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Jennell Thurn

Owner of Treasure Lilly Boutique in Central Square started in her home’s basement; it now sales merchandise to boutiques nationwide

By Stefan Yablonski

Q: How did you come to be interested in this type of work?
A: I have always had a passion for clothing and makeup. I grew up in the beauty industry with my mom as a hairdresser. I love making women feel beautiful and comfortable in their own bodies.

Q: Do you have experience in this field?
A: I was not new to building businesses, but the fashion industry was a learning curve for me to get acquainted with different fabrics and vendors.

Q: How long have you been in business?
A: I opened Treasure Lilly Boutique (3078 East Ave.., Central Square) in 2018 and incorporated in 2019.

Q: Did you have a job prior to doing this?
A: Yes, I was working in the admin field for National Grid. I knew I wanted more than just punching a clock and finishing a list of daily admin tasks. I wanted to make people smile.

Q: What did you want to do for a living when you were growing up?
A: It’s funny to think back. I always said as a child I wanted to be a newscaster or a talk show host. I did not pursue that type of schooling, but when I am ‘live’ daily on Facebook it does sort of seem as though I am reporting fashion news or interacting as a talk show host. 

Q: How much did it cost to get started? Did you have to find a building, where do you get you merchandise?
A: I started in my basement selling a MLM company called Lularoe in 2016. I quickly realized they were the middleman between me and the actual suppliers. I started sourcing my own products and branded my own name. Treasure Lilly is a family name. The name Lilly is my grandmother’s maiden name. My businesses quickly took over my entire house! It was then I rented my very first small space. I remember being terrified of the commitment to pay $500 a month in rent. I did most of the work myself at that point and hired a friend to work nights after her real job. 

Q: What happened next?
A: Since then, we have expanded twice, I have six employees, including myself. We not only have a retail online shop and store but other boutiques loved our products so much they approached us on selling to them in bulk for whole sale pricing. So we now have a wholesale division called TL Clothing in which we sell to approximately 1,300 other boutiques across the nation. My son runs this division of the company.

Q: Have you invested more? Do you plan to expand?
A: One thing I have learned in business is that it costs money to make money. I have invested heavily to support growth.

Q: Who helped you get going?
A: My family has always been my biggest cheerleader. I remember my husband getting up at 5 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday to load a trailer of clothing to set up at the regional market. It was a lot of beating the pavement in the first year to get our name out there. Can you believe rack of clothing weighs about 500 pounds? Imagine loading 10 of those in and out all weekend long.  I have made many business connections along the way, but I would love to give a huge shout out to John Halleron at the Small Business Development Center in Oswego. I met him years ago when starting my very first business. It was an entire different field. The information and things he taught me has helped me in this business as well.

Q: What is your business philosophy?
A: We are ‘day makers’ we want to know every single customer that we encounter and show them how special they truly are. We have created a “tribe” of women that uplift one another.

Q: What is the best advice you have received?
A: Take chances. You can always get a job working for someone else. But what if you take a chance and believe in yourself?

Q: What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting their own business?
A: Do your research! Owning your own business is not for the faint of heart. Find a good accountant that understands your business.

Q: Who are your customers, mostly women?
A: Mostly women ages 35-72.

Q: What’s your most popular item(s)?
A: Our private label leggings and our gourmet snacks!

Q: Was your business impacted at all by the pandemic?
A: Yes, our store front was closed, but we increased our live feeds. We quickly realized we were right where we needed to be. So many people that were shut in and alone could interact with us during our shows.

Q: Are things looking up?
A: Business has been steady and we are looking forward to some big moves in 2023.

Q: What’s the best part of your job? The least favorite part?
A: I love every minute of building this business to the next level. However, there are a lot of hours and countless nights I am up working behind the scenes.