Emma Thieme’s father piqued her interest in motorcycles by taking her out for rides, while Emma’s mother instilled a love of sewing through working together with her on projects from childhood. By the time she was an adult, Emma would take a sewing machine with her on every move, from dorm room to the off-grid cabin in Cherryfield, Maine that also became the place to park her first cycle.
Most people wouldn’t think of pursuing two such dissimilar passions, let alone combining them into a vocation, but a special blend of craftmanship, an artistic eye, and the expertise that comes from personal use have made Emma’s dual businesses – Maven Seats and Maven Leather, a success.
The journey from enthusiast to professional began when Emma was in college studying journalism and a friend gifted her a bag of leather scraps. Using leather the same way she had other fabrics in her years of sewing allowed Emma to explore interesting shapes and patterns, resulting in her starting a business making leather handbags and accessories. It only made sense then, that when she bought her first road bike and was displeased with the seat, she did what any dyed-in-the-wool maker would – figured she could make something better herself.
Emma burnt out her home sewing machine on the project and found that there was a lot more about leatherwork and custom upholstery she wanted to learn. So, having finished her undergraduate degree several years before, Emma looked into trade schools and ended up in a six-week vocational program at Mobile Technical Training Institute in Hackensack, N.J. Emma posted photos of her work online, and by the time she finished the program, she had started getting inquiries about custom orders.
In 2016, having heard about CEI’s business advising services and needing help with pricing custom products in a niche market, Emma met up in Machias with a CEI Women’s Business Center advisor just before she shipped off one of her largest motorcycle seat projects to date.
“After I had my first appointment with (CEI Women’s Business Center advisor) Ruth Cash-Smith, I felt like I had just gone to a therapy session. In a good way. I think especially as an artist, you might not get asked for the full story on why you’re doing what you’re doing and where you intend to go with it. To sit down with someone who really wanted to know exactly what my thoughts and fears were on what I had just created — it was really refreshing and it helped me to solidify my intentions for myself.”Emma Thieme, Owner Maven Seats & Maven Leather
Those initial meetings also resulted in a pricing formula/process that Emma continues to utilize today. Following Ruth Cash-Smith’s retirement in 2018, Emma shifted to working with CEI advisor Ruth Feldman. Speaking of her experiences with both advisors, Emma said “I have seen them as allies in what often feels like a jungle. I just feel so lucky everyday that I’m able to live in this reality where I’m working completely for myself, but it can be unpredictable and often lonely. Having someone to help guide me through is an invaluable resource for me.”
LEARN MORE ABOUT MAVEN SEATS & MAVEN LEATHER
LOOKING TO START OR GROW YOUR WOMAN-OWNED BUSINESS?
CEI’s Women’s Business center offers business advising, workshops and events for women in business. Our experienced, knowledgeable business specialists can help you at any stage of your business, from start-up to expansion. To learn more, visit https://www.ceimaine.org/advising/business-counseling-development/womens-business-center/