Every 4 weeks, Angela Tsai, a mother of two, packs up everything and moves to a new city.
Her husband, Michael Hollick, is a performer in the touring cast of “The Lion King,” and for the past 6 years, the couple and their children have been living the nomadic life. Their “unorthodox” lifestyle has been an eye-opener and an inducement to live life “very minimally,” she says. After all, “we carry everything we own in a minivan.”
It has also been the catalyst behind Tsai’s business, Mamachic, making and selling multi-purpose, scarves for moms.
Living out of suitcases shifted Tsai’s priorities, causing her to value versatile, durable goods over showy items like her once-beloved collection of high heels, she says. And specifically, it put her on the hunt for a multi-purpose garment to don during feedings and other messy mom moments — and while running errands or having lunch.
When she couldn’t find what she was looking for, Tsai got to work creating a solution herself. The scarf she designed, which is made of sustainable fabric and manufactured in the United States, can be worn dozens of ways, thanks to small snaps stitched into the fabric — and it would ultimately launch a growing business.
Ever since, Tsai has been driven by a desire to provide this simple, smart garment to similarly economical, eco-conscious parents. “With our business model and product, we are trying to encourage thoughtful spending.”
A Passion for Smaller, More Sustainable Living
Before becoming a traveling mother and entrepreneur, Tsai worked in television, serving at one point as a courtside reporter for the Sacramento Kings and also as a host on MSG Varsity Network. But her decade-long career on the air came to an end soon after she learned she was expecting a child and, around the same time, her husband was offered a role in a production of “The Lion King” in Las Vegas.
Together, they moved across the country from the New York City home they had at the time. Soon after adjusting to their new home, their firstborn child arrived — and several weeks early. In fact, Hollick was onstage when Tsai’s water broke, and he burst into the delivery room in full lion makeup about 20 minutes before their son, Max, was born.
Beyond the impression left by Max’s premature, unusual entry to the world, Tsai’s son quickly began to shift her priorities. “I realized that a lot of the stuff I felt was valuable before was just ‘stuff.’ You start to realize how important experiences are, versus stuff we accumulate,” she says. The buildup of material things became a particular sore spot since, “as many new parents know, the amount of gear you feel like you need is sort of ridiculous.”
Then, shortly after Max was released from the hospital, the Las Vegas production of The Lion King closed down, and Hollick was asked to join the touring cast. He accepted, and their new life traveling around the country only amplified Tsai’s dislike of clutter.
The change in lifestyle, combined with Tsai’s need for a multipurpose garment, inspired Tsai to start Mamachic. She completed the prototype for the scarf in 2014 after 3 years of development. And then she spent a year planning her business with help from Factory45, an online accelerator for apparel businesses, which connected her with the suppliers and manufacturers she needed to mass produce.
[Related: See the full list of the women entrepreneurs on The Passionate & Purposeful list]
In May of 2015 she hosted a successful Kickstarter campaign, exceeding her $20,000 funding goal by $9,000, and used that money to formally launch a business 4 years in the making.
Her careful planning has paid off in more ways than just effective crowdfunding. Tsai has won high-profile media coverage and forged some key connections that helped jumpstart the company’s growth. She appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” as part of a segment called “Shark Tank Your Life” promoting the network’s entrepreneurial pitch show, “Shark Tank.” She not only won a segment contest, she also received live, glowing feedback from users while on the air. Tsai also took part in the Tory Burch Foundation’s fellowship program and Goldman Sach’s 10,000 Small Businesses initiative.
Tsai continues to steadily build her startup. Last year, Mamachic sold more than 1,500 units, double its 2015 level, Tsai says. Her annual revenue also doubled, though it currently falls under $50,000. And, she has hired two employees as she works to expand.
A Purpose in Helping Moms — and Mother Earth
Tsai, whose kids are now aged 6 and 3, is still touring the nation with her family, even as she grows Mamachic.
The company recently announced a partnership with popular online shopping site The Grommet, and she’s excited about the new possibilities it could bring as she works to become an internationally known brand. She also has plans for new products, such as durable jewelry and handbags, and to manufacture more of her staple, made-in-America scarves.
Tsai remains mindful of the mothers who make up the bulk of her customers (though men also wear Mamachic, as do folks without kids, she’s quick to note) and is committed to selling accessories that help “women feel more confident and beautiful — not in spite of being a mother, but because they are a mother,” she says.
She’s also determined to hold fast to her eco-friendly roots. She decries the popularity of “fast fashion” and the waste generated of the clothing industry. How her products are made is as important to her as what they are made of and how they function, she says. “I feel passion to help with a cause, to encourage people to live more minimally and thoughtfully.”
For her, effective parenting and sustainable living are deeply connected. “We challenge parents to be more thoughtful in their purchases, which have a lasting impact on the soil, air and water that their own children will one day inherit.”
Why should we include you on The Passionate & Purposeful?
It’s through passion and purpose that my company was born, and continues to grow! I’ve been traveling full-time with my family of four (my husband is a performer with The Lion King’s touring production) for the past 5 years; we live in one city for an average of 4 weeks at a time. With a 3-year-old and 6-year-old in tow, we’ve learned to live minimally and sustainably. While caring for my two kids as infants on the road, I was often frustrated at all the gear I had to schlep around — a nursing cover, a burp cloth, a swaddle blanket, etc. It felt bulky and very wasteful, since baby gear is often only needed for a short while. On top of it all, this gear looked “maternity” — something I was trying to stay away from, aesthetically. As I recovered from pregnancy and cared for my children, my own identity and self-confidence changed. I yearned to still feel beautiful, despite the new responsibilities and new body. So I created the beautiful product that I needed — and the rest is history!