Discovering P.MAI women’s bag brand
After introducing you to some of our favorite children’s fashion brands, we have spoken to Phuong Mai who stands behind the bag brand P.MAI. Phuong tells us about how she got started, where you can find her comfortable yet incredibly elegant backpacks in stores and what she has planned for the future.
“As a professional woman, I wanted to feel polished yet comfortable wherever I was going — whether on my commute or out to dinner.”
However, I dreaded carrying my heavy tote and clunky laptop bag. The weight on one shoulder led to regrettable injuries, and my doctor advised me to change my bag. I knew a backpack would be a smarter option, but grew frustrated when I couldn’t find one that truly combined form and function. Backpacks were either too masculine, too sporty, too casual or fashionable but not appropriate for work. I knew there had to be a better solution.
I decided quit my corporate job and launch my own brand with a simple philosophy: combine luxury and utility into products that inspire women to look and feel their best. I believe women should not have to sacrifice comfort for style. That’s why we’ve designed a bag that is both fashionable and comfortable, so women don’t have to choose between the two.
I named our first collection after this historical town of Valletta, Malta. There’s something powerful and alluring about its resiliency and colorful riches. Our Valletta backpack represents the strength and beauty that comes from understanding ones’ roots and fighting for what you believe in. That’s who we are. We celebrate each other’s cultural diversities, and we stand unafraid and unbridled by what tomorrow brings.
How have you developed your company?
It’s hard to separate myself from an eponymous brand; therefore, much of the brand’s values are an extension of my personality—its desire to seek adventure, its sense of nerdy humor, its curiosity to understand the world. It’s a risk, of course, but it’s the easiest way for me to stay authentic.
As for my personal connections and travels, I take every interaction and travel experience with me wherever I go, and they certainly inform my business decisions. Many of my travels inspired the design of our products,, and I wouldn’t be where I am if not for the support of my friends, family, and folks I’ve met along the way. It’s important to be open-minded and hungry to learn as an entrepreneur because you never know who you might meet.
We’re gearing up for our first tradeshow next month in Los Angeles. Partnering with other complementary brands and influencers is also helpful in promoting the brand—whether through pop-ups, giveaways, or events.
Where do you sell your bags right now?
We’re available online, at our own site, Amazon, and with online boutiques. We’re currently exploring opportunities with some major traditional retailers as well. I like to think that we’re the relationship business as much as we are in the bag business. Being an entrepreneur often requires you to put pride aside and have the gumption to do a lot of cold-calling in hopes of building relationships. I often rely on my own network as well to introduce me to other people, who may in turn introduce me to someone who we ultimately work with. It costs nothing to reach out to people, and yet can yield game-changing results. All you need is one “yes” in a sea of “no’s.”
Do you use any tools in communication with your retailers or customers?
Social media is an effective way to engage with consumers by highlighting what makes you unique through content and direct communication. Of course, you have to be strategic about it. With limited resources, it might not make sense to be on every single platform. You have to know where your target audience is and use the content and medium that brings the most ROI for your brand.
There’s a big trend for video content, where 74% of all internet traffic is predicted to be video by next year. Would YouTube, Snapchat, or Instagram be right for your brand? There are so many tools out there to help automate and schedule content too, such as Later or Hootsuite. Whatever you do, stick to a story/theme so that people can start to recognize your brand.
What are your plans for the future?
We hope to continue to bring more fashionable and functional products to women. As you know, we feature P.MAI pioneers—strong female leaders who we hope will inspire others to take risks and follow their dreams. We’re thankful to this special tribe and believe we, as women, have so much to gain when we support each other. I think our pioneers inspire us to tackle whatever lies ahead, and we hope to share that same courage with others.