Business owner writes own success story

By Kevin Beese Staff Writer

Jennifer Givens, owner of Aries Rising, stands in front of a collection of her handcrafted Forever Journals at her startup business, located in the Far South CDC Marketplace, located at 837 W. 115th St., Chicago. (Photo by Kevin Beese/Chronicle Media)

Second in a series looking at Black-owned start-up businesses in the Far South Community Development Corp. Marketplace in Chicago

Jennifer Givens was ready to pack it in.

With her handmade journals not selling, she was ready to give up on her passion, give away her supplies and move on to something else.

On what she was strongly considering as her last day in business as Aries Rising, Givens decided to apply to the Far South Community Development Corp. Marketplace program that supports startup businesses.

“When I came back into this space, I actually was done with this,” Givens said from in front of a display of her handmade Forever Journals. “Before I applied, I said ‘I’m done with this. Nobody is buying these journals. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life.’ I’m like ‘It’s over.’ That’s how I was.”

The day after she applied, she had an interview to be part of the program. The third day she was accepted into the Marketplace program. She has not looked back ever since.

Aries Rising is a lifestyle brand that explores soul-driven vision and purpose. Offering everything from handcrafted resin journals to a clothing line, teas and digital coaching services, Givens said her business aims to empower individuals on their personal journey of self-discovery and growth.

She was unemployed for 18 months before embarking on her business idea.

“That’s what really pushed me into doing this,” Givens said. “I was like ‘OK, 18 months you’re unemployed. What do you do? Are you a sitting duck or do you make something out of nothing?’ So, I want to show people that you can make anything with nothing.

“I started my business with nothing. I took discretionary money — a couple hundred dollars — and I started my business.”

Givens is with four other new Black-owned startup businesses, along with four returning vendors, at the Far South CDC Marketplace, located at 837 W. 115th St., Chicago.

She said she is focused on building her brand.

“You have to be confident. I have led people,” said the former corporate executive. “You have to find that gap where you can connect with customers.”

Givens said the thing that makes for Forever Journals unique is that they don’t need to be replaced. All you do is refill the paper in the journal, which can be customized to the buyer’s liking.

Givens said she has enjoyed being in the Far South CDC incubator.

“Being here, you realize the gaps in your own business model,” Givens said. “You want to have other perspectives and it is nice to get perspectives from other people of color.”

Givens said she hopes her story inspires people to go out and pursue what their passion is.

“Whatever it is that is your passion, your purpose and what you’ve been called to do, let’s take that and then turn it into something that’s your little special piece in the world,” Givens said. “People don’t realize they can monetize anything, but it’s not about monetizing it, it’s about what’s your care factor. What’s at the core of what you’re trying to do?”