Meet Lisa Hsieh, the Founder & Creative Director at Mien Studios, Inc., a clothing brand that focuses on availability, comfort, and sustainability.
Lisa believes that being a minority and a woman is an interesting combination for a small business owner, especially in the apparel industry, where a lot of factory owners are white men. Having graduated with an art degree, she has been in this industry for about a decade.
A busybody who pays attention to detail, Lisa loves working and taking up initiatives. Whenever she works for other brands, she ends up doing a lot of things – even more work than what her job description states. She says, “My bosses and superiors really love my proactiveness. This is my personality –work is a driving force for me.”
Ms. Hseih was very committed to her work but she had always wanted a family. She wanted to balance both of these things and wanted to be there for all the milestones of her children. Thus, for her, owning a business was the best option to be in control of her time. She explains, “It all started with a desire to have more time. Also, I wanted to see what I could do as a small business owner with the freedom to design and help people. I told my husband that it would be risky, but I loved my idea. So, I went ahead with it!”
Ms. Hsieh started Mien in 2015, when she was pregnant with her son. At that time, it was a locally made brand that produced luxury items for both men and women. Back then, the company did not have sustainability at the forefront. Talking about the shift of her products from luxury to comfort, Lisa says, “When I gave birth to my son, I realized that the type of clothes I was designing wasn’t a good fit for my lifestyle and I couldn’t even wear it anymore. Maternity clothes are usually designed only to be used for about three months at a time and their quality is terrible. I wanted to design something that could be worn for a long time, possibly through parenthood, so that people didn’t have to chuck or donate it after having their baby. That is how “Mien” was transformed.” Serving this need of comfort clothes for pregnant women helped Ms. Hsieh’s business flourish because a lot of women resonated with her. She has built Mien through her loyal customers, craft-fairs, and word-of-mouth. She says, “I am super-small and self-funded, so it really takes word of mouth and loyal customers to support and grow the business. We are still very small but I feel fortunate that we have a really wonderful customer base, and I expect to keep growing.” Lisa and her team primarily design for a work-from-home lifestyle. Her team might be small, but it is mighty!
Lisa lives in Long Beach that is less than 20 minutes from LA, where all her factories are located. Since it is a short drive, she has a hand in every process. She elaborates, “We have a really good relationship with all of our factory partners. We know everything and every one personally – who makes the clothes, where is the fabric coming from. We are like a little family, and we have been working together for years now.”
Lisa has had a lot of challenges in her journey and made mistakes as well. Thinking that she had to do everything is one of the biggest mistakes that she made. When she started the business from home and had nothing, it was a necessity to do everything on her own. With time and resources, she learned that as a founder, one needs to know when to ask someone for help or assign a task to someone else and trust them to do it. She elaborates, “It is a challenge to identify my weak points and then find suitable talent to take it off my hands. It is not easy, but if you find the right person, then it is a huge help.”
Like other organizations, Mien has had its set of challenges during the pandemic. Lisa started the business on her website and through in-person market fairs that support sustainable, local crafts. With Covid-19 restrictions, there are no more fairs to attend. In addition to this, Lisa also had to close her offline store. Talking about this issue, she says, “We had every intention of staying there but with no rent forgiveness, I just couldn’t continue with the lease. The revenue stream from the in-person fairs was also stopped all of a sudden.” Presently, online sales are the only source of revenue for Mien, but they are doing okay as their online sales have increased. Lisa elaborates, “Our web stores are running smoothly – we try to make the shopping experience better for our customers. Luckily, our products are comfort-based, so they are in demand. I wanted to make things that people would be comfortable in, and I am glad to know that people use these for their zoom meetings!”
Ms. Hsieh believes that it is necessary to have a place where the brand and the customer and connect, thus, social media plays an important role for her brand. She elaborates, “It is great to have a social media presence because at times like these where we cannot meet our customers, it becomes a great medium to share photos and experiences and interact with one another. They see, they follow, they like, they purchase, they love – it is a whole cycle. It is really nice to maintain a connection despite the distance.”