In Conversation with Kiana Mei Designs
We sat down with origami artist and young entrepreneur, Kiana Mei to find out more about her business Kiana Mei Designs, that drew from inspiration and her immersive experiences travelling in Tokyo, Japan.
Can you tell us a bit about Kiana Mei Designs and how it started?
At the age of 15 in 2020, Kiana studied at a Japanese International school. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic it was unfortunately cut short, however during this time I was fortunate to discover my passion for origami; an ancient Japanese art form. It became a gateway leading me to explore my artistic talents further.”
How do you manage work life balance as a small business owner, particularly when you were studying year 12?
“Time management and forward thinking are second nature to me. When I started Year 10, I was already contemplating long term goals, so I did a VET subject. And then in Year 11, I completed two VCE subjects, which helped lighten my workload in Year 12, allowing me to spend more time on my business.
Balancing studies with starting a business posed challenges, but I firmly believe that the two aspects have complemented each other”. This has shaped her into the strong, independent person she is today, with the discipline and organisation acquired through her studies, seamlessly translating into her business.
“To maintain a healthy balance, I listen to my body knowing when to take breaks. It’s important to recognise and acknowledge limitations and understand peak work times, like the busy Christmas season, I knew future breaks would come.” Kiana emphasises, “Everyone is different, and it’s important to know what works for you.”
What aspect of your business brings you the most joy and fulfillment?
“I am truly passionate about my work. Having conversations regarding my art and business makes me light up. Engaging with customers brings me so much joy as I learn about their lives, professions, and envision where the artwork will journey in its new home.” Sharing the stories and inspiration behind her creations is something she loves, particularly when it comes to her inaugural collection and cherished piece—the ‘Original Hand-folded Origami Cherry Blossom Artwork,’ a reminder of when she studied at a Japanese international school in 2020.
One particularly proud moment was Kiana’s first Winter Night Market in 2022, an event she describes as “one of a kind.” “The experience allowed me to connect with customers on a deeper level, relish the vibrant atmosphere, and gain valuable insights, contributing to a sense of accomplishment and pride”
Have you experienced a downside to having your own business?
“Being at such a young age and starting a business, there are moments where comments are made around if I have enough knowledge. It can be disheartening, however, I have learnt to keep my head held high. I was raised to be independent, and stay true to my passion, letting go of external noise that doesn’t benefit myself or my business”. This advice is something she extends to anyone starting their own business.
What do you consider the most rewarding aspect of being a small business owner?
“It’s creative freedom. Working on something I planned in my mind, through to it coming to fruition is immensely fulfilling. Having control over the entire process from start to finish allows me to bring my vision to life and take pride in every step of the journey.”
Kiana finds joy in networking at entrepreneurial events, connecting with like-minded individuals running their own businesses. These interactions serve as valuable learning opportunities, contributing to her personal and professional growth.
When reflecting on your business, what future do you see for yourself?
“I envision a future where I can achieve financial freedom, independence, and the role of being my own boss. It’s not only about personal success, I’d like to also inspire others to pursue their passions and find fulfillment in their work.”
What does a typical day at one of the best markets in Melbourne look like?
“My day at Queen Victoria Market begins at 7:30am. I’m straight into setting up, ready to sell at 8:30am, until end of trade. At the end of the day, I often make new products for the next day’s trade. On the weekdays when the market is closed, I am dedicated to restocking and creating more products, with certain items taking days to make due to their intricate details and origami process.
What do you love most about Queen Vic Market?
“The diverse demographic is what I love most. Everyone shares a passion for supporting small businesses. I love meeting new people from across Melbourne, Australia and even the world.”