This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re going behind the scenes with Mica May, the creator of and CEO behind May Designs, an eco-friendly company known for functional and fabulous canvas notebooks, stationery, photobooks and greeting cards. Welcome, Mica!
LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as an entrepreneur?
Mica: The May Designs brand was started almost by accident when I couldn’t find the perfect notebook. I was running a design company at the time, so I whipped up a few that were just the right size and were more fashion forward than anything I could find. They were small enough to throw in a purse, customizable with a logo I liked and had inside pages that were useful. After a few months of carrying them around, people took notice and wanted to buy them, so I designed and launched and started selling my first retail product: May Books. Soon enough, I realized that I had really stumbled upon something that I not only loved, but other people loved as well, so I ran with it!
I spent the next several years perfecting the product, learning how to operate an e-commerce business and invested a lot of resources in PR initiatives. I landed a segment on Good Morning America that aired the first week of December, and after a 15 second spot featuring my fully customizable notebooks, my little company changed forever. We received over 33,000 orders that day – and I’ve spent the next several years building, sustaining and growing the company into what it is today. Six years later, here we are!
LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?
Mica: I love PR, so I envisioned little goals like “if I ever got on Oprah’s favorite things, that would be the pinnacle of success”! When I decided to pursue May Books full time, I turned to my husband and asked what it would take for him to feel like May Books had “made it”, like it was no longer just a hobby, but a successful business. He said he’d love to see it hit $100K in sales, so that was my next goal. Fast forward one month later and we reached $100K when we were featured on Good Morning America!
LBC: How would you describe what you create?
Mica: I love the idea of making everyday life more beautiful! We do this by letting our customers design a beautiful product they’ll love using every day, and our hope is that this will give people the freedom to be exactly who they want to be. I’ve always wanted our patterns to set us apart and make May Designs unique – we try to offer a wide range of patterns that can inspire several types of designs styles, but all stay within our overall brand vision. We want to be a place of inspiration, where you can find both the latest trends (like our Marble Collection or our gold foil patterns) that will challenge and stretch the style of our every day customer — and then we have classics (polka dots and rugby stripe) in every color that are fantastic patterns that can fill the need for a simple and straightforward design for a birth announcement or a gift!
LBC: Where can we find your products?
Mica: You can find all of our products at www.maydesigns.com. Whether you want notebooks, cards, stationery, photo books, or desk calendars, they’re all on our website, ready for you to personalize!
LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.
Mica: I love to create and problem solve. I think about 99% of what I do all each day is one of those two things: essentially putting out fires, or lighting new stuff on fire! I typically wake up and immediately check my phone for any text/email emergencies that might have happened in the middle of the night. I’ve got three young kids, so after I get them dressed, fed and out the door, I head into the studio. Our team is still pretty small (we have 13 employees) so the office is pretty fast paced and we always have several projects going on at once. We could be working on the marketing campaigns for the week, upcoming pattern launches, or white boarding out the next social media strategy we want to try.
LBC: What are 3 things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?
Mica: 1. Having an idea is just the beginning. There is a ton of effort and whole lotta hustle involved into turning an idea into a thriving business. Be ready to keep setting goals and working your tail off!
2. Not all ideas that seem great will be great. I give myself a lot of room to dream big and fly my kite crazy high, but I also give myself room for grace and failure. Sometimes failing tells me even more about a marketing initiative or a product than I could have ever dreamed of!
3. Go with your gut! I think one of the most important things I can do as a wife, a mother and CEO of May Designs is to trust my instincts. I usually know what is best for my kids – even if it goes against the norm . . . and the same for my company. I try and surround myself with people who encourage and challenge and believe in me and trust that I am not going to move forward with a decision until I feel 100% sure it’s the right thing to do!
LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?
Mica: I think knowing your limits and when to say no is a crucial first step. If you are already overwhelmed – take SHORT amounts of time for yourself that energize you. For me, i can literally feel on top of the world if i simply sit in my car for 10 minutes after I get home, but before I go inside, to just clear out emails or do one more phone call so that I can shut it off when I walk in the door to be with my family. Or sometimes I will take a quick lunch break and breeze through Anthropologie just to clear my mind.
I also make a ton of lists — lists that literally say “things that stress me out!” and I write every single thing down, however small it might feel. What inevitably happens when I do that is I find that THINKING about things is far more stressful than just taking the time to knock stuff off my list; the “list” feels more stressful than the actual tasks on it. So when I get really overwhelmed, I make my list and then do the easiest things first – the things that take the least amount of time – so I feel a sense of accomplishment. I’m an achiever by nature, so when nothing is getting done but I keep thinking about it, that’s when I feel the most overwhelmed.
LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.
Mica: Operating with integrity in the small things builds practice for keeping integrity with the harder things down the road. It has been so great that we feel like integrity is a practice now. It’s easier to have integrity with big decisions because we’ve already committed to integrity.
Hiring a fantastic team and surrounding our business with people who are excited about the vision is very imporant to me. I love to give our team room to fly, which takes the pressure off of me having to do everything! Trusting them with shared responsibility has been so great because we have hired such an amazing team.
LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back/overcome it?
Mica: I’ve had a couple of mis-hires, which was an obstacle for us that we quickly identified. We chose to overcome it by resolving it as quickly as possible! As soon as I recognized it wasn’t the perfect fit, we made fast adjustments, which was so much better than dragging out the situation.
LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?
Mica: Absolutely! My son has Down syndrome and goes to a school for young kids with special needs. It has been so rewarding to see the success of our Rise Art Pattern Collection!
The Rise School Art Book originated from a beautiful canvas displayed in my son’s school lobby, painted by students – most of whom have Down syndrome. I was smitten with its bright colors and cheery outlook, and asked if I could put the design on a May Book – to raise money for the school and children with special needs.
Then, May Designs hosted an event to add to and complete the Rise School Art Book collection, and the kids at the school helped turn plain canvases into beautiful masterpieces! Proceeds from the Rise Art Collection helps to raise awareness and provide better education for children with special needs through the Rise School and other initiatives. It has been such a joy to give back to a cause that is so close to my heart!
LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?
Mica: I can’t do without a handful of great mentors that I can call and have access to if I need quick help. Great mentors are crucial for any entrepreneur! You need cheerleaders who are always in your corner and love you, as well as the people who aren’t always “yes people”. It’s a necessary balance between mentors who are always supportive and on your side and mentors that will tell you when your ideas aren’t smart, or when you need to make some changes.
LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If you blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?
Mica: It’s definitely an exciting time. It’s been a year since we moved to Austin, and we’ve added several people to our growing team. This past year we have been marketing and dreaming up new ways we can share our company with more people. We’ve being doing a lot of advertising and trying to grow our fan base one notebook junkie at a time! In the upcoming years, I’m dreaming about seeing May Designs expand into new product lines and keep hitting our goals!
LBC: What’s one thing you would eat, if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?
Mica: Definitely cheese!
LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…
Mica: Taylor Swift, Passion Pit, Shawn Mendes, Ellie Goulding… anything good for dancing in the kitchen with my kids.
LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.
Mica: I really love to get my nails done. I feel out of whack when my nails aren’t painted! It makes me feel like a new person. And I usually take my daughter Mady with me, so I get a date with her and I get my nails done at the same time!
LBC: If you could hire someone to do just one thing that you sort of loath doing, what would it be?
Mica: Ha! I recently realized that I love dreaming and building and anything involving the front end of decisions, but I’m the worst at follow up and maintenance. I would love to hire someone to come alongside me as the logistical one who follows up with everything and ties up loose ends while I dream and fly my kite!
Thank you, Mica, for sharing your talent with us! We absolutely love your work and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for May Designs. We’re cheering you on…
Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!