Jillian Harris on building a brand, setting boundaries

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BC content creator, entrepreneur talks about the latest projects and lessons learned.

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Jillian Harris admits it comes as a surprise when people rush to buy the designs and product recommendations shared through her social media feeds.

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“It makes me emotional,” Harris says. “You can’t forget that feeling of trust — with their time, money and energy. I will always be grateful for that.

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The Kelowna-based content creator and “serial entrepreneur” first rose to prominence as a contestant and star of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette franchise. Harris later transitioned that TV experience into a popular HGTV TV series called Love It Or List It Vancouver.

With an eye for creating social media content and a sense of style and home decor that has proven popular with online followers, Harris has worked to grow her personal brand to include more than 1, 3 million followers on Instagram alone – many of whom are eager to buy anything. she recommends.

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Her past partnerships with brands like Vancouver-based clothing company Smash + Tess, Canadian fashion retailer Joe Fresh and Canadian Tire resulted in sold-out collections of pieces she would incorporate into her own closet and home. . Harris also offers a subscription service to her fans, dubbed the Jilly Box, filled with her favorite merchandise for each season that sells the same.

Her latest project with Joe Fresh, released this month, features a curated collection of clothes for women, kids and toddlers, from soft sweaters to wear-everywhere jeans.

“I really wanted to create a collection that would cover all the bases,” Harris says of the limited-edition designs. “A collection that is not only romantic but comfortable, casual and professional. I can’t wait to wear every piece in this collection, it feels so good.

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Available in women’s sizes XS-3X and 0-22 for pants, as well as 2-5T for toddlers and S-XL for kids, the range is priced from $12 to $119 and is available in select Joe Fresh stores and online at joefresh.com. The fourth collaboration between Harris and the fashion label, several of the styles include recycled materials, a point Harris was keen to emphasize.

Jillian Harris and her daughter Annie wear pieces from her latest collection for Joe Fresh.
Jillian Harris and her daughter Annie wear pieces from her latest collection for Joe Fresh. Photo by Camielle Stewart /Joe Fresh

“It’s important to me that my community can enjoy classic, timeless pieces that are not only affordable, but also consider sustainability,” Styles said of Styles. Harris pointed to the Jilly Shacket, a plaid outerwear with a quilted heart lining as her personal choice.

Speaking via video call from his home in the Okanagan, Harris explained that if product partnerships like his latest with Joe Fresh are the “bread and butter” of his personal brand, it’s his Jilly Academy – a online course that offers guidance for strategic business and brand building via its site, sold for $599 each – as its “proudest creation” to date.

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“Jilly Academy is the proudest because, you know, anyone can buy a romper and make you happy. Anyone can buy a Jilly Box,” Harris says. “But Jilly Academy, to me, has been a gift of a lifetime to my community…

“It’s a gift that will hopefully enrich people’s lives and maybe teach them how to block time and be more efficient, how to grow their team.”

So far, 2,500 people have taken the online course, according to Harris. She has also offered 250 “scholarships” to students who face “barriers to obtaining higher education,” an aspect of her portfolio offering that she says is a high priority in an ambition to give back. Harris and her staff — a group she calls Team Jilly — brought the academy to life with an in-person event held at Harris’ farm, Eleven Acres, in Kelowna in September.

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Dubbed the Academy on the Farm, the event was aimed at content creators and entrepreneurs who wanted to learn more about Harris’ approach to business and content creation. General admission to the event was $1,490 plus tax, while a VIP experience was offered for $2,490.

The 100-person event, she says, spanned six years and presented a way to connect her love for public speaking and community building with her growing aversion to being away from her family, husband Justin and his two children Leo and Annie.

“I don’t like being away from home,” she laughs. “So we were able to take my love to be like a hermit and bring everyone to me, to our happy place, the farm. And the kids were there and the dogs were there and Justin was there, and it was really beautiful. So I think that’s the biggest thing we’ve had in the making, the biggest feather in our hat.

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“It’s not even like the financial side or the business side,” she says of what emerges from the event. “But just like the love and the community component was the biggest surprise and the biggest win for me.”

Harris hopes to hold a similar event at her farm next year.

“I love doing things,” she says of her various on-the-go projects. “I like to keep things exciting. Sometimes it’s hard to identify what’s work and what’s personal, what’s really, really great. Sometimes.”

One thing that Harris, a so-called “small town girl from northern Alberta,” admits she has struggled with in recent years, is setting boundaries, for herself, limiting access to his personal life for his online fans.

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“Before the pandemic, I shared everything,” Harris said, noting that her willingness to publicize herself and her family so openly on social media drew criticism from her husband. A “social error” on Instagram prompted Harris to withdraw from her accounts in a bid to set better boundaries for herself and her family as she navigates the online world of fans and haters.

“It wasn’t about how much I was going to share,” Harris says. “It’s a combination – I try to respect my husband’s privacy and my children’s privacy. I feel like I don’t have privacy. I’ve always been like that…

“But I think what I’ve realized during the pandemic, and over the past two years, is that there’s my family to consider. And also now I run a business. So there are my employees and my business to consider. And also my community. And I really need to start thinking about how who I am and my influence affects everyone?”

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These days, Harris says she has a flood of questions before deciding whether to push “publish” on her posts.

“I think I’m just more aware of what I’m going to share? And how will it affect more than me? Who is listening? Who is involved in the story? Is this my story to tell? Do I know what I’m talking about? And if not, how do I reframe this conversation to just be transparent, hey, there’s something to be curious about, but I don’t know. Can we learn together as a community? »

Growing his understanding of the tools of his trade — and the impact it has on others — is part of his journey as a “storyteller” and “conversation starter” that Harris says is ongoing. .

“Sometimes I’m still deaf. Or sometimes Justin will still say, “Why did you share that?” And I try, you know, to regroup,” she said. “I try to use this time on Earth and my platform for some kind of good, whether it’s making people laugh, starting a conversation, good or bad, teaching someone something.” one or that it teaches me something.

“I know it sounds trite, and the world is falling apart right now and there’s so much going on. … I can’t solve the world’s problems, but I can make people laugh and teach them how to make spaghetti. and inspire them to decorate the porch. So when we all go to hell in a hand basket, I hope everyone’s porch looks fantastic.

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