Hi, I’m Sinae, the co-founder of HMNKIND. First of all, thank you for supporting us and reading the journal! Our HMNKIND community is small but growing, so I wanted to share more about ourselves, as well as start the new year with some of the biggest lessons we are taking from 2020 and how we intend to move into 2021.
My husband and I are partners, in life and in business. We met as blind dates at a high school dance when we were 14 but without cell phones to take things to the next level, nothing blossomed until 8 years later as graduating seniors at the University of Texas. After graduation, we moved back to Houston (where we had grown up) to start our respective careers in consulting. Our partnership solidified over thousands of miles of tandem bike riding, and we got married at the age of 26.
We don’t have a ton of traditions together, but New Year’s Day is one where we do take extra time to reflect on our past year and share our intentions for the new year. It is a refreshing time for us to focus on growing and gratitude. We are blessed to say that every year there was always more to be thankful for.
One of these New Years, we decided we’d quit our jobs and try something new. Steven and I were itching to start a small business, and after brainstorming through different business ideas, we were offered an opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship by gaining experience under my aunt and uncle in the apparel industry in Los Angeles. My parents were immediately supportive whereas Steven’s parents were a bit hesitant. Steven had just earned a promotion and hefty raise, and it didn’t make sense to them that he should walk away from a successful career. We saw a bigger value in investing in ourselves, and we made the move.
We wound down our lives in Houston and drove into California, July 2015. As life would have it, we were also pregnant with our first child! Another 4 months later, I was now in my 3rd trimester and launching a new apparel brand in partnership with my aunt.
Over the past 5 years, we worked on A-Z of the apparel business: product development, sourcing and vendor relationships, sales and marketing, shipping and logistics and being an employer. We also learned how to be parents, had a second child and moved Steven’s parents to LA (we desperately needed their help).
The challenges were non-stop; it never felt like the ship was sailing a smooth course. But it was really fun because we were growing. It was easy to dig ourselves deep into the business and to work 60+ hours a week wasn’t any different than what we were doing in our past careers. But the business started to struggle in 2019. We were growing over 75% year over year for the first 3 years of our business. We felt that investing in sales, marketing, and logistics would be an easy formula to continue that growth. Unfortunately, none of it panned out. We had spent significantly more money and didn’t grow our business. One of the biggest takeaways from this period was realizing that we invested in infrastructure and building systems, but we didn’t continue to invest in the customer. Our focus went mostly internal and ultimately, our connection with the customer weakened.
In December of every year I create a business plan for the following year. In December 2019, Plan A for 2020 was cut way back. Cut back 50% on all costs and learned to operate within a simpler structure with lesser means. It was the harder path. It would have meant laying people off and facing the fact that our past leadership decisions had failed. Plan B was simple in that it was to make more sales. Make more sales to make up for the increased costs. We made the wrong decision again and went with Plan B. With the pandemic hitting us in March, Plan B came to a screeching halt. It was a flurry of canceled orders from our buyers big and small and production and shipping challenges as factories closed down. We were now forced to cut back as our sales were down over 70%.
We still feel like one of the lucky ones to have gotten this far with our business. Steven and I don’t believe that the apparel industry is dead; it’s just making a hard pivot. We’re hoping it goes into more sustainable and meaningful design, and we’re looking forward to reconnecting with our customer and striving to add value in their life.
We started producing cotton masks in April, and this was our first step into taking action in giving back 10% to the community. We were able to donate over $10,000 in combined cash and masks to our local homeless shelter as well as thousands of masks to children in underserved communities. That sparked a new hope and purpose for us. We had always wanted to give back a portion of our business to building up communities. Ironically, we finally gave back when we had the least, and it has been an important turning point of taking what we feel like is the right step into our future.
Also, in our darkest and lowest point, we had to dig deep into our values as everything else seemed to be out of our control. By re-establishing what our purpose was and defining why we show up and put in the hours, Steven and I realized that we were so busy “growing a business” for the past 5 years that we lost touch with the original intention we had with starting our business. We wanted to make a difference and that is when we launched HMNKIND in September 2020. We felt the HMNKIND antibacterial performance mask was the best mask we had ever worn and after testing it to confirm it was indeed more breathable and more protective than a 3-ply cotton mask, it was the right product at the right time. By launching HMNKIND, we have a business that has Giving Back and Kindness rooted in its DNA.In 2021, our goals for HMNKIND are:
- Make a difference with intentional Acts of Kindness–small and big.
- Continue 10% Give Back of all sales to support humankind. Our 2020 non-profit partner was Color of Change. 2021 Partner to be announced soon!
- Partner with our growing influencer community to launch "Small Acts of Kindness" program
- Expand our give back program to Canada as we launch HMNKIND in Canada
- Offer essential workers discount programs on products.
- Fine-tune recycling program for HMNKIND masks and for our overall operations
- Connect, learn and grow with the HMNKIND Community
- Launch our Fit App to help you find the Perfect Fit for the HMNKIND Mask Expand into new product categories
- To lead with diligence, grace and care.
- Be intentional in my self-care (who wants to join me in the 5 AM club?)
- Healthy delivery and post-partum (I’m pregnant with baby #3 and she’s due in May!)
- Mother my children with warmth, kindness and love
If you’ve gotten this far, then I hope that what I’ve shared today encourages you to remember to stay rooted in your values and to continue to invest in yourself. The pandemic cannot take away your dreams and your sense of purpose. You’ve made it this far and that counts. All of us can make a difference.