The Interview — Mica May, Founder and CEO of May Designs
Mica May is the Founder and CEO of May Designs. May Designs is a lifestyle brand selling beautiful, customizable things that make every day a little more lovely. The flagship product is the May Book, a simple notebook that can be customized to reflect each customer’s style; it lays flat and fits nicely in your purse. This idea came about by accident when design clients began taking notice of the signature notebooks that Mica brought to meetings. She capitalized on the momentum of interest and switched her focus from graphic design to perfecting a physical product. Some grassroots PR effort landed a feature on Good Morning America which catapulted her tiny hobby into a national brand. May Designs has now been featured by Good Morning America, The Today Show, Real Simple, and was named one of Oprah’s Favorite Things. Mica is excited to see May Designs grow and expand into new product lines and markets, while always striving to find the perfect balance between running a business, and being a wife to her husband and mother of her three young kids. The May Designs studio is proud to call Austin, TX it’s home. You can follow May Designs on Instagram and Facebook.
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What lead to the idea and creation of May Designs:
When I took a simple notebook and added a little extra flair to reflect my personality, people began to take notice. What excited me about this idea was not selling one design to the masses—but letting everyone design their very own, one at a time. Equipping customers with the tools to create something that reflects their personality and style—in a cost effective way—was something that hadn’t been done before. The May Designs experience is designed to empower everyone to create something beautiful and unique.
Describe a typical day at work:
I usually arrive around 9ish to the studio, and then every day is totally different, which I love! Some days we are head down, all focused on our individual tasks, and other days we are all off-site at a photoshoot or busy painting a pattern collection. I do a lot of conference calls, Jam sessions (we just got a new Google Jam Board which is my favorite new whiteboarding tool!!) and little micro-brainstorms. I'm definitely a verbal processor, so I have to use restraint for myself and lock myself in my office when I just need to focus and get stuff done! And SLACK, OMG slack. It’s the way our team communicates 100% of the time and I don’t know how we managed without it before!
View Mica's Essentials
Best piece of advice you would give to young entrepreneurs:
Trust your gut!! There is no advisor that can kick your tush more than you. And know what time it is. Entrepreneurs usually have a tendency to WORK and want to absolutely kill it in every area, but the secret is knowing if it’s a time to sprint or a time to rest a second and catch your breath. You can’t sprint a marathon, so understanding what time it is for you in each season is absolutely crucial so you don’t burn out, get sick, or fully wear your body down.
What’s been the biggest challenge with starting your own business:
I think one of the greatest challenges is that everyone ELSE wants to know the plan for the future. What’s your 3 year road map? Your 5 year road map?! At the beginning, I was like, “I literally just started a business on a whim and I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing next week—how do I know where I might be in 5 years?!” I think you need to always know your WHY and communicate that to the team and then strip down the fog and set clear objectives for the year and for each quarter. But other than that—isn’t the future magic!? I have no idea where I will be (or the company) in 3 years, and I sort of love that I don’t know. I would have never dreamed 3 years ago that I would be in Target stores (actually, it was a dream for “eventually”) but surely wasn’t actually written into a fancy business plan that we would.
What’s been the biggest accomplishment for May Designs:
We have invested heavily in our technology as well as our strategic production partners for each of our products. I firmly believe in our core business model—which is printing on demand, so I think building a tech stack from scratch (which is REALLY hard to do) that builds custom APIs for each vendor we work with and generates a visual rendering of whatever our customer designs and is ordering and converts it to a high res print ready file that kicks over to each vendor is pretty much one of the coolest things we’ve built. I’m extremely proud of it—and our commitment to not only designing beautiful products for everyday moments but also producing them in an efficient and non-wasteful way!
How do you balance being a mom and CEO of your own company:
I think understanding that I can’t be everywhere at once and that there is grace for me as both a CEO and a Mom from both my team and my family. I’ve learned that setting up systems for our team to know when they’ll get my undivided attention has made them thrive! For my kids, I think that quality time is far more important than quantity time. I can walk in and give them 15 minutes of eye contact and hear about their day and we go through our “highs and lows” from school—it fills up their little love tanks so much, and also—dedicated dates are EVERYTHING!! My husband and I have a date night every Thursday night (and have for nearly 13 years) and I take each of my kids on dates each week to get good one on one time with them. They don’t have to cost money, be super fancy or even take up tons of time, but it’s that one on one time that makes their souls sing!
You decompress each day by:
Dance parties in my kitchen with my three kids. We currently have The Greatest Showman soundtrack on repeat, so nearly every night we bust a move while fixing dinner and it’s the best 'cause we are silly and just laugh and let out all that energy that’s been cooped up in our bodies all day long!
The one makeup product you never leave the house without:
Lipstick. I’m literally a Mac lipstick fanatic, and probably have 8 similar shades of my perfect pink in my purse at all times.
What’s your favorite May Design product:
I think it’s gotta be our original and flagship product, the Classic May Book. I use one every single day, nearly 100 times a day and I fly through them—usually 2-3/month. I mostly love dot grid, and it’s just safe place to have a beautiful notebook and a pen in my purse/hands at all times :)
Your celebrity crush and why:
If you call Sara Blakely (Founder of Spanx) a celebrity, then she would be mine. She bootstrapped her company and still owns 100% of it and she has built a crazy successful empire, one leg at a time. She is still hustling every single day to keep her dream and company vision (and sales) alive, and her daily posts are still about her loving the WORK—whether she is flying to appear on QVC, and not her just out there enjoying margaritas on the beach while everyone else works.