I recently caught up with co-owner and marketing mastermind behind Boston co-retail space For Now, Kaity Cimo. She runs the space with friend and business partner Katharine ReQua. They opened a year ago and have played home to over 80 brands in that time.
Be True to Yourself and Get Genuine Followers: Mannix and Co – Real Talk No Junk
Mannix and Co makes funky kids streetwear. It is the brainchild of Zoe, who came up with the idea when she was looking for clothes to dress her own kids in. She didn’t want to go to the same chain stores as everyone else, and started following small brands online. They also make fun earrings.
She is a self-taught business woman–from making the product to marketing and social to bookkeeping, she’s learnt everything on the fly. Pete sat down with Zoe to find out more about the business and how she juggles small biz with a busy life.
Pete: How did Mannix and Co come about?
Zoe: Before my eldest child was born five years ago, I was oblivious to the amazing world of small business. Once she was born I was always looking for something different, I didn’t want to shop where everyone else did.
By baby number 2, I was insta-savvy and had locked down some favourite brands. My favourite part of it all was knowing that behind that small website, or purchase I was supporting someone with a little biz, and a dream!
The more I became involved, the more my interest sparked, it wasn’t a case of thinking ‘oh yeah I can do that’, it was wanting to show the world the things I had been bursting to have my kids in head to toe!
Pete: When did you launch?
Zoe: About two years ago.
I was wandering around Spotlight one day and found fabric paint and thought, I’ve got a really cool idea and I’ll make a little gift for my friends’ boys. I made two shirts–hand stencilled with painters tape stuck to the shirt and I painted them in this real graffiti style. It sort of just spiralled from there.
I put it up on another page and it just went nuts. I had a few friends that I’ve sort of met through Instagram that had businesses that said, “You’ve got to do something with this now before someone else does it.” You know, anyone can do it. It’s not like, it was just something new. So, within like two months I think I registered the ABN and the business name all that sort of stuff which wasn’t Mannix and Co. at the start. It was a really terrible business name like really, really bad and that lasted a month!
Pete: I love that you’re not volunteering that name, and I’m not even going to push you on it! So, with the business you wear a bunch of different hats: production, marketing and everything else. Did you get any specific training or just learn on the job?
Zoe: Haha! Yeah, and there’s probably a few parts that I’m not so great at but literally everything within my business is self-taught: the design, the making, the bookwork, the marketing–the whole lot!
Pete: So, did you have a creative outlet before the business?
Zoe: I’d make presents, cards, invites. I’d sit around and just draw. Well, I can’t draw but I can letter okay so I’d practice writing.
Pete: Is there a formula for you that works in terms of new product?
Zoe: In short, no. I make what I like. When I first started, I made what I thought people would want and to be honest it sold well but I didn’t love it as much. When I did a bit of the screen printing I loved it, I loved the product. I put out a sneak peek (on social)–it went bananas and I thought ‘this is going to make me millions!’ Well, I didn’t sell a unit. I had ordered bulk and I was like well there’s all my money.
Now, I do exactly what I want and that may have resulted in less sales but it’s been easier for me to create and no try to think what people are looking for. Yeah, there’s no real formula. I do I have a bit of a flow in each range–the next one is just a bit more about positivity.
Pete: You also work part-time and have a young family – where do you fit the time for your business in?!
Zoe: Well I work two nights, one weekend morning. I have to learn to prioritize because it was to the point where I was constantly run down and it wasn’t working. So, I just had to find better ways to make things happen and get stuff done.
Pete: How do you manage social, are you a planner?
Zoe: I’m trying to get better at planning–having a real look and flow to it. I think time is the biggest factor, finding that time to think ‘How do I really want it to look?’ and ‘What do I really want it to say?’ is probably the hardest thing for me. I can produce the images. Before I had a business, I was a hobby photographer so images are not the issue–it’s finding the time to do it.
I don’t currently have brand reps or anything. I’ve just put up a new search for brand reps–but that’s a whole other ballgame. I’m working on having a better visuals because I think that’s what entices people to buy.
Pete: Have you done any paid advertising?
Zoe: A few Facebook ads, that’s about it. I probably need to learn more about those. I need to put a whole lot of time into the backend really. As I gradually get better with processes of my production side that’ll give me more time for that backend–which the backend probably should be the priority!
Pete: There’s always something new to learn, I think it’s a case of getting your house in order and learning deliberately when you have some brain space to learn. If you could offer a piece of advice to someone thinking about starting a small business what would that be?
Zoe: To be true to yourself. It sounds as corny as heck but if you do what’s true to you, if people don’t like it that’s fine. That was what I had to really get used to. Not everyone is going to like it and that’s okay but just do what you love. Don’t try and please the masses.
Pete: Feel like a great time for me to throw some quickfire questions at you!
What’s your website built using and do you like it?
Zoe: Shopify. I don’t like the cost. But the functionality and the ease of use, yeah.
Pete: Do you have a favorite work app?
Zoe: I’m a big fan of Canva. If I need a quick graphic, if I need to pop something out, so they don’t look you know like everybody else’s.
Pete: Do you track things like conversion rates, Google Analytics?
Zoe: None of the above!
Pete: What’s the best thing you ever did to get more followers and sales?
Zoe: Probably participating in the right collabs and giveaways. I’m a real nutjob on genuine following. There are a couple of other businesses in the same space as me who started the same time as me and they have 10K plus followers now. But they’re also constantly doing those loops. I haven’t got time for those to start with and I don’t think that they bring a genuine following to you.
I’m always pretty picky, especially because I use photos of my own children on my social media too, and other children too. So, I like to be able to have somewhat of a screening of my following making sure not too many slip through the cracks. Picking the right things to participate in has really helped.
Pete: Who’s your ideal customer?
Zoe: It’s a laid-back parent who just wants comfy, trendy clothes for their kids. Someone who’s not too worried about it but just wants a quality product that looks really cool.
Pete: How many unread emails do you have in your inbox?
Zoe: Zero. I’m an email freak. I can’t handle it. If there is one there, I’ve got to find out what it is. Then it’s spam and you’re like ugh.
Pete: I’m going to ask you to screenshot the homepage of your phone and show us. So is there anything you would like to explain?
Zoe: Mine is pretty basic. Things I use every day, multiple times a day: Facebook, Instagram, IGTV, emails, photos, messenger.
Pete: Do you do IGTV yourself?
Zoe: No. I don’t even watch it but I’ve got it there for when it becomes big.
Thanks a lot for your time Zoe!
Here at Ampjar we love seeing what we can learn from our awesome clients. Here are Pete’s big takeaways that we learned from chatting to Zoe today.
- You don’t always get it right the first time. Mannix and Co started out under a different name that Zoe says was really bad. She won’t even tell us what it is! Sometimes take two–or take ten –is when you’ll hit the jackpot.
- Don’t try and please the masses. Zoe says “You can’t cater to everyone. Not everyone is going to like it and that’s okay but just do what you love.”
- Running a business can be an ongoing learning process. Zoe says she’s got better at things with time, for example doing custom orders is now much more straightforward as she knows what questions to ask at the beginning.
Join Ampjar to find your best customers
The five P’s of marketing is the old school rule book for making sales; What Product? marketed where? (Place) at what Price? with what message? (Promotion) to who? (People) Brands would put up billboards, TV ads, newspaper ads, and now digital ads to
Two months ago, I left home and my young family (for 2 months) to join one of the highest regarded business accelerators in the world in a city a long way from home. A city that has the highest concentration of venture funding,