Faces of Entrepreneurship: April Hancock, JaeLuxe Shoes

April Hancock founded JaeLuxe Shoetique, a fashion e-commerce and retail business, in 2013 after becoming pregnant with her daughter Jaeliana and being freshly laid off. After working in the marketing and IT field for many years, she started her first company, Visionary Communications, a boutique marketing firm specializing in social media and digital marketing, where she taught social media and small business marketing to youth entrepreneurs via the Youth Entrepreneur Institute. April attended The Ohio State University where she graduated with a B.A. in Marketing Communications. April has said that being an entrepreneur has allowed her to continuously use her gifts to help elevate those around her and within the community.

What does “entrepreneurship” mean to you?
April Hancock: Entrepreneurship means self-empowerment, freedom and building generational wealth to me. It’s something I was born to do!

Tell us about your first experience with entrepreneurship.
AH: My first experience as an entrepreneur was with my mother. She went from working as a teller at a bank to owning two very successful mortgage offices. She actually hired me as a teenager and paid me to clean her office, run errands and deposit checks at the bank. It was mind blowing see my mom make that type of money so it lit a fire underneath me to do the same one day.

What is your company’s origin story? What is the biggest reason you started your business? What did those early days look like and teach you?
AH: I actually started JaeLuxe Shoetique while I was pregnant to supplement my income and avoid rushing back to work once I had my daughter. I was a new mom and the thought of departing with her at six weeks just didn’t sit well with me. So I started a business that eventually took off and allowed me to generate income and be a stay-at-home mom. The further I was along my pregnancy the more I changed the scope of my business to reflect my daughter. I changed the name from Sole Addiction to JaeLuxe which is part of her first name. I wanted the business to be something she could be proud of when she got older and eventually pass it on to her. The early days taught me as long as I believed I could do anything that I eventually would accomplish it. I remember telling people that I was starting a shoe store and getting these weird looks as If the idea as absurd. Fast forward to today and we’re headed into year nine not only selling women’s shoes but clothing and accessories online and in our retail storefront.

What do you wish you knew when you started?
AH: Honestly not knowing a lot of things forced me to educate myself so that now I can help others navigate this path. There weren’t a lot of eBooks or courses on starting a fashion business like there is now, so I had to figure a lot of things out. The process and grind of figuring things out back then prepared me for the adversity and trials that come along with entrepreneurship.

Is there anything you would do differently?
AH: I would’ve bet on myself and started a lot sooner. I played it safe the first few years out of fear instead having faith in what I wanted to achieve. Now I know my success is only dependent upon my work ethic and ability to not give up, so I take more risks and watch them payoff.

What does “success” look like for you? We’d love to hear your biggest, boldest dream? What do you think will help you achieve it?
AH: Success is exactly what I’m doing today – living my dream and watching it upfold day by day. My dream is become as big as Fenty and be a muti billion-dollar brand. JaeLuxe will continue to be a fashion powerhouse brand while also venturing into the beauty and manufacturing industry – so stay tuned!

What is your superpower as an entrepreneur? What is your proudest and darkest moment so far?
AH: My superpower is being able to relate to my audience and customize an amazing retail experience to exceed their expectations. I’ve had terrible shopping experiences and have purchased terrible items, so I make it my business to ensure my customers don’t have those same experiences. My proudest moments have been opening our first retail storefront in 2017 and tripling our sales during the pandemic. I can’t say we’ve had a darkest moment so far. We’ve tried to use every adversity put against us to learn from it and pivot. This mentality has allowed us to turn potentially negative situations into positive ones.

What are your personal driving principals, your top values?
AH: Integrity and treating people how I’d like to be treated are the driving force behind JaeLuxe. I never want to cut corners and do anything that doesn’t seem ethical because it’s ultimately a reflection of my beliefs. Additionally, since this will be a business, I pass down to kids I want to make sure the actions I’m taking today have a positive result for my business tomorrow.

What’s it like to work alone or with your partners?
AH: Working alone can be tough because everything falls on your shoulders, but you also can make decisions without having to consult with others. Despite being a one-woman team, my family has definitely stepped up and continue to help me build up this incredible brand.

Do you have a mentor? Tell us about what makes them valuable to you and your business?
AH: I do not have a mentor but that’s something I plan to acquire this year to help elevate my brand. I’ve mentored others but this year I’m refocusing on pouring into me so that I can make sure I’m on track to crush my goals.

What role does mentorship play in your world (as a mentor or mentee)?
AH: Mentorship is critical because none of us have all the answers. I feel that a great mentor can not only help you accomplish your tasks but also elevate a lot of obstacles you may have encountered without their guidance.

Many entrepreneurs continue to perfect their daily routines to support their work and greater vision; would you mind sharing your morning routine or a regular ritual that grounds your work each day?
AH: Since I commute about an hour to work every day, I make sure I pray to God and ask him to make today intentional and successful. I pray for a clear mind, a great sales day and for my family. I have a motivational music playlist that I listen to on the way to get me ready for the day. I then write down my goals for the day once I get in the office and map out how I’m going to achieve them. I like to manifest the things that I write down and pray for.

Where do you go for inspiration?
AH: My family is my inspiration. She’s lit a fire within me that drives me to wake up every morning with the intention to make our lives better. My husband is also an entrepreneur so being able to share the same creative space and work ethic with your better half is amazing. He gets it. Now we’re raising our family to continue the tradition of making our own way and not waiting for anyone to give us anything.

Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, or words of wisdom to get through the tough days?
AH: I have several bible quotes throughout my store on vision boards literally everywhere to remind me that God is always with me. I know with God beside me I can do all and accomplish all. He literally says it! I know from experience that he’ll get me through the tough times just like he did the last time, so I worry less and pray more.

What is a problem that keeps you up at night?
AH: I can’t say anything keeps me up at night but I’m always conscious of making the best use of my time. I never want to think I have time to accomplish my goals because tomorrow is not promised so I try to make sure I’m being intentional with my time and really trying to make sure I leave my mark.

How do you think about helping others through your work?
AH: I think the milestones that I achieve will help others break barriers within the industry. For example, I’m the only female Black-owned fashion brand at The Greene Town Center Mall and have been for the last five years. I want my success to encourage other Black-owned businesses to do the same. It’s not impossible and you can do it too!

What advice do you have for fellow (and aspiring) entrepreneurs building and leading teams?
AH: In order to build a successful team, you have to not only want help but you have to receive it. Sometimes we get so used to doing it all that it’s hard for others to help us when we ultimately need it. I try to be conscious of this and be more open to change.

What kind of an entrepreneur do you want to be known as – as in, what do you want your legacy to be?
AH: I want my legacy to be that I did everything I was told I couldn’t do and that I was great at it. I want to family to know all of the late hours and long days was to build something we could be proud of and that would be here long after I’m gone. My desire was never to impress others but to leave a successful business behind that my kids could be proud of.

Do you have someone you’d like to nominate to be profiled in our Faces of Entrepreneurship series? Please let us know by emailing media@thecenter.nasdaq.org or submit your nomination using this form.

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