Micha Thomas is the founder of the MiA Project. She has a store in Eagle Rock that supports sustainable, ethically-made products made in America. She also coaches local entrepreneurs and changemakers on marketing, storytelling, branding, and communication. Her store generously co-hosted our November MAKE IT Monthly event, and we wanted to check in to learn more about her efforts.
Krisztina “Z” Holly: Tell us what you are up to!
Micha Thomas: You know, when we launched The MiA Project, a multi-tiered platform for consumers to learn and shop American made didn’t exist. Now, as a completely self-funded venture still, we’re in a more exploratory phase, figuring out who and what we want to be. I find there’s no shame in pivoting. More and more, I’m focused on B2B work – actually aiding the small and mid-sized companies on marketing (intelligently connecting with consumers), honing their creative assets, and coaching them through entrepreneurial hurdles. Those are some of my strengths, but as an organization, the connection to consumers and edutainment to retain consumers is still important.
Z: What inspired the organization?
MT: Honestly, I’d say a little disgust, seeing a gaping hole in the marketplace for an American-made platform, and wanting to connect consumers to the manufacturing industry that I knew still existed here. The disgust came as I took stock of my own accumulation of stuff and learned the origins, poor quality, and awful work conditions of some of the places I purchased from. I come from a manufacturing family and was excited to see consumer polling showed that more and more consumers wanted to purchase American-made items but didn’t know where to find them and how to cut through labeling crap. And I saw their point. Most of us need convenience around finding information and making a purchase and feeling a connection to a brand. It needs to be easy, or we move on, even if well-intentioned.
Z: Who do you serve?
MT: Consumers and business leaders
Z: Tell us about how you support the community.
MT: Our focus was always national, but being based in LA has always been important to us. A majority of the designers and companies we’ve worked with since starting are LA based, and working with MAKE IT IN LA has really helped us feel a bit more LA-centric in our work. We craved an organization that was hyper focused on Los Angeles but didn’t have the bandwidth or know-how to create it ourselves. As for services, as I kind of touched upon, these are increasingly more important to me: providing tangible creative and counselling services to the companies and their employees so they can thrive and connect with more consumers and businesses.
Z: What trend in the industry are you the most excited about these days?
MT: Good question. I think I’ve been so focused on areas of improvement in communications – strategies that can change a company from the inside as well as change relationships with the public, considering all day, every day we’re communicating messages, that I’ve not been very absorbed in larger trends. Truthfully though, I’m really buoyed by the increased attention on LA as a manufacturing superpower and businesses investing in some sort of presence here.
Z: What are your three tips for companies and entrepreneurs to drive or adapt to that trend?
MT: If we’re going to follow my communications focus (and I LOVE this topic in all its many forms), I’d say: focus, value, and listen:
- FOCUS your company’s mission and value proposition – make it crystalline. Don’t be too many things. Too many companies are doing that–for instance, creating blogs or content programs when that’s not a strength–and diluting their brands, I think. Also, FOCUS on your employees who make the company function, as they’re just as important as consumers.
- VALUE your customers and employees and know they are mostly quite savvy.
- LISTEN to some of the internal and external feedback loops coming at you, and there’s usually plenty of them. These provide such valuable insights to help a business know they’re doing good work or need to make changes.
Z: What’s next and what are you especially excited about for the organization in the next year?
MT: If only I had a magic 8 ball! I’d love to say partnerships and collaborations. Organizationally, we’d love for the next iteration of The MiA Project to be shaped by collaborators and people with expertise that complements ours. Also, continuing to work directly with the businesses and designers shaping the American-made landscape, providing business and coaching to help them flourish.
Z: How can people find out more?
About Micha Thomas
Micha is a creative director and communications specialist, entrepreneur, and certified life and executive coach. She’s carved out successful marketing, storytelling, branding and communication initiatives for clients across fashion, music, innovation and technology industries for over 13 years (clients including The Windish Agency, Yahoo! Entertainment, Adobe, PopTech, Chronicle Books, Songkick and the Los Angeles Ballet).
She’s the creator of The MiA (Made in America) Project, a digital and physical epicenter for a new wave of American design and production and the rise of thoughtful consumption. The MiA Project celebrates designers focused on producing in the U.S., as well as leaders in commerce shifts, by sharing their stories, the origins of their creations, and connecting their work to a larger audience. Micha is also a partner in Of The Wolves, a global, multi-dimensional platform focused on stories, stewardship, sustainable living/shopping and salons and retreats. Via coaching, marketing consulting, and her two organizations, Micha works with small and large companies as well as individuals to provide business and creative counseling.
The interview has been edited for clarity.