Seven years ago, I set out to feed my family of six and to help my small, rural community by starting a business selling affordable, sassy clothing and accessories.
Growing Cheekys from a tiny storefront in New Plymouth, Idaho (populations 1,538) into a multi-million-dollar wholesale, manufacturing and ecommerce business wasn’t easy, and it didn’t happen overnight. But through even my most desperate moments, I’ve developed grit and confidence that shines through to my customers and fans (known as Cheekys’ Chicks) on social media. Many in the boutique industry are more concerned with image and appearance than relating to real women, many of them without much money and living in so-called "flyover states." But the rodeo queen mentality never resonated for me, and I knew that to be successful, I had to do it my way and be fearless in the scariest thing of all: being myself.
The way we’ve built Cheekys is about building respect for one another, working hard and treating every person with love. In a world where women like Rachel Hollis and Joanna Gaines make it look easy to have a “perfect life,” I’ve learned to be okay with my life, warts and all. Here’s four ways on how I got here.
1. Be pretty.
My Granny Dee taught me at a young age that being pretty doesn’t mean you’re a pushover, or God forbid, that you only show up in full-face makeup and dressed to the nines (ask my staff — I live in yoga pants). It means you should take the high road and always bring your best self to conversations — including those happening on social media. I’ve found people, especially women, respond well to vulnerability and authenticity. It can be scary to lead from that place, but it feels so good when you do.
2. Boss (molly) up.
A “boss molly” refers to a female mule. This mule is always the smartest and most stubborn mule in the herd. Nobody messes with a boss molly, and unlike horses, a boss molly doesn’t follow anyone’s lead.
One time, early on in my business, a woman told me all of Cheekys products were “tacky” and got support from a few other women in the community. I spoke up for myself and said: “Why are you clapping? Do you think this is funny? This is my business. This is how I feed my children. I don’t know where you were raised, but we’re all women here, and most of us are mothers, and that means we support each other. If you’re not interested in that, don’t come back.”
My nickname is "boss lady," and I like that, because it gives me courage when I doubt myself — which is every day. Being the boss lady means I’m in charge and that I take responsibility by admitting when I’m wrong and standing by my customers. Being a boss lady means knowing your self-worth and handling the respect and scrutiny that can come along with that.
3. Really listen to your kids.
One of the best things about kids is that they can smell a fraud from a mile away. My journey hasn’t been easy. At one point, I lost custody of my young twin boys due to lies from my ex and his influence in our small, rural county. I was in a pretty dark place for about two years after that. Finally, my oldest son, Hunter, who was in high school by then, called me out on it.
“This isn’t a request, Mom,” Hunter told me. “Addy and I need our mother back.” Gut punch, right?
I began to realize my unhappiness was more than losing the twins— it went deep into my background of abuse, neglect, and bad relationships, even though I thought I’d put my past behind me. As hard as it can be to remember than happiness is a skill and not a choice, Hunter’s words still stick with me when I have my hard days. So many people, especially online, act from a place of unhappiness, so remembering that happiness is a skill to be practiced can go a long way to helping you manage your reactions and treat others from a place of firm compassion.
4. Find your core friends
I have an inner circle of women—and a few men—who have earned my trust. Some of them are employees, some are fellow moms or mentees, and some are longtime customers. We are each other’s "ride-or-dies" — through sick kids and dying parents, domestic abuse and business mistakes — but we also cheer one another on through our wildest successes. These women help me be myself online and they call me out if I’m messing up. Always, always listen to the allies in your corner, notice red flags and value your intuition. Surround yourself with those who believe in you, because that helps you learn to believe in yourself.