Many entrepreneurs start their journey searching for a business idea and developing a plan before deciding on a product. Luckily for Mica May, her product found her. As a designer, Mica was constantly searching for notebooks that fit her career needs and lifestyle, so she decided to design a few notebooks of her own, not realizing they would be a huge hit with friends, family and clients. With the mantra “people against ugly notebooks,” Mica has created a completely customizable experience for notebook junkies everywhere. Five years later, her business of designing beautiful notebooks has taken her to Good Morning America, The Today Show and Glamour Magazine, and her product all across the country.
Location: Austin, Texas
Occupation: Founder and CEO, May Designs
Secretly Obsessed With: My husband (ha!)
On My Nightstand: My iPhone, a photo of my kids and a little jewelry holder for my watch, rings, or earrings that I inevitably take off right before I fall asleep.
Last Thing You Read: “#GirlBoss”
How did you get started?
Originally, I owned another company called Mica May Design, which was a logo and web design company. I’m a designer by nature; it’s in my heart, and I loved to write things down in pen and ink for all my client’s notes, [but] I could never find the perfect notebook for my needs.
I ended up designing a few that worked for my style–small enough to throw in a purse, customizable with a logo I liked and inside pages that were useful–and people started commenting on them everywhere I went. I started making them for my clients, and 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 packed my bags and headed to the stationery show in NYC, created a website, and five years later, here we are!
What key elements played into your success?
Honestly, I truly believe in our product. We are very proud to say that we have a stellar product that people love! We’ve created a tool that allows people to get creative and have fun while building something completely unique to them that lets their personality shine through.
We take great pride in curating the entire experience all the way from the website, to the order and shipping confirmation emails, to the packaging and even our customer service team. Everyone makes sure the May Designs voice and aesthetic are consistent and people know what to expect when they are engaging with our company.
What’s the best piece of advice you received?
The best piece of advice I received was to surround myself with “yes” people! Find those people who believe in you and your dreams, and they will keep you motivated to go for your goal. You have to get rid of the negative naysayers in your life or workplace. Negativity can stifle your creativity and keep you from your dream.
What struggles did you face getting to this point?
The biggest struggles we’ve had are perfecting our product, growing the brand and new product development. You really have to fight for what you want and to keep the quality at a level that you are proud of. I’ve learned that I thrive when I have people on staff who are aligned with the vision of May Designs (and my personal work style), and that it’s worth it to take the time to find amazing people to fill the staff needs on our team! I definitely work by the motto “quick to fire, slow to hire.”
Also, having three toddlers while trying to grow the company! Learning how to constantly juggle being a mama who loves her babes fiercely but also loves those hours at work when I’m in the zone is a balancing act, and I love both too much.
Who was the biggest influence in your professional life?
John Carroll, my friend and partner. He challenges me daily to think in different ways, and always encourages me to go for it!
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Last year in October, May Designs was able to give $10,000 to the Rise School from the sale of our Rise Art Book, which donates all the proceeds to a school for kids with special needs. My son has Down syndrome and goes to Rise, so it was by far one of my greatest personal and professional accomplishments. To be able to see my son Jackson, who is five, and my daughter Madelyn, who is four and also attends Rise school, present the staff of the school with a giant check was such an amazing feeling. October is National Down syndrome awareness month, and I can’t wait to do it again!
When do you feel most successful?
It may seem obvious, but I feel most successful when I’ve achieved something, whether it’s something very small or something gigantic. I love to dream big and fly my kite high, so I feel most successful when people share in those dreams and we make them come true together. Sometimes it’s a quick marketing idea that we post on Instagram and it totally works (success!) or sometimes it’s pitching to Good Morning America and them saying YES (big success!). Big or small, it’s a great feeling.
What advice would you give to girls looking to enter your industry/space?
If you are looking to design or enter the paper industry…I say, GO FOR IT! It’s important to keep in mind that it’s a crowded market–you need to find what is very unique to you, and do it the very best you can. If you’re going to do it, do it and do it well!