Edge of Urge | Wilmington, NC
After earning a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Jessie Williams started creating handmade items and garments. Her creations were so popular among friends, she wondered if she could sell them. She talked to several local boutiques, but as an up-and-coming designer, received little support simply because she was unknown. Then she received a call from her mother, who told Jessie about a small 350-square-foot storefront in her home state of North Carolina. Jessie packed her things, moved to Wilmington, and never looked back.
Edge of Urge first opened in 2002, featuring Jessie’s handmade pieces as well as those from friends in North Carolina and Chicago. The store then began accumulating pieces from Wilmington artists. Edge of Urge now finds itself in its third location – on popular Market Street in downtown Wilmington – selling men’s and women’s shoes, clothing and accessories from independent designers all over the world. Edge of Urge continues to build their own collection, with Jessie’s designs featured on the cover of Seventeen Magazine to the pages of InStyle, the NY Post and the NY Times – all while becoming a launching pad for up-and-coming designers.
Jessie first contacted the SBTDC in 2007 for assistance with a growth spurt, marketing, and website development. She returned to the SBTDC again in 2011 for assistance with growth and production volume changes. With the help of business counselor Janis Mueller, Jessie has been able to increase production and streamline EOU’s inner-workings, from inventory control to human resource management.
Janis also helped plan out the space to create a production and design area, and enlisted textile and production assistance from the SBTDC’s Fayetteville office to help Jessie plan for small batch cut-and-sew operations in 2012 and beyond. “They’ve connected me with people that can help,” says Jessie. “Outsourcing some of the production has freed up time and increased sales tremendously.”
Jessie has also utilized UNCW’s MBA Learning Alliance. This 2-phase, 18-month student engagement project has assisted Edge of Urge with marketing, ideas for commercials, and more. “The MBA team is helping with a marketing plan. They’re professionals, and you get to bounce your ideas off of them. It’s priceless.”
Edge of Urge’s sales have grown 37% in the last year, and Jessie has focused on making the Edge of Urge brand a unique, collaborative culture. “Employees model for the website and design jewelry. Some are incredible writers and write for the website. Everybody has a creative piece of the pie,” she says. Jessie credits Janis and the SBTDC with giving her the tools she needs to pull it all together.
What advice would Jessie give to others considering a business of their own? “Don’t even consider it if it’s not something you are 100% truly, madly, deeply in love with. Be able to live with uncertainty, and don’t be afraid of mistakes – they’re going to happen. The more you know, the easier it is to live with uncertainty. Also, utilize the SBTDC; it’s amazing.”
Story originally featured in the SBTDC's 2011-12 Annual Report.