It started as a spur of the moment challenge: “Let’s see you make something better.”
Michael Saiger did. And never stopped.
Saiger was a marketing student at the University of Miami, going to school to learn how to put the right products in the right people’s hands. He was a little interested in fashion—enough to know he had a few brands he liked that weren’t necessarily household names—but it wasn’t necessarily something he had set out to do.
On the day his company Miansai started, his girlfriend was working on a project: a necklace made out of a bullet. Saiger didn’t like it much and told her so, and his girlfriend gave him the challenge to make something better.
So he took one of the bullets and put it on a simple leather cuff, making a men’s bracelet. And as he was out wearing it around campus, people asked him “where did you get that?” So began Miansai, a men’s fashion brand devoted to simple, interesting, well-constructed accessories.
From College to Corporate
Through college, Michael continued creating bracelets. Though it would have been possible to get funding if he had wanted it, he never bothered—the money that he made from the bracelets mostly went right back into building the company. For a year and a half he made bracelets and put the money back into business, until he had the equipment to make better accessories.
As he got close to graduating, Saiger started to think about the future after college. His business was doing well and his bracelets kept selling out, and if he wanted to continue growing he could move forward by getting onto shelves.
So he decided to start walking into stores and just asking them if they’d carry his line. There were some no’s, but a store called Base picked him up, and from there it was off to the races.
Today Miansai has exploded into a $50 million business, selling over the Internet, through brick and mortar stores and direct to consumers. It’s a big brand in fashion accessories, and though it started with men, it’s also branched out into women’s accessories too.
An Emphasis On Quality
The big thing that set Miansai apart from the very beginning is that they were doing something different, and they were doing it with quality. Miansai’s emphasis on both the handmade and the quality made them stand out.
Saiger has kept the emphasis on making their accessories built to last, no matter what they are. As he notes, “My customers are very similar to myself. They want unique products, they want something that’s well-crafted, not Zara – who knocked us off.”
One thing Miansai does that a lot of other companies don’t do is that they’ve kept everything in house. Everything from production to marketing takes place under the watchful eye of Michael Saiger, who says, “If a sample comes out and it’s not just how I envisioned, I can sit down with one of our jewelers and metalsmiths and by the end of that same day they are able to perfect it.”
This emphasis has continued to keep them ahead of the pack. And even though they started with cheaper pieces, no matter what the price point is, Miansai has kept their same quality. That commitment makes them stand out even against similar competitors.
Online: The Way Forward
Miansai’s start may have been in brick and mortar, but they were quick to capitalize on the possibilities of e-commerce. Even back in 2011, they were creating rich content that helped build up their audience. That’s no accident—as the founder, Saiger’s vision of where retail is going has informed the company’s trajectory.
In one 2017 interview Saiger pointed out what the company has done to get ready for the future and where he thinks e-commerce is going. “Shopping trends have shifted and I believe will continue to shift more towards digital platforms,” he said.
“We recently relaunched our website to make it more user friendly and compatible with mobile devices, which we are really excited about. Not only are people shopping more online, I think in five years they will be shopping directly from their smartphones.”
He’s right. Revenue for smartphone shopping is continuing to climb, and it’s projected to top $432 billion by 2022. Smart money is on that being the way forward, and Miansai, as it has been to date, is ahead of the curve.
They’ve also been able to grow their market abroad in a way that they couldn’t have through the brick and mortar stores they started with. International sales account for more than 44 percent of the company’s volume overall.
Miansai’s latest e-commerce initiative is collaborations with social media influencers, starting recently with IAMGALLA. Influencers are also a fairly hot move for online retailers right now, especially for those in the fashion space who can capitalize on the picture-heavy format that platforms like Instagram provide.
The Ingredients to Success
Michael Saiger’s business was built from the ground up on a unique product that no one was selling. Unlike some others who’ve been eclipsed by their bigger competitors, though, Miansai has continued to flourish even after copycats arrived on the scene.
Much of that has to do with their continued focus on the product itself, as well as their commitment to constantly staying on top of where the market’s headed. Saiger’s involvement in everyday operations and insistence that they conform to the vision of the company makes a difference.
That’s a common thread among a lot of successful companies, including one we recently profiled, Allbirds. The most successful among them have an uncompromising vision that they adhere to, never diluting the product or trying to dumb it down. It builds up a fanbase of evangelists that spread that product far and wide. It’s worked for companies like Miansai. It can work for yours too.
Quality products, smart marketing and forward-thinking vision—that’s what Miansai brings to the table. That’s why they’ve done well. And that’s why they’ll continue to do well, too.