Often when we look back on a path we’ve taken, it all makes sense…it seems logical, straightforward, and direct. Of course, it is often anything but when we are actually trudging along it, making our way down the path…oftentimes forging the path itself. At the time, we may not know how we are going to get from point A to point B, or even have a point B in mind.
I recently sat down with Ashley and Charlene, a perhaps surprising team, to learn about the path they’ve been on. I say surprising because if you didn’t know otherwise, you might think they are two friends who went into business together or even sisters.
They aren’t. They are actually a daughter and mother who have forged a path that has led them to McHenry, to a new business in a special little shop they call Foxy’s.
What is Foxy’s
You may not have heard of Foxy’s yet, as they only opened a few weeks ago in June and just recently held their official grand opening. Or perhaps you’ve heard of them, but have no idea what they’re about. That’s okay too and makes for a good place to start.
So let’s begin there.
Foxy’s is a beauty boutique offering bath and beauty products that are organic and natural. They specialize in toxin-free products that include makeup, soaps, skincare, face serums, beard oil, bath bombs, and more.
The “more” even includes a vintage lounge, outfitted with furniture and home decor that can also be purchased, or just appreciated while in the shop.
But even that description is only the surface of who and what Foxy’s is. Let’s take a journey.
Journey to McHenry…via Boston?
Stepping back to 2007, during Ashley’s junior year of college, they took a trip together to Boston. On that trip, they happened upon a shop selling perfumes and body lotions.
But this wasn’t your typical shop, and these weren’t your typical products. Here, customers could mix and make their own perfumes and lotions using essential oils.
They were sold right then and there, mixing up a bunch of products on the spot. They both loved the concept of the store and thought “we could do something like this”…someday at least.
A few years later, while Ashley was working on her MBA in Marketing, she had a business class assignment where she had to go through the exercise of creating a company…from research to product mix and pricing, to developing a business plan. The essential oils perfume shop clearly left a memorable impression as she decided to use that as the base concept for her business idea.
But she got more than she bargained for.
Ashley began her research to better understand the perfumes and lotions products and industry and came across some surprising findings. Ashley was rather shocked to learn that cosmetic products and the ingredients themselves do not require approval from the FDA.
In fact, the FDA hadn’t made any new laws or standards in this area since the 1930s!
These discoveries fueled her desire to dig deeper into the beauty industry, which led to a greater understanding of just how toxic some of these “everyday” products were as well as some of the ingredients that went into them.
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The seed that was planted in Boston began to germinate. From this sprouted a desire to not only continue her own education in this area but to educate others about what is in their products as well as to help them find good, clean, quality products that were safe and healthy for them and their families.
This heightened awareness took on a deeper, even more, personal reality after Ashley and her husband’s son was born and they were living in Flint, Michigan. Yes, that Flint, Michigan, of the water crisis fame.
It’s challenging enough being a parent, but being a parent with a one-year-old living in an area facing one of the biggest water crises to hit the news is unimaginable…what is he drinking, what about the foods being prepared, what about time spent in the water just bathing?!
Out of One Crisis…Into Another
Now living in Woodstock, like so many others, Ashley’s world hit a speedbump last year. Working as a Marketing Director for the Elgin Symphony Orchestra when COVID hit was a devastating combination. Like so many others working in non-essential but close-quarters businesses, Ashley found herself laid off.
However, when you have a marketing background, primarily in the nonprofit space, you learn to do a lot with a little and find…or make…opportunities where you can.
Loving vintage, she turned to the digital world, setting up an Etsy store to resell items she picked up elsewhere. And as things began opening up, she also secured space in an antique mall.
Listening to Mom
Charlene had worked for the Lake County courthouse for 30 years. When she retired from that, she opened a store in Waukegan.
Now, with five years of that experience, a store lease coming up for renewal, and this shared vision for opening a shop together, this moment wasn’t entirely a setback, it was an opportunity.
From Shared Vision to Shared Reality
Perhaps more so now than ever, people seem to have more concern and awareness about what they are eating and putting in their bodies, as well as what they are putting on their bodies.
Forget case studies and class projects, now it became real, and Ashley and Charlene formulated their own business plan to realize their shared vision to do something great together.
Combining their interests may have been the easiest part. But where to realize that vision?
With Ashley in Woodstock and Charlene in Waukegan, they started looking around for a nice middle ground between where they both live. Hwy 120 connects the two of them, and though it is clearly not a middle point, they quickly fell in love with McHenry while they were scoping out locations.
And with a location determined, the name was soon to follow.
Foxy’s is a bit homage to McHenry, with the Fox River running along the eastern edge, but also a bit of a play on bath and beauty products intersecting with vintage. It’s a name meant to evoke a different time and about feeling good about yourself and just having fun.
An Amazingly Supportive Community
They both agreed that the reception and support so far have been overwhelmingly positive. They joined the McHenry Chamber of Commerce and the MC5 subgroup early on and have been truly amazed at how welcoming and supportive everyone has been.
The businesses around them in the Century Plaza, from Fiddlesticks, who used to occupy the space Foxy’s is in, to Twisted Limits Escape Rooms on one side and Art of Beauty on the other side of them, all stopped in as soon as Foxy’s opened to introduce themselves and welcome them. Art of Beauty, having a shared area of interest, has even been referring their customers to stop in.
Of course, business support is one thing, but it can only take you so far.
Fortunately, customer support has also been very positive. Ashley said that she received a lot of positive feedback from local Facebook groups when she announced that they were opening a store selling organic, toxin-free makeup and skincare products.
They are also starting to see return customers even though they just opened. And they are already getting special requests, with a few customers already seeking their guidance in creating some personalized, curated gift baskets…and yes, these savvy marketers are already responding and exploring that as a new product offering.
They put so much value into getting to know their customers and providing a vehicle for feedback, that they’ve already launched their own Foxy’s VIP Facebook group where they can easily communicate directly with customers.
This channel provides a great opportunity to offer advance notice of sales and even special VIP offers, but more importantly, an opportunity to survey this audience for direct feedback…experience with products, desired products or product lines, color choices, or broader topics like understanding what problems or challenges they might be able to help customers solve.
They are all for this because they want to do more than just sell products. They have a shared vision of making a difference and improving the lives of those around them.
Read labels and research ingredients.
Never skip moisturizer, even men.
Never skip mascara. 😉Ashley & Charlene’s Tips:
This was no more apparent than when I asked them how they would define and measure success. It had nothing to do with sales figures or any monetary measure. Rather, two things stood out.
First, that people see Foxy’s as a reliable source for products and information that are good for them and their families. Second, that they build up a return business because their customers love being there and keep coming back. They truly want to create an enjoyable experience for their customers.
What has perhaps been surprising so far is the wide array of customers. Even in the short time that they’ve been open, they have seen customers, both male and female, and ranging from early 20s to 70s or so. The connecting thread though has been an interest in safe and natural skincare, bath, and beauty products.
And they couldn’t be happier with this focus on products. Their entire business revolves around carrying products that are clean (i.e., safe, non-toxic, and natural).
One Product at a Time
Ashley says that they are very adamant about the inventory they carry.
While they want to continue to expand what they offer, they aren’t interested in rushing products into the store just to fill shelf space. Before they bring products in, they research the companies, they research the products, and they research the ingredients in the products they sell.
Foxy’s is also very interested in supporting other local businesses, small businesses, as well as, women-owned businesses. They admit the local businesses part has been especially challenging, and ultimately, product quality and meeting the standards they have set wins out.
That said, Ashley says that around 97% of the products Foxy’s carries are from small, women-owned businesses. Two of their larger brands are MOIRA Cosmetics and R+R Medicinals.
Otherwise, many are small businesses and even feature handmade products.
And they are making inroads on the local front too. Perennial Soaps, which are handcrafted vegan soaps, are made in Racine, Wisconsin, and they just discovered a Woodstock company that sells organic room sprays that they are looking into.
Carrying locally sourced products might be an added bonus, but so far, customers seem to just be happy to have alternative options.
This may be especially relevant since around the time Foxy’s opened their doors there has been a major sunscreen product recall.
And if that wasn’t enough, a scientific research report was also published studying popular makeup products that found about half of them had high fluorine levels, which scientists use as an indicator of potentially toxic chemicals.
This report was very concerning as most of these products, even those that were confirmed to contain certain toxic ingredients, didn’t even list those ingredients.
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Two very popular products that took them a bit by surprise are the organic mosquito repellent and the mineral sunscreen stick they carry from BEE-OCH Organics which are selling off the shelves.
Other really popular products so far have been the men’s grooming products from Brooklyn Grooming, the makeup, as well as a CBD pain cream.
Less than two months since opening the doors, Foxy’s is still in startup mode.
Much of the focus has been on stocking the initial product lines, getting their name out into the local market, firing up the VIP Facebook group for a direct connection to customers, and just managing the day-to-day business.
The Path Forward
But that doesn’t keep them from thinking about the long term. In addition to their presence on Facebook and Instagram, they are currently building out a website so they can offer up an ecommerce presence.
They are already developing a gift basket offering as well as looking at expanding into more home-focused products, such as organic cleaning products, reusable paper towels, and reusable lunch sacks.
All this while continuing to expand on the existing product lines they carry.
As the business continues to grow, they’ll look to bring on some employees. And while it is well down the path, potentially expanding into additional locations.
Most importantly though, their guiding principle is to remain true to their founding values of providing clean, organic, and sustainable products, and whenever possible, by also supporting other small, women-owned, and where possible, local businesses.
But What About Vintage?
While the vintage furniture and decor may seem a stretch outside of the picture, it all makes sense when you spend some time with Ashley and Charlene.
These items harken back to, at least what seems now, to have been less hectic times. Pre-fast fashion, when products were made to last, and using them today not only reminds us of that but sustains their life and reduces waste.
While that may all be true, there also might be a simpler answer.
Today, these vintage products bring in a bit of fun, whimsy, and joy. Not unlike Ashley and Charlene, spend a little time with them and they’ll put a smile on your face.
And much like the path they’ve been on…when you take a step back and take it all in, it makes complete sense. In many ways, Foxy’s journey is just starting and we can’t wait to see and hear about what lies ahead on their path.
Starting with their neighboring shops who have been so welcoming and supportive: Fiddlesticks, Art of Beauty Salon, and Twisted Limits Escape Rooms.
DC Cobbs, the McHenry Farmers Market, Hidden Pearl Coffee (Ashley says they have the best tea, while Charlene says she also loves just sitting in one of their chairs…and I think she might just let you know if you are sitting in it!), Pineapple Xpressed Cafe, Water Street Shoppe, Windhill Pancake Parlor ( Charlene loves the Wizard of OZ section and the “Mr. Rogers” train).Some of Ashley & Charlene’s own McHenry County favorites
For more information and details, be sure to check out Foxy’s listing. And if you are already a customer, please consider helping them by sharing your own Foxy’s experience on their listing page!
Thanks to everyone who participated!
This giveaway has now ended and results can be found on our Sweepstakes page.