Posted: Fri 14th Jun 2013
Following on from Philip Crilly of Eatibbles' successful journey from idea to launch in just three months, we have a new 12 Week Start-up Challenger. Meet June Mineyama, founder of Mamimu TokyoÂ and StartUp Saturday alumni.Â In her first weekly post, June introduces herself, her business and what she's doing to meet to meet the challenge of taking a business from idea to launch in just 12 weeks!
I'm June Mineyama,Â a Japanese graphic designer based in London. I came to London 14 years ago to study and ever since graduated I've alwaysÂ worked as a graphic designer. I love what I do, especially in the area of branding,Â but my real passion always has been patterns. Born in the mid-70s in Tokyo, I was always surrounded by bold colours and shapes; Everyday there were dots, stripes, florals on my winter jacket, my mum's saucepan, background in a TV programme and even my little rice bowl.
So here is my business idea: Contemporary patterns forÂ prints and home productsÂ inspired by seemingly mundane objects in everyday life. The desire to do something with patterns has always been bubbling inside of me but it was solidified when I revisited old Japanese Kimono patterns, where Shokunin (artisans/craftsmen) found beauty in their everyday surroundings. They took motifs from everyday objects such as cherry blossoms and fish scales and distilled into beautiful abstract patterns. Now in 21st century London, I decided to do my version of everyday London life, using manhole covers and common street pigeons as my design motifs. The company name is Mamimu Tokyo, the sound taken from the Japanese alphabet to represent the rhythmic nature of my pattern designs.
"The desire to do something with patterns has always been bubbling but was solidified when I revisited old Japanese Kimono patterns, where Shokunin found beauty in their everyday surroundings."
In essence I am turning my passion into business but I don't want it to be a business that I run more as a hobby or extra source of income alongside my graphic design work.Â My ambition is to make an independent and desirable brand to advocate everyday inspiration. I want to inspire people through my patterns like the old Kimono patterns inspired me.
The urge to start up
Having said all that, I had no idea where to start. Looking for some kind of hook, I started to go to British Library's Business & IP Centre. And there I found out about Emma's startup Saturday workshop and decided to join one Saturday. I was bit skeptical if it's going to be one of those money making seminars from evil sharks but I didn't have to worry. As well as Emma's practical advice, it was great to meet like-minded people and got some comments on my business idea. I still can't say I completely know what I'm doing but my general attitude now is 'Stop thinking and do something. Talk to as many people as I can', inspired by Woody Allen's quote "_80 per cent_Â of success is just showing up". If you don't show up nothing is ever going to happen.
"In 21st century London, I decided to do my version of everyday London life, using manhole covers and common street pigeons as my design motifs."
Another thing that urged me to start up was the story of the Wright brothers and other disheartened aviators. So many people tried to fly before the Wright brothers around the turn of the last century. However,Â Orville and Wilbur Wright flew a bit longer - and probably louder in terms of publicity - than everyone else and took the full glory, making a clear mark in the history. I can't imagine how gutted other aviators were who fell just aÂ little bit short. I think my products and the concept behind it are unique but if great minds think alike, I need to get my products out there quickly before someone else with a similar idea does. I don't want to be a gutted aviator.
What have I done so far and where do I want to be in 12-weeks' time?
So what have I done so far? Prototypes. I had two cushions and two tea towels made with my designs based on London manhole covers. They are lovely but four products with the same design (although two colourways) are not enough for a photo shoot or let alone opening a shop, regardless of whether it's a web or a pop-up shop. I was bit stuck. Do I need to make more products or should I talk to someone who is likely to stock my products? My intention is to keep Mamimu an independent boutique brand, rather than a mass-market brand. With that in mind I got in touch with a small independent online shop to see if they were interested in stocking my products. Although I only had four products, I photoshopped my designs onto the photos of the products and put them on my website so the owner could see my whole collection. But he said my designs were not in line with the direction he wanted to take his business. I was obviously disappointed at the initial rejection but determined to get something out of it. I felt bit cheeky but asked if he knew a good printer/manufacture who could produce cushions, tea towels and potentially bags. I said on the email, "I imagine you worked hard to source the right people but I'm now realising if I don't ask, I don't get, especially as a start-up." Then he emailed me back with a great contact in the UK saying, "These people will do a great job for you". Having once been a start-up himself, he understood my position. Hooray! My products may not be on their website but I've got a great contact by talking to someone. In hindsight, it was the right thing to happen anyway because I needed someone who couldÂ manufacture my products before selling.
"My intention is to keep Mamimu an independent boutique brand, rather than a mass-market brand."
After that I went to see my friend Jayce who has been successfully running her boutique jewellery business for four years. I was particularly interested in how she was getting exposure and trade, while staying exclusive at the same time. She has been exhibiting in lots of trade shows in the UK to build her customer base - not just London but up and down the country - butÂ not on the marketplace websites. She has been contacting retailers as well, but she thinks the trade shows are a great way to know people you didn't know existed because they come to you. I never thought that myself so it's definitely a great tip. She also said that it's important that people buy into you as a brand ambassador in face-to-face business. This is one thing that's difficult to do online. (file:///C:/Users/Simon%20Wicks/Dropbox/Public/Enterprise%20Nation/Posts/Fresh%20content/June%2012-week%20challnge%20wk1%20draft%20v1.docx#_msocom_1) During this 12-week challenge, my goal is to sell my products - either online or physical shop - with some brand recognition.Â Next week I'll tell you more about my business plan orÂ lack thereof!
Our popular StartUp Saturday classes and StartUp Workshops have helped hundreds of budding entrepreneurs like June get their idea off the ground. Join the Enterprise Nation Club for just Â£20 and you'll get 25% off all our events, plus loads of other great offers and opportunities. Join the Club!