By Katrina Oh
A fashion pop-up shop at the Campus Center Ballroom made Junior Alyssa Jitchaku late to class recently.
“I think her clothes are so adorable,” Jitchaku said while browsing through Dara Fujio’s clothes, which were on sale at Campus Center Sept. 6.
Being a UH graduate had allowed Dara Fujio to hold the shopping event for her fashion line. The sale consisted of the remains of her clothing inventory. The majority of Miki Nola products at this event were on sale for 50 percent off and over. With such a large discount on her clothes, Fujio successfully sold the majority of Miki Nola products.
“I started Miki Nola when I did a school project for UH and we needed to do something about branding and we had to chose a name. That’s when I thought of my two dogs, Miki and Nola, because it kind of just stuck with everyone,” Fujio said.
Dara Fujio is a 24-year-old graduate with a degree in Apparel Product Design and Merchandise and a minor in business from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. After graduating from college in 2010, Fujio began establishing her own fashion business called Miki Nola in January of 2011. Even in this economic downturn Fujio has found savvy ways using social media to market her products to keep Miki Nola flourishing.
“Since Facebook (Miki Nola) is such a great marketing tool I figured why not just start taking cool pictures styling girls and see if I could start an online store with that.” Fujio said. “Most of my clients I have gotten through Facebook.”
Facebook is a great way to network with friends, family, and to network in the business world. Facebook had become Fujio’s main marketing tool for Miki Nola. Another factor that Fujio has benefited from is Hawaii‘’s small community. She used “word-of-mouth” through friends to spread the word about Miki Nola.
“I have my parents who help me a lot, but I’ve just been recycling my money from the first time I’ve bought inventory to selling that inventory and saving the profit I make from that. So it’s been doing really well,” Fujio said.
With Fujio’s connections through Facebook and her friends, she has been selling almost all the clothes she buys from her buying trips to the Market in Los Angeles at shopping events around the island, which has helped her fund continuous buying trips. The Market is a large convention that occurs five seasons a year where buyers and owners of boutiques attend to purchase inventory for their stores.
In this economic downturn businesses have been filing bankruptcy, and people have been losing their jobs. But that hasn’t kept Fujio from establishing Miki Nola. With the help of Facebook, parents, and friends, Fujio is in the process of owning a flourishing business.
“There’s never really a perfect time to start a business, I’m just doing it a different way because I’m doing it without an overhead cost,” Fujio said.
Fujio hopes to expand Miki Nola not only in Hawai‘i but also internationally especially in Japan with the help of a friend. Her goals are to establish numerous boutiques and to make a difference in the fashion world.
“If your heart is set in doing something, know what you’re doing first but not think too much about doing it.” Fujio said. “Just go for it since there is never a perfect time in starting your own business.”
Fujio learned how to run a business through her fashion and business education. She also built a clientele from her sales careers at several boutiques on this island. Fujio had not expected that styling and shopping for clients in the past would be so beneficial in establishing her own business.
“We do pop-up shops everywhere, so it’s just friend-to-friend telling everyone, and that’s how the word’s been spreading,” Fujio said.
That is how junior Jitchaku, who had never heard about Miki, was shopping at the event on campus.
“I randomly got handed the flier, and I had no idea about this brand until today, said Jitchaku. “I would wear all of her clothes because it is laid back while also being high fashion without going over top.”
Jitchaku was shocked that Fujio was the owner of Miki Nola at such a young age. Fujio has become an inspiration to current students looking to start their own businesses, or simply find their own successes.
“I can only hope to be that successful at that age,” said Jitchaku.