It started six years ago, when a group of Minnesota women entrepreneurs who sold items they'd made or designed wondered how they could get more attention for their products.
"They were mostly just people I knew," said Tracy Dyer, who designs women's computer bags for her St. Louis Park-based Urban Junke). "There are all these cool companies based in Minnesota that nobody knows about. We were like, 'Let's do something that helps all these companies.'"
And so began Maiden Minnesota, a holiday shopping event featuring exhibits of women-owned, Minnesota-based gifts products. This year's event, on Oct. 26, included 36 companies selling cosmetics, jewelry, clothing, food, handbags and products for the home, and is estimated to have drawn more than 1,000 customers.
Organizers thought an event "would bring a better response than we could do individually," as well as give business owners a chance to mingle with their customers, said Dyer, who with publicist Jen Stack spearheaded the event.
That first year, it included just 12 companies. No one had any idea how many customers it would draw.
"We opened the doors and there was a line around the corner," Dyer said.
That was enough to convince them to make it an annual event. The following year, they added a charitable element -- one designated charity (switching every two years) would receive a portion of each ticket sale, as well as proceeds from a silent auction, to which each vendor was asked to donate $300 worth of merchandise. This year's event, at the Graves 601 Hotel in Minneapolis, raised money for Project Success, which provides opportunities for middle- and high-school students in the Twin Cities.
So Maiden Minnesota provides visibility for women entrepreneurs, raises money for charity and is "a fun girls' night out," Dyer said. "Glass of wine, shopping, networking."
But Dyer has one other goal: she hopes the event sends a message about the importance of women as consumers and in company management. "Women consume 88 percent of this country's products," Dyer said. "If you're not thinking about how women influence your products, you'd better be."
Katy Read • 612-673-4583