July 6, 2010

MainelyMara puts pampering a click away

The website offers special discounts at local boutiques and spas.

By STEPHANIE HARDIMAN Staff Writer

Mara Higgins is a bargain hunter. It's how she has shopped around Portland, and now it's putting her business,

click image to enlarge

Mara Higgins, owner of MainelyMara, shows the website in her Portland office. Her coupon website focuses on local boutiques and spas. Since her May 27 launch, she’s gained about 500 members.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

MainelyMara.com

, on the map.

Like popular "deal of the day" websites Rue La La and Groupon, Higgins' site features deeply discounted offers available for a limited time. Signing up to be a member is free, and a deal once every two weeks is delivered via e-mail. Users can purchase the deal, such as a half-price massage, to get an e-coupon to redeem in stores.

Higgins has carved a niche for herself by focusing on local boutiques and spas. And since MainelyMara.com launched on May 27, she's gained about 500 members.

"It's a recession. Everyone is looking for a deal," Higgins said. "People might not have walked in (to that business) otherwise."

Higgins got the idea in September after moving from Boston with her Mainer husband.

Armed with a background in retail, Higgins approached her favorite local businesses with a plan to offer their services at a discount in order to bring in more business. And it worked.

"We've got a ton of business from it," said Jaison Brainerd, the manager of Cherry Pie Beauty and Lifestyle Lounge.

In addition to pleasing regular clients, Brainerd said the spa has gained about 50 new customers since the deal on a manicure and pedicure for $22 was released June 17.

"They get a chance to try one of the services they may not have tried. Some of our clients become hers and vice versa," said Sarah Heely, the chief operating officer for Head Games Salon, which hosted MainelyMara's launch party on June 24.

Plus, working with Higgins has been great for visibility and helps to support local businesses like her own, Heely said.

And the customers seem to be happy. About 300 people have already "liked" MainelyMara on Facebook, and Higgins said she often gets e-mails thanking her for her service.

"People who like nice things, it's giving them reason to treat themselves," Higgins said.

Higgins takes a commission on all transactions, responds to member and business inquiries and maintains a blog on her website.

She has already booked deals with local businesses through December and still has shop owners approaching her to do business in the future. After her company has been running for about a year, she said she might increase the frequency of deal releases.

MainelyMara is focused on Greater Portland, but Higgins said she aspires to expand her company's geographical reach in the years to come, still concentrating on locally owned businesses.

Currently, MainelyMara is featuring a three-month summer membership plus two personal training sessions with The Body Architect fitness center for $195 -- 66 percent off the original $575 price tag. In the coming months, MainelyMara will be featuring deals with Bliss  and angela adams designs.

Higgins said that overall she couldn't have imagined the launch of her business going any better.

"It's been so rewarding seeing it come to fruition, getting unsolicited e-mails (of gratitude), seeing how supportive everyone has been," Higgins said.

Staff Writer Stephanie Hardiman can be contacted at 791-6301 or at:

shardiman@mainetoday.com

 

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