Local Love Feature-MainelyMaraPosted: October 13, 2011
If you’re an avid old port shopper you probably subscribe or at least know of MainelyMara.com. A fantastic members based site that offers discounts on local shops and services. As a member I’ve seen discounts on everything from boutiques to yoga classes to spa packages to cupcakes! Such an awesome variety. We can thank it’s namesake, Mara Higgins for starting this after she moved to Maine with her husband over a year ago. After living in Boston and accessing other “deal sites” she couldn’t believe those sites weren’t in Portland yet. So, pairing her experience in the fashion industry with the love of a good deal, MainelyMara was born. If you’re a fashion obsessed girl like myself, her blog (also on the site) is a must read. She and her blogging team have done every topic under the sun like, what’s in my bag, how to make a mani last, and how to look cute when you’re working out. It’s all super creative. I really appreciate the fact that she’s providing a great service to our local business’ and to our local buyers. Very smart lady!
In honor of this post Mara let me ask her some questions about where she came from, how she got started, and what fashions she’s obsessing over.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background like where you’re from, where you went to college and what you did before Mainely Mara?
I’m definitely an adopted New Englander as I was born and raised in Maryland. I went to college in Virginia for lacrosse and field hockey where I majored in Business, and I received my MBA in Marketing while living in DC where my career in retail fashion began. I worked as an Assistant Shoe Buyer in the Buying Office for a major department store and fell in love with the industry (I purchased shoes for a living, how could I not?). When the company was purchased by Federated (who owns Macy’s), I moved up to Boston. I stayed in retail and worked for a contemporary clothing boutique on Charles St. in Beacon Hill, where I ran their PR and Advertising and of course got a whole new wardrobe. After working there for a couple of years, I went back to the buying side and worked as an Accessories Buyer for J.Jill. Handbags, scarves and shoes…I couldn’t complain. It wasn’t until my husband lost his job in the finance industry that I made my way up to his home state of Maine. And that is when the idea of MainelyMara started brewing…
Why did you decide to start Mainely Mara and explain a little bit about how it works.
The concept of online deal websites had already come to Boston before I moved up to Maine. I lived it on the boutique side and the consumer side, so I was familiar with the industry and knew it was something that was going to take off, but I wanted to bring my own niche and incorporate my love for fashion. I’ve always loved the selection of local boutiques & spas in Portland, and knew a site like this would do amazing here and was much needed. After looking around, I realized nobody else was doing this in Portland so I quickly got to work. I wanted to make it an exclusive member-based site like a Rue La La and Gilt Groupe, but only for locals and only for locally owned businesses. Since launching a little over a year ago, I have several thousand loyal members and provide them offers at least once a week and often times more.
Do you only showcase local shops and boutiques? If so why?
Absolutely! I’m a really big believer in supporting local businesses, and Portland has such a strong Buy Local community and I wanted to support that. It’s also one of the things that differentiates MainelyMara from the other national deal sites. Being a small local business myself, it’s great because we are supporting each other.
Why did you decide to merge the deal part of your site with a blog as well?
It’s always been my intention from the start to offer “Local Style and Local Offers” on my site. I wanted people to hang out there. I never just wanted to be a “deal site” with no other content or nothing else to offer. Portland has a strong style scene that isn’t talked about much, and with no Style Section in the newspaper or no local style magazine, I wanted to offer what I could in terms of my own “Style Section”. I do this by posting my own articles and aggregating other local bloggers who are either writing about Portland style or their own take on the fashion world. It’s great to pull everyone together and create a united front.
What is your favorite part of your job?
To be honest, everything! Seeing my business come to fruition is a dream come true – I get to combine my experience & love for fashion with my business education. I would say the most rewarding part of my job is getting emails from members thanking me for all the great deals and telling me how much they love my site. I love working with local businesses and helping them get their deserved exposure. I tailor each offer to highlight their best features and help promote through social media. I also love discovering brand new local business and introducing them to my members. Seeing the exposure I can provide them and all of the positive feedback once my members hear of them is wonderful to see. This whole industry is really changing the face of advertising.
Can you describe your own personal style? What trends or styles are you into right now?
I would say my style is classic with a trendy twist. I love incorporating trends along with basics in touches here & there without going full out trendy. I’m loving capes right now…and recently purchased one that I wore for 3 days straight! I’m also loving colored cords and am slowly starting to collect a rainbow of them. The fur trend is fabulous too, and maybe if I was living in NYC I would get a fur vest, but for now I just got a cardigan with fur trim. Subtle but still on trend.
What are your favorite stores to shop at?
Bliss & Helene M. are two of my absolute favorites in town. Once winter really hits, you will not see me without my Soia & Kyo puffer that I purchased at Bliss last year. I’m obsessed with it! I love Folly 101 for home décor (I can never leave there empty-handed), and Blanche & Mimi has great gifts and an adorable little baby section as well.