Whether it’s a blue and orange jersey, military camouflage, or a knee-length white lab coat, a uniform invokes a sense of pride, purpose and belonging.
Although it creates an unspoken connection between those who wear it, a uniform isn’t always obvious. Sometimes, it’s nothing more than a spirited saying across the front of a t-shirt worn by hardworking country girls in rural America, and chances are, it came from Cheekys.
“What we’ve done is somehow allowed this brand to create a community for people who identify with the rural lifestyle in some way, shape or fashion,” said Jessi Roberts, founder and owner of Cheekys.
Cheekys, based in New Plymouth, Idaho, manufactures, imports and sells apparel and accessories for rowdy rurals, country lovers and folks who prefer their morning coffee with a heavy spoonful of sass.
“We wanted to create an authentic product but also have it be really affordable,” says Jessi.
Although her husband and business partner, Justin, is an Idaho native, Jessi grew up in the south where she spent much of her time around western boutiques that were high-fashion and high-cost. As a kid, staring through windows at mannequins decorated with garments she couldn’t afford, Jessi felt like an outsider – a feeling she’s determined to eradicate from the small communities in rural Idaho and throughout the United States.
“I felt like I wasn’t rich enough or cowgirl enough,” recalls Jessi. “But you don’t have to worry about being enough with us. You’re enough here.”
Reaching nearly two million people each week, the Cheekys Facebook page alone is testament to the strong sisterhood and sense of belonging the brand has created.
“People who are quiet or reserved meet new friends here,” said Jessi. “They can come here and feel safe, no matter their size. There’s not a bunch of chaos. They can be content and be authentic and be themselves.”
When women are empowered through authenticity, incredible things happen. For example, Cheekys kicked off in 2011 with a curated, country-inspired boutique for the women in her small town. That boutique has now grown at its own pace into a company with over $20 million in revenue and one of the largest printing facilities in the northwest.
“Everything is from us just hustling and putting it together as best we can,” said Jessi. “In the beginning, customers would come in and I’d tell them they’d either leave buying something or they’d leave tired.”
Just thinking about the profound success of Cheekys is enough to leave a person exhausted, but rather than take a break, Jessi and Justin advocate tirelessly for the impact rural businesses have on the economy and how others can stoke growth in rural areas.
Jessi’s gumption is contagious for entrepreneurs across the country, and she tells the story of the grit that got her where she is today in her book, “Backroads Boss Lady.”
“I would love for people to read it and share it with somebody they care about,” said Jessi. “Everybody has a story, everybody is coming from somewhere.”
The passion and advice resonating from Jessi’s book also spills into business mentoring groups and community leadership events, but perhaps the most apparent place to find it is right on the shirts worn by Cheekys girls across the country.
The messages are raw, real, rural and available at their stores in New Plymouth and Fruitland, Idaho, or at their home on the web: www.cheekysboutique.com.