PORTLAND — Mainely Mara has high standards. Local standards.
Mara Higgins, the website’s owner and namesake, has created a niche by offering exclusive fashion, beauty and style deals from greater Portland boutiques and spas.
Launched two years ago, the site now has 5,000 subscribers. Membership is mostly women ages 25-45. Every Thursday, coupons are emailed with services varying from massage to clothing discounts. Higgins’ first vendor was J.Henry Salon, and now one of her most valued partnerships is with Head Games Salon.
Higgins distinguishes Mainely Mara’s content from similar national sites like GroupOn or Living Social by directly negotiating the deals and maintaining face-to-face relationships with her vendors.
She doesn’t charge businesses an ad fee, and generates revenue by receiving a percentage of sales. Further, the offerings often last a week, while other, larger sites’ coupons expire daily.
“There’s no junk,” Higgins said. “You’re not going to find a coupon for an oil change or Chinese restaurant when you’re looking for a mani-pedi.”
Higgins, who has a master’s degree in marketing, said local businesses are shying away from expensive advertising in popular magazines, for example, and relying more on user-generated content like blogs and social media.
In recent years, she noted, Portland has seen a proliferation of such fashion related blogs. Higgins’ own blog features articles like “How to go Upta Camp” and “What’s in My Bag.” She also hosts guest bloggers like Keriann Russell of Dish.
Higgins is a Mainer by choice, who moved to her husband’s hometown of Cape Elizabeth. She gave birth to her first child the same summer she started Mainely Mara.
“I always tell people how it was the best motivator,” she recalled with a smile. “We couldn’t push back the launch deadline, we had to do it before the baby was born.”
Mara Higgins, of Mainely Mara, in Portland.