• I Quit My Job, Ma!

    0 comments / Posted on by Phuong Mai

    “So we came to America for you to make backpacks?” That was the quizzical look my Vietnamese mother gave me when I told her that I was leaving my company and pursuing an unknown path to design women’s backpacks.

    Of course, reaching that decision wasn’t easy. The soul-searching process doesn’t usually happen with the fanfare of epiphany, but rather through a bit of introspection, a heap of courage and a dash of craziness. I always wanted to start my own business and create something from scratch. If not now, then when?

    For the last five years, I spent most of my time problem solving for companies as a consultant. Now was the time to be selfish. I decided to tackle a personal frustration that I’d experience for many years: create a functional and chic solution to carry my stuff.

    The idea first came to me when I had a conversation I had with my doctor years ago. “You know, your collarbone is a bit misaligned…I think it’s because of your shoulder bag,” she said. Appalled, I realized that wearing a backpack with two straps was better for posture and equal weight distribution.

    Fast forward a few years, and I found myself quitting a stable career and saying goodbye to client calls and cross-country commutes. I inhaled a renewed sense of freedom and clarity, as delicious as a Sunday afternoon nap. I started talking to friends and industry experts, organized a focus group of women, and began creating sketches and mood boards. I moved from research, to designing and testing concepts, to finally creating a product that I’m proud of.

    The journey is only beginning—punctuated with moments of doubt and small victories—but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. So here’s to the women who dare to ask “why not now?” Here’s to the thinkers and doers. Here’s to building tomorrow, today.

    Phuong, founder P.MAI