How Mimi So Runs Her Namesake Jewelry Company
“My design philosophy is to believe in yourself,” says Mimi So, CEO of the high-end jewelry company with the same name.
That belief in herself, Mimi says, is what keeps her going through the tough times — the sleepless nights, the lack of funding, the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur.
But for Mimi, going into business for herself was never a question. From a young age Mimi worked in her parent’s atelier in New York City, determined to find her design style. Ever since Mimi So graduated from Parsons school, she has been running her namesake brand.
Take us back to your “aha!” moment when your business idea came to you?
I don’t think there was an ‘aha’ moment. It was never about ‘aha! I have an idea.. now let me run out and do it’ because my business is such a love. It’s definitely a business that requires a lot of personal attention and devotion, especially when you’re the name of the brand.
For me, the ‘aha!’ moment was more about what can keep you in the longevity of the game of an industry when it’s really challenging, when you don’t have funding, and when you have to dig deep within yourself to persevere.
The “aha!” moment comes when what you’re doing is fulfilling, when you realize what you do does matter and empowers others. When I’m able to give back from something that I’ve created and that I love — that pushes it one step further that gives you a cosmic reaction that’s really needed — that’s the “aha!” moment.
What were you doing before you started your jewelry line?
I was going to school and I was working for my family. I grew up in the industry. It kind of felt like the Karate Kid – wax on, wax off type of thing. You were just expected to participate and contribute to the family. From there, it was like the slow fire burning… studying at Parsons to follow the path of creativity.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned?
Balance. Being able to do what you do, inspire others, continuously inspire yourself — to know how to balance is a very tough act to follow. For me, balance is so important because if it involves your point of view in life, in how you choose to live, in how you choose to conduct your business, and who you want to be as a leader at the same time being a great girlfriend or a great mom… it’s all about balance. Either you control it or it controls you.
When selecting your first employee, which position did you fill? (e.g. app developer, designer, marketing expert, etc…)
An assistant. Someone who could wear many hats. Someone that I could count on, that was reliable – who could answer the phone, run errands, or just be a warm body — someone I could trust to execute something that was needed.
What was your approach to scaling your business and penetrating a tough market?
(Additionally, if applicable, how did you identify new markets and test/develop corresponding products?)
The approach to scaling a business is all about making the right partnership with the right party that can help you scale your business. You have do a diligent job for it to be scalable. At that point it’s something other people can see, other accounts; other doors you’re trying to open, or other independents or retailers you’re trying to get into… and then it’s a matter of what makes most sense geographically for your business. It’s much more about logic than it should be about the glory. If it doesn’t make sense, don’t do it — that’s a good rule of thumb.
What’s your best advice for attracting funders? (Any thoughts on taking the crowdfunding route?)
You better have a good business. Whether you’re making cookies, or hats, or another product, then you better have a good business and a good business model. Because if you do, you’ll have funding.
How did you find your mentor?
My mentor was my late mom. She believed what you say you could do you can do. And that holds a lot of water when you’re trying to start a business because the main ingredient you need as an entrepreneur is belief in yourself. You might have to dig deep to find that drive and that is mentorship.
I think people confuse mentorship with role models. Role models are great, but mentorship should always be someone you know, someone that you have exchanges with, someone whom you respect for their achievements in life. Those ingredients are what you’ll look a to understand your own abilities, things that you admire and what to work towards.
Connect with Mimi So