Small Business Profile: Meredith Brockington, Owner of Amie - Portland, ME
Hi Meredith! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m 4’11, born and raised in Maine with my twin sister, Morgan. I’m wild about women artists, art, design, spin class, vintage clothing and furniture, travel, hiking, grooving to bands in intimate music venues, and cultivating creative communities.
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I fell in love with photography in high school. A trip to San Francisco one summer to visit my aunt and uncle is what first inspired me. They are free spirits and world travelers. They shot rolls and rolls of 35mm film, printed 4x6s, and made albums. I spent every evening flipping through the pages and studied the framing and compositions. I messed around with a point and shoot and was hooked. I started college studying Photography and Opera at a small liberal arts school in Newport, RI. After observing my work on film and dedication to the medium (I’d be in the dark room until 2am every night, 7 days a week) my professor and mentors encouraged me to challenge myself with a more serious program.
I transferred my Junior year to Rochester Institute of Technology where I got my a** kicked by my professors and peers. With over 800 Photography students, the competition was steep. It kept me on my toes, working hard, setting milestones and goals for my future. I decided I wanted to work for iconic American heritage brand L.L. Bean when I graduated. I spent my Spring break assisting in their commercial photography studio. I did all the grunt work to get a foot in the door and “prove” myself. After graduation, I was hired as an assistant, but after 9 months, I knew that role had an expiration date. I observed the Art Directors and remember saying I can do that. It was the perfect balance of business and creativity, collaborating and leading creative teams to execute large-scale photo shoots. A position became available at L.L.Bean and after 4 months of interviews I accepted the offer. It felt like kismet. The first year I shadowed seasoned Art and Creative Directors, absorbing knowledge like a sponge, soaking up every second on and off-set. I helped with photoshoot planning, editing film, collaborations with designers and merchandisers on projects and brand initiatives, and took on any project I could get my hands on. After a year I advocated for more responsibility and started moving up the corporate ladder. I was working with multiple teams across all business channels including Art Directing catalog and web shoots for Hunting, Fishing, Home Decor, Signature, Direct to Business and The Outdoor Discovery programs.
After fours years working for L.L.Bean, I had my eye set on something new. I had ambitious goals to create a brand focused on women artists, telling their stories, and selling their handmade products. I had been on the opposing side, seeing products come from overseas, unsure of who made them. I had a vision for a business focused on makers, not machines. In the Spring of ‘17, I resigned from L.L.Bean to begin pursuing the start-up that would hopefully become a unique brand representing the maker movement. I decided on the name Amie, which means female friend in French, hoping to empower artists to collaborate and become supportive friends in community with one another. After I started working on the brand identity, I came up with the tagline Female, not factory. I’ve never looked back.
What led you to begin Amie? Could you tell us more about your mission?
I began Amie after connecting with talented female artists in Portland. I had begun to create a network of girlfriends who were makers- supporting them through buying their handmade products on special occasions and holidays. This was the beginning of uplifting small-batch designs by artists. At first, my business had a different name and included all artists. I compiled a list of designers I admired and products that caught my eye. Out of the 100+ artists, 90% were women. I couldn’t ignore that. I re-designed my business plan and goals to be uniquely female-focused.
The mission of Amie is simple: Empower women artists through investing and promoting Female, not factory-made products. Our goal is to put a face to the products and tell the artist’s unique stories through our artist features and social platforms. Amie is a sustainable brand. Our packaging materials are recyclable, reducing environmental impact!
How do you find the artisans that you work with? How does your collaboration process work?
The first Amie artists were my amies, my girlfriends. I travel as often as possible. Years ago, I pledged to buy a piece of handmade jewelry from everywhere I traveled- a piece of those places would become a permanent part of my collection. Jewelry turned into an obsession with ceramic objects, print publications, and art. There’s a personal story for how I found each Amie artist. Most seemed serendipitous, fitting snug like a puzzle piece. Besides their artistic talents, every Amie is nice, easy-going, positive, authentic. Like many entrepreneurs, I don’t have time for BS. At the end of the day, the most important thing is to be nice, make friends, and value one another.
We love the way that you implement storytelling with the shopping experience - how do you think your way of presenting artists' work helps to sell their beautiful products?
I’m a slow reader. It’s always been a challenge, but I’m a good listener and remember small details about people and their stories. I think I give off the “good listener” vibe because people gravitate towards me and open up. It’s been that way my entire life. It’s a treasure. I love hearing people’s stories of adversity and willpower and sharing them with a broader audience.
I’ve noticed there’s a trend with stores. Businesses buy beautiful, handmade products and do not properly credit artists. They are lucky to get their name on the product page or be tagged in a photo. It’s not ok. There’s a lack of credit and praise for the craftsmanship, labor, and love that artists put into their pieces. Sorry to get preachy! There is a counterculture supporting the maker movement. I saw an opportunity to invest in women AND their products. The true beauty lies with women and their words. Customers have an emotional connection to the story and want to support our ethos and amies.
Why do you think it's important to shop small and support local?
I’ve been able to see the direct effect shopping small has on women and their families. One of our artists is separated, supporting herself and her daughter through her art and designs. It’s not easy and she has a lot to juggle. The bottom line is that I want to know who and what I’m supporting. Buying these products puts money in the hands of good people, working tirelessly to support themselves and their families, so supporting women-owned businesses means everything. I might not get something the next day or with free shipping, but I care about the people behind the products and they care about me, too. 9/10 products break or are thrown away and end up in a landfill. I’m not interested in adding to the already massive carbon footprint and global issue or supporting large manufacturers that focus on quantity over quality. That’s where Female, not factory comes in.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
I wear all the hats. I currently create all the vision content for Amie, balance the books, meet with artists, manage budgets and inventory, fill orders, travel to tell the artists stories for our artist features, and so on. It’s like herding cats! The best part is when I get to step into the artist’s studio- the place where the magic happens. The first time I went to Jenny Prinn’s basement studio, I almost fell down the stairs. It’s better than any museum, covered floor to ceiling in inspiration, found objects, paintings, and supplies. Everytime I feel like a kid in a candy shop (except I don’t care for candy much) so it’s WAY better.
What are some of your goals for Amie, how do you want to see it grow?
Artist retreats. A physical space where women can come together, relax, make art, play music, explore, and take a break from adulting. I’m in the beginning process of product development and shifting towards being an artist outfitter, focused on “studio to street fashion.” I am fueled to solve a problem all artists have: How to work in a studio, then go out in public without feeling ashamed of the paint and clay on their clothes. Stay tuned!
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face with your work?
I am running two businesses. I photograph for local companies and brands to make cash flow to support Amie, so it’s a challenge juggling both. When I worked for corporate America, I put my health last. I wake up most everyday and spin for an hour. I push myself really hard physically and it gets to me. Being tired is honestly the toughest challenge and coffee doesn’t completely solve the issue. I can relate to the phrase, But first, coffee.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
I received an email yesterday with an artist interested in being a part of Amie. I ask every artist the same question as above. She wrote, I admire the Amie Philosophy and feel that all women should promote other women and lift each other up as women are the backbone of any society. ...Amen. I named the brand Amie (ah-mee), which means female friend in French. Women can support other women better by being friends first, then spreading the love.
Women can support other women better by being friends first, then spreading the love.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
All creative women and women empowering women (like The Glossary!). One woman I really look up to is Grace Bonney, author of In the Company of Women. I read ITCOW front to back three times and then quit my full-time corporate job to launch Amie. Mara Hoffman and Sophie Monet are amazing. The women behind the brand Bodysuit in Barcelona. I’m obsessed with Laura Berger, Ines Longevial from France, Christiane Spangsberg from London. The women behind Darling Magazine, comprised of un-retouched images of women. My first Amie, Kristen Camp, who is an amazing ceramic artist in Maine. My mom is an amazing cook, gardener, and cross-stitcher and my great grandmother (who lived to be 100) made an afghan or doily a day.
What have you learned from your experiences that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
KEEP GOING. Never give up even on the hardest days. Do things to feed your creativity. Under promise, over deliver. Never stop learning or asking questions. Surround yourself with mentors, family, and supportive friends. Never compromise integrity and always protect your business.
How do you deal with moments of self-doubt?
Prayers and quiet meditation. I also started a tradition called “Fry-days.” French fries are my favorite food, so I go to a different restaurants to eat them with a glass of rose, usually followed by live music. Weekends are for time in the woods. Hiking clears my mind. I have the best support system that won’t let me give up and always encourages me to keep going.
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
I’m learning how to create balance and take time for my own fine art. It’s a work in progress.
What are some of your favorite places in Portland?
I’m a proud Mainah! Here’s my local’s guide to Portland.
Food: Eventide, Pai Men Miyake, Cong tu Bot, Boda, Little Giant, LB kitchen
Cocktails: Hunt + Alpine
Massage/Spa: Health Resonates (Tara is unreal)