What began as a hobby of selling designer items and styling for clients when it comes to Gulf Breeze resident Jennifer Wells, transformed into a thriving boutique both online and in the community she’s called home since 2001.
“As a small business, it’s not about being the best just to be the best, but it’s about being the best for the community,” Jen shares.
Before her days of full-blown entrepreneurship, Jen graduated from the University of Miami studying finance and marketing as well as went on to apply her skills as a successful stockbroker. Yet, she was always drawn to fashion, design, color, and culture.
Little did she know she was a fashion-forward entrepreneur at heart and would develop a successful labor of love.
Jen moved on and to Gulf Breeze eventually, and she started selling on eBay while learning how to be a stay-at-home mom — plus how to make a living doing what she adores.
Leveraging her passion for fashion, Jen turned her skills into a formal business in 2015 with the launch of Jen’s Designer Deals. Over time she kept going, taking the steps and leaps over the months and years to consider operating a physical shop.
Additionally, she heard about Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) and their free consultation program. She decided to give it a try. She couldn’t believe it was all free due to her tax dollars and met with not just one consultant but a whole team weighing in on her plans.
The entrepreneur explains how the team helped her fix the cracks in her foundation and reinforced that her idea was solid as she saw the opportunity for customers not only globally online but also across her home region, from Navarre and Milton to Pensacola.
“As a small business owner, things are hectic,” Jen says. “A constant juggling act of wearing many different hats. Luckily, working with the SBDC and building a relationship with my contact has helped me work through certain situations as they arise.”
Jen adds how the Gulf Breeze Chamber of Commerce is an “amazing, very supportive chapter.”
“Getting to know other businesses and supporting each other in our business endeavors is important, even if in same the industry. I sponsor and support the schools as well. It’s all a very symbiotic relationship. We are all neighbors working to make this the best community.”
With the guidance of organizations like the Florida SBDC at UWF and Santa Rosa Economic Development Office, Jen opened a welcoming storefront in 2019. While COVID-19 and Hurricane Sally soon tested the new shop and its owner to the limits, the tight-knit community rallied behind their city.
Leaning on local resources like the SBDC, Jen also navigated relief options and honing her business operations, bouncing back stronger than ever.
“Their guidance at every turn was crucial to my success and even more so once the unfortunate events of Covid and then Hurricane Sally happened,” Jen says. “ I really believe that I would have not survived these events if it were not for the support of the SBDC, the Gulf Breeze Chamber of Commerce, and the community rallying together to save Gulf Breeze Proper. The SBDC assisted me in identifying, applying for, and receiving financial aid, and encouraged me to navigate through.”
Now an interwoven part of Gulf Breeze, Jen’s Designer Deals is the realization of Jen’s vision for quality, community-focused style with service that builds lasting relationships between neighbors. The boutique owner passes on hard-won advice to fellow entrepreneurs: network relentlessly and partner locally — that’s what makes a community thrive.
What began as Jen’s hobby of selling designer fashion online grew into a brick-and-mortar embodiment of community-first entrepreneurship. Jen’s Designer Deals stands as a testament to the power of passion, partnership, and resilience.
More than a clothing and accessories store, the boutique fosters connections with customers, other small businesses, and gives back to local causes. (The store often holds “shopping for a cause” nights which pair special discounts with donations to chosen nonprofits.)
Find out more about Jen’s Designer Deals including her curated offerings and private appointments like styling services, personal shopping, and events.