some people learn how to be an entrepreneurs over time and with a lot of training, while others are born to start companies. the later is more rare and often overlooked. I was lucky enough to sit down with entrepreneur and problem solver, Phuong Mai of P.MAI, who’s trying to create a new bag that helps working women get shit done while still looking classy. here’s what she had to say.
first off, born entrepreneurs don’t always start their lives by founding companies (and by the way, she doesn’t call herself a born entrepreneur, but I can tell that she is one by spending time with her). Phuong graduated from UPenn and Wharton School of Business as an undergraduate, starting her career in consulting, working with the big boys of Coca Cola and other large brands. realizing that there was more to life than pats on the back, weekly flights, and board rooms, Phuong joined a design consulting firm called Embarcadero Partners where she learned the basics behind design thinking. with time and practice, Phuong picked up the essentials of development (check out her article on design here) and started dreaming of starting her own thing. when she was a little bit ready, Phuong took a leap of faith and founded her company.
in the beginning, it was rough learning to work on her own and create something from scratch. but she pulled from her experiences in consulting and product development to form a product, test ideas, and experiment with focus groups. the more she explored, the more she realized the importance of creating a bag that was one part functional and one part good looking. I.e. the bag version of superwoman. the idea was and still is to build a bag that’s as helpful to women as Tory Burch flats were when they first debuted. if that’s the case, I’m definitely in.
Phuong traveled all around the world, reaching 5 continents in 5 months, and speaking to potential suppliers who might help her create the backpack of her dreams. then it was time to put the real idea to test – she created a Kickstarter to test whether or not there was a demand for the “functional yet pretty bag for career women”. weeks later, it was clear that there was indeed a demand for her type of bag. exceeding her Kickstarter goal, Phuong’s been on a mission to find the right long term producer to help make her bags. and while timing is hard to estimate, she’s hoping to have the bags available for purchase by late Fall. (p.s. you can pre-order them here).
so, great, that’s all there is to starting a company, right? well, not exactly. you see, there are long nights, unpaid bills, and constant uncertainty that are among the things that entrepreneurs like Phuong have to deal with. besides the fact that it’s daunting to quit a well paying job and spend your savings on a dream, it’s also hard socially. how many people do you know who are in their twenties and willingly jumping off of a cliff to start a company? probably not many. and so, similar to the other entrepreneurs we’ve spoken to here at The Lily Honey Life, Phuong is an outlier that we all should look up to. have a job but wish you were doing something else? have a dream? don’t be afraid to go after it, take the risks, do a “Phuong” and build a life that best suits you.