One on one with…Business Person of the Year, Jessica Jones
By Wayne E. Rivet
Even though Jessica Jones came from four generations of retailers, she never considered following that same path.
Then, she changed her mind.
It proved to be a wise career choice.
Today, Jessica is the proud owner of Firefly Boutique, located on Main Street in Bridgton, and last week was named the Greater Bridgton Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce “Business Person of the Year” at the organization’s annual Awards Banquet held at Shawnee Peak.
Prior to receiving the award, Jessica was described as “an active supporter of the Chamber and is an active member of our community working with other local businesses to come up with promotions that will highlight her business, as well as other businesses in the area…She is very instrumental in planning and executing Bridgton’s Annual Ladies Weekend and is on the cutting edge of Social Media as shown with her new video promoting Firefly Boutique on Facebook.”
The News reached out to Jessica Jones for this week’s “One on One with…” profile:
BN. What was your reaction to being named “Business Person of the Year” at the annual Chamber dinner, and what does it mean to you?
Jessica: Complete surprise! I feel so honored by the Chamber and the community. The recognition made me feel a sense of accomplishment. I am very thankful!
BN. How did you get started in business?
Jessica: Accidentally, as great things sometimes do. Even though I came from four generations of retailers, I never considered it for myself. I started in wholesale first under the tutelage of my fiancé, Rick DuBrule, importing and selling jewelry from Bali, Indonesia and Kenya, Africa. Rick also had a retail location in Bridgton and taught me how to run a wholesale and retail business. I learned by doing and really wanted to spend more time in Maine and less traveling on the road.
Having spent so much time at trade shows, I identified many interesting products that might work well in a Main Street (Bridgton) location. I found a small shop to rent at 87 Main thanks to Chuck Renneker. I then purchased all inventory using credit cards and hoped I would be able to pay them off. It was like jumping out of a plane without a parachute. It took time to build the business, but my family and customers were very encouraging. Sales gradually improved over time. Expansion happened naturally as our inventory and sales grew.
BN. It can be difficult to succeed as a small business. What would you say have been reasons for your success?
Jessica: I always greet customers with a smile, it’s important to make people feel welcome. Why would anyone want to shop in a place that made you feel unwelcome? That is the most important. I also genuinely want people to be pleased with their purchase so I try to be helpful — it’s not about the money for me personally. For me, kindness and consideration are very important as is making people happy.
BN. What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
Jessica: Surround yourself with good people. Listen to what they have to say. Most importantly, follow your instincts. Make mistakes. Those mistakes have taught me how to do better.
BN. Anyone been influential in your business life?
Jessica: My fiancé, Rick.
BN. In regards to your move to the new location, how did it come about, were there any reservations, and how would you say things have gone?
Jessica: My friend and co-worker, Charles Simpson, suggested I talk to Justin McIver about his new building at 103 Main Street. I had huge reservations. Could I be successful enough to justify an increase in rent? It was very hard to move emotionally. I had grown to love the building and the people in it after seven years. However, Firefly hit a plateau and I didn’t feel like we were growing anymore. Foot traffic could be better. I even considered moving out-of-town and/or a career change. But, after meeting Justin from Main Eco Homes, I immediately felt it was the right move. His confidence in the building and the tenants made it very appealing. I was hoping to be closer to Beth’s Café, Towanda’s and the downtown area. It turned out to be the right move. Foot traffic has increased and now we are growing again!
BN. What were your customers’ reaction to the new location?
Jessica: Exuberance. Customers were very supportive and complimentary. We are so lucky to be in the Bridgton community. People here are truly exceptional.
BN. You were instrumental in the Ladies Day Out Weekend. How did this come about, and how do you feel it has been received?
Jessica: For years other cities and towns have been doing Ladies Day Out events. I thought it would be great for Bridgton and so did all the retailers that I contacted. The event has grown from just under 20 retailers to 32 over the years. We passed out over 400 free gifts at Firefly this past LDO 2016. It’s been a mutually advantageous event for retailers and customers.
BN. In your line of work, things change in a hurry in regards to style and fashion. How do you go about deciding what products or direction Firefly goes in, as well as how to market the business?
Jessica: I try to order as much American-made products as possible — we do have an impressive amount of jewelry and clothing that is U.S.-made, probably about 70%. I also love fair trade or fair wage products. I’ve noticed customers do care.
Knowing what to order is always difficult, but I do listen to what customers are looking for. Whatever product I invest in, I try to make a big presentation of it. Following fashion trends can sometimes be disastrous, so instead I am more interested in unusual finds, fun colors and classic styles.
BN. What do you enjoy most about business?
Jessica: The people. I love meeting people.
BN. Conversely, what is the most difficult side of business?
Jessica: The financial aspect. Dealing with the books. Sticking to a budget. Knowing when to say “no” to pushy sales reps. Having confidence.
BN. Business can be consuming, so what do you do “to get away from it all?”
Jessica: I love yoga and travel. Last January, we went to Nicaragua and, after coming back, I felt very refreshed. Thankfully, I have great employees who allow me to escape in the dead of winter. I’ve always enjoyed meeting people and experiencing different food and cultures.
BN. I understand you have a variety of other interests. They are?
Jessica: I love creating things — stained glass, jewelry, feather pins, painting, gardening. I always have an art project going on that is taking over the house.
BN. Finally, if you were to offer some advice for others who are thinking of going into business, what might it be?
Jessica: The hardest thing is believing in yourself and making that first step. It is so scary, especially if you have a family to support, or if you are a woman. But, be fearless — don’t look back. Keep your head to the grindstone and always move forward despite the disappointing setbacks. I know it sounds cliché, but believe in yourself — no one will do it the way you do it, so you have something unique to offer to the world.
Firefly Boutique is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Located: 103 Main Street, Bridgton
Facebook page: Firefly Boutique