One unexpected part of business has been the people and personalities it sends through your life that you might not have experienced otherwise. Sometimes good, sometimes not, but always left with a lesson learned.
Some people seem to come out of nowhere and selflessly offer support, like my first accountant turned client, turned forever business advisor who believed in me before I had even gotten off the ground. I’d lean on her wisdom and she would patiently respond to my neurotic texts during big business decisions. Or the two photographers that did most of my San Diego photo shoots. Their talent far succeeded my ability to craft a shoot, yet they were always supportive, generous and elevated anything I came to the table with. Or the jewelry guru I met on a random trip to an LA factory who was so experienced, proficient and forward thinking in the industry and shared her wisdom, resources and entertaining stories with me for year to come. Sometimes, I'd look over my shoulder wondering if it was me they believed in, figuring they must have known just how much I was faking it in this industry. Because when you have a jewelry business without any background in jewelry or business- these are the people who make it possible. I used to imagine that one day, when Mimi & Lu had been grown into an empire, I’d repay all the people who gave to me more than I could give back. These people, these wonderful people that I am lucky enough to know and have on my journey are what my husband would call the "what can I do for you’s”.
On the other side, were the lessons of those who he’d refer to as thewhat can you do for me’s”.  Like a new friend who would later mention she befriended me to learn how I ran a successful business, so she could do the same. Or the time I was at an event with several industry friends and was asked to stand out of a photo because the dress I was wearing was not the right designer. Perhaps, some people find they flourish with other “what can you do for me's” or maybe that's their way of business, but it wasn't the way for me. I didn't feel bad, but rather better, because those moments are what validated a gut feeling that I was getting too far away from who I was. Maybe it is the people on both sides of the coin that show you who you are or who you want to be.
People like Francis.
For over a decade, I talked to one of my vendors on the phone, sometimes weekly. They were in the jewelry district of downtown LA and Francis was the manager of a larger team but often the one who answered the phone and my questions. Francis was soft spoken, patient and incredibly polite.  Always helpful. He was a “what can I do for you”. Over time, we recognized each other’s voice so he’d answer the phone with “hello, this is [company name]” and I’d say “Hi Francis” and he knew who I was without me having to say my name. On occasion, we chatted small talk and I sent a Christmas card or two. I met him once, when I was in LA for a show. I stopped in and when I said who I was he waved the owner over.
Then last year, I called and asked for Francis. And they said he was no longer with the company. My head exploded. My heart felt sad. WHAT HAPPENED TO FRANCIS?! I felt like a friend of over a decade had just vanished. No one offered an explanation and I was scared to ask if he was fired or if he was taken by Covid or what and when I pried, one of the employees said, “Give so and so new guy a try.” So I did. But he was no Francis.
Last month, I called for an inventory question. The phone was picked up: “Hello, this is [Company name]” Having hardly listened, I began to ask my question but stopped short. I know that voice. I couldn’t contain myself and I stood up and yelled into the phone, FRANCIS!?!? WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN!!?? He never really told me, mostly because I couldn’t stop telling him how glad I was he was alive and well and back on the other end of the phone. He just said, in his soft polite voice with this little chuckle he sometimes gave, “Yes, I’m back”. I couldn’t tell you Francis’s last name and I’m positive I couldn’t pick him out of a line up but for whatever reason, I was filled with a ridiculous amount of joy that Francis was found.
Regardless of whether they were magical mentors or fair-weather friends, my experiences have provided great insight to who I am and who I want to be. And while that might be ever-changing and different for everybody, I think we could all find our inner Francis and create joy for others, even the people we know well yet hardly know.