Style that gives back
Joni Eisenbrandt remembers her high school days when she would save up money in a small jar in her room to go shopping for school clothes.
Before she would go shopping, she'd phone up her friends and have them come pick through her old stuff to make room for new purchases she would make with the money she'd saved.
Joni has always loved giving clothes away, she says, and when her daughter McKena was in junior high, the pair of Wilsonville residents would go around to their neighbors, collect clothes — including athletic wear and prom dresses — and redistribute them to families and people in need.
"It just feels good to be able to give back," Joni says.
After retiring from a career in law enforcement, Joni was looking for a business opportunity that would keep her mind active while also providing a way to give back. She and McKena started kicking around the idea of starting their own online clothing boutique. As they talked about it more, what first seemed like a vague dream started to unfold into a reality.
Today, the Eisenbrandts have started that company, Kena Grace Boutique, based out of their Wilsonville home.
"I like to shop, and obviously I like clothes. As you get into your 20s you kind of start to lose interest in the mall and big box stores," McKena says. "I was increasingly wondering: where do I buy clothes?"
McKena started to look more into online boutiques and she started researching and collecting materials about how different brands had established themselves. Joni began to take interest as well.
Last Thanksgiving they decided to hunker down and really start to build a plan. They wanted to offer clothes that would look good for both 20-somethings and middle-aged women alike, a broad spectrum of clothing that was versatile enough to fill both Joni and McKena's demographics.
"McKena kept talking about it and it stuck in my mind, so I said, 'This is something I'd look into,'" Joni says. "We didn't know where to get the clothes. We didn't know what kind of regulations there were in the state of Oregon. It was a step-by-step learning process, but navigating that (with my daughter) has been exciting."
When McKena returned to Oregon for winter break from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix where she's heading into her junior year, the two began designing their logo, building their brand and researching business regulations and licensing.
As an advertising and design major, McKena's newly learned skills have been a huge boon to their business while in the startup phase, she says.
"We started this, (somewhat) naively, because we thought it would be fun," McKena says. "There was so much more work picking out the clothes — there are thousands of pages. It's fun, but you wouldn't think picking out clothes would take a whole week's worth of work."
Despite the hard work, long hours and having to communicate across thousands of miles, the mother-daughter duo has finally launched their website and began selling items through their online portal. It's slow going, but they're excited to start saving up money so they can give back to the community.
"Single moms are a huge deal to me. We'd love to put our money towards supporting single mothers in the Portland area," Joni says. "Whether that's helping to sponsor a child who wants to take piano lessons or helping a mom pay for groceries or their electric bill, any way we can
The idea for now is to put 10 percent of the proceeds from all their sales into a savings account, let it grow and within the next three to six months use those funds to give someone a small blessing. Both McKena and Joni are excited at the prospect of being able to follow their passion for clothes while also giving back to those in need. While they're unsure of the specific ways Kena Grace will give back, the Eisenbrandts are committed to keeping that notion at the heart and soul of their business.
Last week, they held a small fashion show in their home with family, friends and neighbors in attendance to get a first look at what the Eisenbrandts have been cooking up in their home office. The reactions they got, Joni says, let them know they're at least headed in the right direction.
"The feedback so far (mostly friends) has been great. They love the style, and they love the affordability," Joni says. "We've been mindful of what looks good on people of all body types too, so that's been a fun challenge."
For more information on Kena Grace or to shop their online boutique visit https://kenagrace.com.