Chinese-American businessman Mikey Wu is the founder and CEO of MIKOL, a lifestyle accessory company utilizing natural marble products to promote green living, wellness, and happiness.
Mikey began his career as a real estate broker at Keller Williams in Walnut Creek, while still attending Acalanes High School as a senior. After his studies at university, he moved to Beijing, China to start a trading company called HMS which evolved into a marble and granite supply company.
The company developed a shatterproof ultra-thin marble processing technology to promote green living. Unfortunately, the concept was ahead of its time in a traditional industry. In 2015, Mikey created a lifestyle accessory brand called MIKOL to raise awareness directly with the public about this technology through well-designed products. The brand encompassed his ideals of green living, wellness, and happiness which then lead to his lifestyle consultant role.
StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Mikey to discuss his journey to entrepreneurship and here’s what went down:
Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business?
I started off in the manufacturing sector working in Asia and the U.S. At the time, everyone was talking about the amazing growth opportunities in China, so I went not too long after university. Yes, there was incredible growth in the country, but it wasn’t as easy as everyone made it to be. I struggled with trading anything that anyone wanted and eventually found a steady stream of income through construction materials. Construction materials became my stepping stone to creating a brand called MIKOL in the e-commerce/branding sector. The new team and skills I learned from creating a brand, lead to a starting a digital marketing agency to help other companies as well. I really enjoy the process and the people I’m fortunate to meet through business. So I like to call the world my playground because I am able to connect with people through the businesses I built and enjoy what life brings to me.
Can you describe your journey to success?
I still don’t find myself successful because there is always another goal to reach and more to do. As mentioned, I started off with trading (someone wanted a product and I found a manufacturer to provide that product) which allowed me to be exposed to different types of businesses as a fresh graduate. There really wasn’t a formula at that time. It was a trial and error phase. But I was young, so I figured, even if I crashed and burned, I can always go back to the US and get a decent paying job. I eventually gained enough experience, knowledge, and channels of opportunity that I started to realize there was a bit of a formula to all this.
What is your main source of income?
The main source of income is now my brand MIKOL
What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?
Still building the brand through proper SEO, digital marketing strategies that are constantly changing. We also do trade shows to find clients that need customization and OEM work with natural stones.
What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness?
Instagram is still our favorite for brand awareness. Recently working with Tiktok users has shown benefits. Pinterest does decently for new users.
What is your experience with paid advertising, like PPC or sponsored content campaigns? Does it work?
Facebook ads still perform the best overall. If we are launching a new product, getting media coverage really helps with a boost to get it going.
What is your main tactic when it comes to making more people aware of your brand and engaging your customers? How did your business stand out?
I didn’t start with a big budget when I was growing the business. And even though the business does well, we still can’t compete with the larger brands on the market yet. My favorite tactic is to be different, be a little whacky. For instance, our most popular item is the Spanish marble iPhone 11 pro max case. I’m sure the majority of the people will think why the heck do I need a marble iPhone case. But the small niche group that loves the look and feel of real marble will want it and support it. And because most people think it’s crazy, the media loves it and gets good attention on social media as well. An even better example is we are the only ones to provide real marble business cards. You must think why, who would buy that, it’s nuts. But surprisingly, it’s one of our top sellers as well. If we told you, we have the best paper quality business card in the world. Would most people care to hear more? But if someone handed you a marble business card, you are thinking is this real? What does this guy do? Where did he get this? What is the story to this…..and that story is how we get our business to standout.
What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?
The best marketing is creating the perfect product and story for the press. Press coverage gets us the most attention and business.
How did your brand stand out from the rest of the other brands out there that is similar to your niche?
Well, at the time, we were the only ones doing what we did with natural stones. Now there are a few companies that have create something similar. But the biggest difference is that we produce the products ourselves, so we have freedom and control to adjust and also create other items our competitors can’t. The customization is a huge factor as well.
What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?
The toughest decision would be to slow down spending when you’re trying to grow. But with the Covid-19, there are a lot of uncertainties, so I’m being a bit more conservative this time around.
What money mistakes have you made along the way that others can learn from (or something you’d do differently)?
I think any company going through the growth phase will go through a lot of trials and errors testing different marketing tactics. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose a bit of money, but in the long run, you become better and earn what you’ve lost back.
What have you learned in the process of entrepreneurship that others can learn from?
I’m a big believer in trial and error and learning from your mistakes. I have a lot of friends that always talk about wanting to start a business, but too afraid to leave their comfortable paying job. And I get it, it’s super scary, but if you never try, you’ll never know. And if you never hit road blocks, you’ll never grow.
What new business would you love to start?
I’d like to try and do something service related since I’ve dealt with products and manufacturing my entire life. And I really enjoy working with people. My partner Marco and I have been talking about starting an entrepreneur club for the Asia region as of now. Both him and I have been in Asia for over ten years with many other expat friends. It’s a great community as we tend to be each other’s, support group. So we figured, why not grow this into an actual organization for other new comers wanting to start, grow, expand their business abroad.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?
I would get into the e-commerce business earlier. It was much easier to grow and a lot less competition. Also, there is a lot more to learn and adapt to, whereas the manufacturing sector doesn’t change as fast.
If you could go back in a time machine to the time when you were first making a name for yourself, what advice would you give yourself?
You’ve got this, don’t hold back and hit them harder!
Do you have any favorite business-related or personal development related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?
Great question. The first business related book I read was in high school, and it was rich dad poor dad by Robert Kiyosaki. I think his books are great for people starting off in the business world and getting a sense of the “business mind”. Others I enjoy are Simon Sinek and Seth Godin.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Whatever you do, make it top notch.
What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
If you are 60 – 70% sure of your plan, just go for it. By the time you wait till your 100% ready, you might have lost your window of opportunity or you have that 30% chance you’ll psych yourself out.