I am super excited to kickoff this interview series highlighting girl bosses all over the world. Women entrepreneurs are popping up daily and it’s amazing so many people are stepping out and making their dreams a reality. With this interview, I wanted to feature someone who saw a need for change and turned it into a business. Being a boss is always about making things happen your way and with your vision and our #girlboss featured today is doing just that.
1/ Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Bianca Lambert. I’m from Atlanta, Georgia. I love macaroons, girl talk, and a great glass of red wine.
2/ What is your occupation?
I am the Owner + Founder of Mae B. a stationery and lifestyle brand for women of color.
3/ Describe your personal style?
My personal style is pretty eclectic, but classic. I love to look great, but still feel a sense of comfort. I love a great pair of jeans with button down shirt. I also live in a jumpsuit.I love fashion, but I don’t like to spend too much time putting my outfit together each day. The one thing I never leave the house without is lipstick. Whether it’s a nude, a bright red, or a dark berry I have something on.
4/ Give us a run down on the history behind your business and how it came about?
Mae B was founded in 2013. I have always been an avid stationery buyer. I found myself spending my time and money in stores that had minimal stationery that represented me fully on their shelves. It seems like such a minor issue, but it’s about representation. It matters. More now than ever. You will often see these large selection of greeting card, but when you look for one with a brown face there is this one tiny section for us. I decided I wanted to change that narrative and create a literal space for women of color.
I wanted to name the company something that would be memorable, yet meaningful. So I named it after my grandmother, Mae. She’s the Mae and I am the B. I have been told numerous times that a business for brown women just won’t work but as you can see that is so far from the truth. Starting a niche business is challenging, but I refuse to give up on it.
5/ What are your long term and short-term goals for you business?
Long term, I would love to open a stationery + gift shops in Atlanta and Brooklyn. I hear often “Is stationery still a thing”? The answer to that is YES! There are so many great stationery boutiques going up because sending a handwritten note will never go out of style. My dream would be to have a store similar The Merchant in Krog Street Market. Short term, I want to continue to grow Mae B as a lifestyle brand. I am also working hard to get our stationery into stores and boutiques across the US.
6/ What are the top three things you wish you would have known when you first started your entrepreneur journey?
- Prepare Financially
This has been a big obstacle for me. I jumped straight into starting Mae B without a clear sense of what it would take to grow this company from financial perspective. But, I also think if I had waited until the time was “right” Mae B would still be an idea.
- Everyone won’t see the value in your brand and that is okay.
When I launched Mae B, I thought every brown girl would relate to my passion for starting the company, but it didn’t turn out that way. It’s a big marketplace out there, don’t feel the need to cater to everyone. Figure out who your customer is and build from there.
- Find Balance
I have been stretched so thin over the last 3 years because I was starting a company, working for other companies to support Mae B, and not making anytime to rest. Most days I was working 16-18 hours a day. I told myself I was doing it for a good cause but I was running myself ragged. If you aren’t 100% your business won’t be either. Finding time to get a good night’s sleep, enjoy a meal at your favorite restaurants, or simply catch up with a close friend are important.
7/ What and who influences you when buying for your stores?
When I make choices about what’s next for Mae B I always have our customer in mind. Our customers are very vocal about what they love. They are also very clear about the items that they aren’t into. I am always listening and paying attention to comments from our supporters. One of the major changes I made was making sure all body types were represented. I love when I hear someone say, ” She’s curvy like me”.
8/ What are your three favorite things in your store right now?
Our Hello Fabulous birthday card. It’s a colorful,vibrant setting and she’s just a boss.
Our Halle personalized bridal stationery. I love classic, elegant silhouettes.
Our Hello Vacay luggage tag. You can’t help but smile when you see this tag. It screams summer vacation!
9/ Being a #girlboss is hard work and it is not for faint at heart, what is your one piece of advice to all aspiring girl bosses?
Stay the course. There is this misconception that there is a such thing as an overnight success. Overnight success will not sustain you or your career. This journey will make you want to quit, it will make you feel inspired, and it will test your commitment to your company but it will also give this overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. I asked a young lady last week “Would you run your business even if you weren’t making any money”? I ask myself that question often and the answer is always yes. If that answer ever turned into a no I would reevaluate my career path.
10/ What are your go to business resources or apps?
I love reading Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Black Enterprise, and INC magazines. I love reading the stories of other entrepreneurs. Many of the entrepreneurs I read about become my mentors from afar. I have a few apps that I use daily like Instagram, Google Drive, Uber, and Tidal. Every #girlboss needs a rockin’ playlist.
11/ You’re a busy bee, how do you keep sane and balance both your personal life plus entrepreneurial life?
I am still working on finding a nice balance. Honestly, if you’re an entrepreneur just starting out there is very little balance in your life. I tell people all of the time I feel like I am always on, but that’s a part of running your own company. I am always thinking about what’s next. I have made more time to travel, go to concerts, and grab a drink with friends. I always feel like I have a little more control over my life when I make time for fun things.
12/ I’m sure being an entrepreneur is not a typical 9 to 5 job. Give us a quick run down on how your days usually go.
But first, coffee! Ha! I say a prayer every morning then I make myself a cup of black coffee with a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries. When I first started Mae B, I would wake up and get straight to work. I would look up and it would be 3 o’clock in the afternoon and I still hadn’t eaten. So breakfast is a priority for me every morning. The next thing I do is look at my calendar, make my to-do list for the day, and read a few articles on Entrepreneur.com or INC.com. It’s a great why to get your brain going and also get some inspiration before the day starts. Everything after that is a toss up because my day is never the same which is an element of entrepreneurship that I love.
13/ What has been your most favorite experience to date as a business owner?
What has been your least? I have two. My favorite experience to date as a business owner has been hosting a trunk show at Swoozie’s in Buckhead. It was such a fun experience. I had a chance to talk with customers about the brand, build a relationship with one of my favorite stores, and also have an event in my hometown.
My other favorite is our feature is Essence Magazine in 2014. I still pinch myself.
My least favorite is hearing that a customer is disappointed whether it is in our control or not. Holiday shipping is always a nightmare, but if something goes wrong we will always make it right.
15/ What do you have planned for the future of Mae B Online?
Creating a true lifestyle brand is the future of Mae B. I want our customer to get more out of their experience with Mae B than making a purchase. We’re a stationery brand. People come to us to purchase gift and cards for special occasions. Why not show them how to plan and host the same occasion they’re attending? My mom is always making floral arrangements, hosting a party, or decorating our home for a holiday. I want to share that knowledge with our customer.
Any Closing Remarks you would like to share?
I have really enjoyed this interview. If there are any budding #girlbosses that read this and decide they have questions they can always reach out to me. I love talking about my experience as an entrepreneur.
They can e-mail me and I am happy to talk with them.
Do you know someone killing the entrepreneur movement and giving the name #girlboss a new meaning? Send me an email on who they are and why they should be featured. firstname.lastname@example.org