Julie Harleman opened Maple Street Denim in August of 2014. Her path to opening her own denim boutique was unique and challenging. She had come to a major crossroads in her career when the denim store that she managed had a fire. She had a lot of valuable experience in the industry, so she decided to take a risk by recreating her path and starting her own business. Julie explains: “The choice was really difficult but I knew in my heart that it might be my only chance to do something for myself, so I decided to take the plunge. Everything came together really quickly and in just under 4 months, I had opened the doors to Maple Street Denim! Best decision I ever made in my life.”


Maple Street Denim is located in Downtown Oakland and is staffed by Julie and her two part-time employees. They serve the community by providing high quality retail options and excellent one-on-one customer service to shoppers. Julie provides clothing options that are inclusive and fit lots of body types. There are many different styles and sizes to fit people of all shapes, sizes, and genders. Julie also strives to carry products that are sustainable and ethically produced. She wants her customers to feel good in the clothes that they are wearing, not only because they look incredible, but also because the impacts that their purchase has on the environment and the workers who produced the clothing.


Julie explains her experience with Main Street Launch: “Everyone at Main Street Launch was super helpful and patient throughout the whole process. I worked with Adrian Gomez Zavala and he was so great about walking me through every step of the process. I would tell anyone applying for a loan through Main Street to use the resources they provide and not be afraid to ask questions when you’re confused. Everyone is there to help you and they will get you what you need.” She was able to use the loan to refinance credit card debt, purchase inventory, and buy photo equipment to help with their marketing, which increased her cash flow. She no longer uses credit cards to purchase inventory for the store which helps her stick to a budget and keeps the expenses down.


There are many paths to entrepreneurship, but Julie stresses that having passion about the product or service is one of the major keys to success. Julie says, “You have to love what you do because it’s really hard. I wish I had known more about loans and finances, that’s probably the hardest part for me about running a small business. There are a lot of resources like SCORE and the Alameda County Small Business Development Center which offer free or low-cost classes and mentor programs.”


Check out Maple Street Denim’s products on her website or drop into the store located at 465 9th Street, Oakland, CA 94607.