For this week’s blog post we interviewed a local female entrepreneur, Jamie Clark, from Bangor, Maine. She started The Willie Wags as a box subscription business out of her basement in 2016 and has grown it to include a brick and mortar location that hosts workshops and an incredible website for online shopping. When we met with Jamie about carrying True North Beauty products in her store, we knew from the start that she embodied the True North Beauty mission and was the type of confident, strong, busy yet driven, woman that our readers could look up to and relate to. We hope you enjoy this feature and encourage you to check out The Willie Wags!
How did The Willie Wags start?
I started TWW in January 2016 as a side hustle and determination to do something more meaningful with my life. I am extremely passionate about female empowerment and small business and was determined to combine the two while positively making a difference in the lives of many of my friends that are/were struggles entrepreneurs. Starting a business is hard, scary, exciting, exhausting, amazing, and at times overwhelming. Especially if you are going at it alone as a "green" female entrepreneur.
I knew if I could find a way to support, market, and distribute many of my friends’ products I could help them grow and succeed. So, I decided to start a monthly subscription box that features the best female founded small business products I could find. From jewelry to candles, female penned books to home goods, clothing to beauty supplies, nothing was off limits. For about 7 months I had a blast networking, marketing, packing and shipping boxes each month from my basement. Then, 10 days before Christmas in 2016, we were unknowingly featured on the nationally syndicated Elvis Duran Morning Show in NYC and orders came rushing in. The traffic crashed our site! My little side hustle had become a full blown business! I immediately began looking for retail space that would provide us with visibility and space to do online order fulfillment. That’s when I found out that Marc from Bookmarcs in Downtown Bangor was retiring in January 2017 and the timing worked perfectly. Our brick and mortar has been open for shopping and after hours events at 78 Harlow St., Bangor ever since. While the box and frequency of our subscription has changed, you need to always be willing to pivot, make improvements, and change direction, and that’s what we did with opening the store.
Have you always been interested in becoming an entrepreneur?
Male or female, being an entrepreneur is scary at times. There is no guaranteed pay check, no paid vacation, no weekends off, and being solo-preneur, you are the wearer of all the hats. Having grown up watching both of my parents run a business, I had witnessed and understood the sacrifice, hard work, and motivation needed to successfully run your own business. It was definitely something I was interested in from a young age, I frequently joke that entrepreneurship is hereditary and contagious.
Do you focus on Willie Wags full time?
TWW is definitely a full time gig. Thankful Jason, the hubs extraordinaire, has assumed full time solo duties at our other business so I could focus solely on growing TWW. This definitely wouldn't work without him.
What is TWW mission?
In The Willie Wags we use our influence to help other women design their own success stories. We are the cheerleaders, storytellers, and go to retailer for small biz and female founders. This mission is central to everything we do. Whether it's our monthly subscription box, online store, inspiring after-hours events, or brick & mortar store in Bangor, our focus is always on how we can support, grow and give back to women owned small businesses.
What does TWW mean to you?
The Willie Wags isn't just a silly name, it's a Maine saying meaning off the beaten path, which is exactly where we find the businesses we partner with. These aren't big box store brands, they're hustling ladies with great products, passion, and stories. Also, TWW isn't just a retail store or a monthly subscription box or fun after-hours events. It's a community, movement, and channel for creating positive change.
How does the Willie Wags encourage people to follow their passions?
Our company's mission is just that, to use our influence to help other women follow their passions and design their own success stories. From providing a fun and inspiring place to shop and support female makers, to many of our after-hours events that are designed to empower and uplift those interested in entrepreneurship, everything we do is central to this.
Who inspires you and why?
My Instagram feed and podcast library is filled with the faces of Rachel Hollis (author of Girl Wash Your Face and Rise Podcast), Emily Ley (Founder of Simplified Planner), Jessica Honegger (Founder Noonday Collection and Going Scared Podcast), Brit Morin (Founder Brit & Co)...the list goes on.
I am a firm believer in surrounding yourself with authentic, motivational and inspirational voices. You are who you surround yourself with, even if only virtually. :) These ladies are true hustlers with amazing stories that keep it real. They’re honest, transparent and walk the walk.
You have two daughters, how do you build confidence in yourself and your girls?
Walk the walk and talk the talk. Even when you don't feel like it. Little eyes are always watching and "want to be just like you". It's also important to practice positive self-talk. I recently began starting and ending each day by writing down things I am grateful for and things I did well that day. This works to rewire the brain, build confidence, and happiness in your life. My daughters have actively been involved in our businesses from a young age. Get them involved and grant them ownership...it helps create strong, independent, and motivated girls!
Wow! What a great way to build confidence and inspire your girls! Do you think the Willie Wags inspires people?
I sure hope so! I want everyone that walks through our doors, joins an after-hours event, or browses our site to think "I can do this too" or to simply be inspired and motivated to continue to shop small businesses.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Jamie!
If you want to learn more about The Willie Wags or shop their store (you can purchase our products there!), check out their website or visit their location at 78 Harlow St. in Bangor, ME. You can also ask Jamie questions on their Facebook page and click here find out when their next after-hours event is!