A GLANMIRE woman who had been looking for a change in career had her light-bulb moment during lockdown and says she’s never been happier.
Jen Thomas had worked as a personal trainer for the past 12 years, running her own studio in Watergrasshill first and then renting space in The Montenotte Hotel, but for the last two years she had felt exhausted. She knew she desperately wanted to do something else with her life, even if she didn’t know what.
She’s done a million other things over the years including working as a beautician, as a dog rehab therapist, as a rep, and in retail.
The mum-of-three is also a part-time model, but it was only when she was back at her first booking after the break imposed by the pandemic that she saw her future materialising before her eyes.
“Trying on the clothes for the first modelling job as we were coming out of lockdown, I realised how it instantly made me feel so happy and I realised that I express myself through fashion, that I just adore it, and how I never want to be doing anything else,” she said.
Jen didn’t waste a moment and straight away set about researching and sourcing suppliers, and started up her business ‘Love Life Fashion Fix’ with her pal Lorraine O’Neill, selling through social media.
“We started in one bedroom in my house, then we had to take over another room, until pretty soon every room was full and we were literally stepping over boxes,” said Jen.
With her modelling experience and keen eye, she was able to create good social media content and there was huge demand for the well-priced lifestyle clothing she was selling.
“It was gas to see what we could achieve in such a short time. The response was really phenomenal,” she said, adding that it was normal for her to work until 2am most nights.
“We didn’t take a break, but there was nothing to take a break from,” Jen said, admitting she thrives when she’s busy.
Having modelled for seven seasons on the RTÉ Today Show, presenter Maura Derrane wore several of Jen’s looks which helped expose her to clients outside Cork.
“That brought us customers in Galway, Waterford, Letterkenny and Tralee,” she said.
Jen started out with Lorraine in September and by November they had expanded to a ‘click and collect’ unit in Glanmire, and in the past few weeks she’s gone solo and opened her first bricks and mortar boutique.
“I’m a big believer in the laws of attraction and manifesting things, so I had envisioned this glass front shop space, where there would be passing trade, and I found a perfect spot over District 11, in Glanmire which is ideal,” she said.
And if the day The Echo caught up with her is anything to go by, she’s flying it.
But things weren’t always so positive in Jen’s life, and she’s honest enough to admit it.
“I’ve had hard times in the past, and I’ve always had to fight to get what I want in life,” she said.
She became a mum at the age of 17, and her kids are now aged 25, 21 and 14. She separated from their father 11 years ago.
“We were together since I was 17, and were married for 10 years. I think you build your life around your family and how you think it will be and when the marriage ended it was a difficult time in my life,” she said.
Through positivity, Jen’s always pulled through whatever challenges came her way. It was the same when she encountered depression.
“I needed exercise in my life and I remember going out for a walk and breaking into a run, and even though it was really uncomfortable, I remember how I felt afterwards, the rush of endorphins. I held on to that and I decided I wanted others to feel the same, which is why I trained as a PT. For me it wasn’t about weight loss but how exercise could make you feel,” she said.
That’s exactly what she wants to do now with her business — connect with people, and help them feel good about themselves through fashion.
“My customers vary; it could be a 20-year-old, or a 60-year-old, but what they all have in common is that they want to feel good.”
This 43-year-old Cork woman is also a doting granny to 19-month-old Bobby, who brings her so much joy.
“He makes me so happy and puts a smile on my face the minute I look at his eyes.
“He oozes character already at such a young age,” Jen said.
Her 14-year-old son is also helping her in the shop this summer.
All in all, Jen says this is the happiest she’s ever been in her life career wise. She hopes this is just the first of what will be two or three more ‘Love Life Fashion Fix’ boutiques to come.
“Covid gave me that chance to slow down, to stop and figure it out. It’s a dream come true.
“I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. It all feels so easy, so natural, I literally jump out of bed in the morning.
“I’m so proud,” she said.
I’m a big believer in the laws of attraction and manifesting things, so I had envisioned this glass front shop space, where there would be passing trade, and I found a perfect spot