Sometimes owning a boutique means having not only a love of fashion, but also combining your passion for entrepreneurship, marketing, teaching and impacting the lives of children through charities.
We recently met up with Allene Pennington, owner of The Hidden Trunk, a gem of a boutique with fun, trendy pieces at really great prices. Allene runs The Hidden Trunk as an online boutique with numerous pop-up shops, while also teaching entrepreneurship and marketing at a local high school. She has great insight for those ready to combine all passions into one business.
Tell us about life before owning a boutique? What consumed your life before fashion?
I am the lucky mom of two amazing daughters. When they were growing up my husband and I were extremely involved in their many extracurricular activities. Between the two of them they played club volleyball, club soccer, lacrosse and did most school sports. Then there was the Girl Scouts and youth group leaders and the list goes on and on. Then they went to college and the many activities kind of stopped. It was sad. I was bored and decided to fulfill my childhood dream because now the barriers of entry were low.
My primary career is a Marketing Teacher so I have the opportunity to teach fun classes like Fashion Marketing, Sports and Entertainment, and Advertising. I am so blessed that this little boutique has added dimension to the lessons that I teach my high school students.
How did your boutique get started? Any fun stories behind your name?
After teaching entrepreneurship I knew I needed to write a business plan and put my goals to paper. After a few months of discussion with my husband (he has an MBA and is quite the critic) we kept coming back to names. Finally he suggested The Hidden Trunk and I thought it was fabulous and it seems to be working. When we do pop up shops we can make lots of little jokes about things being hidden. Just last week one of my regular customers asked me if I had anything new hidden in my trunk. I said “Why, yes I sure do”.
When I walk into your boutique, what is the atmosphere like, how do you hope to make your customers feel?
Special! I hope each woman feels like they have a new friend they can trust and rely on for affordable new clothes.
What tips do you wish someone would have shared with you as an new entrepreneur?
As a Marketing Teacher I had taught Entrepreneurship but had never been a true entrepreneur. So from all of my teachings I feel like I knew a lot of the pitfalls but I did have some lofty dreams that still have not been met.
What has been the most fun or exciting part of owning a boutique for you? The most challenging?
I have had the opportunity to meet other women of all ages who have similar interests and the camaraderie has been awesome. Some of these women have become very close friends and they are there to commensurate with on the bad days and share the triumphs on the good days! There are days when we all feel overwhelmed and just want to quit and then there are days where you think “maybe I am going to make it”.
What’s in your closet? Do you have a go-to style?
Cardigans, cardigans, and more cardigans. You can never go wrong with a good pair of boyfriend jeans, a t-shirt, and a cardigan. As a teacher I have to wear professional clothes most days so I have a lot of slacks and knit tee’s that I can layer with a cardigan because my class is really cold (especially in the summer and then really hot in the winter. Weird, I know?)
What are your favorite trends at the moment?
The corset tie v-necks are blowing out the door. Any age can wear it and feel fashionable. The 40-50 year old women are especially loving the cold shoulder look because it allows us to be a touch sexy without showing any of our hidden insecurities.
Who’s been your role models – both in business and in style?
My Boutique idol is Taylor from Hazel and Olive. She started just a few months before me and has really nailed the social media aspect of the business. It has been fun to see her grow from a small online boutique to a very successful brick and mortar and a phenomenal online business. I hope one day to be able to give back to the world through a foundation too. I am able to give small donations to women’s charities but hope to one day be able to make much more of an impact in women and children’s charities.
Is there anything big goals for you as a boutique owner that you are excited about reaching?
My biggest goal is to be able to make a financial impact in the lives of women and children. Lately I feel like I am being prepped to do something with the Foster care system. I am not sure what that something is but hopefully the Hidden Trunk can use some of their earnings to make an impact.
What scares you the most in life or business?
I really am not one who gets scared easily. I have a very strong faith and if something starts to get scary I just pray like crazy and that will calm down the thoughts.
Owning a business is hectic, how do you unwind?
A long bubble bath with a really good book is the best way for me to unwind.
Ok Allene, lightning round!
Year your boutique was founded? 2013
Your boutique’s brand in three words…go!
Modern. Hip. Affordable.
What is your favorite social network and why?
Instagram has proven to be the best social network for The Hidden Trunk but I feel like Pinterest will be in the future. Pinterest is really supporting small business and does not seem to be changing their algorithms to hurt small businesses like some of the social networks have in the past. It so hard to stay current with social media because it changes so rapidly. I also think Snapchat is where we should all be but I am terrible at it.
What’s your favorite retail season?
Well, we all know that Christmas is the most profitable retail season. There is just such an energy to the holidays that make you more energized and productive.
More importantly, dark or milk chocolate?
I have such a sweet tooth so definitely milk chocolate but I have never turned down a good piece of chocolate.
If your boutique dressed a celebrity daily – who would it be?
Joanna Gaines because she falls into my demographics and exemplifies true entrepreneurship.
We have LOVED finding such great pieces at your boutique Allene, will you show us some of your current favorites online?
Thanks for sharing your story with us Allene, we love all of the unique finds at great prices at The Hidden Trunk, we can’t wait to see more soon!
Want to see more from the Hidden Trunk?
Visit them online at www.hiddentrunk.com
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