Mee a Bee

by Jacqui Miyabayashi of Mee a Bee

handmade bags for toddler boys and girls made with Japanese fabrics

Hello, I’m Jacqui. I’m new to the team here at OMHG. I make bags for children. I’ve been doing this since 2007. Here’s how Mee a Bee came to be…

I woke up one day and found myself living in Japan, married, with two children. My life was nothing like I imagined it would be, and I felt full of regret.

I was happy for the most part. I was a devoted mother, lucky to be able to stay at home with the kids, living in a beautiful brand-new home which I had designed myself. But I still felt guilty for giving up my dreams of being a high-powered marketing executive. And I felt like such a disappointment to my parents who had given up a lot for the sake of my education.

I had graduated fifteen years earlier and still hadn’t put my degree to use. I started a blog called Blooming in Japan. My plan was to attempt to “bloom” in my adopted country Japan. Have you heard the expression “to bloom where you are planted”? I spent about 6 months pondering what I could do. My blog gained a small readership and those lovely women encouraged me to start the business I am running today.

Several ideas failed along the way including designing and making my own greeting cards. (I am so inspired and envious of my fellow OMHG contributors who make stationery goods!). I had come across Etsy and made some purchases so in the back of my mind I knew I wanted to start a creative business. I looked at my situation and what I had access to, then compared that to what people seemed interested in buying (= market research). Japanese fabrics sell well outside of Japan and I felt there was a gap in the market for items for children. Since I have two children myself I guess my mind went there naturally.

I opened my Etsy shop in October 2007 with five tote bags which I had made from one yard of fabric. A month later I sold my first bags to friends who were reading my blog. In January I made my first few sales to customers who had discovered my shop – and were not friends or family! It was and still is exhilarating!

My business philosophy is very much influenced by my parenting philosophy. I am very education focused, but I believe in raising my children by example. Baking a cake or exploring in the garden is how I teach my children. We love to tackle craft projects, and both my boys like to make things. We read a lot, and we try not to watch too much television. We get outdoors as much as we can and enjoy bicycle adventures and road trips. This summer we are planning our first camping trip!

Mee a Bee bags are entirely handmade by me! I use only natural fabrics and source everything locally. You won’t find any commercial characters on my bags. Instead I hope your kids’ imaginations will be enriched by fairytale themes or their curiosity piqued by a cute illustration.

My goal is to keep Mee a Bee growing to the point where I won’t have to return to the workforce when both of my children are in school. My deadline is April 2011 when my youngest will start kindergarten.

Even though I have a degree in business management, nothing can teach you what the experience of doing it will teach you. My business skills have improved ten-fold although I still have a lot to learn. I’d like to say I’ve learned from my mistakes.

I have some regular customers, a few wholesale accounts, and a lot of contacts in the industry. My blog continues to be one of the main sources of visitors to my website. My readers are a mix of crafty people interested in fabric and sewing, women and mothers running their own businesses, and people involved in the children’s fashion industry. I have had great success with new marketing, that is social network marketing via Facebook, Twitter and other online tools such as my blog.

I am thrilled to be part of the OMHG team, and I look forward to sharing more about my business and what I have learned along the way.

8 comments

  1. Meeks says:

    Thank you for sharing your story Jacqui. My mother had a similar story, she came to New Zealand from Japan, not knowing the language or having any friends. She turned to crafts when we needed the extra cash when we were all young. She taught people how to sew suits from her home.

    How long have you been in Japan..enough to understand a bit/a lot of nihongo!

    All the best in your venture, it sounds like you are doing an amazing job!

    And your bags are kawaii!!

  2. Kim Easter says:

    I’m in LOVE with these adorable bags! Our oldest is starting Pre-School in the fall, and she picked out the ballerina bag for her school bag! I wish you could have seen how excited she was looking at each bag. I can’t wait to get a chance to purchase one and surprise her. I’m in awe of the fabric prints. Very lovely shop, thank you for sharing!

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