Maplewood resident Marichelle Hills realized her lifelong dream of opening her own business when she launched Meus last November.
A mother to three daughters, ages 5, 3, and 1, Hills decided that rather than wait for her children to get a bit older and the ideal space to become available she would set up shop in the attic of her Yale Street home and present her unique finds online.
The web designer-turned-blogger said after featuring artists and their homemade one-of-a-kind wares on her blog, Heart Handmade, the transition to virtual shopkeeper was seamless.
Featuring everything from home decor and kitchen items to jewelry and accessories, clothing, and an ever-growing kids section, Meus has sold more than 1,400 items in less than a year.
“Many of the products we carry are independently made and produced in small batches,” explains Hills, who notes that she launched with 25 vendors and now works with more than 50. “A special thanks goes out to my local post office on Maplewood Avenue, especially to James and Craig who have been on the receiving end and have processed these 750 boxes.”
Free delivery is available for Maplewood and South Orange customers.
The curator of homespun original pieces says she attends trade shows such as NY Now and constantly peruses her favorite rabbit holes — Instagram and Pinterest — in search of interesting designers and artisans.
While working from home has its advantages, it also presents challenges, the entrepreneur notes.
“Work-life balance has been tough,” she says. “I feel like I’m constantly working because my business is at home. It’s hard to shut off. Customer service is such an important element and when your shop is online people have a different expectation for communication than they would with a physical shop.”
Because Meus ships internationally, Hills often receives emails and orders throughout the night. Still, she says, she hopes watching her homegrown business take root and flourish will plant an entrepreneurial spirit in her girls.
“Emma [Hills’ eldest] loves the idea of having a shop in our home. She asks a lot of questions and she tries to help as much as a 5-year-old can. When there are kids’ products, I use them for models. They love being a part of it,” says Hills, who brought her store to Maplewoodstock for the first time this year and was thrilled to see friends and neighbors as they browsed through her inventory.
The former New Yorker says she was eager to open a boutique in Manhattan when she lived there but her plans were temporarily put on hold when she and her husband decided to move to Maplewood seven years ago and start their family.
“Owning a physical shop has always been my end goal,” she says, “but I’ve yet to meet a shop owner who hasn’t tried to discourage me. I try to reach out to local shop owners and try to connect with them and ask questions because it’s always in the back of my mind.”
Undeterred, Hills says she’s always keeping an eye out for a prime location that sees plenty of foot-traffic. In the meantime, the business owner looks forward to bringing Meus to the annual Royal Boutique at Oak Knoll in Summit on Friday, Nov. 13.
With the holiday season right around the corner, Meus is seeking interns who would be able to provide support in the areas of social media and publicity. Currently, Hills manages all aspects of the business from sourcing merchandise and photographing products to creating marketing materials and running and maintaining the website.
While her days are hectic, Hills wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s been such an incredibly fulfilling challenge,” she says.