The latest #myBOBstory is one that will have you think about what is most important in life. This myBOB story introduces you to Founder and Creator of HourxHour, Alexis Avery. You can listen to the full interview with Alexis, as well as read the abridged version below.
You may have noticed that HourxHour was featured on our Instagram. If you’re interested in being featured in the #myBOBstory, reach out via email. This series brings awareness to Black businesses from the owner's perspective. At myblackbox co it's important to know the vision and purpose behind a business.
Alexis has been managing a medical condition, a growing bath and body business for the chronically ill, and life for the past 8 years with one mantra driving her forward: “My purpose is to help somebody else get through their day with their condition.”
Can you share with me why you started your business?
Actually, Hour by Hour morphed from an older business I had called Control Butter, which I made body butters. When I got sick it derailed me for two years. I completely shut down that business and I was bedridden and house bound for two years while we were trying to figure out what I had and what was going on. I remember sitting in my car one day and I had a breakdown. And an epiphany, I could do it. I had come home from work, I had left work for a doctor's appointment. They didn't have any answers for me. It broke me down. And I sat in my car and I cried. I cried for a good 30 minutes because I didn't know how I was going to get through finding out what was wrong. I told myself, if you could get through a minute, Alexis, you'll be okay. If you get through an hour, you'll be great. You're strong enough to get through an hour and at the time I wanted to redo my business and I couldn't figure out a name. And I was like, Hour by Hour, that's what I'm going to call it! I'm going to make it for people like me, people who are fighting to get through the day when they don't think they can. They can't take it day by day because that's too much. They don't know what the day is going to entail but if they take it hour by hour or sometimes even minute by minute. That's how it came to be.
I think that, one, thank you for sharing the background of how you started. I'm always fascinated by Black entrepreneurs who started business out of a need or a necessity or because it was on their heart or on their spirit to start because it was something that they lived through. So, thank you for sharing that. With that, I'd love to know what inspiration do you use today and now to fuel your entrepreneurial journey with Hour by Hour?
There's every day struggles that people with invisible chronic and mental illnesses go through. A lot of us have a lot of pain and doubt from co-workers and friends and family, things like that. We don't have a lot of support. So, every one of my products actually has a story and that story stems from a real-life experience. One of my bath salts, soaking bath salts, it is a salt that's main use is to soak in a tub. There's no fragrance, it's not going to irritate you. Soak for hours without the water bothering your skin, without getting itchy. Sometimes you need that when you have a flare, when you don't feel good but you could barely walk, or when you've been at work all day and people are accusing you of faking. A lot of people DM me, a lot of people talk to me on Instagram and social media and things like that and they tell me what they go through and it's what I go through and, I could 110 percent relate. I always try to make my products and my brand accommodate that or speak to that or reflect that and that's what fuels it, 110 percent. It's always going to fuel it because at this point it's not a passion, it's a purpose. My purpose is to help somebody else get through their day with their condition. My purpose is to help you relax. My purpose is to help you find some type of relief even if it's not going to last. I need you to have a bit of relief away from the pain and doubt and suffering that you're in.
When you think about the products that you have, of them, which is your most favorite and why? If you can, share a testimonial from a customer who’s reached out and thanked you for creating something that's been helping to soothe or assist them with exactly what you intended with Hour by Hour.
That would definitely be my body butter. It's the product that started it all. That was my very first thing I made eight years ago, a mango body butter. Although the recipe has morphed and changed and advanced some, it's pretty much still the same staple product. Everyone who buys this butter has raved about it so far! I'm very fortunate for that. I haven't received a bad review on this product yet in the eight years that I've been making it, selling it, giving it away, gifting it. They say they love the way it makes them smell, their husbands take more interest in them, they like the way it melts into their skin, it stops the itching, stops the chafing. When they have conditions where they take medication, it makes their skin really dry and they get some relief from it. They said it's moisturizing enough to wear; it alleviates that irritation from that symptom and that's so heartwarming for me to hear. I know what it's like to be on different types of medications when you have different symptoms and you don't know where to go or what to do, how to get any type of relief. For them to say hey I need something that you made, and for a couple hours the itch went away, I was so happy, it makes me tear up. It's overwhelming. I still can't believe that I'm able to help someone like that and I don't take it for granted at all.
I'm sure that it's a very like reciprocated experience for both parties. Do you know of any other products out there that actually do focus on people who are going through mental or physical, or some other medical issue where they need similar products that Hour by Hour provides?
I would have to say I haven't found one yet, and I do search. And this isn't to downplay any other companies and their mission because a lot of the companies that are in my field have beautiful missions. You have people who want to take out all the toxic chemicals in their products and make all natural, organic products, you have people who are interested in saving the palm trees that some of our parks come from, you have people with all these other wonderful missions but I haven't come across a brand yet that solely focuses on chronic, mental, and invisible illnesses. And I think the reason behind that may be invisible illnesses they can't be seen. So, people really don’t take them seriously and people don't acknowledge them or the people that suffer with them. And mental illness is not cute. It's not sexy, it's not fun, it's not hip, it's not trendy. It's real and it's scary and it's unpredictable and sometimes it's dangerous. Now, do I make products that don't do anything different than other bath and body companies? No, I don't. I have a body butter. I can say I have very high quality and sometimes a lot of ingredients, but at the end of the day it's still a cream you rub on your body. There's a million others out there. But, is there a cream out there that you can rub on your body that was made with you in mind that it's so light when you rub it on your herniated joints you don't have to massage hard onto your skin that's already painful. Can you find a cream that's not overly loaded with fragrance that is going to make you sick because you're in chemo, but you still want a cream that has a little bit of scent, because you want to feel like a woman although you've been in a hospital bed for 27 days straight. Unless a company has a founder that's in the same situation, I don't think that they're going to be able to do it.
Pain doesn't necessarily sell unless it's the pain of an under represented group that is actually preyed upon by a majority group for pleasure. Sickness doesn't sell unless it's the sickness of a group in a country. And mental health is not sexy, no one really wants to talk about it, but we want to talk about it when it's too late because someone's killed themselves or someone has harmed someone else or someone has done something that is not revocable. I appreciate that you were speaking as a human being to these people, to women, and I'm sure men buy your products too; but to women who have felt unseen and unheard on top of going through something medically or health-wise that's probably debilitating and doesn't make them feel whole.
So what you don't have a mental illness? So what you don't struggle with depression? So what you don't struggle with anxiety, but your day was as hard? If you made it through, hour by hour you made it through, and you want to relax in a bathtub, by all means, you deserve it. You earned it. And I really want people to understand that you don't have to be sick to deserve compassion for your struggle throughout that day.
Self-care is universal. There's no qualifications needed for self-care and your products are definitely in the realm of what any woman or any person could consider as a relaxing way to unwind from their day or from a problem. Which leads me to a really great question for you: Why should consumers purchase from Hour by Hour?
If you want a bath and body brand that really was formulated for your needs as a person who's struggling through the day, come to me. From the ingredients to the scents to the actual product that I make, they're all designed to help you get through the day, hour by hour. The scents of my candles, I have a very limited selection of scents in all of my products but each scent has a story behind it, each scent and most of my candles were made with the intention to give you something to [enjoy] that's going to relax you; that's going to calm you; that’s going to bring back a good memory. Every product has a purpose. Every product has a reason behind it. People love bath bomb cupcakes, and I do them for special events and people custom order them for party favors, but you won't find them in my line because what does a bath bomb cupcake have to do with helping you get through the day hour by hour? It's cute, but it serves no purpose for what you're going through.
I love that you talk about your products having a purpose first. I wonder if you feel that you have an example of someone or another entity you think could be considered a great example of Black entrepreneurship?
I'm going to give you two people off of Instagram that I follow for motivation and information. I like Cici from the Six Figure Chicks, who makes digital products, informational digital products. She teaches you how to build an e-mail list, she teaches you how to market, she teaches you a little bit about branding and she's really good at what she does, she's very informative. But she's very authentic. When I first came across her page, the first motto that I saw was, 'I'm friendly, not free.' I was like well that's blunt, that's kind of rude, don't you think. In her caption, she said, 'I'm not for everybody, down from the way I speak to the products I make. I am not for everybody and I'm okay with that.' And that blew my mind because at the time I was like you have to cater to everybody, you have to give everybody something and she was like no, I don't. Another lady that I love is Renelle Stewart also known as Supa Cent of the Crayon Case on Instagram. I use her for drive and motivation. I've been following her since the beginning from zero to a million, literally. She started her brand for amateur makeup artists. She was on Instagram not knowing how to do her makeup and she taught herself and that's what her brand is about. When it comes to hustle and being authentic to yourself and being profitable with that, those are the two women I look up to on Instagram right now.
I recently was added to the Six Figure Army Facebook group and there's so many amazing women talking about their businesses. I don't think I've ever been exposed to such a level of consistency of Black women doing and achieving and sharing knowledge willingly. And then with Supa Cent, I was talking to a colleague recently about how while I don't really wear a lot of bright or exuberant colors, I appreciate her grind and how when she does a sale, it's millions in sales within an hour, within minutes. It's pretty amazing and she doesn't have to be in a Sephora or a Mac or a JC Penney or any of these other retailers. She's doing it out of her own space and with her own team. You can't deny that level of ingenuity that Black women bring to the table when they put their mind to it so thank you for those examples. I think this is a really great place to discuss how have you or how did you financially start your business?
In 2008 I found a local program called the Savings Match Program and what they did was up to $2,000 you could save, they would match the $2,000 for a total of $5,000. I did the program, I got accepted, I graduated and I got my money. With the exception of the money I spent on my well materials and containers, I got ripped off of everything else. I bought my computer…and I bought my containers so maybe for a total of $2,500 I got all my materials and stuff and I lost everything else with being ripped off. So, fast forward throughout the years, I'm starting, I'm stopping, I'm starting, I'm stopping because I'm so sick and because I couldn't keep the cash flow going. Instead of paying myself first I pay my business first. I make those sales, I put it back into my business. Now I'm finally at a place where I have more consistency, I have more sales coming in, and so I'm able to have a cycle of money and purchasing going to where I don’t have that gap of not being able to move product because I can't make product. I got a really big gift from the program and I didn't manage it correctly and lost it all and then I funded it through selling product and my job.
You took that risk because some people are too afraid to do that. And then you learned from the experience that you had after reaping the benefits of that program and starting over, stopping, starting over, stopping, but then still picking yourself back up and coming to a place where you could actually figure out what's going to work best for you to keep Hour by Hour moving forward to the goals that you have.
I actually read this quote that says 'It's not your fault if you're born poor. It is your fault if you die the same.' And ever since I read that it resonated with me. So, quitting to me isn't an option. Hour by Hour is going to be one of the most successful bath and body brands out there eventually. I know it's going to come to pass and I'm expectant of everything that's going to happen, good and bad.
The quote that you shared, that's a powerful message right there. That quote could probably sum up any good advice, but what advice do you have for Black girls and women who are struggling to find their place in society?
Do not wait for society to give you a place. You take your place and you tell society, this is where it's at, because society is going to place you in a place that's not beneficial to you. Society is going to place you in a place that you're not happy in. Society is going to place you in a place where you're going to suffer and let you wither away. You don't wait for society to give you permission to do anything. You make your own lane. You make a space where you feel protected, where you can be yourself, where you can flourish, because society isn't going to let you flourish. It's not. They're not going to let you evolve, so you make society bend to what you want. It's your space, you make the rules, you run the show, and that's how it is.
There's so many women who need that message and I hope that they hear it and receive it 100 percent. What advice would you give to someone like you who has an idea but is afraid to take the first step to launch?
When you say someone like me, I hear you saying a young woman who looks healthy but is not. What I would tell that woman is medically get yourself together because you won't be able to do it without that consistency. You can't get that consistency if you're always sick. Since 2008 to 2019 I failed. I'm resilient, nothing can keep me down. Train yourself to be resilient because you're going to fail, people aren't going to help you up, people aren't going to want to see you win, and sometimes you're only going to have yourself to rely on. It's lonely and it's sad but once you get your momentum and once you get going, then people will start to believe in you and help you. Make that website that looks like you made it. Make that first sample. Go to that first event, whether your 110 percent prepared or not. Build your confidence because, oh honey, you're going to need it. You need to find something that's going to anchor you down. Write what you want your business to be in five years, ten years. Write it down, put it on a door, every door of your house so you never miss it.
Wow! I don't even want to have to ask my last question because what you gave, I nearly have tears in my eyes and I was sitting here like at church, getting a good word! Last question, what can we expect from Hour by Hour in 2019?
For the remainder of 2019 going to 2020, we are planning a This is Us campaign, which is going to take a look at what does invisible illness really look like. We're working on a subscription box, that's been a big request and we're working on a kid's line because the funniest thing I've ever heard is asking a kid what stresses you out. I'm so excited to do a children's line of products catered to children because apparently sharing crayons in preschool is a stressful situation! I'm all about consistency, professionalism and presentation so I'm working on that as well.
It all sounds fantastic. I'm excited to see this kid's line too. I feel that children they're incredibly impressionable, one, and two, there's often a lot of placement of what an adult wants a child to think, believe, and feel and not enough of understanding what children are actually thinking and feeling because they're incredibly smart and they communicate well when they are given the space to do so. Where can people find you and your products?
Wonderful. Well, thank you Alexis for joining me, thank you so much for your time and telling the audience about Hour by Hour, your experience, as well as understanding there are so many people out there with invisible illnesses, chronic illnesses and even those dealing with mental health illness that we need to be a bit more compassionate towards; as well as being compassionate to ourselves when we need self-care.
Yes, 100 percent. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
Alexis’ triumphant story should light a fire under your you-know-what! How can you not find the spirit to make your goals a reality with your business now?