I suppose running a business is in my blood. After immigrating from Syria, my grandpa opened a mini-mart in the Southie neighborhood of Boston and later in Downtown Los Angeles. He died when I was a young child, but I have suspicions we didn't do business the same. His business had a ‘back room’ where they “played cards” (read between the lines, it was South Boston in the 50's) and I couldn't be more straight as an arrow in business, despite the journey being a winding road. March marks it's 15th anniversary and I have been sharing stories all month long. Today is the last day of March, so I hope you enjoy these final memories, milestones and moments from 15 years of Mimi & Lu.
The jewelry itself has evolved over the years. Sometimes, I look back at the early days and cringe at the aesthetic. But I kept all my early catalogs (even those I was printing out of my home printer) so I could see how far things have come. I had no experience in jewelry design so the designs came from whatever creative ways I could attach beads to wire, without formal training. Maybe not the most typical path but at times, it pushed my designs out of the box. My best designs were born from having a true mess on my workspace and noticing two elements (ie. beads, chain, etc) accidentally lying next to each other knowing they were the perfect match. Currently, I am challenging myself to design with the raw inventory I have collected over the years. Some of these designs have launched, like the Triumph Earrings, but I hope you will stay tuned for more!
I feel privileged to have seen my creations in media like People Magazine and the Zoe Report and am lucky that it gave me a way to validate Mimi & Lu as an established brand. What it didn't really do was bring in money. In the early years, landing in a magazine or spotting Mimi & Lu on TV felt like the most important thing in the world. If I received a request, I'd pull together all my resources to ship the stylist what they needed and it often came at a decent expense- the time it takes, the shipping costs, the jewelry that sometimes came back damaged or not at all. Anyone in this business knows they always want the goods yesterday.
Over time, I was able to shake out when to participate and when to pass and would no longer get into a frenzy to fulfill these requests. I also stopped bending over backwards to give free product to celebrities. Have I lost the hustle?? Maybe. But I think after 15 years, you can also start to spot when the hustle is for something shiny verses something of substance. That said, I'm proud to have the exposure and opportunities I'd never remotely imagined would cross my path. The website only shows a handful of press clippings, but feel free to take a peek here.
When I packed for Boston, I cleaned out my files and there were over 100 folders in the employee/contractor/intern drawer. The truth is, I couldn't remember them all. Or some I had forgotten and the name jogged my memory… the girl who was training for the Olympics (true story) or the mom who got nervous when any siren passed on the city street. Or of course the girl that almost burnt the place down. Those stories, I'll save for later. I loved that sometimes I'd arrive after the morning school drop off and the team was already there working away. Once, my manager made a sign for the fridge and I thought, well this the real deal now. Some were there for years and others for only days but they all made a mark. Some made me a better person, some reminded me to trust my gut, some I was too easy on and others too hard but they all, for better or worse, played a part in what the business had become.
My proudest moment was moving into my studio on Fifth Avenue in San Diego. It felt good to go in everyday and tangibly see what the business had become. It had high ceilings with big windows that looked over the busiest intersection in downtown San Diego. It gave me a space to host jewelry parties, roundtables and events. I went through some highs and lows in that studio but there wasn't a day I walked into that space and didn't feel proud to be there. I loved working late during the holidays or leaning out of the window to people watch during Comic-con. I was a girl who hadn't had a deep passion for
jewelry, nor experience in jewelry making or business and had never really worked in wholesale or retail. I simply needed to pay the rent so I peddled my goods until it snowballed into something more. People like me will always think, I have to do more, be more, make more and feel they haven't reached the "goal" but in retrospect, that sense of pride I'd get stepping into my space was success. I've had studios since and I'm sure the future holds more to explore, but Fifth Ave will always be where the brand became the business I never knew it could be.
That's a wrap, friends. It was a busy day and although it has taken me until 10pm EST, I was determined to get this out while it is still MARCH. I hope you have enjoyed these chapters of Mimi & Lu. Perhaps, I will add more from time to time? Tell me what you think. But I can't close without first making it clear that the most important part of Mimi & Lu has always been you.