you have a vision, an excitement or desire to be an entrepreneur, see it through. Do your research, write down your thoughts, discuss with friends and family, evaluate your resources and seek advice from other entrepreneurs. There will always be skeptics who voice a negative opinion. If you really believe in your idea, and you’ve done your due diligence, don’t let naysayers cloud your dream. Be strong minded and kind hearted. All things are possible if you truly believe.
Can you tell us about your selection process for choosing the items you sell in your boutique?
The majority of my items are signature pieces. They are pieces I’ve designed and had manufactured. My goal is to remain unique and add at least one signature piece every year. Due to the costly demands of manufacturing custom pieces, I’m required to capitalize the business until it reaches a tipping point of profitability. Until then, I hand select wholesale items from other stores like mine to fit my brand and statement. Again, I only select pieces that aren’t available anywhere else.
How do you stay competitive in a crowded market of childrenswear boutiques?
In the interest of remaining financially viable, it is important to test the market with pieces obtained from wholesale. Make smaller quantity purchases, advertise to your customers, then evaluate the response. This reveals whether or not you should stock the item being tested and will help determine the quantities you will need to stock. Set the tone by saying “just in” and “now available” at Ashley Jean, “limited stock item.” Create a since of urgency with all products.
“ABC” always be closing. Coming from a sales background I’m always looking to close the deal. I’m a walking, talking advertisement. Every-time I leave my house I make sure my son is dressed in Ashley Jean gear and my car has advertising magnets. I always have business cards on hand and look for babies in public. I’ll stop people and inform them of the boutique and/or pass along my card. I wear an Ashley Jean shirt that says where to order on the back. I’m constantly spreading awareness.
I’ll visit local baby stores and approach them to collaborate, I’ll set myself a goal to reach out to 5 new accounts daily on social media with babies, or influencers with babies, and message them about my store. It’s important to create eye catching posts that product position my items. I create games on social media for customers to get involved and give away free product for sharing.
Can you share some of the challenges you face with sourcing and stocking inventory?
Since my manufacturer is overseas, delivery time can be volatile and is always an important consideration. Since I can’t stop by to see first hand what is happening, I’m at a disadvantage. Order fulfillment may take longer than expected, which can be very frustrating, particularly when selling products in a competitive environment. Our advantage is the desire many consumers have for a high quality, uniquely designed pieces. Manufacturers may also run into snags which are beyond their control. For example, they may experience supply line issues preventing them from procuring the material needed in a timely manner. Consequently, they may unilaterally select substitute materials to complete your order. That can be very triggering if those materials don’t meet the specifications. Also working hours might be conflicting when doing business overseas. No one wants to be working through an issue at 3:00am.
Stocking inventory is definitely something you want to stay ahead of especially if it’s a manufactured piece. It’s critical to be cognizant of scope of time for manufacturing, shipping and any unforeseen contingencies. This is another reason to build strong relationships with customers. If you have created a trust and bond with your audience, they are much more likely to be understanding and patient. Offering customers the option of pre-ordering may also be a viable strategy.
How do you measure the success of your business and what are your future plans for growth?
My hopes for Ashley Jean is that this business provides a comfortable life style for my family. I hope it will surpass my goals and grow an empire that I can one day hand to my children. I hope to serve many happy customers all around the world and to fill parents hearts with joy when they receive products from Ashley Jean. I hope to establish a reputation for creating quality, unique specialty items that bring satisfaction to parents and children around the world. And I’ll end it with this….. “Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are the seeds, will you grow flowers or will you grow weeds”.