April Francis is part Renaissance woman, part boss-lady. She’s a personal stylist and a communications consultant, but perhaps is best-known for launching a business that also happens to be one of our favorite things to do in Chicago: April is the founder of Dose Market, a pop-up event (the next one is this Sunday, February 12!) that draws together some of the area’s best artisans, designers, chefs and makers together under one roof. She started it in 2011, and it’s been swarmed ever since.
So just how does April manage her busy, fun, multifaceted career? Read on to find out.
FOR THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW, TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT DOSE MARKET.
Dose Market is an ever-dynamic marketplace devoted to showcasing the finest designers, chefs, makers, bakers, entrepreneurs and artists. We work tirelessly to discover and develop a community dedicated to excellence in Chicagoland and beyond by celebrating the food, fashion and art of those committed to these passionate pursuits.
HOW AND WHY DID IT START?
A guy I knew suggested that I start a market at the River East Art Center! This was right after the economy tanked (2010) and I looked at him and said — “Yes!” At that point I had 10 years of experience in trade shows, art fairs and festivals. It was a no-brainer and I wrote the business plan that night. The fuel for the Dose fire came from my designer friends who suffered when boutiques closed (they weren’t paid what they were owed and/or didn’t get clothes back when boutiques closed). I knew that putting these talented people in front of consumers who cared about high quality products would love it and boom! Dose.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE FOR DOSE TO BECOME THE BIG, WELL-RECOGNIZED EVENT IT IS TODAY?
Frankly, we were really lucky: Dose caught on like wildfire, right out of the gate, after our first Dose in June 2011. Dosers loved it, consumers loved it, and the press loved it. We were lucky that we had found a niche that resonated in such a big way. When we moved to the quarterly format in the West Loop in 2014 it was clear that Dose was necessary in the Chicago community.
HOW DO YOU SELECT YOUR VENDORS FOR DOSE MARKET?
This is perhaps the most important part of Dose — Dose is invite-only for Dosers, those who sell at Dose. We extend invitations to those whose products and services we can stand behind 100% — we hate plastic, polyester, knockoffs. We invite those who make products with integrity and are working hard to build sustainable businesses that serve as a net-positive for people and the planet.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST SUCCESS FACTOR FOR DOSE?
Easy: the Dosers. When something’s good it’s good.
BESIDES THE MARKET, YOU ALSO HAVE A BUSINESS STYLING CLIENTS. HOW DID YOU GET INTO THAT?
Haute Closet was my first business I started as an adult. I was 22. There was just ONE other styling service I could find on the internet at that point (Visual Therapy), and styling … I didn’t really know what it was, except that people I knew always wanted my input on their outfits and they wanted me to organize their closets and/or go shopping with them. When I decided to quit my first job (selling ads, I loved it!) because I was sexually harassed, I asked myself: what can I provide to others? Thus, Haute Closet was born.
WAIT FOR IT … YOU ALSO HAVE A COMMUNICATIONS AND CONSULTING FIRM, AF. HOW DO MANAGE ALL OF THESE BUSINESSES?
The through-line on all of my businesses is narrative — I help others order, expand and refine their stories with language, clothing, connection.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT EACH ONE?
I love that I get to be so intimately in contact with so many different people and businesses and, in getting to know them and their stories, help them be a bit more effective in their missions!
YOU’RE DEFINITELY AN ENTREPRENEUR TO THE CORE. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR WOMEN WHO WANT TO WORK FOR THEMSELVES BUT MIGHT BE AFRAID TO TAKE THE PLUNGE?
The best advice I can give is asking oneself “what can I do for others?”, clearly identifying what that is, and then just doing it knowing that it’s not always going to be easy or pretty. But, if you pour your heart and soul into it you’ll get that back. I’m 100% confident about that.
Find out more about Dose and this Sunday’s market here!