Chat with Maria of Your Local Girl Gang
What does community mean to you? For someone who runs a business that is primarily behind the computer and who is a bonafide introvert, I define community as like minded individuals who get it! A community is safe space where you can thrive, become inspired, have endless conversations about that passion that ignites your soul.. with people who get it! Your Local Girl Gang provides my definition of community x10!
When I stumbled upon Your Local Girl Gang, through a searching frenzy on Facebook, I was so estatic! A female based networking group! I have had the privelege of attending and being involved with events hosted by Your Local Girl Gang!
Today I am chatting with the Founder of Your Local Girl Gang, Maria!
What is the mission of Your Local Girl Gang?
Your Local Girl Gang is an online tool for finding the women-owned businesses in your neighborhood--for whatever you may be looking for. But the Girl Gang is bigger than that. Driven by the motto, “her success is our success,” the Girl Gang sets out to empower these businesses and the women that run them.
Why did you start Your Local Girl Gang?
I started YLGG because I wanted to start shopping with more local, woman-owned businesses. I wanted to get tapped into the business scene here in Cleveland, and I wanted to know the female entrepreneurs of Cleveland. When I started looking for them, I realized that there was no good resource to help me find them. So I decided to make one myself. It started because of a goal that I had, so I expected that other people might have the same goal, and would want a resource like this to connect them with women business owners.
What is the greatest advantage to heading Your Local Girl Gang?
The greatest advantage is simply having an amazing network of women who I consider my peers. Through the Girl Gang, I have met some awesome women who are so willing to lend their services and their advice. The greatest discovery in leading the Girl Gang has been that everyone is just an email away in Cleveland. Just reach out to the people you want to connect with. Chances are, if you’re approaching them because you want to support them, they’ll want to connect with you too.
What is the greatest obstacle you have faced in creating this community?
Having a ton on my plate, occasionally feeling like I bit off more than I can chew, and learning how to manage that.
What kind of challenges do you see other girl gang members facing?
I see Girl Gang members facing all the challenges of starting and growing a business--finding money, getting off the ground, finding a space, making money, building a brand, attracting customers. I’m always happy to help Girl Gang members connect with each other to find solutions for their struggles. Almost everyone is willing to help when they see someone struggling, and I love to be able to facilitate those connections.
Why did you choose to focus on women-owned local businesses specifically?
I started the yourlocalgirlgang.com because I wanted there to be an easier way to find women-owned businesses. I wanted that resource because I wanted to do more to support and empower women in my community, and I realized that the easiest way to do that was with my money. Why would I go to a mall when I could go to a local boutique and find something unique, and get to meet the person who I am impacting by shopping there?
Photo Taken By Maria Sharp
Do you see Your Local Girl Gang branching out to other cities?
What do you want the girl gang members to take away from the community?
I want them to know that this is a community that has their back. When you’re in the Girl Gang, you have a whole community behind you, supporting you, and cheering for you. We want to see you succeed. Wherever you are in your process of being a business owner, a student, a creative, or someone who wants to be more involved in the local business scene, we’ll connect you with others that you can learn from. You are a valuable member of this community.
How does leading Your Local Girl Gang influence other areas of your life?
Honestly, there aren’t many other areas of my life that don’t involve the Girl Gang. Being in the first year of this business, I work a ton. If I’m not working on the Girl Gang, it’s usually because I’m exercising, eating, sleeping, or at my job at Limelight. Leading the Girl Gang definitely influences my choices of places to go--I always want to be embodying the brand, so I make a point to check out new woman-owned businesses as much as possible. Recently a friend who usually watches our dog was unavailable, so I just pulled up The List on yourlocalgirlgang.com and contacted a dog walker (shoutout Jennifer from McGraws Paws, she’s super professional and amazing.) If I want to try a new workout, I’ll find a new gym that’s on The List. When I want to try a new boutique, you know where I look. When I’m at Limelight, I’m surrounded by entrepreneurs everyday, and a few of them are also Girl Gang members. Almost everything I do is tied to the Girl Gang, and I absolutely love it. I know that work/life balance is important, but what happens when you love your job(s) and you don’t want to be separated from them? That’s where I am right now, and I think that’s okay too. (Don’t worry, I turn my phone over when it’s time to catch up on a good show or enjoy dinner with friends.)
You are an advocate for community, what does your support system look like?
My support system is my family, my fiance, and my friends. They understand me and they do whatever they can to help. I’m so lucky to have friends that have continued to attend each event, and if you were at Brunch with Bosses, you probably saw my fiance furiously restocking prosecco. I’m very lucky to have them. I’m also insanely fortunate that one of my good friends (and earliest Girl Gang supporters), Anna, works for a company at Limelight, so I get to see her every day. Anna is incredibly smart and thoughtful, and always willing to offer advice and support. My best friend, Genevieve, lives 1500 miles away but she is so supportive of me. We have weekly phone calls that sometimes last for a couple hours. She understands me better than almost anyone. Also, my interns are making a huge difference in what we’re able to accomplish. Thank you, Emily & McKenzie.
Celebrating One Year with the Girl Gang
Let’s talk about Your Local Girl Gang’s Brunch with Bosses event!
photos taken by Lamb Photography
What were you feeling during the event?
Stress & Joy
What is one thing you see happening for YLGG in year two?
Expanding to a new city.
What was your highlight of Year One for YLGG?
I can’t pick just one. Is a list allowed?
Being featured in Cleveland Magazine was an absolute dream.
Selling 100 tickets to our 1st birthday party was incredible.
The very first ever event that we held at Room Service in Ohio City back in November was amazing because when the event was supposed to end at 8pm and there were still people there at 9:15, it made me realize “this might actually be successful.”
The very first email I received from a business owner when I approached her with the idea for Your Local Girl Gang was a game-changer. She basically just said “we so get what you are working towards, and we’re excited to be a part.” That was my first feeling of success, and it was so simple.
Getting a panel of 5 incredible Cleveland entrepreneurs to talk with us for an hour at Brunch with Bosses. Listening to them speak about how they started their businesses and what they’ve learned along the way was definitely a “holy shit, is this really happening?” moment.
From the panel, what is one quote that inspired you?
“The way to be successful is to focus on your own shit” and “Every overnight success is 10 years in the making.” Both from Shelley, the owner of Brewnuts.
You always stay in background at your events, what has been one the greatest interactions you have observed?
I love watching women become friends at the events. I met two girls, one of which was at her first Girl Gang event. I tried to thank the other one for bringing her there, and she just said “Oh, no, we didn’t come together. I just met her.” They just met like ten minutes earlier, and because neither of them knew anyone else, they just took on the room together. I hope they have like, a weekly happy hour together now. That would make this story a lot better.
Now that you have time to bask in the awesomeness that was Brunch with Bosses, what is one thing you would say to everyone who attended, the vendors, and the panelist, etc
THANK YOU. Thank you for helping pull together an amazing event, thank you for attending, thank you for sharing your experiences, thank you for most attentive crowd EVER, and thank you for your undying support and positivity. Let’s top it in Year 2.
Getting to know the Girl behind Your Local Girl Gang:
1. Favorite Color- Cleveland gray. Nah, I’m just kidding. Purple. I do love gray though.
2. Favorite Tv Show - Parks and Rec for life.
3. Favorite Decompressing Activity - going on a run with my dog, doing pilates, or talking to a friend.
4. Favorite Coffee Spot in Cleveland- I love Gypsy Beans in Gordon Square. But there are so many good ones to choose from. I’ve been going to Rising Star in Hingetown a lot lately.
5. Favorite View In Cleveland- Edgewater, looking towards downtown.
6. Go to place that inspires you in Cleveland
The Cleveland Museum of Art is my go to place if I’m feeling artsy. But honestly, I get most inspired by driving around Cleveland, and it’s one of my favorite things to do because there’s always something interesting to see. One of my favorite things about Cleveland is the architecture. I’m from out West (Colorado specifically) and they just don’t have old architecture like we do in Cleveland. I love seeing old buildings brought back to life. I think Cleveland gets a bad rep because people see broken, falling down and abandoned. I think the people who know and love Cleveland see potential.
7. Name of your dog- Jamie the Jack Russell
8. Favorite Podcast -
Again, I have to give a list:
If I Were You (Jake & Amir anyone?)
How I Built This
SERIAL, OBVIOUSLY. (I feel like that’s a given when you ask what someone’s favorite podcast is, but I had to mention it because of Season 3 taking place in Cleveland.)
9. Favorite Social Media - Instagram.
Question of The Session:
What was your favorite answer from Maria’s Interview?