The 2001 AWIB Entrepreneurial Leadership Award Winner - Mimi So

Mimi So Inc.

Mimi So, born in New York, grew up learning the family jewelry business. Her first taste of the business started at age 12, when she worked at the family owned store on Canal Street, wiping counters, displaying the jewelry, doing jobs for the setters and the polishers, etc.

When Mimi graduated from Parsons School of Design she worked in advertising. Her mother’s sudden illness led her back to the family business and she ended up running the business. During her four years, she introduced new marketing techniques and grew the business. Mimi wanted new challenges and in 1992, she decided to test her abilities by using her savings and going uptown to the “diamond district”, in the West 40’s, to open a shop. Mimi became the first Asian woman to open a store in the “diamond district”, following in the footsteps of her mother, who, a generation ago, was the first Asian woman in the jewelry business in the downtown jewelry corridor of Canal Street and the Bowery.

As an unknown person uptown, Mimi thought “what would make me different and stand out?” She knew that her creativity combined with her honest, knowledgeable and personable service, would make her special. Initially, vendors did not want to do business with her and they would come in, give her a card and say, “tell your boss to call me”. As time went on, working 7 days a week, her creative jewelry designs resulted in referrals to an international clientele.

Finally, in 1993, her big break came when David Bowie and Iman commissioned her to design jewelry for their wedding. Since that time, the Mimi So brand has continued to grow and her designs have been featured in dozens of magazines. Mimi So jewelry is fashionable and au coutre and her clients include business executives, movie stars and music industry movers and shakers. Her clients are such people as Halle Berry, Destiny’s Child, Julianne Moore, Marcia Gay Harden, Joan Allen, Jessica Simpson, Cristina Aguilera, Ricky Martin, Courtney Love and Naomi Campbell.

In September 2001, Neiman Marcus sought her out for their precious jewelry section and Mimi So will debut in the Beverly Hills and San Francisco stores in the coming months. With sales last year of $5 million and good prospects of stronger than ever 2001 sales, Mimi So competes with Van Clef, Harry Winston and Tiffany’s. It only requires one look at her beautiful jewelry to understand how very competitive she is.

Her advice to women entrepreneuers is “pursue your dreams and don’t give up, even when everything looks impossible. Don’t lose sight of why you are in business and remain focused”.

Married just one year ago, Mimi adorns herself with her beautiful creations and is the picture of professional elegance.

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