August 25, 2022
PIDC client YOWIE is a Black-, woman-, and millennial-owned home and life shop focused on curating small collections from founder Shannon Maldonado’s friends, independent artists, and designers. Founded in 2016 as an online business, YOWIE attracted a cult following for its eclectic items and workshops and events. Shannon relocated from New York City to open a storefront for YOWIE in her hometown of Philadelphia at 716 S. 4th Street and the business has continued to grow.
YOWIE has been featured in numerous media outlets, including Marie Claire, New York Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, Forbes, Philadelphia Magazine, and Vogue. This year, Shannon was also featured in Architectural Digest’s 10 Black Women Changing the Architecture and Design Space. In July 2022, she launched the pilot episode of Small Enough — a video series which celebrates the human side of entrepreneurship by capturing the inspirational journey of one small business owner during a transformative moment in their business. Check out our client interview to learn how Shannon grew her business and what new ventures she has coming up.
What inspired you to start YOWIE?
“YOWIE was founded in 2016 from my bedroom. It started as a web shop with just twelve products and as a means to find myself creatively after a decade of working at legacy brands Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, American Eagle, and Urban Outfitters. The space was inspired by my travels and the idea of creating a gift shop with things from near and far and bringing people together under a shared love of design and art.”
What’s been the most rewarding part of your job so far?
“The most rewarding part of my job is working with and mentoring artists throughout their practice.”
Why did you choose Philadelphia as a location for your storefront?
“I grew up in Philadelphia and wanted to start the business in a place that was both familiar and challenging. I lived in New York for 12 years, so when I returned [to Philadelphia] in 2016, it was like starting over but I was excited to start and grow our business here. It took a lot of humility to continue to work to get new people to check out the brand and our events or initiatives, but six years later, I know it was worth it. Many people who came to our very first pop-ups in 2016 are still customers to this day!”
We heard that you’re also working on a multi-use headquarters which features a hotel, café, and rental studio. Can you tell us about the business connection between your new venture and YOWIE?
“YOWIE started as a small web shop that I knew needed an in-person presence to grow its community. I did multiple pop-ups around the city in our first year and then graduated to our storefront in 2017. In 2018 I worked on my first design project. Everything with my brand has been a series of organic progressions and growth and the mixed-use space feels like the next step for us to showcase everything we’ve become known for under one roof.”
It’s been a challenging time for many business owners during the pandemic. However, some businesses have managed to pivot and grow. In what ways have your business grown recently?
“Our business saw a huge year of growth in 2020 which led us to move forward with plans to open our larger concept later this year. Our revenue grew by over 200% in 2020 and continues to grow in double digits. We are working to intentionally grow our team as we take on more projects and additional space. Our biggest story is that we are opening a larger space this year on South Street. It’s a street I grew up going to and I can’t wait to be a part of it. It’s a wonderful community!”
What forms of assistance did you seek from PIDC to ensure your business had tools to continue to successfully grow moving forward?
“We sought PIDC’s assistance in June as we’re in the process of building and designing a much larger YOWIE store as a part of our upcoming YOWIE mixed-use project. Up until this point, YOWIE has been funded by my savings, stock options from previous employers, and one fundraising campaign in 2020. We were looking for money to build out our new space, purchase inventory for the upcoming holiday season, and hire new staff. PIDC supported us in helping us secure a Restart PHL Loan. These funds are a huge lifeline to us at this pivotal moment in our business and are helping us to grow in ways we only imagined.”