Maine has many women Entrepreneurs. I was so impressed with Stephanie Mulligan. She is a woman who had a dream, who tapped into her many talents to become a publisher of children’s books. She resides in Maine with her former Patriots player husband and three children. She has excelled at making her dream a reality. She persevered and didn’t rely on traditional paths, and she created her own path, which has led to her success…
Mary: Tell me about you. You grew up in Maine?
Stephanie: I grew up in Otisfield. My parents discovered Maine when dad was stationed in the Navy in Brunswick, so I’m a first-generation Mainer, and I am very proud of that. I went to Oxford Hills High School and then the University of Maine, and I have a degree in elementary education with a concentration in English.
Mary: Your husband is a Mainer as well?
Stephanie: We actually graduated the same year other countries have made see aging work where we have remaining to be seen is it still 225 a gallon is it more because you had to put it on that we priced it at that point because of that you know at $225 a gallon that’s 22 five but we did not meet. We met two years later in Boston at a charity event that I had been attending for about five years before I met Matt.
Mary: When you met, had you started your business?
Stephanie: No. I started McSea Books two years ago in March.
Mary: Only two years ago?
Stephanie: Yes, with my self-published book, How to Catch a Keeper. It all started in my sophomore year of high school. I’d drive down to Portland and work on a boat called the Lucky Catch, which I talk about in my book.
Mary: You worked for them?
Stephanie: Yes, for eight years. And the book is based on a day out on the Lucky Catch.
Mary: What was your job?
Stephanie: I was a tour guide. We would take people out and teach them all about lobstering and the history of Casco Bay. I had accrued enough hours of driving to go for my captain’s license. I didn’t do that. Instead of that, I wrote the book.
Mary: Your adventures there encouraged the book?
Stephanie: Well, I loved my job. I grew up in Otisfield. And so, being in Portland and meeting people from literally all over the world, I just relished it, because ever since I was a little girl I loved meeting people and I would talk to complete strangers. I would just go up and start conversations with them. I wanted to know their story. That’s just how I’ve always been. So, working on the Lucky Catch and meeting people from all over the world …
Mary: It just fit.
Stephanie: Also, they put me on the street … which sounds funny … but I would be dragging people in to get on the boat. If there was a spot that needed to be filled? I was out there. And I guess that also has to do with marketing, in a way.
Mary: It very much has to do with that.
Stephanie: I loved my job.
Mary: Then you wrote a book when you stopped working there?
Stephanie: No, I was still working there. I wrote the book in my early twenties. I was just out of college and I remember I just came home one day and thought, “Somebody’s got to write a book about this.”
Mary: Then you wrote the children’s book?
Stephanie: Yes. I came home one day and I got out a spiral notebook and it just came right out. I just wrote it all out and I thought, “That’s pretty good.” It was in rhyme. And then it was just there, and I’d bring it out once in a while and make some changes. But basically, it was just there. And then — it was 2012 or 2013 — Matt was playing for the Patriots and I submitted the book for publication. We’d had our first child, Clara. I’m like, I’m just going to submit it to some publishers, including Down East Books and Tilbury. And it was a no, so I didn’t go any further. I wasn’t even upset about it. But then in 2015 I connected with a local wildlife artist here in Lincoln. She lives down the road and she said, “Well, I’ve always wanted to do a children’s book,” and she worked on illustrations for three years.
Mary: You have a lot of patience. So, you self-published this book?
Stephanie: Yes. I had it printed. I went with J.S. McCarthy in Augusta. And I realized that it might have a chance when I went into a bookstore in Bangor and the owner said, “Oh, this doesn’t look self-published.”
And then my husband and Joan, my mother-in-law, took the children one day and I drove from Lincoln all the way to Bar Harbor and I stopped at many places on the way and presented the book to about 15 establishments. And most of them took it.
Mary: Did they buy it or did they agree to display it?
Stephanie: It was a lot of consignment at first, but I pretty much sold out of almost all the 2000 copies in less than six months. So that was a good sign for me.
Mary: How did you get to be your own publishing company?
Stephanie: I was talking with my friend Suzanne Buzby Hersey. She wanted to focus on selling her My Maine and her Little Beach Books. She said, “What do you think about taking over Little Beach Books?”
Mary: All of a sudden, you’re an author helping another author to sell their books?
Stephanie: To publish it.
I had postcards made. We handpicked stores and gift shops pretty much all across the country, mainly in the 19 states that have moose, because her book was about Moose. We created Google docs. We’d be sharing these Google docs, putting these gift shops and everything on there. My mom helped, too. We hand-wrote all these postcards and then I would call places and just organically. Literally emailing, calling and writing.
Mary: That’s amazing!
Stephanie: It was so crazy. But this was during the pandemic. This was when everybody was home and only the bookshop owners were in their shops.
What else was there to do? I sent out about 1,000 postcards, and it’s still getting into stores. One store in Alaska, it’s called The Blue Moose, are still reordering from me.
Mary: How many books do you have at this point?
Stephanie: We have five and then Maine Christmas is coming out. That will be six. Then Just a Kid from Maine that my husband and I wrote, that’s coming out soon. And Journey of the Sea Glass. We have eight out right now.
Mary: Is it profitable yet? It’s only been a couple of years.
Stephanie: I’ll just say we’re getting there.
Mary: Your husband was a football player? He played for the Patriots.
Stephanie: He played for 10 different organizations in the NFL, and one of them was the Patriots.
Mary: He doesn’t play football anymore?
Stephanie: No. He hasn’t played for four years. He played for nine years in the NFL. He’s an assistant pastor and he is the strength coach for the University of Maine Black Bears football team.
Mary: You’re really the quintessential entrepreneur.
Stephanie: Thank you.
Mary: What is your dream?
Stephanie: That’s an interesting question because I can’t even believe where we are right now. Some days, I’m still in shock. I want to continue that, but I also want to continue making quality children’s literature. I’m not really sure where we’re going, but I feel like we’re going somewhere.
Mary: You’re going down the path that is in front of you. You just don’t know where it’s going to lead.
Stephanie: I don’t. Then I’m thinking, because my friends keep telling me, “You know, Steph, you’re going to be really big.”
Mary: You do just children’s books so far?
Stephanie: Picture books for now, but we have our first middle grade novel coming out in the spring and it’s called Heart Stones. It’s by Maryann Cocca Leffler.
Mary: That’s a big seller.
Stephanie: We’re actually re-publishing her book, Clams All Year. I think you’ll love that one. She’s Italian. It’s about her grandfather teaching all the grandkids how to dig clams, like my dad taught me about digging clams.
Mary: Can you continue without going through the channels of the national distribution people?
Stephanie: We work with a very small, family run distributor in Keene, New Hampshire — Pathway Book Service. They’re very, very small, but I love them, and it’s just, every time I call, somebody answers. I actually get to talk to somebody.
Mary: That’s important.
Stephanie: Oh, and I wrote How to Tap a Maple Tree after How to Catch a Caper was published. I had no intention to write another book, but everyone kept asking, and my mother-in-law started sending me photographs of my two older children doing maple syrup with my father-in-law.
In the first book, there are two kids with their dad and they are going lobstering. So I was like, “How to tap a maple?” It was right there! And my mom asked me how I wrote it so fast. I told her it’s just because I was writing about the process. I’m not an expert. I was just writing about your average backyard deal with tapping trees.
And then the Governor’s office left me an email recently asking, “Can you overnight your book to the Blaine House? The Governor is interested in reading your book.” And then they were including the book and gift baskets for special guests.
Mary: That’s quite a complement.
Stephanie: And Con Fullam, he’s the composer of the Maine Christmas Song? I reached out to him about a year ago and asked him, “Can I turn your song into a picture book?” Now I’m going to have that in my hands in a couple of weeks.
Mary: You have such a wonderful story, and I’ve enjoyed meeting you!
Stephanie: I know. I feel like we’re old friends.