Updated: Oct 13
Today we are learning from a dear friend of mine, Mimi Ikonn.
She is a woman of many talents and has founded multiple successful businesses such as Luxy Hair which she bootstrapped through to an exit a few years ago, Love Hair, and in more recent years Intelligent Change.
A company that creates products to enrich your life like daily gratitude planners and productivity planners. You might be familiar with their 5 minute journal that is frequently used by people like Tim Ferris and Hailey Bieber and has sold more than a million units worldwide.
I loved our conversation so much, Mimi has a view on business and life that we can all take inspiration from. I hope you loved the episode as much as I do and if you’re feeling generous please do take the time to share this with someone in your life who would benefit, or shout loudly about it on social media! We love it when you do that.
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
Mimi, Hi, welcome to the female startup club podcast. Hi Doone and thank you so much for having me on the show. I'm really happy and excited to be here and to be finally chatting with you on the show because we've been trying to plan this conversation for so long and here we are, finally, here we are. I'm so excited, I'm so happy to have you on the show as you said, it has been a while and we've known each other for a few years so I'm extra excited to get into this today. You are so many things you are, Youtuber, you're an entrepreneur, you have Luxy Hair, you had Love hair, Intelligent Change author, podcaster. What else? Mom. Angel investor. So many things. Superwoman! For those of the audience who don't know who you are just yet. How do you like to introduce yourself and what's your kind of spiel Yeah, this is the part, I guess I struggle with the most is I often don't talk about myself, like when I meet people, I never tell them what I do and um I always asked I'm the one asking the questions, so when people ask me, so what do you do?
00:03:46 I'm like, oh gosh, how do I even begin? But like you mentioned um you know, I've tried a lot of things in my 35 years of life on planet Earth first, obviously working, having jobs and learning through that experience, I think that was really pivotal in my early years, I think for anybody who has a job, you have an opportunity to learn so much of what you like, what you don't like how that businesses ran and you're the employee, like you don't have a control over many things, but once you do have your own business you can do it your way. So you know, I early on in my late teens and early twenties I worked as a waitress and several restaurants in the club, I worked at a bank, even had a small gig working as a nanny that didn't work out for me, but um you know, I had a lot of experience, mostly customer service, because I love people, I love working with people and I learned a ton, and the biggest thing I learned is that freedom was really important to me and I would love to have my own business, then fast forward to my husband and my also business partner Alex one day walking to the bank where I used to work and us becoming really good friends and we connected on so many levels, but most importantly we both had the same vision, we wanted to travel the world, we want to have lots of freedom, flexibility in our lifestyle and we wanted to do our own thing, whatever that was at that point, we weren't yet a couple, but we there was a lot of chemistry because we first I would say even connected on that as friends and kind of you know similar type people and then that became romantic relationship which of course ended up later in a marriage.
00:05:36 But that's a funny story because you know this is how our first business like say here was born is Alex proposed to me at a point in our lives when he got fired from working at a bank, he already probably know the story, he had a side hustle selling cars from us to Russia and it was doing it sometimes during his work hours, you know at the bank they used to work at, this is years ago when we were working at CNBC, this is one of the big four in Canada, we used to live in Toronto before and yeah one day corporate security walked in and they basically told him that they know that he has a side hustle and this is unacceptable and he lost his job like that. It was to him in that moment. It was, yeah, it was a very difficult moment, but it was the best thing that happened because he wanted to be an investment banker and in that moment that dream sort of, you know crashed even though he could have still pursued it, but he realized that you know, when you work in a big corporation, you're just A cog in the machine, nobody really cares who you are, if you break the rules, you're out and at that point, I also wanted to leave the bank.
00:06:48 I never really wanted to be in the bank in the first place. That was my escape route to get out of high school in grade 12, I wanted to just get out, that was kind of Fed up with it. And I found out about core program for anybody who's listening, who's maybe young, you know, this is great because if traditional education is not for you, there are always ways to get credit and work and while you're working, you're learning all this knowledge that can actually apply to what you want to do. So this is how I got out of high school ended up getting stuck at the bank because I had a really great team and it turned out to be um this really incredible experience for me because this is how I met Alex one day, right? So then he gets cleared from the bank. I right away quit because at that point I knew that that's not where I want to work anyways and we were you know, kind of unemployed for maybe about a a year and a half, sort of searching what we want to do with our lives. Both of us knew that we would rather do our own thing, then go back to the corporate again, because once you have a taste of that, if it's not for you, you just know it's more like a bit of over exaggerated, but like a death sentence, you know, for me to be there was like I was constantly having existential panic attacks and thinking like why am I here?
00:08:07 And I think it's so important to connect to that inner intuition and calling just like a relationship with a partner, a relationship with your work should feel good if it doesn't feel good, you're free to leave, you're free to go and do something else. Life is so beautiful and there's so much variety and diversity, you don't have to be stuck in a job or relationship that you don't enjoy. So we ended up, well, so he got fired, ended up quitting the bank, even though it was very much unknown, I knew that I need to step away to do something. So then I went on to actually I'm a college drop out, I didn't cover that part. Again, I think it's an interesting point because, you know, a lot of us grew up thinking that we need education and I'm I'm a big advocate for educating yourself your whole life but education is not something you necessarily need to go to school for. You can do it in many different ways and it's I believe it's something that never really stops for as long as you're alive.
00:09:10 So I ended up quitting my school. I went for international business so I did have an inkling in me that knew that I want to travel and do business. So I went into that program but then I was working two jobs helping my parents pay for the mortgage and I took accounting class and then I realized in that class that you know if I will if I am to pass this class I will need to take some extra help and I really with two jobs, I really couldn't afford that. So I ended up just quitting my school and deciding that one day when I started business I'll just hire an accountant to do everything in the business. And I think that was there was such an important lesson for me, I let go of the attachment that I need to have this piece of paper to be acknowledged as an educated. Good enough woman person doesn't matter. And um so then when Alex got fired and I quit the bank I was looking again for some new area of interest that I could pursue and Alex because he knew me at that point very well, he mentioned that you know, you really love fashion, you're always at that point I had a blog, I was posting my outfits, this is many years ago, way before even Youtube was big, so I started a fashion blog and I went to, I went back to college to get certified as an image consultant.
00:10:3 I did that very quickly. The certification program is something you can do in half a year. It was amazing. It's the first time in my life that I actually enjoyed being educated because I genuinely was really into the topic and it makes such a huge difference. So when I came out of school straight away I started my own practice as a fashion stylist image consultant and I quickly realized that this is not the type of business I was, I want to run again. Such an important, pivotal lesson is that when you are self employed, it's very different than owning a business where you are not, I mean you're running the show, but you're not part of the equation. For example, if you were to go away to on a holiday and you have a shop, an online shop selling, I don't know, vitamins, the business is still gonna run whether you're there or not, you need a customer service person, you need, you know um fulfillment house shipping out the product, but essentially you can outsource yourself out of the business, but if you're an image consultant or if you're a doctor or if you're anybody else who is self employed, you are your business.
00:11:48 And I realized that's not the avenue I want to take very early on. I think it was the first year of that business I was doing well, but again it was very intense labor where I was working from, you know sometimes from six in the morning till eight PM and I realized if I ever want to start a family this is this is not gonna be easy. And then I remember coming to Alex and complaining about it and at the time he was listening was probably one of the first audiobooks. We, we both listened with Alex and it was the again, a really important book in our lives called The Farrah Work Wake. Have you, have you listened to the book or have you read the book? I've read it but a really long time ago and it also changed things in my life from reading it. Yeah, the reason it was such an important book in our lives is because often times many people don't have people in their lives who are doing what they want to be doing and you know, we had an idea of the lifestyle of the dream we wanted to create, but we didn't know anybody who did that.
00:12:53 So we doubted ourselves often, but then you come across a book like for a work week where you can read stories, real life stories of people who are already living, the lifestyle we wanted to be living, and it was so inspirational and so encouraging, and it definitely pushed us in the right direction to pursue our own business now at the time, Alex also decided to propose to me, which was to me at the time, felt like a really crazy decision, but also it fell right in our hearts to just do it, even though we were broke, we didn't know what we're going to do with our lives, but we were full of dreams And I think in your in your early 20s that's sometimes more than enough, and um we had each other, that was probably one of the most exciting times in our lives, and then what ended up happening is for the wedding, I really wanted to get hair extensions and money was tied because we were both kind of self employed, but not really making that much money kind of figuring things out, and then Alex proposes, and I'm thinking planning this destination wedding where you know, everybody pays for their own trip and we just asked everybody to you know, not give us gifts, but their presence would be the gift, but then I still wanted to have a nice dress and you know, do my hair and everything, but very, very frugally, so I buy these clip in hair extensions that you know, I bring home and put it on, and when Alex looked at me, he said, wow, this is really amazing, but what is this product product?
00:14:27 Tell me more, I wasn't happy with the product I bought because it didn't look real, you know, oftentimes with hair extensions, if you have naturally quite thick hair and you don't get a lot of thick hair when you buy it, a lot of it comes like quite a small package and you put in your hair and it just doesn't look real, and that was the case for me, it just didn't blend, didn't look real, I was extremely upset that I wasted, like I think this years ago, maybe probably around $200 in and back then, and I always tell people out of great disappointments or problems, you can create solutions and you can create the business, so this was the, the conception of luxi hair, our first baby, our first business together with Alex that ended up becoming extremely successful and making millions and millions of dollars, and in the end we ended up selling it about three years ago, so um to make the long story short, we went for it, even though we had no experience inherent industry, we didn't know how to market the products at first, but because we were a small team, it was just me and my sister and Alex, we just did everything ourselves, so my sister and I would just made videos showing these hair extensions that you know, Alex found on Alibaba, We got 10 different samples and the first sample we got was incredible.
00:15:52 The here we only work with natural hair, it looked natural, beautiful, thick, and then I didn't want to get excited and then we got nine more samples and they were all horrible. So there was obviously there was hard work in looking for all these products, but also there's an element of luck being at the right time, at the right place, doing the right thing. So then we ended up working with the first factory, the first sample that we ever got that was just incredible, sensational. It was like mermaid hair and made me feel so excited to share that product with our audience. So the way we marketed the products because we didn't have any money whatsoever to spend on anything is just me and my sister making Youtube videos showing people how to use the products, We never even pushed the products or told people that we own the company, It was simply out sitting down and showing girls how to get, you know, victoria's secret ways how to do a fishtail braid and all these different hairstyles. And the company grew in the first year we made our first million, it was really incredible because it was truly a dream come true.
00:16:58 If one thing I remember from my first year of being in college and doing international business is that the first thing they tell you something like 98% of businesses fail in the first two years, like it's so depressing. So I kept thinking to myself, oh my God, we're the, you know, the one, the 2% that survived and not only survived but flourished and we grew and we kept on growing and you know, for the first five years of luxi hair, we only grew organically, we didn't use any facebook ads, no Youtube ads, we didn't pay any social media influencers at the time, we just send it out as gifts and the girls love them and they raved about them and that's how the company grew and yeah, it did really, really well, so that's that's that's the story of the first baby, that's amazing, that's such an incredibly inspiring story, thank you. And of course, yeah, you know, it sounds very exciting and it sounds very effortless, but as you already know, because you've interviewed so many inspiring, hardworking women at the end of the day, there is a lot of work that goes into making a business successful and what I think we did right, is we first identified our values for us.
00:18:15 The reason we're in business or we are still in business is because we value freedom, we need to make calls on what we want to do in life where we are every day, who were with, we want to be in charge of that and to us that's really important. So I would say Alex and I, you know, we've always been business partners, we do together, we are lifestyle entrepreneurs and even let's say with our first business, we could have probably scaled it and grew it to be like a 50 plus million dollar business, but for us that wasn't the goal, the business did incredible, and then we ended up selling it for exactly what we wanted, but for us, that lifestyle part is always incredibly important, so then we moved on to doing what we're doing now, you know, as you already know, we Alex and I were unintelligent change, it's a baby that was created first by Alex and his best friend um you j years ago Many of your listeners probably might have known one of our products, which is the best seller, the five minute journal, and then you jay ended up moving on to do his own thing, and we bought the company over from him and now it's Alex and I basically, you know where the vision and we are, I would say biggest legacy that we want to leave behind with luck, see hair, it was a business that we knew at one point we're gonna sell with intelligent changes, something we genuinely want to, you know, wake up and want to do every single day over our lives and um for those of you who don't know what intelligence changes is, basically, we create tools that make people happier and improve their lives in a in one way or another in different areas of their lives, whether productivity or happiness or mindfulness, so we provide those tools through different journals or you know, we're gonna be launching a range of games that are really cool for getting people closer for having better, deeper relationships.
00:20:10 Yeah, we're doing so many things that are going to be launching in the next year that I'm really excited about. Also we have an app for the five minute journal which as I mentioned, is the best seller. Again, the product came out of a personal, I would say challenge when we became really successful with locks of Hair, you know, I grew I grew up with very little money, same with Alex, we thought when we are going to have financial abundance, all problems will be solved and we're going to be so happy and everything will be perfect, but the reality is in my case, even in the first year of locks of hair, you know, making their first million and me realizing that I can afford to buy anything I want materialistic or travel anywhere I want, I actually became extremely depressed and I realized that in reality I don't want any of these things, I just want to wake up every day knowing getting emotional right now even saying this, knowing that I you know there's a purpose that I'm here for a reason, like I want to feel excited and I want to feel alive and as nice it is to have material things in our lives, These are not the things that make us feel alive and useful in this, in this world at least that that for me was the case, so then you know that was partly why we ended up selling our previous businesses because we just wanted to focus on what makes us the most joyful and happy and present in our lives and yeah, so that's that's partly how the our first product was created which is the five minute journal is that you know for many years, Alex and I were and still are big fans of the work of Tony Robbins.
00:21:55 Have you ever done any of these programs june? I haven't done any of his programs but no, no I haven't done any of the programs, but I'm very familiar with Tony Robbins, he's amazing, which is so funny, I had a dream about, I never dreamed about Tony Robbins, but this night I had a dream about him, I've only dreamt of him twice once. What was when we attended his event years ago, this was in new york unleashed the Power Within which is like a really huge event, It was like 5000 people in, he makes you go through all your limiting beliefs and all these things. He's basically like I don't know you could call it like a self help guru, but he's so much more than that, he's got a really inspiring story where he overcame depression of he was quite overweight, I'm not sure he was obese, but you know he went through a lot of limiting beliefs and became this really successful speaker entrepreneur author and changed probably hundreds of thousands of lives if not millions of lives I would there to say that definitely millions of lives I think.
00:22:59 And you know, years ago we listen to his program called get the Edge to this day. I think that program is the most useful tool anybody can use who's kind of in a rut and doesn't know what to do with their lives and Part of that program. I think on day one he talks about the power of gratitude. So every day you go out and you do this gratefulness walk, you know, and Alex and I, this is years ago, even before our first business, we used to go on these gratefulness walks and first you start saying things that you're grateful for that you have in your life. So you could say I'm grateful for my eyesight, I'm grateful for my physical health that I'm strong and healthy and I can walk, you know, all these basic needs that sometimes we take for granted. So you make yourself aware of all these things and truly feel grateful for them. Then you could, you know expand a little out of yourself and be grateful for your family, friends, etcetera and then the really cool thing.
00:24:01 Um, and I truly believe the magical part of the whole exercises then being grateful for things that you don't yet have in your life, but that you want to manifest. So we used to go in this gratefulness walks and we'd be like, I'm so grateful for our, you know, business that is generating millions of dollars and we get to meet all these incredible people and travel the world and do all these things that at the time. I mean we were broke. Like we, we literally were, you know, basically almost living in our line of credit because both of us, you know, we're kind of strangling financially and I remember this is a funny story I always tell, but truly it's funny my dad calling one time when you've met my father is such a sweet man and you know, he was always about like get a job, get a safe job, get education and you'll be set for life. And I was like, I don't know that doesn't feel right at all in my heart. And he used to call us in the morning and be like, hey, what are you doing? And I'm like, oh we're just wanna gratefulness walk and then there would be like a long pass and he was saying thank you guys need to get a job.
00:25:10 It was funny to him, but you know, now looking back, you know, he said to me so many times that what we did, he find so inspiring, what we were able to really manifest coming from a background of where we weren't surrounded by any entrepreneurs. Our parents are not entrepreneurs, we don't have any mentors or friends who were entrepreneurs, it was just two of us. And yes, we used the four hour workweek as a guide and as inspiration we, that's why I'm super grateful for tim Fair is the author of that book, Tony Robbins who created many programs and many books to inspire people to follow their dream, to follow their intuition, to follow their bliss, whatever it is, like when you're doing the right thing, you just your present, you feel in the flow, you feel great. And I think that's how we're all meant to feel maybe not all the time, but most of the time life is not supposed to be this thing you dread. It's supposed to be something you enjoy every day and you're excited to wake up to. So yeah, I'm long story short that gratitude practice is something that really inspired eventually for us to create the five minute journal because we just made it short and sweet for anybody to be able to do in five minutes a day.
00:26:24 So people don't have excuses because we're all good at finding excuses not to do things that can actually have huge positive benefit to us. And um yeah, so the, you know, it's a very simple tool that anybody can use if you go on our website, you know, intelligence change dot com, we actually share the inside of the journal. So you don't actually have to buy the journal, you can just write it out in a blank notebook and use it starting from today. And it's such a powerful tool to help you focus on all the good things in your life and the more you see in your life, the more good you attract and create in your life. And um yeah, creating that mindset of abundance versus scarcity and growth versus, you know, fixed mindset. Yeah, and it's, it's hard to do, it's hard to, it's hard to make that switch. But I think that daily practices where it becomes really important. The small moments of daily practice, wow, gosh, what a story.
00:27:26Edit So amazing, so inspiring. When you think back about obviously the landscape has changed so much. You know, when you were building luxi hair, it's a different time to what it is now. What are you seeing that you're having to do differently to grow this business? You know, second time around, I think the landscape has changed, as you said, you know, we see a lot more video, but yet even 10 years ago we used video to grow our business. So yes, there's new tools, there's new platforms, but I think the fundamentals are always the same. And what are the fundamentals is providing a kick ass, incredible product, you know, so many people and this really breaks my heart, started the business just for the sake of making money. This is extremely unhealthy, not only to our world because you're creating essentially, you know, crap that already exists in this world and you don't really care about the products you're creating, but also it's not good for you because you're not gonna enjoy doing this day in day out and creating a business takes a lot of hard work when people ask me about um what business they should do or to give them ideas, I always say, you know, the best business you will create is the one that comes out of your own challenge and problem.
00:28:49 So if let's say you are looking for, I don't know, bags that are biodegradable, you know, for packing your lunch. I don't know, it's just an idea, right, just throwing out there a ziploc, a paper bag, ziplock, I don't think it exists and it doesn't exist. You wish it existed, but all of the ones that are out there plastic. And then one day you're like, uh I should be the one creating this product, this is how the best businesses are created, you really into it. You feel like you're solving a problem in the world and then you can create it in a way where you can easily tell a story which is basically your marketing, you can make videos, you can take photos, then you provide a kick ass customer service. This is something that's still, most businesses lack really, it just breaks my heart, there's so many resources to have great customer service and yet you know I buy things like the other day, I bought something for my daughter and I bought, I got an email saying oh um there's a delay and there were all these excuses and all these things in the email and I'm like oh my God, the language is so negative, like I cannot believe these guys are doing this like you can, you know, you can have problems in your business, you can have challenges, but it's how you communicated to your customer, it was problem after problem after problem and they didn't provide any solutions and I felt like, oh why did I even buy it from that website, It looks so professional and beautiful and they have really nice products, but then that is really sour experience and I doubt I will ever purchase from them again because from the first point for the, from the first point you already have a bad, you know, like that negative the after effect, you know, so having those fundamentals in place, it really is within your power.
00:30:38 If you are the one running the show, if you are the entrepreneur, this is your business, you can create these basics that will have a solid foundation for your business at this point in life, Yes, regardless of whether you run a restaurant or you have a physical product, you need to have an instagram page, you need to have a youtube. Of course not for everybody, but if you can, it will greatly benefit you in any industry, in any business. And yes, then you need to consistently post content about your products because if you don't share about your products, how will people find out? And if you don't care about sharing it, then well who will your customers want if you don't? So it's about first identifying your story and that again, as I said, that's why it's so important, why you do what you do in the first place. If you do it for the right things, the rest will come so easy. And that's why even with locks of hair, I think the reason it grew so quick and so fast and became such a sensation is because it was a genuine story of how I wanted hair extensions, you know, I couldn't find anything that was affordable and good quality.
00:31:47 Then we went on to creating that solution for me and for everybody else and then people just told the story and it just spread like wildfire and we just, you know, enjoy the benefits on that and there's a really great book or audiobook you can listen to called contagious and it exactly shares what we did. So um, in a way we weren't aware as we were doing it, that this is what we're doing but years later when we already had a successful business and I listened to that book, I remember thinking ah this is why this is why we grew so quickly and so fast because we had that compelling story and because we were doing things the right way for us, customer service then and now with the new business with any business would create. It's like the most important part of the business is the touch point. The only touch point, especially if you only have a virtual business is the only time people will ever come across you. And if that experience a sour, not only they're not coming back, they're telling their friends the issue with bad experiences that people talk about it even more often than the positive experiences.
00:32:58 You know funny enough my friend was sharing a story how she went to this new coffee shop and you know they didn't have the right coffee, she wanted this filter coffee and then the guy gave her something else and then double charged her and then You see she spent maybe 15, 20 minutes telling me about this bad experience and I was thinking of going to that place, but after she shared this story, I'm like well I'm definitely not going there, but in my mind, I'm like Oh my goodness, you know one bad experience and sometimes people will completely c