Celebrating Ten Years! Mee a Bee, my own successful Japan-based business
It doesn't seem right somehow to toot my own trumpet but on the other hand, this is HUGE! My business Mee a Bee is turning ten years old this month (October). TEN YEARS! This is significant since we all know that 8 out of 10 small businesses fail within the first 18 months.
Ten years ago I had an idea. I had a lot of ideas actually and I tried quite a few: blogging, card designing, cake decorating, coffee and chat classes and sewing. Sewing was one idea that took off.
Did I jump right in and start sewing bags for kids? Yes and no. Here's how it all began.
I knew that I wanted a business of some sort. I was stuck at home with my kids, at the mercy of my husband to provide me with spending money and feeling guilty if I wanted to spend the housekeeping money on basic personal needs like getting a haircut. (I had money issues, psychological ones, which is another story).
Being a mum is great but I felt like I could do more with my life. I wanted to do something meaningful and fulfilling beyond parenting my kids. I could also see ahead to the time when the question would be asked "When are you going back to work?". I wanted to be able to say "I have my own business".
So I visited the website Etsy, which was still quite new at that point, and I did some research. I looked at my own skill set, sewing was something I knew how to do. My research led me to the kid's industry and I felt there was a hole in the market for bags, for kids. That's where I decided to hang out my shingle.
Success factors in a nutshell:
1. I had a very strong brand philosophy that resonated with parents - I use only natural materials because I want to minimise children's exposure to toxic chemicals; I use only imagination-inspiring printed fabrics instead of character fabrics because I do not believe in the commercialisation of children (eg. the massive industry that is spawned everytime a new Disney Pixar movie comes out, the movie length advertisements we pay to take our kids to so we can then be harassed by said children to buy the t-shirt, the drink bottle, the lunch box, the pencil case and the bicycle - yeah, I've been against that since I was a first-year marketing student); and the last part of the philosophy is that I believe in parents-as-first teachers, alternative education like Montessori, Waldorf and even homeschooling. I believe that television and device-time should be kept to a strict minimum especially in the first three years of a child's life so I'm in love with active-parenting, adventures, exploring, reading, bike rides and all the fun stuff we can do with our kids.
2. I created a tribe of people around me and my business who also stood for the same ideals. Other business-owners, other parents, other bloggers. We supported and encouraged each other. This was critical for spreading the word, generating goodwill, making sales, and being part of something bigger than myself.
3. I consistently stayed on-message as the various forms of social media came online. Facebook and Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest. My message was my philosophy and I have not deviated once from this - except I have been known to sew Thomas the Tank Engine bags because we did so love our wooden railway.
Flashforward to now
These are the things I did solidly and with vigour in the first five years of business. At the five year point my son Tyler started school. I suddenly had a lot more time on my hands and I have outlined on other parts of my website how I felt the call to make an even bigger contribution to the world by helping other women build their own businesses. I don't devote as much attention to Mee a Bee these days but it's still my third child and I am still thrilled to bits to have made it this far! Happy 10th Birthday Mee a Bee!