As a veterinarian in Chicago, Jennifer Stecher’s journey to become a clothing designer and launch her socially conscious clothing line, Humane Envy, was both challenging and rewarding. She grew up in Iowa and went to veterinary school at Iowa State University. In an attempt to find a creative outlet during challenging times, Jennifer began to design clothing and developed Humane Envy. Humane Envy allows women to love themselves and wear clothing that reflects their personality, sense of style and morals. Humane Envy strives to provide outfits for all different body types so that every woman can feel beautiful regardless of size and shape. Read our interview with the lovely Jennifer below…
What motivated and inspired you to start your business?
To say that my journey to become a fashion designer has been unique would be an understatement. When I was young, I sketched and designed clothing periodically but my main focus was to become a veterinarian. In 2012, I graduated from veterinary school at Iowa State University and moved to Chicago. A year after moving to Chicago, my dad’s prostate cancer metastasized to his spine. It felt as if my world had been shattered. In an attempt to cope with my current circumstances, I prayed and searched for a creative outlet which turned out to be fashion design. Sketching was a time of peace for me. After several months of sketching, I decided to not only allow my new found passion to benefit me but also others. I reached out to a couple of local charities and asked them if they would want to be a part of my new business endeavor. Humane Envy was born.
Tell us about your business.
Humane Envy strives to be a high quality socially conscious women’s clothing line that allows for women to feel beautiful on the inside and out. My clothing line focuses on empowering women of different sizes, shapes and races to feel confident in themselves and their clothing while supporting charities such as Chicago Canine Rescue, Imerman Angels and Trio Animal Foundation by donating a portion of our profits.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
Currently, Humane Envy is celebrating Spring by offering 30% off of the current Spring/Summer collection. Visit humaneenvy.com for complete collection details and use code HESS2017 to receive 30% off at check out.
In just two years of business, Humane Envy has been published in New York Style Guide, DNAinfo, CIE “Class is Everything” Fashion Magazine and UstyleU Magazine. In addition to publications, Humane Envy has been in fashion shows such as AMCONYC New York Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2017, Midwest Fashion Week in New York Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2017, Midwest Fashion Week’s event ‘Fashion For A Cause’ Spring/Summer 2017, Fashionbar Fall/Winter 2016 Fashion Show, Simply from the Heart Gala 2016, Carrera Company ‘Love Affair’ Fashion Show 2016, Chicago RAW Artist Event Winter 2016 and Fashionbar Spring/Summer Fashion Show 2016.
Where is your business based?
Humane Envy is based in Chicago, Illinois.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
After the thought of Humane Envy was established, I knew that I needed to ensure that I had a vision and that I had a target market/customer/niche in order to be successful. I decided to perform a focus group to reveal my sketches and business plan to acquaintances, friends and family of all different backgrounds to receive their input. This was imperative to determine whether or not I should proceed to the next stage. Then, I researched the fashion industry and how to produce a clothing line while networking with individuals within the industry.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Unfortunately and fortunately, trial and error. I researched different business techniques to fine tune my target market and how to successfully reach them. Networking events and fashion shows have been beneficial in raising awareness of my clothing line. Also, the publications in newspapers, magazines and social media posts significantly increase hype associated with my brand.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Breaking into the fashion industry as a veterinarian has definitely had its challenges. It was imperative to learn about the intricacies of the fashion industry and the process of pattern making, sample making, fabric selection, manufacturing, etc. In addition to the fashion realm, it was equally important to learn about the business side of owning a clothing line.
How did you overcome these challenges?
As with most things in my life, I constructed a plan for how I was going to break into the industry. I registered for online classes and read books which taught me about the details of the fashion industry and basic business ownership guidelines. In addition, it was extremely important to have a close network of trusted colleagues that have experience and knowledge of the fashion industry who allowed me to gain hands-on experience. I am a very determined individual and once I set my mind to something, I work hard to achieve it.
How do you keep motivated throughout difficult times?
During difficult times, I reflect on my original goals and motivators which inspired me to originally start my own business. There have been plenty of times throughout these past couple of years that I have succeeded and there are just as many times that I have failed. It is impossible to succeed if you have not learned from your failures. If I did not know myself and truly believe in my clothing line and its purpose, I would not have had the motivation to keep working during those sleepless nights in order to accomplish goals to allow for Humane Envy to get to the next level.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
There are several aspects of Humane Envy which allow us to stand out. First of all, nowadays, most consumers choose to purchase products that serve a purpose and give back to others and their community/environment. Humane Envy targets these customers and allows them to dress with purpose. A portion of Humane Envy’s profits are donated to Chicago Canine Rescue, Trio Animal Foundation and Imerman Angels, all of which are wonderful organizations that make a difference for many lives. Secondly, Humane Envy allows women to love themselves and wear clothing that reflects their personality, sense of style and morals. I strive to provide outfits for all different body types so that every woman can feel beautiful regardless of size and shape. Thirdly, the models in my fashion shows and in my photo shoots range from size 2-10 with all different body types and ethnicities included. This is important to me because I want my clothing line to represent all women.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
The quote that I live by is “If you do not know what you cannot do, anything is possible.”
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
My biggest advice for entrepreneurs is to be steadfast and pursue a career path/business idea that you are truly passionate about and one that will continue to motivate you to overcome challenges that you will encounter throughout your journey. Unfortunately, every entrepreneur encounters struggles while establishing their businesses, especially within the first couple of years. If entrepreneurs are not willing to fail, they will not succeed.
What is your favorite business tool or resource?
My favorite business tools over the past year have been “The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Sewn Product Manufacturing” by Kathleen Fasanella, Fashion Brain Academy online courses and various marketing/business articles on Linkedin.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
“Have a Little Faith” by Mitch Albom.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
Currently, I am learning about different marketing techniques to reach potential customers in different geographical areas.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
My goals over the next couple of months are to become more knowledgeable with marketing and expanding my business into different locations and possibly boutiques/department stores. I’m performing research online and networking with knowledgeable professionals who are in the industry. In addition, I’m planning on organizing a charity fashion show in Chicago which will allow for all proceeds to go to Humane Envy’s charities. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be reaching out to models, local businesses, hairstylists, makeup artists and venue locations to begin coordinating the event.