Mom and daughter on boat

Welcome to Up North—Not a Destination, but a State of Mind

One of my 2023 resolutions was to start a blog. So, in the 11th month of the year, I'm finally publishing my first post. I find I work best under pressure (and a deadline). Welcome to The Northie Blog.

How We Started

Six years ago, my sister and I launched Up North Boutique as a joint venture. We wanted to create something together that would act as a creative outlet and also represent our pride in our home state of Wisconsin. Armed with a handful of tee designs and a few handmade necklaces, we popped up a tent at a holiday market in downtown Madison in November of 2017. Our goal was to sell enough to cover our booth fee. By the end of the night, we were thrilled by the response to our products. We had easily sold 10x the booth fee and our products had really resonated with our customers. As new entrepreneurs, we were excited to keep going.

Up North has taken many different paths over the past few years. As in the beginning, popup markets remain a large part of the business. Our products are sold online through our website and we also sell wholesale to many other boutiques throughout the Midwest. For a short (but oh-so-fun) time, we had a brick and mortar storefront in Madison. And in 2023, I became the sole owner of the business as my sister decided to take a step back to focus on her growing family.

The business has been an adventure so far. It has been amazing to watch it grow and also to learn from the challenges we've had along the way. The one thing that has never changed has been the inspiration for the brand: Northern Wisconsin.

Why Up North?

I was raised in the small town of Horicon, WI, in a home that is surrounded by the country's largest freshwater cattail marsh. My parents had (and still have) a beautiful yard spotted with willow and birch trees, large gardens, and room to run. Winters were filled with days sledding down the steep hill in the backyard and summers meant slip-n-slides, squirt guns, and long days filled with sunshine. Summers also brought road trips and some of my favorite memories.  

Family Photo

As is the norm for many Wisconsin families, a summer road trip often meant a visit "Up North." While my family does not own a cabin in the north woods, we often visited family and friends at their lake homes. My mom planned trips to Door County, Mackinac Island, and Hayward. It was idyllic. The thing that strings all of these places to me later became the inspiration for the business. "Up North" is such an abstract thing to out-of-staters. But to Wisconsinites, Up North is not a place on a map. It is not defined by a highway (though some will dispute that point). It is a feeling, a state of mind, and a way of being. And it can be anywhere you want it to be.

Our products take inspiration from our favorite Midwest destinations. Cozy sweatshirts, easy tees, and charming home goods are a nod to life at the cabin. And we love it when someone reads a graphic and smiles, saying "Ahhh, that reminds me of Up North." That's our goal—to bring you right back to that nostalgic feeling.

New for 2024

I'm excited to move into a new year, which brings new ideas and opportunities. And I'm so grateful for each and every one of our customers. I hope you'll follow along as I blog, design new products (big things coming!), and share my love of life in the Midwest. 

– N.

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