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Life & Business

Life & Business: Julie Pinzur of Mokuyobi

by Sabrina Smelko

Life & Business: Julie Pinzur of Mokuyobi

Julie Pinzur lives for and loves the little things in life that put a smile on your face. A perpetual self-starter and celebrator of individuality, Julie’s first foray into a creative business started in seventh grade, where she honed her sewing skills in Home Ec and sold handmade bags and goods to her friends. While studying illustration and fashion design at Parsons, Julie spent a semester abroad in Tokyo, and it was in the midst of a Japanese language class that her business, Mokuyobi, began to bloom.

Based out of Los Angeles, CA, Mokuyobi offers bags, hats, patches and accessories with a focus on functionality, uniqueness and “ultimate radness.” Meaning “Thursday” in Japanese, Mokuyobi‘s philosophy is that there is always something to look forward to: that there’s always a Friday around the corner. “Whether it’s Thursday, your buddy’s party, vacation time, or a hot date, there are always good things coming that spark excitement,” Julie explains, “And we strive to create that same spark in you when your Mokuyobi package arrives.” Julie, like many, believes what you buy and what you wear is an extension of your self-expression and a symbol of your identity, and it’s this sentiment that goes into every piece she designs. Today, the exuberant Julie is joining us to share her thoughts on entrepreneurship, the inner workings of her company and products, and her honest opinion of the good, bad and nitty-gritty of running your own business. –Sabrina

Why did you decide to start your own business, versus work for someone else?

I was always a self-starter. I thrive [in] taking direction from myself. Excelling in my own light fuels my fire and I couldn’t have it any other way.

Can you remember when you first learned about your field of work? How did you discover what it was and how you knew it was what you wanted to do? 

I actually didn’t know a career in art was possible until I already went to a small liberal arts school to study psychology. By my second semester I changed my major to Studio Art, which the college thankfully offered. I had no idea that art schools existed and I didn’t know that starting your own business was something you could do. I always just figured you had to choose from what was already out there and I was relatively unaware of the illustration and art world.

I learned how to use a sewing machine in Home Economics in seventh grade and honed my sewing skills throughout high school making presents for friends, and continued sewing and designing more complicated constriction techniques with clothing and bags throughout college as a hobby. But [I] never drew or had my own illustrative voice until I transferred to Parsons to study Illustration and Fashion Design three years after starting college. Between transferring, I studied abroad in Tokyo for a semester. Right before studying abroad, my path became clear to me and I started planning my first steps to starting Mokuyobi. The name was inspired by my introductory Japanese language classes. Mokuyobi means “Thursday” in Japanese, which is my favorite day of the week, and I loved how it brought to mind the concept of time, anticipation, and looking forward to something while simultaneously sounding cool.

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What was the most difficult part of starting your business?

The most difficult part was learning all about the fashion industry and understanding the timeline of when seasonal line launches occur. At wholesale trade shows, buyers are coming to see your collection that will be launching in six months so they can place their order and you will have time to produce it to deliver on time. This means that you’re designing everything a year in advance and have to be constantly planning ahead. It can feel like I’m living in the future and can be surreal at times, but once you get into the motions of it, you are able to forecast more and plan your line for the types of stores and customers that you want to sell to, while also expanding and growing within the brand.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?

If it’s your true passion, you’ve got to stick with it. I see other people with 9-5 jobs that come home from work and can relax and hang out with their friends, and that’s such a strange concept to me, since I’m working all the time and on weekends. I’ve romanticized the thought of working for another company and being able to come home and relax, but realistically I’m such a workaholic with such a make-it-happen personality that even if I worked a 9-5, I would feel unfulfilled if I came home and wasn’t working on some creative project at night. The lesson I’ve learned is that the only person responsible for your success when you run your own business is you. And if you truly want it, you will make it happen.

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Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences that you learned from or that helped you improve your business or the way you work?

The first time I had a product mass produced I worked with a small family-run company in Indiana. This was a completely new experience for me, since I was producing all of the products before then by myself, assembly-line style, making six backpacks at a time. I raised $25k through Kickstarter to fund it, and I certainly didn’t know what I was getting into. The production took way longer than I anticipated and having no timeline to judge it by, I ended up having some disgruntled Kickstarter backers on my hands. I also realized how on top of production and how specific construction details have to be to end up with the product that you dreamed up in the beginning. It’s never perfect, but it’s amazing to see my designs realized without me having to make each product.

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If you were magically given 3 more hours per day, what would you do with them?

Cross just a few more things off of my to-do list! It always feels like I’m about to catch up, but then a thousand other things pile on. It’s been great having employees to delegate tasks to.

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business?

It has definitely been my personal relationships. Even back in high school, I would be more likely to be at home sewing instead of hanging out with friends — although I got my fair share of hanging in, it definitely kept me out of trouble and also propelled me into my interest at a young age. In college, it was easy to be social and be a workaholic since everyone lives so close on campus. As I got older and more serious about developing my brand, I spent more time at home working than out being social, but always made an effort to attend events to network. Working all the time has led me to develop a close-knit group of business-minded friends who understand that running your own business is a 24-7 job, but like everything, it’s a balance and you have to make time to see the people who are important to you.

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Can you name your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your business experiences?

Being able to start a business from scratch — and really develop it into exactly what I want it to be — has been a huge success. I can still hardly believe where it has gotten to, and I love working towards making it grow even further!

What business books/resources would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?

You could read books about business all day, but the only thing that will really teach you is hands-on, first-person experience; whether that’s working for someone else in a similar field and learning the ropes, or just jumping into it on your own. Nothing will prepare you better than that. Then again, I was never much of a reader.

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In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?

Number one is definitely to be a trailblazer. Fill a hole in a market or make something that doesn’t already exist. People will be much more interested in your product if it is truly unique or if it solves a problem that has not yet been solved.

Two is making sure you have the funding to realize your idea and plan accordingly.

Three is always to work hard and have fun!

What’s the first app, website or thing you open/do in the morning?

First things first, right when I wake up — while still lying in bed — I check my email and mentally plan my to-do list for the day based on what wasn’t finished from the day before, along with any new tasks that arose overnight; and then I get to work!

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What’s the hardest thing about being your own boss that isn’t obvious?

The hardest thing is definitely having to do every task yourself, even if it’s something you’re not good at. Having to handle the creative and business side all at once can be very challenging. Customer service, design, packaging orders, managing wholesale accounts, managing production, and more! I recently hired two employees who handle retail orders and wholesale accounts, which lets me focus more on what I love to do, which I’m very grateful for.

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