Following Her Light
It’s been said that what hurts you blesses you, and that darkness is your candle. July Enterprising Woman Jena Honea now fills once-dark places with the light of a bright future. Her story begins as she, a carefree girl of eight, discovered the yet unknown world of hurt and uncertainty caused by her parents’ difficult divorce. “It was traumatic. I moved in with my grandparents who gave me unconditional love and support, but both passed before I was 15. Mawmaw was my best friend.” A recurring theme for Jena, she worked hard to improve her situation. “Even though it was complicated, I love my mother, and we resumed our relationship.”
Now a successful and confident businesswoman, Jena explains how working on her self-image would lead to building her dream career. “I was always overweight – uncomfortable in my skin, self-conscious and timid. I longed to be the opposite of myself – confident, beautiful… so I found an outlet in fashion. I loved designer clothes and accessories but since the clothes weren’t in my size, I’d buy designer purses and jewelry instead.” This retail therapy was a lifeline to her when depressed or stuck. While attending Southeastern, she didn’t find a major that eclipsed her love of the fashion industry, so as Jena Honea pursued her General Studies degree, she also pursued that which made her happiest.
The Seeds of an Idea Bloom
“I had the seed of an idea for opening a boutique since high school and even knew it would be called Jenlyns – a nickname combining my first and middle names. Most importantly, it had to be inclusive of all sizes, ages and all budgets. In the summer of 2017, I went online and created wholesale accounts with my favorite clothing lines.”
Her first marketing efforts consisted of a Faceboook group, and her workspace was the spare room in her mother’s house. As her clientele grew, she expanded into her first retail location. “I bought a 20’ x 40’ shed that fit on my father-in-law’s property and turned it into a cute, rustic boutique. There was just enough room to display the clothes and have a dressing room and checkout area.” With a full-time job at the same time, boutique hours were before and after work. “My dream was beginning to come true, and my husband, Dalton, encouraged me to quit my job and pursue it.”
In March of 2019 Jena Honea had gained the confidence to follow her heart and was solely focused on running her fledgling business. By May, she had signed a lease on her first store in Covington. “Our grand opening was June 1. We had crazy crowds and sales. Best day ever.” As quickly as February of 2020, the lease for a second location in Hammond had been signed and Jenlyns Boutique had taken flight. “We won The Northshore’s Best in Covington having been open only six months. The next year both the Covington and Hammond stores won. I couldn’t believe it and couldn’t contain my excitement.”
Helping Customers Find Confidence
Of a typical day, Jena says there is none. But her focus is aimed at growing her business. “I schedule my girls, and I work on my plan’s priority for that day. I love the vibe of my warehouse and have a large social media following to manage which I do from my office there. We just finished our beautiful new website, and I spend a lot of time in both the Covington and Hammond stores.”
Although she throws herself into every aspect of her business, there’s a special appreciation for working with customers. “It’s so rewarding when customers just glow when they try on our clothes. I know how it feels to find a sense of self in how you dress – you say something about yourself without ever having to speak. My employees know that too, and we provide a safe, comfortable place where we help customers find confidence in their appearance.”
Learning that belief and tenacity result in success, Jena was empowered to take another bold step on her journey. “Last year, I had weight loss surgery and lost 100 pounds. Becoming healthy and finally feeling good about how I looked gave me the confidence and self-respect to stand up for myself. I feel physically and mentally better, and I’ll never forget the importance of women’s worth, no matter their size or age.”
Success Kindles Ambition
With success kindling ambition, Jena excitedly shares plans for a new store in Baton Rouge and more personal growth. “I’m 24 and newly single, so I’m not rushing kids, but I’d like to be a mother one day in a happy home where they’re proud of me, and I can provide for them. I found that growth is most personally fulfilling, so I’ll always work on making myself better. Now I know my potential is limitless.” As her candle grows increasingly brighter — lighting up once dark places — Jena Honea says it’s a blessing to do what she’s passionate about. “I look back at the past three years and lean into God knowing he’ll provide.”
Jenlyns Boutique has two locations: 315 Lee Lane, Suite 101 in Downtown Covington, 985-234-9437 and 221 W. Thomas Street in Downtown Hammond, 985-662-5072. Follow Jenlyns Boutique on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.