This story is about…
Female Entrepreneur: Meca McKinney
Company: Jypsea Eclectic Handcrafted Leathergoods
Industry: Design, fashion & style
She started her business because: “It was just a love for fashion and design.”
What motivated you to start your business?
In the beginning, it was just a love for fashion and design. I opened a vintage boutique many years ago while I was still a f/t student at the Fashion Institute of Technology. During that time, whenever the store was slow, I would make reversible suede tie-dye mini totebags, which were a huge hit surprisingly! I later closed the shop to focus on school but in my last year at FIT, my husband and I discovered that we were having a baby! I always knew that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom but not wanting to depend on my husband for money, I wanted to use my talents to earn a living from home. I thought about launching my handbag line then but figured it would be tough with a new baby to sew at my industrial machine. Instead, I took my love for making natural skincare and spa treatments–my favorite hobby–and launched a line of natural spa produts called Innerglo Home Spa products while pregnant and completing my degree.. http://www.innerglo.com/
Our child was born 2 weeks after my graduation from FIT and I went full force with my new one-woman company. I got the products into approximately a dz stores around the country plus Trinidad/Tobago but by year 3, I was burned out. It was NOT my passion and I was no longer inspired. I was yearning to start making handbags again. So I sold my business to the current owner and planned to launch Jypsea Leathergoods. During the process, my marriage of 6 years (12 yrs together total) collapsed. I found myself a single mom with a 3 yr old toddler out in the world alone. I moved from our home in South Jersey to a loft apartment in Millburn, New Jersey and went back to corporate America designing for footwear companies. The first company let me go me after 2 months when my child caught the flu, because me being a mother was an “inconvenience” to them. I was the only parent on the design team and therefore couldn’t stay at the office until midnight or spontaneously fly to the factories in China. After moving from a place of security (my marriage) to be greeted with the coldness of corporate America, I was very frightened. Thankfully, I found a new job, as a technical footwear designer for another brand within a couple of months. But after 6 months of literally RUNNING to the train every morning after dropping my kid to day care—she was the 1st kid there every morning—working all day then RACING from the office down 34th Street back to Penn Station every night to catch the train to get my child before the nursery closed was incredibly stressful. I felt immense guilt about having my baby in day-care all day long after she had become accustomed to me being a stay-at-home mother. Separation from her dad was tough enough and this new regimen was just salt in the wound. When the recession hit, my job cut the entire technical design department along with many other depts. I walked out of there with my pink slip, a box of my belongings and a smile on my face. I knew I was headed back to college for a second degree finally and that I would start my business, raise my child and create my own destiny.
Tell us about your business…
At Jypsea Eclectic Handcrafted Leathergoods, the belief is that every accessory should be as unique as its wearer. It is the opposite of mass-production. I create heirlooms, leather handbags and accessories, to be cherished by generations to come.
What is a day in the life of you like?
I still work part-time so that I can create products that I love and not work on projects for the sole intention of making a buck. Working outside of my business keeps me in touch with how other businesses are run and what type of elements to incorporate into my own. But on my days in the Jypsea studio, I start the day with prayer and meditation, take my child to school then once back home, I dive into my emails and interactions on social media while eating breakfast/juicing before I work out. After my workout and shower, around 10 am, I ship pending orders before cutting and sewing new custom orders. In the afternoon I go to any meetings/conference calls scheduled with clients and/or alliances before getting my child from school at 3:20pm. I continue to work in my studio while she does her homework. I cook a healthy, delicious meal, read her bedtime stories, get her in the bed then back to tie up any loose ends in my studio. I try to always surf the web for opportunities to volunteer or creative events to participate in before I do some toning exercises and get myself ready for bed, God-willing, with the intent to do it all again next day
What have been your biggest challenges so far with running your business?
Well, up until the last few months, I was a full time student, earning a degree in Fine Arts while growing my business as a p/t venture. Juggling motherhood, school, part-time gigs and running my business on the side for 2.5 yrs was taxing. I recently graduated college for the 2nd time. Growing my business is now my priority and I am thrilled.
How did you overcome these challenges?
Prayer and perseverance. I have learned that if you can just through a tough day, tomorrow promises to be better. It ALWAYS is better. God tests our faiths and we past the test each time we forge forward not knowing the “who’s, what’s and hows, but putting full faith that HE will work it all out.
What have you found to be the most effective way to get new clients?
Giveaways. Press/media. Word-of-mouth. Collaborating with non-competing brands.
What advice would you give to other business owners?
Hone your skills. Choose a business that what you love enough to do for free since you will likely do it for free and/or give away your products/service s in the beginning to get noticed. Even then, treat each recipient as if she/he is Oprah–i.e.: your dream client. The word will spread that you are head & shoulders above your competition and your business will flourish.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I love reading biographies. Every person we admire has suffered serious hardships before their success. It is just par for the course. Reading their stories keeps me encouraged through difficult times. But mainly, my faith in myself and God shines thru the darkness. I am filled with joy naturally because I already know how this story ends: I win.
What’s your favourite quote?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Who inspires you?
My daughter’s belief in me inspires me the most. I could never let down therefore failure is not an option. I am also daily inspired via social networking by my friends who are also entrepreneurs. Seeing their empowering tweets and status updates keeps me going.
Do you have a business philosophy?
“Creating a better world is the responsibility of all of us and I choose to incorporate that consciousness into fashion. I simply believe that luxurious, hand-made, well-designed accessories should be accessible to us all.”
Get in touch…
Twitter Name: jypseadotcom
Facebook Fanpage: www.facebook.com/jypsealeathergoods