It's me...hi. I'm the owner, it's me.

I loved writing when I was younger and have often thought about starting a blog, but how do you do that? Am I even that interesting? Do I want to be vulnerable or funny? Should I write about personal experiences? Should I write about the boutique? Will anyone even care to read it? Who knows?! So I'm just going to do this. Find a good tip here or there. Laugh or cry. Read it or don't. Here's my start to something new in 2024. 

Hi.  I'm Jen.

I'm a wife of a hardworking guy that I have been with since the 90's. I'm a mom or two awesome girls. I have a long list of 2024 resolutions that will likely be forgotten or just scratched off within the first few months of the new year. I'm a Pisces (aka a dreamer, but with ADHD so that makes things interesting). I'm an insane person that decided to make a huge jump and take a risk for the first time in her life to open a brick & mortar and online children's boutique during a global pandemic.

But before all of that, I was just Jen. I grew up in a small town in central Nebraska called Broken Bow. It's one of those places you would expect to see in a Hallmark movie. It's the place that has a cute town square with a gazebo and park, lined on the outside with local businesses, banks, hotel and restaurants. Train tracks cutting the town in two, so you always hope that you don't get caught on the wrong side when you are trying to rush home because you need to go to the bathroom. It's small - not too small - but small. There are a total of three stoplights and two of them are on the same block. So....yeah. Small.

My parents were both born and raised in Broken Bow. My dad owned the local Napa Auto Parts store. He was the third generation to own Wenquist, Inc. (My older brother is now the fourth generation owner.) My mom stayed at home, helped at the schools, volunteered for everything, and worked for one of her long time friends at a children's clothing store. 

I was a pretty average kid. I got good grades. I played volleyball, but at 5'3" I only played back row and was OK at best. I played softball in the summers, but really only to hang out with my friends and have fun, I wasn't super competitive. I played piano for the community theater, was the drum majorette in the marching band, sang in the choir and was on the speech team. My senior year I was the editor of the school newspaper, and enjoyed playing Miss Hannigan in our schools production of Annie. I went to every home football and basketball game in high school. I hung with friends, went to school dances, parties (so happy there wasn't social media back then!) and was just happy to be a part of something. I never pushed myself for more. I was content....happy.

I attended UNK for two years after high school. I joined a sorority (Alpha Phi) and met some amazing people that are still some of my best friends today. I attended class, sometimes. I made mistakes, likely partied a bit too much, and fell behind. I just wasn't happy. After one of the most emotional conversations I've ever had in my life with my dad, I made the decision to move back home for a bit. I left Kearney for Broken Bow where I helped my dad at the store by delivering auto parts. It wasn't where I wanted to be, but I didn't know what I wanted at that point. I was still trying to figure out who I was and falling deeper into depression. 

Then, one day, a friend from high school called and said he would take me to a Rusted Root concert in Kansas if I moved to Lincoln. I packed all of my belongings into my red/hot pink Ford Tempo, and set off for Lincoln. I crashed on a couch at some friends apartment for a week or so while I looked for a job and found an apartment for myself. I decided I was going to just start out with life and see where it took me. (Yes, I went to the Rusted Root concert. And, yes, it was amazing.) I found a job at JC Penney working in the jewelry department for a while. Then I jumped over to the corporate world where I was a receptionist for a company that manages assisted living and nursing facilities. 

Lincoln is where I met Andy. A chance meeting at a party that neither of us had planned on attending, but did anyway. We dated while he finished school at UNL and then after he graduated, we moved to Omaha together. I started a job working at an assisted living facility running the business office and using the skills I learned in Lincoln. I was good at it. I was organized, good with people, and the job was repetitive and easy for me to do. Somewhere in here Andy and I were married, bought a house, had our children, and built our current home. I also went back to the corporate world and worked in accounts receivable and payroll. Again, repetitive and it came easy to me. I tried to get ahead and pushed myself to get promotions, but in the end I just overworked myself and never got ahead. So there I remained. Content. Then the pandemic hit. 

While so many people were laid off or furloughed, I was working 60 hours a week. I was lucky to have kept my job, but now I was (like so many others) trying to work, make sure my kids were on zoom for school, trying to make the time we spent at home "fun", and basically just exhausting myself trying to do everything while not leaving the house or seeing anyone other than my family. You were there, you know how it was. It was depressing. I started losing myself again. I wasn't happy and knew I needed to do something. I needed to learn to speak up, stand up for myself. Well, I did those things and instead of working in a role I was trying to help create, I was let go. Wham! Fine. If I was going to live, I wanted to do it on my terms. I wanted to be more. I wanted happiness. I wanted to show my daughters that they can do anything. I wanted to prove to myself that I was worth something. So, I decided to open up Coco & Charlie's. I went to market in July,  found a location in August, started getting deliveries in September and opened in December 2020.

Best. Decision. Ever. Is it hard? Yes. Do I love it? Yes. Do I get super stressed out? Yes. Do I regret it? NEVER. I took a risk. I pushed myself past contentment and went for something I really wanted, not only for myself, but for my family. 

Some of you may only know me from the shop or a pop-up event. Some of you may know me from the neighborhood. Some of you may be friends or family that have had to put up with my antics for years. Some of you may be new here. If you're new, I hope I didn't scare you off with my first attempt at a blog. And if you are still reading....well, thanks. That's just a little glimpse a big part of me. Cheers to the future.


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