When opportunities present themselves your way, you need to take hold of them fast, or you’ll miss out. Don’t let fear keep you from your destiny. This is the outlook of our episode’s guest, Lena Schlabach, and it paid off! Now, she is the CEO of Farmhouse Frocks, amassing millions of revenue in the last couple of years. Here, Lena shares how this winning attitude helped her bridge the gap from where she was to where she is now, inspiring us to turn fear into faith and become the person we are meant to be. She tells us how it was growing up in an Amish community and becoming the CEO of her own business, dealing with divorce, and writing a book. Offering advice, Lena then talks about the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make today and the challenges of scaling a business. There is so much wisdom from this conversation, be it for your business or your personal relationships. So tune in and learn to manifest the destiny you want to live today!
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From Fear To Faith: Taking The Jump To Start A Business With Lena Schlabach
I’m an International Bestselling Author of The ABCs of Attitude, keynote speaker and award-winning podcaster with my good friend and producer, Jason Aaron, here with us. Ladies and gentlemen, I am telling you, if you came here to get some attitude, you are going to get some attitude. We are going to speak with the CEO of Farmhouse Frocks.
If you’ve ever wondered how you can bridge the gap from where you are to where you want to be and from who you are to who you want to become, our guest may exemplify that trait more than any guest we’ve had. I’m so excited to bring her up to have her tell her story and give you the answers and insights on how she manifested the destiny that she lives now. The one and only, Lena Schlabach, CEO of Farmhouse Frocks. Lena, welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me. This is such an honor to be here.Lena Schlabach @relaxnchic is guest on the LATEST episode of the Get Attitude Podcast with @GlennJbill from the @uofattitude - Produced by @JasonAaronPro Click To Tweet
We are in our third season. Our season is called Carry The Light, and we look for people that carry the light with their smiles and winning attitudes. I texted her a few hours ago. She’s in Hawaii, so it’s probably 4:00 AM, and she said, “Glenn, let’s do this.” That’s the attitude we are looking for. Lena, I want to know how you define attitude. What does attitude mean to you, and who was your first attitude coach?
The best opportunities come from being spontaneous. Thank you for having me on. Sometimes, the best things happen when you don’t have to think about it and just do it. I definitely think that is my attitude. I’m a doer. My first attitude coach was probably Lee Shaw. He is a local businessman in Ohio and a doer also. He taught me how to not have ten businesses at once. I loved development and starting new businesses. I had a couple of businesses, and he helped me focus on where I needed to be and build my empire where my strength was. That’s how I built Farmhouse Frocks. I have been in business for a couple of years.
We make fashion design. Thirty-five Amish women in my community sew my clothing, and I design everything. I started my clothing brand because I want cute clothes as a plus-size woman. Little did I know, everybody wanted cute clothes as a plus-size woman. I made this Hawaii dress for this trip and only sold a select amount of this dress because of the fabric. I don’t know if that answers your question. I’m going off.
There’s so much power in meditating and manifesting your future and then being a doer and doing it when the opportunities are there. I made 100,000 masks during the pandemic, and therefore, that’s why I’m sitting here. I always say, “You got to make hay when the hay is ripe,” and I did. I provided $400,000 in labor for my community, and the Amish don’t cash their stimulus checks. It was a great opportunity for my community to make an income during that time. It was a force to be a reckon when we did that in two months.
You have been in business for a couple of years. Do you mind telling us what the gross revenue of your company is?
In the last couple of years, we have done over $1 million. The year before last, when we did the mask, we did $2 million. When the masks were over, I was back to the Frocks. We had to pivot. In the beginning, I was like, “I don’t want to sell a $10 item.” We toe around this $10 item. It taught me a lot, realizing how much you can do in a multitude of ways. I’m writing a book right now. It’s called More Faith Than Fear, and I make all my decisions out of faith, not fear. When I need to make a decision, I go, “Are you making this decision out of faith or fear?” My answer is always in black and white what I need to do.
Sometimes I need to jump off a mountain and have no net to catch me. That’s why I am where I’m at now. I have no fear. Doing nothing is failing. Trying is not failing. Sometimes in my head, when such big things I have to do, I practice. That way, in your head, if you think about practice and you practice something, you are allowed to fail at it. Sometimes I tell myself, “Practice on this. Do it because not doing it is failing.”
Talk to me about growing up in an Amish community and now becoming the CEO of this brand that is blowing up, going crazy, and doing a lot of good. Give me a little bit of the backstory of what it was like being a little girl growing up in an Amish town, and how the heck did you end up starting your own business?
I remember when I was nine years old, I would pray that I would not fall in love with an Amish man because I did not want to be a housewife with twelve kids. I did end up marrying an Amish man for many years, and I have been single for two. I always tell people, “I’m in my second room, springer.” Room springer in the teenage years is when the Amish go wild. I left when I was eighteen, and thankfully, I kept a good relationship with my parents. I lived beside them for many years, and they are still Amish now. I also have good relationships with my siblings. I grew up in an Amish community. My dad was in an Amish family that accepted me for my decisions.
My dad was a big entrepreneur and had a big business. Some of that stayed with me. He’s good with numbers, and I feel that’s one of my strengths. I’ve wanted to have cute clothes as a plus-size woman, and that’s how I started my brand. Little did I know that every size woman wanted my clothes. This dress we make it in seven sizes. We make it all the way from extra small to 3X. There are very few companies that make clothing that has all sizes. We also have a very powerful message that we sew the tag on the inside. The woman that sews the tag on the inside prays for the woman that will wear the garment. It’s made with love and has a message in each piece.
I’ve always thought about doing that with a tie. Do you put a motivational message in each piece of clothing?
It’s 100% beautiful, God-made, worthy, and enough. Women have so much self-doubt with themself. I’m not talking about clothing but women have insecurities with their clothing, probably more than men. They believe these lies that they are not enough or have to lose 10 pounds to be beautiful. I embrace them now where they are and be their best self. I don’t always want to be somewhere to go somewhere. A lot of times, people wait their whole life for what they want in life.You're a hundred percent beautiful because God made you a hundred percent worthy and a hundred percent enough. Click To Tweet
When you started Farmhouse Frocks, number one, tell me how you got the name. As you stood there, however old you were, how did you go about raising the money and starting your own business?
I went and bought used sheets at the local thrift store, and that’s how I started. When I look back, I can’t believe I bought 80-yard bolts of fabric for one piece. Now I buy thousands of thousands of yards of fabric a year.
Does your fabric start from a thrift store?
Yes. A country living magazine asked us to come to do a show in Stone Mountain in Atlanta. I had no idea what I was doing. I left with twelve rubber made full of Frocks. I made my first 10,000, and that’s how I started my business.
Is a Frock a piece of clothing?
A lot of times, in another country, they call it homemade clothing frocks where they grew up.
How many siblings do you have?
I have three. I’m in the middle. I have one sister that’s still Amish, and she makes all my patterns.
It’s a family business a little bit.
I used to do this with my daughters for seven years. She does social media coaching, and we used to do that. I do mentor and coaching on the side too.
What do you coach? Women?
I coach small business development, branding, social media, and goal setting.
What do you think are the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs are making now?
They don’t get on social media. They are scared of it. Social media is the best tool for connection. I’m all about connecting, and it’s such a great form to connect. With the whole Reels thing, people are intimidated by running stuff, then they make excuses or they want to have 100,000 followers. I lay awake in bed at night building this social media platform. It’s all organic.
How long did it take for you to get to your 100,000 followers?
Nine years. I could have done it better. I coulda, woulda, shoulda. People talk about what they want to do and don’t do it. That’s what I found with my coaching. I’m a creator but I didn’t like the financial part of the bookkeeping. That clears your head and makes you confident in what you are doing. I waited probably five years until I got the handle on QuickBooks and had everything streamlined so that I knew my margins. The biggest thing is don’t get married to your ideas. You put blood, sweat, and tears in a line. We did a baby line, linen line or bedding line. If it doesn’t make you money, get rid of it. It’s a hobby if you are not making money.Don't get married to your ideas. You put blood, sweat, and tears into a betting line. If it doesn't make you money, get rid of it. Click To Tweet
What would have been the darkest days for you in your nine years of owning this business? How did you get past it?
When I had a fire in my studio, we opened the second location in Florida, and I had to literally feed the people with the fish in the basket. I didn’t know how it would happen to create enough homemade or American-made merchandise. It takes time, and I had to pay a fair wage. I was trying to open a second location and then reopen my old studio where we had it. I also bought the most beautiful downtown building. It’s 1876. I’m only the fourth business owner to have this amazing building in my hometown downtown.
That is in the midst of making those 100,000 masks. It was a great thing. I got up at 4:00 AM and fell into bed at 11:00 PM. That was for two months straight. Normally, I rest on Sunday but I wasn’t resting. I would say those were some of my darkest times. It’s not just arrived. If it’s your employees, building a team, and sourcing, there are always new challenges. I always say to my team, “If you bring me the problem, I have a solution.” Usually, it’s about finding solutions to whatever it is.
Tell me about this mask thing. Did you do that out of the goodness of your heart? You didn’t charge for the masks. You just made them?
I charged. I was working and providing. People would tell me, “You shouldn’t charge for the mask.” Everybody was sitting at home bored. Excuse me. I’m working. I bought 90 to 80-yard bolts of fabric. It cost me almost $50,000. I had to smuggle it out of California because people couldn’t even go to the factories to send it to me, and then we ran out of elastic. I do have my beach home because I made 100,000 masks.
Now you are out of the mask business. It is done. What was your best-selling Frock?
The Rita Romper.
When you guys go there, hit the Rita Romper. Tell me, why was the Rita Romper your number one Frock?
The Rita Romper is a best-seller because of its fit. It’s a linen bib overall. Its tie is adjustable, and the right fit for overall and for all-size women.
Do you have any famous people that love your stuff?
Yes. We have some country music stars like Ruthie Collins. She ended up singing at my daughter’s wedding in Nashville. We also use influencers on Instagram. They are famous people with big accounts.
You have to pay those influencers. Do you pay them a commissioner, or do they want a check upfront?
We use an app. It’s connected, and they share that app. They always get all the clothes for free but they get a certain percentage. With our website, we can track what sells through what they share, and then on the 15th of every month, the affiliate link gets paid. It works. I would recommend it. We get a lot of contacts of people wanting to be influencers for us but I look at their engagement.
Does it work or does it not?
They have to be a certain number engaged in their comments. They have to be connected to their followers, basically.
What’s that number for you? Is it 100,000 or more?
It’s not necessarily about the numbers and how many followers they have. There’s also a tracker that we do. We put in an account and see how much their engagement is. It could be somebody with 25,000 followers. She has great engagement, and people love everything she shares and will use them.
If I could, I would like to step back because I’m not real educated in the Amish lifestyle and the Amish “attitude.” Could you enlighten us a little bit about the attitude of the Amish? I guess you are still Amish.
No, I’m not Amish. Once you are Amish, you are not always Amish.
What is the attitude of the Amish, and what were the best things that you learned from them?
Work ethic, nice, trustworthy, and very good work. You could trust the work. They are people. They make mistakes like everybody else but generally, their work is good. I am so grateful for their loyalty. They are good people. I was raised in a family where you worked hard and didn’t complain. Everything was possible. It also reflects, depending on what family you grew up in but I feel very fortunate to have the heritage I have because I feel it got me to where I’m now.
What’s the future of Farmhouse Frocks for you? Have you put out a 5 or 10-year vision? Are you planning on doing what you are doing? What’s going on for your future long-term?
More and more, it is getting harder to make an American-made product and make a margin from it. We are in a society where the support is not as much. People want fast fashion. To keep connecting with my followers. They are so loyal. They will support me if they feel connected with me. Of course, I have bigger dreams and visions for Farmhouse Frocks. I want to start my own podcast. Do a lot more mentoring and coaching. I have an amazing team. I have six in-house. I have a full-time photographer, uploader, and assistant to make it work. I have a house in Florida and moved there full-time.
I have this business in Ohio. I travel back and forth every other week to spend time with my team and develop. I still do all the buying and sourcing. This trip was about finalizing my book. Also, this time of year, you make new visions and goals. It’s the time of year when we are all setting new goals if it’s personal or business. I’m reflecting. I want to re-gear the designs of my Frocks and have them a little more exclusive like this dress where you can only buy fifteen of them. I’m reflecting. I could tell you better a week from now exactly where my vision is. I do have a lot of notes on what I want to do but if I don’t have a plan of action, it’s not going to happen.
That book is going to be called More Faith Than Fear. I can’t wait to see that come out. I’m so excited for you. You are trying to finish that and polish that book down there in Hawaii.
I am with HarperCollins. I have a publisher and found my ghostwriter at a Tiki Bar in Florida. I have many amazing connections wherever I go. This is a little bit of what I wanted to talk to you about. When I saw the title of your show, I was like, “That’s it. It’s all about attitude and the energy you bring into the room.” I can walk into that room. I should have brought it but I usually have big glasses on everywhere I go. My brand is on the inside of those temples. That is my business card. I have these huge glasses, and everywhere I go, people go, “I like your glasses.”
Those are so Kardashian. It’s not even funny. I love it. Do you make and manufacture those?
People call me Amish Kardashian. These are not American-made. I order them, and then I put the brand on the inside from our scrap.
Jason, Renee needs a pair or five, for sure.
This is how I roll. When people say, “I liked your glasses,” I say, “The bigger the glasses, the classier the asses.” You have your typical Amish girl.
Those are fun. You are probably not typical. I don’t think that’s true. Talk to me about this adventure you had in writing a book. Was it harder than you thought, and how does a ghostwriter work?
I have been writing this book for six years, honestly. What happens is that things change in your life. A few years ago, I got a divorce. Everything changed in my book because I want to be very conscious of my children and ex-husband. We have good relationships, and I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings but I can’t be fake. I will speak honestly.
I’m passionate about everything I speak about. I would say put yourself on an island with your ghostwriter. The ghostwriter basically writes out the words. I record it on the phone or take it in my notes on the airplane, and they transfer my words into a story. It’s basically what a ghostwriter is. Sometimes a ghostwriter can be you are writing everything, and they proofread it.
A lot of our people come to this show because they are stressed out and want to get attitude. You’ve had a life-altering experience in this thing called divorce. Those GAPers, that’s what we call our readers, that have been through a divorce, maybe going through a divorce or know they are going through a divorce but the other spouse doesn’t, what’s your advice to them on keeping a positive attitude that shifts your life and that identity changes? Can you speak to what you went through and how you have been able to get through it and cope?
I’m passionate about staying positive. It’s a mental decision you make when you get up in the morning about what you feed your ears and your eyes. That is what goes in your head. I listen to a lot of music and positive podcasts. I am very intentional about what I speak out. I say, killing a prayer. I will tell you, “Glenn, can you pray for this?” I am struggling with whatever it is, and I ask you to pray for it. I shouldn’t be going over to my next friend asking her to pray for it because you already prayed for it. I believed it. Now it’s going to happen. When I say this will happen, a negative of what I ask you to pray for it’s killing the prayer. I don’t believe it will happen.
Getting back to the question about divorce. It is letting stuff go. I mentally think of a river flowing by you, and a fall leaf will come floating on top of the water down the river. You don’t go and stop that leaf from flowing down the river. You let it keep flowing. If you see a car driving by on the road, you let it go right on by. That’s what I do with my negative thoughts or when people say things about myself. You find out who your true friends and family are when you go through a divorce. I was intentional about who I surrounded myself with and how they supported me. If something is said about me that I don’t need to own, not mine, and I don’t need, I need to let it flow and keep flowing down the river.
I tried to be intentional about not becoming a victim and becoming an overcomer. My identity is, “I’m Lena Schlabach. I’m going through a divorce. I am finding my freedom.” I’m happy. I know my mood in the room this day because I am part of this room and not the person that is living with me that it’s negative. That sounds like I’m an oxymoron of what I said. Twenty-eight years of marriage is a long time and a lot of work. I was sad for probably the first six months after the divorce, and everything I do is very fast. I got counseling to get me through to that point.
When I began counseling, I said, “I know I’m not going to change him. I know I need to change myself, and I don’t want a divorce, so you help me get there.” I knew I had to change my mindset because I was not happy. Finally, she was like, “Lena, treat it like your business. If something is not right with your business, you put a system in place.” I go, “You can’t treat a marriage like a business.” She goes, “Why?”
That’s when it clicked. It made me realize that I was not in a healthy situation and that I needed to be somewhere else. One day, I woke up six months after the divorce and kept feeling sad. I realized, “This is what you want, Lena. You are living your best life. Enjoy it.” I was on a Catamaran to do a photo shoot. When I came out of Catamaran, I flipped a switch. I live my life fully every day, not wishing for what I wished would have been but realizing I am living my best life.
That’s going to help some folks who are battling maybe some of the same things that you have. I want to get back to the book, More Faith Than Fear.
Can I piggyback that with something quick? A lot of times, the fear of doing something is bigger than the action. Not that I’m on here to try and promote you guys were getting a divorce. A lot of times, our head does not allow us to do something because of fear. It’s actually not even that hard to do if you do it.’A lot of times, our head does not allow us to do something because of fear. And it's actually not even that hard to do if you just do it. Click To Tweet
That’s such a great point whether it’s starting a business. Starting a business is a lot easier than thinking about starting a business, and failing or ending a relationship might be a lot easier than it is than thinking about ending a relationship.
I promote happy marriage. I see happy marriages and desire that for myself one day. If you always do what you have always done, you always have what you always had. If you want better, do some different.
Who’s the most positive person in your life? Who’s your best friend? Who’s the person in your life that always lifts you up, and how do they do that?
I have two best friends that do that. The one who has been my friend for 25 years. Her name is Cheryl Stauffer. She has a big interior design business. I remember when I first started a blog. I used to have a Lena Amish Granola company. That company brought me to this company. I have my best friend Candy at home, and she’s more about mind, and energy, letting things go, thinking positively, speaking life into me on a daily basis, and believing the best for me.
She started as a Farmhouse Frock fan. I became friends with her after my divorce. She has supported me no matter where I’m at. Being single and dating again, she has been there for me. Unjudged me as I am and speaking life into me daily. I do that a lot for others. It’s nice to have somebody like that in your own life. When you are up here as a business person, sometimes you feel very lonely. I’m sure you get that too.
We are out changing the world. That’s something we do. Sometimes that’s a lonely job. Let’s talk a little bit more about the book, More Faith Than Fear. Could you give me maybe 1, 2 or 3 of the main themes of the book or one of the chapters? What’s the lesson or the moral of the book that you are trying to get across?
The moral of the book is an inspiration. It’s going to be a coffee table book with short chapters. It’s also saying my story of how I was raised. A lot of people are very intrigued that I was an Amish girl so that I will share my childhood growing up. I see the world in pictures, so I will have pictures of my community, my life, my homes, and my travels in the chapters. I like to have easy reads, not a whole picture book filled with words.
What was the toughest part of your childhood growing up?
The toughest part was probably that I went to a one-room schoolhouse. You always were friends with the people that were your age. We lived in the Southern part of Ohio, and there weren’t a lot of girls my age. Of course, you weren’t friends with boys. I was always by myself in the grades. I would say not having friends, and now friends are important to me because of that.
How did you cope with loneliness? How would you advise somebody to cope with loneliness?
I have always been drawn to older people, so I made my own community. I still am doing it. I already have friends here in Hawaii that I create. I feel like one of my superpowers is that I’ve never met a stranger.
I felt very close to you from the second we started texting, which is so cool. It sounds like your biggest challenge might be continuing to make homemade products in America. I’m curious, what do you feel are the biggest challenges, both business-wise and personally, for you coming up in the next few years?
I’m not one to get on here and talk about politics because I don’t like to talk about politics on, especially not on a platform like this. It was easier to make an American-made product because people supported American-made and you knew who the president was. I don’t agree because he shouldn’t shut his mouth sometimes. In all honesty, I would say I don’t like to focus on what my challenge is.
I take it as it comes or whatever it is. The biggest thing is not making excuses and pivoting. I’m big with social media, so if social media comes out and it’s all video, then we need to figure it out and not make excuses. I’m keeping up with the trends. I had to use a lot of Jersey knit during the pandemic and elastic waste because people are working from home. You have to adjust. We were all linen and cotton clothing before the pandemic. I had to change it because people like soft stuff and being comfortable. They like an elastic waste.
Certainly, your superpower is not only always having every friend when you enter the room but it’s also being able to pivot. It seems like you are a very decisive person. You don’t like to be in the middle and indecisive. What’s your thought on being decisive?
You got me on point right there. I’m a hell yes or a hell no girl. I’m all for it or not at all. If I don’t feel it in my belly, it’s not for me. Running a big company, I’m the buyer. I handpick every textile, glasses, earring, and home goods. If you were indecisive, you couldn’t do it.
Where do you go to pick your textiles?
I always say I don’t share my sources but I go to the LA Textile Show twice a year. Sometimes I go to the New York one, and occasionally, I go to the Dallas one but mostly to LA. I always love to try and the vibe of Malibu. I’m always inspired when I travel for new designs. I will see somebody wear something. I try and stay with Sweden and the whole Western because they are ahead of where we are at.
That sounds so bourgeois about you. I love it. You go to LA. I bet LA loves you when you show up down there. What’s an LA Textile Show like? Are there 5,000 or 10,000 people?
I remember when I first got there, I felt like a little Amish girl showing up there. I had no idea what I was doing. It’s like the country living fair. When I was there for 30 days, I had no idea what I was doing. I remember getting in the elevator with these high executive designers, and I was like, “I’m here.” Everything you do, you learn. I walk through and be like, “I want that and that.” I don’t waste a lot of time. We usually do photo shoots but I can usually go to the textile show, turn around, and be back home in three days.
Are you known there? Do people know who you are now?
Now you are trying to make me sound egotistic a little bit. When I’m at the airport or when I’m out, people recognize me. I can’t believe it. When I’m in Florida, I will be at the drum circle, and people everywhere will ask me to have a selfie. LA probably is this bigger playing ground. The companies recognize me because I’m their client. These big brand people know me, I don’t think so. I’m still the little Amish girl showing up.
For Farmhouse Frocks, do you only have one brick-and-mortar store, and that’s in Ohio?
I thought it was a dream to have a second location in my dream vacation place in Sarasota. That was the biggest mistake. My daughter moved there, and four months in, she was homesick and wanted to come home. It was stressful. It was successful but stressful, and I had to eliminate it after a year.
GAPers, Lena has given us a message on several different fronts. Sometimes you have to roll with the punches, don’t focus on the biggest challenges, but be decisive. You can’t fall in love with your idea because it will cost you money, and you have to shut down a store your daughter is in. You’ve given us such a great menu or a buffet of different things to think about attitude.
I appreciate you doing that. What I always like to end our show with is for you to give a message of hope to the people that are tuning in to us. The little Amish girl who’s become a million-dollar revenue dressmaker with an unbelievable Instagram account. If you could speak to the people that are in their car, walking on the beach, riding their bike or on the treadmill, what’s your message of hope for our GAPers?
I would say you get back what you put out. Be intentional about what you are giving out. If you are going down to the coffee shop, tell that lady she looks good. If you are going to the airport and a man smells good when you are walking by, tell him he smells good. You get what you put out. That same energy will come back to you. If you think everybody is in a bad mood now, it’s you.Be intentional in what you're giving out. Click To Tweet
Lena Schlabach, it was so great to meet and interview you. Farmhouse Frocks is something that you want to see. Check her out on Instagram and go to her website. Buy all your Christmas gifts there, and More Faith Than Fear that’s going to be coming out in 2023. I suggest you buy that book. You have been a light to our show, Lena. Thank you so much for joining us.
Thank you, Glenn.
About Lena Schlabach
I love inspiring others to do what they’re passionate about. Today is the best day ever! @farmhousefrocks