By Davie & Chiyo
Posted on February 01 2011
My name is Fumi and I am the owner, director, manager and designer for Davie & Chiyo. Yes, it does seem like I carry a heavy load my shoulders but it’s really not as crazy as it sounds (most of the time). With all that I take on in a single day, I think I can officially add “superhero multitasker” to my job description as well! Depending on where we are in the wedding season, I could be running around like a chicken with my head chopped off, answering emails, buying fabric, arranging orders, dropping off packages, (I could go on...) or I could be trying to keep busy while impatiently waiting for my first sale of the week. This business definitely has its ups and downs.
Now for how it all began. You may have read some bits and pieces on the blog and in interviews but this is the tale in its entirety, straight from the horse’s mouth.
It was the summer of 2008. Fresh from business school, I was edgy and restless. I was working as a waitress at a Japanese bistro to pass the time and pay the bills but was constantly scouring the net for something I could call my career. Despite my efforts, nothing was working. Maybe my resume was not convincing, I wasn’t looking for the right jobs, or maybe my heart just wasn't quite in it... but whatever the reason, nothing was happening.
One day late in the summer fate knocked on my door – something caught my eye. (To set the scene, a brief intro to my sister, Himi, who you’ll meet in the coming weeks.) Himi was a stay at home mom with an infant and a one year old. To help pass the time, she started a shop on Etsy, selling a variety of knitted hats and fabric granny bags. Sales were nothing spectacular (a few a week) but it kept her interested. Honestly, I was never very involved or interested in what she was doing with her shop but when she listed that purple brocade clutch, my interest was piqued. It was something I actually wanted and made me think, “If I want it, so will a million of other people.”
The next day, I went to see my sister about a clutch. I started talking and talking... and talking about the clutch for the next month. My mind was racing, rolling and tumbling all at once! First I couldn't stop talking about how amazing this little clutch was, then about its selling potential, then about a shop that could sell so many different kinds of these clutches. I’m not sure if it was my amazingly convincing argument or that my sister just wanted to shut me up but my sister finally agreed to start a business with me.
Three months later in November 2008, the Davie & Chiyo brand was created. The company was incorporated, the webshop was launched and our Etsy shop was up and running. The thing about me is that when I get excited, I lose all patience and cannot wait. I want to make things happen in an instant and won’t wait a second more. It definitely gets things rolling but it also makes me jump into many, many, MANY things head first. I may have incorporated without consulting a lawyer, bought a domain for a name that was not finalized (which led to me re-purchasing another domain), and ordered a thousand labels, only to change the design and re-order a 1000 more, however, with one right move for every ten mistakes, things managed to move forward.
The first year was a struggle, and truly nothing can prepare you for the entrepreneurial roller-coaster. I have to say that that first year brought out the worst in me and 2009 was definitely not the proudest of my 25 years of existence. With a business of only two, my sister and I definitely took out our stresses on each other. Although we had outgrown our hair-pulling days, we weren’t afraid to scream and yell until we completely disowned each other on a number of occasions. As cheesy as it sounds, sisterly love prevailed but something still had to be done about the situation. I am a risk-taker and she is risk averse, so you can see how things would often unfold. I would keep coming up with crazy ways to spend money in hopes of a bigger payout, and she wanted to take baby steps.
To save our friendship (and ourselves from a few heart attacks) we began to restructure the company. I became the sole owner of Davie & Chiyo, while Himi would become my employee. I had a hard time accepting this in the beginning, thinking that I was taking everything when Himi was the one who first produced that purple clutch that started it all. However, it just made sense for the both of us; she didn’t want the stress and burden of a business, and really just wanted a part-time job with a steady income so she could concentrate on being a mom. As I began to accept her decision, I realized that maybe this was the only thing that was going to keep this business on its feet.
In came 2010 and it was busy! Slowly but surely our designs evolved to fit the bridal market and we were getting noticed. Although our clutches could be customized for every occasion, the bridal market was our biggest customer. Our big moment came in late June when our Bow Clutch was featured on the website and in the pages of Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, and our sales skyrocketed.
I could go on and on about our successes in 2010 and our plans for 2011 but why ruin the surprise?
So now that you know every detail of the past two years of my life, you’re probably wondering “Who’s the woman behind the business?” Well, I’m not all business, believe it or not. I don’t spend all 24 hours of my day slaving away in the Davie & Chiyo workshop; I sleep for a few hours here and there, and lead what some may call an actual life. *gasp*
A little bit about me: I am half Japanese and half English. Although my childhood was spent in Japan, being as Japanese as the next kid, I do consider myself pretty much Canadian now. I guess you could say that I did all of my “growing up” and “self discovery” here... Eh! (Kidding, we don’t punctuate ALL of our sentences like that, okay!) When I’m not being the D&C superhero multitasker and can step away from my Blackberry for a few moments, you’ll find me taking full advantage of the amazing Vancouver outdoors – running, rollerblading and snowboarding – and when the rain becomes too unbearable I’ll hit the yoga studio or skating rink.
Aside from my active lifestyle, my two favourite things: My cats and anything home and garden. You’ve probably already mumbled ‘crazy cat lady’ to yourself but who could resist kittens! I have two cats (Tequila and Pepper) in my studio/mom's kitchen that I love as if they were my babies. They couldn’t be happier in the studio with a constant supply of string, fabric and scraps. I’ve learned to really hold on to my fabric, as anything dropped on the floor is instantly transformed into a mischievous mouse that is prime for catching and chasing. When I’m not being entertained by two felines, I’m glued to ANYTHING home and garden. So all of those magazines and TV shows with kitchens, home makeovers, cooking, baking and crafting, I’m all over it! You name it, I love it. My all time favourite design show: Divine Design by Candice Olsen. Utterly amazing!
And how does a superhero multitasker/entrepreneur/cat wrangler dress? Well, I don't know if what I end up wearing actually translates to this but I would say that I’m classic and casual chic. Realistically though, the 'casual' tends to take over the others (can you blame me?) but whenever there is a time and a place for it, I love to dress up. My style icon is definitely Audrey Hepburn (I know, get in line) but she is the epitome of classic elegance, and who wouldn’t want that?!?
Well I think this bed time story is getting a little long, so sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite!