This local Boss Babe is switching it up by launching her dream business while holding down her day job and embracing the balance of having both. With a gift of seeing opportunity in every situation, Mia shares how challenges and changes along the way have led her to a business she loves and is excited to grow.
This isn’t you first rodeo, tell us about what came before Lilikoi Luxe? True. I launched my first business back in 2009 on Oahu - Indi Ocean - a jewelry and perfume business. I started small, while I was in college for teaching, juggling a number of other jobs while I built it, until it was at a point where it sustained me and I could focus on it full time. It was a fulfilling business and I had no intention of stopping it. With product in 5 high volume stores I was kept busy and there was future potential since the market was rapidly embracing locally made jewelry.
What was the turning point that shifted energy from this business to the next thing? After college I was able to pursue my company full time. November 2013, I was about 6 months into the joys of full time entrepreneurship and I was prepped for the Holiday season, fully loaded with freshly made product and trunk shows planned for every weekend. I was actually here on Kaua’i for my first trunk show of the season when I went through a life changing ordeal. The day before Thanksgiving I was in a surfing accident where my board hit me in the eye. It was damaged beyond repair and I ultimately went through a surgery to remove it. It was surreal to have this accident and be in the dark, literally, where I couldn’t open my either of my eyes for 5 days. After 5 days of darkness it was incredible to see light again and the timing of it being around Thanksgiving was almost symbolic in that I experienced so much gratefulness for something that most of us take for granted.
This began a series of events because now I had a season of healing ahead of me. I have always been a hard worker, holding down multiple jobs since the age of 14 and launching a business requires so much additional effort. Now I had to pull back a bit and rest. Fortunately I had prepared well for the holiday season and had a ton of jewelry already made so I could take the time to heal. It could have been stressful but it was actually a very restful time and I could take a breather because my business was set up. I had the chance to relax and just be. I could do trunk shows - which is my favorite. In January, I decided that, though I didn’t want to stop jewelry, I wanted to teach again - so I added in subbing. I love teaching and knew it was where I would end up. However, I knew that creativity isn’t something you can control so I wanted to nurture the creative muse of my jewelry business while it was flourishing and nourishing me.
Within a few weeks, subbing led to an offer for a full time teaching position. Within a month I decided to pull jewelry out of stores and work directly with clients, as I was teaching full time and kept the jewelry business via online sales. Over time I transitioned jewelry to just holiday buying, and seasonal type business.
So many changes in such a short time. How did being a teacher shape your next business? For the past few years I had been thinking about Lilikoi Luxe. One thing I learned from Indi Ocean is that a team is AWESOME. Just because you can do every aspect doesn’t mean you should. I systematized everything, thinking through how I could have employees, and have them be my team to help launch this dream. It’s long days and a big sacrifice. I made a list to remind myself “why am I doing this” to help me stay focused and on track . This list helped me not lose sight of the bigger picture. Sacrificing and contributing to something every day to create something that, hopefully, will be an awesome part of society one day.
I am so thankful this idea came to me, a shop where all self care products are healthy and safe to use. I have always struggled with my skin - I was finding different brands, techniques and products that were really helping my skin. And I thought gosh it would be so great to get this out to people - to share and inspire self love and self care. For example, a nightly ritual where you cleanse and nourish your skin and it makes you feel amazing. Taking that time to really nourish and take care of your skin makes a difference physically, mentally and spiritually. Here on Kauai it’s so hard to have a point of access for good products. Unless you take a lot of time to research online to find out which products are actually sustainable - I realized how passionate I was about this and that I could serve others in making these products more accessible.
Is it hard to balance 2 jobs, Kindergarten Teacher and Shop Owner, all at once? It’s not easy. With teaching I have built in breaks 4 times a year which helps. These breaks offer me a chance to focus on things I want to do for the shop and I use that time to strategize. Now that I am in it I have to really strategize how to be smart and fine tune the business. Then I also have extra time for my classroom - which I love! My kindergartners are seriously the best and I love my day job. This is my second year so I am able to systematize a lot of things within the classroom which makes it more fluid and fun.
I love the duality of teaching kids and running the shop - I honestly don’t think I would enjoy my business as much if I was in the shop all day every day. Plus, I really wanted to break out of the mold that I have to do it all myself - it’s such a hard bridge to cross - to give up control if you start running it all yourself from the beginning. So I gave up control at the very beginning, delegating tasks, etc. I love teaching and the getting to go from class to shop experience.
What have you learned? Since I had a prior business I knew what to expect. I knew that I needed to not push it too hard. This doesn’t mean not to hustle, but when a situation doesn’t work out I’ve learned not to push it. I use the obstacles as opportunities to do more fine tuning and stay open and flexible to other possibilities. I also have learned to take a moment to think things through and not let my heart rush me into anything. With this particular vision it took me 2 full years to really plan it out and I had a clear vision of wanted I want to achieve.
Whats Next? As we are establishing ourselves in the community, my hope is that my shop does not become or be seen solely as a luxury boutique. I understand natural skin care can be pricey, especially when we are all hustling to keep up with the expenses of life on this island, that is why once a month I offer a 15% Kama’aina discount on the Full Moon. I want to be a place people come to for their skincare and wellness needs instead of their typical drugstore. I try to focus on building awareness through the shop - helping to educate and inspire our community to be more sustainable in their self care products. I am looking forward to doing this through more collaborations and hosted workshops. I want this space to be a catalyst for learning and growth where women can gather and find the best products to weave into their daily self care rituals.