Mayumi Ishii spent years working in the financial sector, but always had the goal of running her own business in the back of her mind. Before she turned 40, she decided to take the plunge and utilize her problem solving skills and knowledge of financial markets to start up MIV Consulting, where she works as a cross-border alliance consultant helping US and Japanese companies to advance their product and marketing opportunities. One of the companies Ishii brought to the US market is Chrysmela, a women run Japanese company that makes secure earring backs. Since Ishii helped to bring the Chrysmela brand stateside, a million units of product have been sold. Today the Los Angeles, California-based entrepreneur is navigating the ins and outs of being a solopreneur while utilizing her existing network of business relationships to grow her consulting firm.
Ishii’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business?
After working in finance, I enjoyed looking back on my days at McKinsey. The thrill of problem solving on behalf of clients was one of the things that I loved the most about my consulting days, and I knew I wanted to return to that world. I had clients lined up, so it felt like a natural career move. I was very successful working with investment banks, but I knew that I would want a change in trajectory. I wanted to own my own business before I turned 40.
How do you define success?
Success is doing what you love and are passionate about. As you do that, money and happiness will follow naturally.
Tell us about your biggest success to date
I am most proud of the milestone that Chrysmela reached in March 2021. Chrysmela, the world’s most secure earring back, and the Japanese company I represent in the United States, is now protecting 1 million earrings!
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
As a sole proprietor, it can become difficult to stay on top of the latest tools and technologies to help you run your business. I’ve worked through this by working with different consultants on projects and learning about the latest technologies from them.
Creating a brand new product category (high-end high-tech earring lock) with a brand that was new to the US (Chrysmela – with spelling and naming challenge!) from scratch was a big learning experience. I had no consumer goods sales or marketing experience, coming from management consulting and investment banking research. I didn’t even know how to use Facebook or Instagram. Operations and logistics have been changing and improving very fast. As I leaned and built relationships with 3PL and online marketplaces, I realized everyone was creating and building better infrastructure and logistics. So I tried to stay on top of the technology and data available, and that helped me a lot to move fast and grow Chrysmela without losing money or spending advertising.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
At the same time as I started MIVConsulting, I also became a co-founder of an insdustrial design/design research company, SOZO Design in Silicon Valley with my husband. He passed away from a heart attack on his way home on the flight from a conference. Totally out of the blue, I lost my beloved husband and co-founder, and was left with employees and a fast growing company with good, large clients to keep happy. It was a tough year, right as I was turning 40. My modus operandi is enjoy life today, and do what you like today. Also, after a devastating life event, life goes on. We’ve got this!
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Don’t be afraid. Just jump in. Meet people. Ask questions. Recalibrate. Keep Going.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I read my favorite books, or inspirational biographies. I personally loved Katharine Graham’s “Personal History,” which focused on the message, “life happens, keep going.”
Who is your most important role model?
Because I was new to DTC, everyone around me that I worked with was my mentor, especially my current team of young, smart professionals who are all entrepreneurs building their own business and publishing their first books etc.