Every month in 2017, I will spotlight one Women Owned Small Business. I love hearing the different reasons that women decide to take control of their destiny and become successful while doing it! What’s the saying? “When you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” January’s Woman Owned Small Business Spotlight is on:
Maye & Company
Jacqui: Tell me a little something about you. Where did you go to college? What is your ‘day job’ if you have one. What hobbies do you enjoy?
Madeline: I am a 24 year old entrepreneur. I attended the University of Oklahoma and received my Bachelor of Arts Degree in Geography with a double minor in Geographic Information Science and Sociology. Currently, I work for an Oil and Gas consulting company, where I am a GIS Mapping Specialist and as of recently, I manage our new up and coming GIS based web service.
I am also the owner of Maye & Company boutique. My boutique is a small retail business specializing in clothing, jewelry, accessories, and home decor.
My hobbies include barre, a workout designed by using techniques from ballet, tai chi, and yoga. I am a pageant competitor and have been competing in numerous pageant systems since I was 17. I also enjoy reading romance novels and I love anything to do with the English aristocracy. (think Downton Abbey, The Duchess, Reign) and British nobility.
Jacqui: What motivated you to start your own business?
Madeline: During college, I worked in retail, starting as a Sales Associate and worked my way up to Assistant Manager at a corporate retail store. I learned many different skills relating to the retail business such as customer service, business processes/procedures and how to manage a team of Sales Associates. I also worked closely with our corporate managers and learned the ins and outs of running a business.
At one point after graduating college, I wanted to become the Manager of my store, however the District Manager at that time, decided not to allow my advancement. Shortly after I was offered the position at the Oil and Gas consulting company, I realized I missed working retail and decided to do something about it. So, I took the skills I learned from running a corporate store to opening up my own. I can now say with pride that I am the owner of my own company and a young entrepreneur in the making.
Jacqui: Tell me about your business. What made you choose the products you sell?
Madeline: My business is a small retail business called Maye & Company. I sell clothing, jewelry, accessories and home decor. I sometimes sell items that I have made myself. Since I did work in retail, predominately clothing, throughout college, I decided that I wanted to open up a business that was very similar to that. I try to envision my buyer whenever I do buy for my store. I follow current fashion trends so that my customers can keep coming to me for their style advice and for stylish products.
Jacqui: What is the toughest thing you’ve faced in starting your business?
Madeline: The toughest thing I have faced in starting my business, surprisingly wasn’t getting it off the ground, even though I did have a mini panic attack when first purchasing my inventory! What I find the toughest, is staying ahead of the game. Always knowing what your customers want, before they know it themselves. It’s difficult to predict how a product will do. I find myself picking things out that I think are cute and that I am sure will sell. At times, those are the items that don’t sell. Then I’ll see something I wouldn’t think would be a popular item, but I’ll take a chance on it. They end up being the items I can’t keep on the shelves.
Secondly, predicting the market I am set up in. We have a lot of small towns in Oklahoma, and I have to predict products differently for smaller towns than I would larger cities. For instance, I travel all over Oklahoma throughout the year to set up trunk shows. A trunk show is basically like a pop up boutique that I create at a show a business hosts. I pay to rent a space for the weekend and set up my pop up. Shows are huge for me. I tend to sell more during a weekend trunk show than I do in my store in a month. One of my best shows was in Oklahoma City, the biggest city in Oklahoma and one of my worst shows was in Ardmore, OK, a small country town. With those being very different markets, attempting to predict the needs was a challenge.
Jacqui: What’s kept you motivated to keep going with your business?
Madeline: I love this question! I have questioned myself more during this journey than I ever have before. I have asked myself, “Why are you doing this? Can you do this? Should I continue? Or should I quit now?” It has been difficult. I made money the first year I opened and I lost all of that money in the second year Maye & Company has been opened.
I question things I want in life. Right now, I live with my dad rent free. This has helped tremendously while I work on my business. I have been able to buy my inventory with the money I save on rent. But now? I want my own place and that has left me with the question, “Can you have your own place and keep your business open?” This has motivated me to be more diligent with saving money and practicing money management. I now think to myself that I can and will make this work.
Jacqui: Where can people find your store?
Madeline: I have a booth at a business marketplace called the Ole Stables Marketplace. It’s located at: 1301 24th Ave SW, Norman, OK. I also post my items on my business page Maye and Company or on Instagram under @mayeandcompany.
Jacqui: Do you ship your products for out of town customers?
Madeline: I do ship anywhere within the US with a small shipping fee.
Jacqui: What charity do you participate with?
Madeline: I participate with multiple charities in Oklahoma. I am a longtime member and volunteer for Autism Oklahoma and the Autism Piece Walk and 5k. I’ve been an avid advocate for Autism Insurance Reform, not only for Oklahoma, but for every state.
I also volunteer and am a member of the Miss Amazing Pageant Organization. This pageant provides opportunities for girls and young women with disabilities to build confidence and self-esteem while participating in a pageant and supportive environment.
I am also a social media advocate for The Curbside Chronicle, which is a non-profit in Oklahoma city that aims to provide resources, employ, and empower our city’s homeless. Those who come to The Curbside Chronicle are homeless individuals who end up becoming their own small business owners, called vendors. The Curbside Chronicle produces a magazine every month. The vendors then sell these magazines for $2 on the streets of Oklahoma City.
Once they sell their inventory of magazines, they can purchase more to make additional money, for $.75 each. The vendors get to keep 100% of the profits outright for themselves. But they also learn valuable skills, such as how to be a small business owner by buying more inventory to continue making money. The Curbside Chronicle has counselors that advise them on money management skills. Once they have enough saved up, The Curbside Chronicle will help the vendors to find homes, jobs and transportation for their new jobs.
Jacqui: What words of encouragement would you give to other women who are on the fence about starting their own business?
Madeline: I would say GO FOR IT. You never know what you can accomplish until you try. I was scared to start my own business. I was afraid of failure. Afraid that I was spending too much of my hard earned money on something that I wasn’t even sure would work. But I continuously told myself (and still do!) that you cannot be afraid of the “what ifs” What if I fail? What if no one likes my products? Will people take me seriously? What if I have to close in a year?
We cannot live our lives thinking of the “what ifs”. Sometimes we have to be reckless and we have to jump into something without seeing where we might land. Even if I decide that it is time to let my business go, I can say that I tried. Not many people can say that. The most brilliant businessmen and women in this world today got where they are now because they believed in themselves enough to try something. So the next time you have a crazy thought, an invention, or a business design, GO FOR IT. Because you can always pride yourself in knowing that you believed in yourself, your dreams, and your aspirations enough to take that leap of faith.
Madeline, thank you so much for sharing your inspiring story with us! I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say you have a lot going on between your work, your business and the many charities that you volunteer for. And being so young, you have many things to be proud of! Congratulations in taking that step into entrepreneurship!