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Milwaukee Talks: Getting to know the woman behind Milwaukee Home

From the music venues to the restaurants, down to the unique DNA of every neighborhood: the people. This is what makes Milwaukee Home.

That is how Milwaukee Home founder Melissa Thornton describes how the business came to be. Well, that and that it all happened by accident.

Thornton came up with the design in 2011 after returning to the Milwaukee area. She grew up in Mukwonago and studied at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) before spending a few years in Florida.

It didn’t take long or her to realize the Midwest was really where she belonged.

“When I moved back, Milwaukee was a completely different city with big city features to offer, while still being based in community,” she said. “People (elsewhere) aren’t as kind as they are here…I really like the hard-working Midwest mentality.”

It’s a philosophy she herself adapted to very quickly as what started as a couple of fun shirts she and a friend wore out one night into a booming business. After getting compliments that fateful night, Thornton started selling shirts out of her trunk and at various street festivals downtown.

“Then finally I decided to liquidate my 401k and start a business,” she said, with not even a hint of fear in her voice.

Despite never doing any advertising, word of mouth has sparked amazing growth and recognition for the Milwaukee Home brand in the last six years.

Empowering Milwaukee’s Women

And it’s that recognition that inspired Thornton to do something to give back.

She was asked earlier this month to design the official shirt for Women Up, an annual event held by the Shepherd Express that seeks to empower women.

The resulting “Milwaukee Woman” shirt is something Thornton is particularly proud of, despite being incredibly humble about the overall success of the business.

“Especially in the time that we’re in now, I feel like this is really the year of the woman,” she said. “I want people to feel comfortable in their skin and be proud to be a woman because you know what? They should be! Women are powerful and that is something to embrace each day.”

In addition to selling at the Women Up event, Milwaukee Woman shirts may be purchased online or in store at 159 N. Jackson St., St. 101.

“It sounds so simple, but I think that’s because it is,” Thornton added. “Women are powerful and we need to remember that in all we do.”