Progress 2023: Maymay Made It has impact in cyberspace and community
Published 3:12 pm Thursday, March 16, 2023
Editor’s note: This article originally published in “Progress 2023: Behind the Scenes.” Copies are available at our office, 1109 Seventh Street N in Clanton.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY JOYANNA LOVE
Main Street may be where most people look to gauge a community’s business vitality, but cyberspace is where local business Maymay Made It makes the majority of its sales.
Owners Maymay and Vince Helms have a brick and mortar location in Clanton, but the business grew out a YouTube channel that has created a community of customers who share a love of paper crafting. As the business has grown, so has Maymay’s commitment to helping other business owners in Chilton County through the Merchants Association of Chilton County.
“What if we tried something?”
The very beginnings of Maymay Made It grew out of disaster.
“We lost everything in the house fire, and we ended up having to move to an apartment,” Maymay said. “… I have always used my art and my creativity as sort of therapy.”
Before the fire, Maymay had been thinking about starting a YouTube dedicated to teaching crafting.
“I had been teaching crafts (as a hobby) for years anyway,” she said.
She talked about the idea with her husband, who was a commissioned insurance agent/ agency owner at the time, and they agreed on one video per week.
Her first how-to craft video posted in September 2011 from a 4×6 closet at the apartment.
“She really became a student of YouTube, too, and spent a lot of time researching how to grow a channel … what it took,” Vince said.
After hearing about her love of crafting, the contractor for their new house expanded a closet to 8×15 for a craft room/ filming space. Maymay then got serious about a schedule of posting in order to grow her channel’s viewers. She was working full-time at 40-60 hours a week in Montgomery and doing videos at night after their four boys were in bed.
“The viewers are what really caused the business to happen because every time I would show a product I’d get inundated with ‘where did you get that?’” Maymay said.
This led to Maymay pitching the idea of a “Maymay’s 10 Favorite Things” Etsy store to Vince in 2013, asking “What if we tried something?” Vince admits his initial reaction was “total fear.”
“Because she is a very creative person, she tried a lot of things, pre-YouTube, and my experience with her track record of trying things was not good,” Vince said. “She would try (selling) something, and then she wouldn’t like it and then she would quit.”
However, he said yes to taking a chance on the Etsy store. Vince said “there was a lot of frustration on my end because I didn’t understand what she was trying to do.” He said it was hard to grasp the concept that YouTube could support a business.
Vince said he knew the business was going to make it when “we figured out the subscription service for our stamps clubs, which allowed us to order more stamps and
Maymay Helms demonstrates how the Misti Stamping Platform helps line up a stamp for a craft project.
Stamp sets created by Maymay or her team at the store can be used to create cards like this one.
Maymay Helms demonstrates how to make paper crafts on her YouTube channel.
have someone else pay for them through the subscriptions. That got the ball rolling and helped me see that there was some potential.”
Maymay knew Vince was convinced it was going to be a viable, steady income when he quit his sales job to come work with her in December 2015.
“When I said I need help, and he said, ‘I am the one that is going to help you.’ I knew he was in,” Maymay said.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
By 2015, Maymay had left her job in Montgomery, and her online business had outgrown the limited space at their house. In October 2015, Maymay noticed a house across the street from the north Clanton Jack’s was available for rent. She was certain it would be too expensive, but she felt a strong urge get more information. When the couple went on a tour of the building, the owner came down on the lease price and mentioned being willing to do a six-month lease.
“All day long I had been praying, God if this is not for me shut the door,” Maymay said.
The meeting convinced her and Vince that this was something they needed to do.
The couple established a warehouse, created a classroom and hired some employees. They went on to sign two more six-month leases. In 2017, the business moved to 3,600 square feet building in Verbena. This would be the home for Maymay Made It for the next three years.
Its third location moved the business back to Clanton, where
the Helms “wanted to market to locals, we wanted to spend some time building our store,” Maymay said.
However, they moved into the building in March 2020, and COVID-19 pandemic restrictions closed retail stores four days after the new location had opened. Staff worked from home for several months, and the business made a deliberate choice to keep the channel a relaxing escape.
“We didn’t want it to come back years later and re-watch videos and that (the pandemic) be the topic in everything; we wanted it to be crafting,” Shannon Woodfin, Maymay’s assistant, said.
THE MAYMAY FAMILY
In March 2019, when Woodfin joined the team as a social media manager, she was only familiar with Facebook.
“The funny thing about her (Maymay) is, she will not hire people with experience,” Vince said. “Because she wants them to learn the way she wants it done.”
“My graphic artist was a second-grade teacher that wanted a new job,” Maymay said.
Her only requirement was that the person could run a computer, and she taught them the rest. When office manager Amber was hired five years ago, she had not checked an email in several years.
Having worked for the company for nearly four years, Woodfin said she enjoys it because “it is ever changing. It is always something new, something fun.”
“It has also just turned in to a huge family, and you want to hang around your family and friends,” Woodfin said.
Vince said customers are a part of that family, too.
“That is what I think makes us strong is our community (of viewers/subscribers),” Maymay said.
She enjoys the business because the crafts are for happy occasions.
Chilton County has a charm for the Maymay YouTube viewers.
“Our viewers love our small-town life,” Maymay said. “… A lot of our viewers, they don’t drive, they don’t leave their house. We are sometimes who they talk to every week … I love that we have such a community.”
“We have so many people that when they watch us go shopping in our town, they just love it, they just think that is the greatest thing that we let them be a part of that,” Vince said. “It is like a release for them.”
Some viewers have been there since the first videos she ever did.
Vince and Woodfin are now of
ten seen in the videos as well. Vince said viewers now “get so upset if I’m not there.”
“People love to see a husband and wife supporting each other,” Maymay said. “We didn’t do that to show people. We were just being us.”
GROWING THE IMPACT
Wanting to help other business owners find success was a desire for Maymay long before the Merchants Association of Chilton County was formed. She wanted to spread the word that social media could drive business.
“I love to help other businesses,” she said. “It is a passion of mine.”
She initially thought businesses could “buddy up” and share what has worked for them and help each other. When Rachel Martin became the Chilton County Chamber of Commerce director, Maymay shared the “buddy business” concept with her. Martin mentioned it to Clanton City Mayor Jeff Mims, who invited Maymay to discuss the idea at the end of a meeting with business leaders. That is how Maymay found herself giving an impromptu presentation of the idea. Afterward, Martin pitched support of the idea, and Mims encouraged business owners to stay and discuss it. Nate Fuller of The Frozen Goat suggested the group be named MAC —Merchants Association of Clanton.
As the group grew, they started doing field trip to businesses in Clanton to see what each had to offer.
“The thing we want to do is to dispel the myth that there is nothing to do in Chilton County or I have to go outside of Chilton County to shop,” Maymay said. “None of this is true.”
Later, the group expanded to include all of Chilton County after Martin coordinated a MAC trip to Thorsby and Jemison, and the name was changed to Merchants Association of Chilton County (MACC).
The only requirement for participation is a business license.
“If you do a business for profit, you are in business, you need a business license,” Maymay said.
Meetings are held every other Wednesday. Maymay tries to have a training topic and businesses working toward common promotion of each other.
“I want them to take away something every time that they can implement right away or might give them a new mindset about something,” Maymay said. “I do a lot of business growing research now because I want to bring that to them. I have loved every minute of it.”
Some business owners have started leveraging social media and group events to grow business as a result. Woodfin said the group has also highlighted and shown local businesses that they do not have to be in competition.
“You can learn something from everybody else,” Woodfin said. “They all have something different to offer and different ways to help you succeed.”
Even after the official meeting is over, business leaders will continue to discuss ideas with similar businesses.