It all started with the humble bait bag. Known to most of us in Maine as an unassuming vessel for stinky dead fish, Alaina Harris saw its potential for something more.
A lifelong seamstress with a design background, Harris loved the textures and colors of the bait bags and went on the hunt for more inspiration at a local marine store.
She sewed a clutch out of marine-grade polymesh and screen-printed the bait bag design on it. When she’d carry it around with her, people wanted to know where they could find one.
“I got more compliments on the bag than anything else I had ever worn before, so I thought I had nothing to lose and would make a few more to sell,” she says.
Alaina Marie bait bags started with a simple Etsy shop with a few different colors of the bag. The positive feedback gave her enough confidence to approach her first store: Portland Trading Co.
“Honestly, that was the only store I approached the first year and it snowballed from there,” says Harris.
The business took off. She moved into a working studio, quit her day job and started to work on the bags full time within the first six months. The bags at Portland Trading Co. got the attention of another big brand too.
“I got an email from a buyer at Anthropologie that said she saw them while she was visiting Portland and bought three from Portland Trading Co.,” she says. “I had to look her up because I couldn’t believe Anthropologie wanted to sell them!”
A year after that, J.Crew called. Alaina had sent a few samples of her bag to a friend, a store manager at the mall, who forwarded the samples along. They got into the right hands and before she knew it, Harris and a few new team members were sewing and fulfilling thousands of bags.
Harris is modest and chalks up much of her success to being in the right place at the right time.
“Some people work their whole lives and want to do something that they love and it doesn’t always work out,” she says. “I feel really lucky.”
Now that the business has taken off, Harris has moved into a new working studio space in the heart of downtown Portland, where she’s looking to the future of her brand. She’s got two employees, a summer intern and lots of new design ideas.
“I just want to continue to grow the brand and keep the production value high,” she says. “I hope this is just the beginning.”
You can find Alaina Marie bait bags in more than 50 stores nationwide and online at Alaina-Marie.com.