Project description

Business Owner: Mary Heather Wylie
Business: Bohēm
Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Meet Mary Wyllie
At a young age Mary learned the simple basics of sewing from her grandmother. After her grandmother’s passing she gave it up altogether. It wasn’t until later in her life at The University of Alabama while studying fashion design that she would give it another try. While earning her degree Mary discovered that her passion lied in printmaking. “I was still unsure as to what I wanted to do with the skill sets I learned, Adobe Creative Suite and Fine Art so I continued my education at Parsons, The New School for Design and got my master’s degree in Design + Technology. The world is so tech based. It is really a mélange of different educations and skill sets. I interned for an installation artist during the summer in New York in between my first and second year in grad school. I feel as a maker, designer, creator- it is important to possess omni-competence; being able to move through different mediums to accomplish various goals; keeping it, for the most part, a one woman production.”

Making Moves
After completion of her Master’s Degree in Fine Art from Parsons, Mary was unable to find a job right away. She was proactive and set up a DIY silkscreen studio in her own apartment and starting selling her products on Etsy. She soon discovered that this was more lucrative than her current job hunt. Mary says, “With my recent success I decided to move home to take it more seriously. I thought it would make more sense to live in Alabama and utilize the resources I have here… also cutting my cost significantly.”

Food For Thought
If you are looking to enter the fashion industry Mary recommends that you map out all areas of your business. Mary shares one area that she wished she had more experience in. She said, “If I were to start over, I would change the sales model of my business. I am not a sales person and I did not have much of a sales plan when I began. I just wanted to learn as much about textiles, manufacturing and the process of making. After the fact, I have a studio full of garments and am trying to figure out the sales element of it.”

Mary was able to save money by moving home, her savings helped her fund her dream. In June of 2013, Mary successful launched her own store, Bohem. One of her biggest challenges since starting her business is breaking through and becoming known in the fashion industry. One way that has helped her become successful is staying original in her designs and having a positive attitude. “There are so many many young folks trying to get themselves and their brand out there. I feel my designs are original enough and if I remain persistent and continue to have fun and love what I do, then I will be just fine.”

When asked how she remains positive and motivated during the hard times, Mary said, “What good does giving up do? It changes nothing, it solves nothing. Giving up is merely succumbing yourself to failure. I also have an amazing support system at home that picks me up every time I am down.”