Maureen will be the first one to tell you that she owes her recent successes to a number of individuals in the Wilmington community who believed in and invested in her. “It really took a village ever since I stepped foot in Wilmington to get me the opportunities I’ve gotten; I’m so beyond grateful.”
The arts are dear to Maureen’s heart. She worked as a theatre manager in Connecticut, and when she lost her job and moved to North Carolina in 2018 to be with her daughter, she naturally gravitated toward the historic Thalian Hall downtown. Maureen began volunteering and soon befriended the executive director, Tony Rivenbark. But when an error pertaining to unemployment paperwork made officially working at Thalian difficult, and with Hurricane Florence striking at roughly the same time, Maureen knew she had a choice: she could either look for another job or create her own job. So, she chose both.
While she was struggling with interviews, Maureen was simultaneously taking an online course on salesmanship to create her own business. Though she wasn’t initially sure what she wanted to sell, she knew that “whoever comes to my website has to leave it with a smile.”
Meanwhile, Maureen’s job search had led her to StepUp Wilmington. “I knew how to interview in Connecticut, but I didn’t know how to interview in North Carolina. I was petrified. But the mock interview process was helpful! I realized how much I had learned from Job’s Week because by the time I finished, I felt much more confident!” After StepUp, Maureen was offered and accepted a position at CertaPro Painters. But Maureen wasn’t done yet; she still had her own business to get off the ground.
“StepUp regularly checks in on me to see if I’m still doing okay, so I asked my Talent Manager if he or anyone else at StepUp knew of any classes about small business management.” Her Talent Manager led Maureen to Cape Fear Community College’s Small Business Center, where Maureen quickly met its director, Jerry Coleman. Thanks to Jerry’s mentorship, Maureen soon met Christine Vera of WordJack Media. And after some advice, Maureen knew what she wanted to sell: bowties for pets! She found an American-based manufacturer, and when she expressed discomfort with the social media and technological side of the business, Jerry and Christine worked to get Maureen a grant that would include assistance with social media operations for six months. “I give all of these amazing people credit.”
“Go with the process that [StepUp Wilmington] shares with you,” Maureen said. “It was a humbling process. I was very much a ‘I don’t need anyone’s help person’, but everyone at StepUp said ‘let me help you.’ To anyone struggling, let the people that are there who want to share the tools guide you. Let them give you confidence!”
Regardless of if you are someone who is just looking for a job, or if you have a great idea to start your own business but don’t know where to start, contact us at StepUp Wilmington and let us work with you to make your dream reality!