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Young Fashion Grad’s Entrepreneurial Success Is More Than Just Sew Sew

Although she just graduated in 2012, UC fashion alumna Mary Helen Boeddeker has already set the pattern for success with her girls’ clothing line.

Date: 2/17/2013
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Provided by Mary Helen Boeddeker
In the last year, University of Cincinnati alumna Mary Helen Boeddeker, 23, of Springfield Township, has become the designer, marketer, operations manager and more on behalf of her girl’s clothing line – which is simply titled mary helen clothing.

It’s an entrepreneurial business she began even before her June 2012 graduation, and one that is already self supporting.

Recalls Boeddeker, “I had a job offer at graduation, but I had worked and planned to open my own business. I’d saved money from my UC cooperative education quarters to invest in the business, had start-up funds and had already completed a business plan. So, I turned down the job offer. I figured I had to go for it, to try and start my own business.”
Mary Helen Boeddeker
Mary Helen Boeddeker at work on her clothing line.

Her background for that business began in UC’s top-ranked fashion program, housed within the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP). Throughout her undergraduate years, Boeddeker co-opped with children’s clothing companies. (Co-op, or cooperative education, is the practice wherein students alternate quarters or semesters in the classroom with quarters or semesters of paid, professional work related directly to their respective majors. UC, the global founder of co-op, houses one of the nation’s top ten co-op programs, according to U.S. News & World Report rankings.)

She adds, “I also used two of my co-op quarters as independent study opportunities to begin creating my own line and my own brand. I don’t know what I would have done without the push my co-ops provided for me. They really helped me to know what I wanted to do. And in DAAP, they teach you all aspects of sewing as a base. That’s stood me in good stead.”

And now, Boeddeker is so successful in her entrepreneurial efforts that she employs two UC co-op students each term to help her produce the garments in her clothing line. All told, she and her co-ops have made and sold about 1,500 garments in the last nine months.

According to Boeddeker, the best part of these unique designs and hand-made garments is “seeing young girls so happy in their clothes. I get to see them wear the garments. I love it when they first try on a new item. They literally twirl, they dance, and they’re all smiles. I get to know that I helped create that situation and to see it firsthand. I get to hear ‘I love it’ and ‘Thank you’ directly from my clients. You don’t get that in the corporate world.”

Boeddeker even recalls when a five-year-old called up asking to speak to Boeddeker’s mother: “When I handed my phone to my mom, the little girl told my mom, ‘I love Mary.’ And another of my young clients had already told me that she wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up.”

This kind of end result – girls who feel good in fun, colorful designs – is of course achieved as a labor of love, so much so that Boedekker says it’s a good thing DAAP teaches not only skills but dedication to lots of hard work and long hours.

That’s because her role as an entrepreneur is a 24/7 one. “The business is always on my mind. I’m always thinking of the next steps to take,” she confesses.

As part of her next steps, Boeddeker plans to automate sales on her retail site, and she plans to expand her offerings. Right now, she offers designs for girls from a size 2 toddler to a girl’s size 8. She will expand that to a girl’s size 12. That expanded offering, available as March 1, will also include clothing for boys, from size 2 toddler to boy’s size 12.

“And to round off the new offerings, I plan to offer one item for women,” she promises.

And yes, she realizes she’ll be on pins and needles to make her March 1 deadline for her new, expanded offerings: “But, so far, I’ve learned that while it’s hard, you do get over these humps. The most important thing is to never give up.”