Image of Mimi Chao of Mimochai

Making Magic with Mimochai

We're thrilled to introduce you to Mimi Chaofounder of Mimochai Studio and the artist behind our new Limited Edition collection. Mimi is a lawyer-turned-artist who is passionate about encouraging curiosity, wonder, and exploration in all ages. Her characters come to life in her picture books that are loved by kids and adults alike.

Esembly: Can you tell us a bit about your professional journey? You were a lawyer and now you’re an artist?!

Mimi: Yes! When I was growing up, creativity was discouraged as a career path. My parents didn’t and couldn’t have known all the ways you could make a living as a creative now, and at the time my culture more or less thought there were only a few acceptable professions: doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc. I loved drawing and make believing as a child, but it was never nurtured. I actually enjoyed law school, but when I became a corporate lawyer and had all the hallmarks of what society tells us is “success,” I knew I was not aligned with my true self. After a lot of self-reflection, I took two big leaps of faith: the first was leaving the law to go work at a design agency, and the second was leaving the salaried world to go work for myself. It was a slow and challenging personal journey to find my way back to who I really wanted to be. I had to unlearn all the things parents, culture, and society tells us we want, and come to my own understanding of what I thought was really important in life and work. It was (and still is) a long and challenging journey, but so worth it. I couldn’t have known it at the time, but if as a child I knew that what I do today was a real job, this would have been my dream. So I like to say I am living the dream I didn’t know I could have! And btw, my parents are now supportive of what I do ;) 


Image of Mimi painting inher studio

Esembly: What advice would you give to someone who’d like to transition to a creative job?
Mimi: You can do it! I’ve found that so many people are waiting for permission to take a chance on themselves. I was in the same boat! So I like to say, “here is your permission!” It’s absolutely something you can make happen for yourself. That said, it’s not a walk in the park to make a big career transition. So on a practical note, make a plan— a financial plan, a learning plan, and a business plan. It most likely won’t turn out the way you expect, but having a map is helpful. Seek out inspiration and hold onto your north stars. Don’t listen to people who discourage you if you do not want the life they have made for themselves. People who have lived a life of fear or living for other people’s approval will project their fears onto you as well. Truly happy people who have followed their dream will encourage you to do the same.

Mimochai products on display at a tradeshow

Esembly: You’ve mentioned that your parents were not huge supporters of your creativity, what advice would you give to parents who’d like to inspire their children’s curiosity and exploration?
Mimi: Kids are so naturally magical and imaginative. Oftentimes as adults, we’ve become so removed from that, we start to think it’s not normal. We might want to stamp out behavior that is not adult-like. I remember a mommy friend being worried about her young daughter having an imaginary friend. Let kids be kids. Let them have imaginary friends. Let them read all the fun books. Let them make a mess and tinker and try and fail. When they have a crazy question or say something wild, be curious. Ask them about it instead of shutting it down right away. Suspend disbelief for a little while. Support their creative intuitions, and maybe join in with them! As they get older, introduce them to artists and creators and inventors and explorers who have gone on to do meaningful things while leading fulfilling lives. They will come to realize how their curiosity and exploration can help everyone.

Alphabet Adventure book on desk

Esembly:  What were some of your favorite books from your childhood?
Mimi: I loved Calvin & Hobbes, the Chronicles of Narnia, The Little Prince, and Winnie the Pooh. These are still some of my favorite books! I realized they’re about pretty similar philosophical themes, to varying degrees.

Mimi Chao illustration of a girl sitting on Saturn

Esembly: What does sustainability mean to you and how do you incorporate it into your personal and work life?
Mimi: Sustainability means living mindfully and consciously of our interconnected existence with the planet and with each other. To see our earth as part of our body that we must take care of. To lean into our creativity to find realistic solutions. Besides making the best sustainable choices I am realistically able to with our production and packaging design, I donate a portion of all our proceeds to two causes: one supporting art classes for underserved children, and one coming up with solutions to climate change. Both are necessary for our collective future.