It all started with a cartoon character.
Four years ago, four friends, two couples decided to, after they decided they had had enough of the film industry. Driven by creativity and a need to do good for the world they decided to launch Müka.
Lisa had always been interested in fashion and art and culture and how they intersect. She went to school for animation and got to work on shows but they didn’t speak to her spirit and soul. Instead of being rooted in the art, the shows were was rooted in capitalism. Lisa’s ideas were cast aside for the sake of the almighty dollar. It was a vicious cycle of money dictating art, instead of the other way around. Being told to create images that perpetuated racial and cultural stereotypes, Lisa quit her day job, leaving her animation degree behind.
Or so she thought.
It was a fateful walk through artists’ alleys at various conventions that inspired Müka’s beginnings. Seeing products of art be driven by the creative spirit, the opposite of her previous life in animation - she knew she was on the right track. Once she saw an Indigenous artist collaborate with a brand to create an art piece, the lightbulb went off and the rest started to fall into place. The first product that launched was Moon Bunny, based on the legend in Chinese culture.
The original dream was to have a brick-and-mortar store, where the founders could feature not only their own designs but that also other artists, building a truly creative collaborative space. When it comes to values, creativity and collaboration are not just the only values Müka holds. Diversity and inclusion aren’t just buzz words; they are beliefs built into the very fabric of their company. They believe and put into action that representation of all people across racial, cultural lines is important. They authentically celebrate and honour contributions from Indigenous and LGBTQ+ communities by hiring models and working with vendors across the spectrum. As they slowly started working towards the storefront, they would participate in events and festivals where they developed a loyal following of fans and customers. Being a part of the community in an authentic way, was integral to helping their business grow.
In April 2019, they changed the name of the company, continued to attend events, building upon their success. One year later, the world stopped. The online part of the business had been neglected because the profitable formula was based on in-person events, so like many, found themselves forced to pivot abruptly. Operations came to a halt and cash flow suffered because of event deposits and inventory purchases. With Lisa being the only founder that is working on the business full-time, the pandemic created additional pressure to become an e-commerce business and learn how to market digitally. They learned the hard way the cost of not collecting emails at the onsite events, as their customer base was slower to migrate to the online store, but they were able to increase online sales by 5x, so not all was lost.
Lisa joined the Women Entrepreneurship Centre (WEC) program to help take the business to the next level. It provided her with practical and useful tools like Growth Wheel and increased her ability to network and build relationships that other accelerators didn’t offer. She values how it is structured for entrepreneurs with no business background and has already seen an impact in how she connects with others. The 7-month WEC program, wrapping up this spring, prepared her to handle the storm that the global pandemic threw her way and proves that sometimes you have to colour outside the lines in order to thrive.
Tanya Hayles is an award-winning event planner, public speaker, and freelance writer authentically telling stories and creating change. Located in Toronto and can be found tweeting her free time away at twitter.com/tanyahayles or at tanyahayles.com
The Women Entrepreneurship Centre (WEC), as part of the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University, is dedicated to empowering women entrepreneurs of every age, stage and culture to achieve their business dreams. We believe in fostering leadership. We believe that everyone deserves an equal shot at success. We believe in connecting you with the right people, skills and support to make it happen.
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