Growing up in my parents’ jewelry store in New York City, I was surrounded with things little girls love: sparkly gemstones and beautiful baubles. I’d escape into a fantasy world in which I created crown jewels for kings and queens—that is, when I wasn’t cleaning the store counters or fetching cups of coffee for my family!
Working for your family is never easy, but that’s especially true when you’re 10 years old. My Chinese parents were very demanding and had extremely high expectations of my two siblings and me. I may not have liked learning to weigh stones when I was younger, but that hardcore discipline was great training for the future, training to select the finest jewels and to understand true quality.
After graduating from Parsons School of Design, I knew I would go into the jewelry business — but for myself. I wanted to build my own brand: a hybrid of my parents’ fashion-forward style and my own aesthetic of clean, sophisticated design. I launched my line — mostly engagement rings and bridal pieces — from a New York City store in 1993, with money from my savings. I built a loyal following of clients largely from word of mouth. During consultations, they’d ask about the jewelry I was wearing and if I would sell it—right off of my body! It was a big confidence boost.
I got a big break, though, when my pieces were used in Sex and the City. Carrie, Samantha and Charlotte all wore Mimi So rings, earrings and necklaces. Today, my jewelry is sold in Neiman Marcus stores in North America and in Asia.
Despite the glamorous moments — like red carpet parties and rubbing elbows with celebrities — life in the jewelry industry can be grueling. I’m often on the road for in-store appearances or visiting the market to see what’s new.
When I pick up my daughter and son from school, I dive right into mommy mode. I constantly strive to balance work and family because I’m passionate about both. Sometimes it all just blends together — when the kids sit down to do their homework, I sit right down with them. After all, Mommy always has lots of homework to do, too.
Top Lessons From Mimi So
1. Create Schedules.
Scheduling family activities is no different from coordinating work assignments. I treat them both the same, because they’re both important. Writing everything down helps free my mind to focus on other things.
2. Protect Your Time.
Limit the amount of work engagements and afterschool activities you and your family do so you’re not overwhelmed. Not every day is a playdate, and I don’t always get through my to-do list. Simplicity is key.
3. Ask For Help.
Moms really shouldn’t feel the need to do it all themselves. My husband, Cormac, pitches in with the kids, and I’ll ask my team at work for extra support if there’s a lot going on. I make sure to thank everyone for a job well done—when people feel appreciated, they don’t mind pitching in.
4. Set Up Structure.
I’m a planner, so I like to have everything wellorganized. Kids need to know there is a certain time and place for everything, but I find that you also have to learn to go with the flow sometimes. That balance is the key for success in both work and family life.