DE PERE, Wis. (NBC 26) — Brittany Smith loved her first career as a dispatcher for the Oneida Police Department but eventually yearned to spend more time with her two daughters.
"I really liked how it brought me closer to the community," Smith said. "Even though I didn’t really see anybody, it still gave you a sense of being there for them. And the 12-hour shifts with my daughters, it was kind of hard to transition to, 'ok, I have to work a 12-hour shift now, and then I have to go back home and work.'"
Smith earned a degree in Interior Design at Madison Area Technical College and shared her passion for crafting and home decor with her friends for years. So much so that in 2017, she combined these skills with her first business as a side hustle to dispatching, Under Home Again Creations, Smith would host crafting events and private parties, but Home Again was one of many small businesses that were forced to adjust their business model due to the pandemic.
Out of this historic period, Grace Mae Boutique was born at 327 Main Ave in De Pere. Smith envisioned a space where she could tap into her vast network of local women entrepreneurs by featuring exclusively women-run brands, while also getting back to hosting craft events.
Smith signed her lease in late May 2021.
"It was hard and it was scary," Smith said of starting a business during the pandemic. "Especially with the new wave that came in, and I did have a few people come in that were kind of like 'you better be careful,' and that kind of made me nervous a bit. But I think it's going ok."
Smith already carries women's and childrens' clothing at Grace Mae, and will be bringing in men's products soon – but it sticking to her rules of working with women-run companies.
"I think what inspired me the most was because I wanted someone to give me a chance, or to look at my stuff and be like ‘whoa that’s cool,’" Smith said. "And I just want that for everyone else trying to make their way or get their stuff out there. Like hey, come see it!"
Some customers feel like Smith's efforts bring a more inclusive atmosphere to shopping on Main Avenue.
"I like it because, you know, you go to other boutiques and they don’t have bigger sizes, because they’re all mostly just smalls, extra smalls, mediums. And me, I’m not those sizes so, I'm glad she personalizes it to me," Autumn Webster joked. "It's a great place to shop. I love the clothes. Everything is from the area, made and even some of the stuff she's made! It's amazing."