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Bangor small business owner 'making people a work of art'

Jill Burke dreamed of opening her own small business, being her own boss, and doing it in Maine. As an artist, it was no easy task, but she is making it work.

BANGOR, Maine — Holden native Jill Burke is a microblading artist.

She uses a pen-like tool to make very fine, hair-like strokes on the top layer of skin, creating a cosmetic tattoo for eyebrows that can last a year.

"It's super natural looking," said Burke. "My eyebrows are microbladed and usually nobody can even tell."

Burke left Holden for the "big city" of New Orleans to get a degree in fine arts from Tulane University.

"I missed Maine," admitted Burke. "I love being in nature and being around family. Being able to do something that I love and stay in Bangor has been really awesome. It's exciting that it's possible."

HighBrow Studio was born as a way for Burke to continue making art using faces as her canvas.

"I always wanted to be my own boss and I saw microblading as an opportunity to use my artistic skills and be able to also stay local," said Burke. "Art is not necessarily the easiest career path. It's very subjective but it's what I love. I think if you really love something you can do it anywhere and make it work anywhere."

HighBrow Studio has been up and running in downtown Bangor since May 1, joining other small businesses making it in Maine.

"It is still a small business community so there's not a ton of room for 20 of every kind of business," said Tanya Emery, Director of Community and Economic Development for the city of Bangor.

Emery said it's easy for entrepreneurs and small business owners to find support and services through the city.

"We spend a lot of time working with people to help them find the right resources, refine the idea, and make it into something that they can determine whether or not it's viable," said Emery. "We tend to see higher success with people who go through a full business planning process. For us, that really says this person is committed, they've done a ton of research, they're willing to spend the time and put the energy into understanding the whole thing, soup to nuts, so they have the best chance of making it."

"Running your own business and starting a small business is definitely challenging," added Burke. "I think it helps to have something that you're passionate about and good at."

Credit: HighBrow Studio