Maxine Bishko took some big risks in 2020. She decided to move from Singapore to Hawaii and to start a new business, all against the backdrop of a global pandemic. Luckily for Bisko, her willingness to start a new adventure and dive into a new business venture paid off, and today she if the proud founder of Lattice Gems, an e-commerce site selling crystals, gems and minerals. The Kailua, Hawaii-based entrepreneur sources ethically picked gems for her site while working to foster a community of individuals who are passionate about crystals and the gems of Mother Earth.
Bishko’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business?
I moved halfway across the world from Singapore to Hawaii in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, while also building up a community of women through the love of crystals, empowerment, and self-love. When one of my other business projects had failed on Kickstarter, I started gravitating towards making bracelets again — it was soothing for me. I also started beefing up my crystal collection again and that’s when I found a community of women who shared the same interests as I did. But more than that, I realized that in a gloomy globally time, the love of crystals brought strength and positivity to a lot of lives. I decided that I needed to empower people in a dark time such as this — by building my Lattice Gems Tribe. So I started Lattice Gems — without e-commerce, nor did I raise any funding — I only had a quest to empower more lives.
How do you define success?
I believe that starting something you have passion for and taking that leap of faith with a ‘just do it’ mindset, is success in and of itself. A lot of people fear beginning something new because there is the possibility of failure. At the end of the day, true success is what is defined only by you. It could be achieving small or large goals, getting that promotion, having a baby, or simply knowing when to be happy.
Tell us about your biggest success to date
Getting funding for one of my prior businesses to expand from retail to distribution is my biggest success to date. I was only twenty years old, juggling a part-time job and a full-time Bachelor’s degree in college, but starting an e-commerce retail store in a time when e-commerce had not boomed excited me. Four years in I met my first mentor who taught me to scale and to explore distribution. We grew into distributing pet supplies from all over the world into Singapore’s pet retail stores.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Scaling a start-up is fun but also challenging. Resources are never enough when there are so many ideas and ways to scale. How do you find the best way to both market your products and brand, while also allocating resources to e-commerce optimization? Or inventory? Time is also money, and since I am very hands-on in every aspect of my business, I have to be very stringent about what I do everyday. I often have to-do lists with different goals for each day. Proper planning is key.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
When I started Lattice Gems I was in the midst of moving to Hawaii from Singapore. I was closing a gap in my personal life. I was in a 5 year long-distance relationship from Singapore to Russia, then China, Japan and Hawaii. I had never lived anywhere else in the world and moving was exciting yet scary. I was sad to leave my friends, family and the life I knew behind, but I was starting a new adventure. This motivated me to throw myself into completing the entire migration process as quickly as possible while building my Lattice Gems community around people who lived in the United States.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Jump right in. There isn’t a book or any kind of education that can really prepare you for starting and building a business. The faster you get your hands dirty and start learning the lessons that a new business will teach you, the quicker you will be on your way to success (or personal growth). Preparation and knowledge always help. But nothing beats real experience.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
Zone out and take a break. Often a dark day for me is being mentally burnt out and I know I just need a refresher to get right back on track. That is why having a support group is important because at times you just need to lean on them. Having a laugh, having a conversation – that can inspire my mind to focus.
Who is your most important role model?
I would say Sara Blakely, because she believes that failure is not trying, instead of failure being an outcome. Her father encouraged her to write down her failures every day, things that did not go the way she expected. Through her failures, she learnt that there was something else that she got out of it, even if she had not expected that outcome. When she started Spanx, which is now a six-figure business, she had no knowledge of business or retail, and started with $5,000 of her own savings.