Mia Choate’s fairytale started when she left her corporate finance job in Manhattan to launch her own stationary business, MVC Designs in Rumson, New Jersey. Having always been inspired by sending handwritten notes, Mia’s passion turned into a business when she realized the value of beautifully designed notecards. NJMOM had the pleasure of chatting with Mia about how her daughters’ ABC lesson inspired her leap into entrepreneurship, plus her favorite hiding spots around New Jersey including Firefly Yogis and Asbury Park.
Owner of MVC Designs & NJMOMpreneur:
NJMOM: What inspired you to start your business?
Mia: I’ve always loved sending and receiving handwritten notes for as long as I can remember. One afternoon, I was teaching my daughters their ABC’s, and discovered I had a passion for painting and drawing. As the girls read each alphabet letter, I drew corresponding animals or images on a piece of stationary. I feel incredibly grateful I’m able to create and produce something I am so passionate about, and have it evolve into a business. I jokingly refer to myself as a ‘paper person.’
NJMOM: What is your favorite part about your business?
Mia:Every order is constructed with careful thought and care. It is so easy to write and e-mail, or to send a quick text, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Our lives move that quickly. But, there is something so civilized about taking the time to write a note: pen to paper. The excitement of receiving a hand-written letter still gets me excited, and watching my girls literally jump with pure delight when they receive a letter is the best.
NJMOM: What do you offer to your clients and how is it different than other professionals in your field?
Mia: The paper my clients and I work on together is completely custom and entirely bespoke: from the motifs we use to the size of the paper. One of my favorite clients is five years old, and he loved the color of his shoes which was a deep kelly green. So we decided to match his paper to the green of his shoes, and he was thrilled! I feel very lucky to have the ability to create paper for my clients that represents who they are and what they love, whether they’re five or thirty-five.
NJMOM: What are you most proud of in your career?
Mia: There is so much written about the “balance” between work and real-life, and while I think in many ways it is illusive, I do try very hard to juggle both roles: working-mom and lunch making, book-fair volunteering mommy. The fact that I can model that for my girls is something I am extremely proud of. It is an illusion I am happy to be able to keep chasing.
NJMOM: What is something few people know about you?
Mia: I make a mean grilled-cheese-sandwich. I’ve had an embarrassing amount of experience both eating and making them in boarding school and college, and have it down to a tasty science! My youngest daughter fell in love with “cheese samiches” this summer, so I’ve been back in action a lot lately.
NJMOM: What can we expect from you in the new year?
Mia: I am excited to parlay my designs from notecards, to notebooks. They’ll be bound in Nepal on gorgeous paper, hand tied and an ideal size for both meetings and to pop in your purse. I put a tremendous amount of thought into each new product, and can’t wait to debut these. Personally, I am trying to savor every second with my daughters. They are 2.5, 6, and 7, and I am so overtly aware of how quickly time is moving. The weekends in our house feel sacred: two whole days with the bare minimum “to-do!” I’ve also been running with one of my best friends during the week, which I hope to continue as the weather is chillier.
NJMOM: What charity are you most passionate about?
Mia: My husband’s aunt, India Howell, founded and runs an incredible organization, Tanzanian Children’s Fund. After visiting Africa on her fortieth birthday, she was consumed by a need to help the children who had become orphans due to circumstances wholly out of their control. At Rift Valley, children live, attend school, and have the chance to be children. It is incredibly near and dear to our hearts. It has also been an added gift in exposing my daughters to a strong, determined, passionate woman they happen to be related to.
NJMOM: Who is your role model?
Mia: My mom is, without hesitation or second thought, my greatest role model. She is the kindest, strongest, smartest, most thoughtful human being in everyday life and in all of my memories as a child. My mom makes everything beautiful, and everything better. She is caring and wise and patient and fun, and has always been our biggest champion. I am tremendously lucky to have her as a mother, and for my girls to have her as their Mimi.
NJMOM: What is the best piece of advice your mom ever gave to you?
Mia: My mom has always impressed the importance of kindness and manners on my brothers and I. It’s something I try to pass on to my daughters. “Be kind,” she would say, “you never know what someone is dealing with, or what worries him or her.” And, that manners matter. “A please and a thank-you can change someone’s day.” She was right then, and she’s right now.
NJMOM: Do you have a favorite quote you live by?
Mia: I have a large, chicken wire screen in my office. It is filled with things that inspire me such as past projects, pictures from, and of, my girls, and paper I’ve picked up from traveling. On the board, I’ve styled a quote from John Steinbeck in East of Eden. He wrote, “ … and now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” It resonated with me immediately. I think that as moms, and as women, we put an immense amount of pressure on ourselves to be all things, all of the time, and to be them 100%. I think of Steinbeck’s quote often and try to remind myself of it as I’m juggling all of my roles. It’s makes me appreciate and seek out the good, and the really good.
NJMOM: What are your favorite things to do in New Jersey with your family?
Mia: In the fall, we love to pick apples and pumpkins at Eastmont Orchards in Colts Neck and always head to Delicious Orchards afterwards for hot cider. On non-summer Sundays, we take family drives to Local 130 in Asbury Park to purchase the freshest fish for dinner that night. My family loves a good farmer’s market: Summer Thursdays in Sea Bright, Sundays in Red Bank and Asbury Park, and we’re always up for a day trip to Princeton. Agricola in Princeton is one of our favorite restaurants, and my girls and I could spend days in JaZams, the sweetest most thoughtfully curated toy and book-store. My husband enjoys popping into The Savory Spice Shop and Kitchen Kapers.
NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you?
Mia: I consider motherhood to be the most tremendous, important job. Watching the world through my daughter’s eyes has been one of the greatest gifts. Their imaginations, lenses, wonder, the things they notice, the things that excite them, the ideas they have and the opinions they form based upon those things. It’s amazing to watch, to nurture, and to be a part of.
NJMOM: What are your favorite businesses in New Jersey?
Mia: I am in awe of the local talent, and passionate business and store owners where we live. You can find me taking my friend Ginger’s spin class at Clementine Cycling Studio in Fair Haven, bringing my daughters to Firefly Yogis and Canvas Studio Art in Rumson, and picking up my favorite jeans at Sadie James Boutique in Fair Haven. My girls cannot live without the cookies from Cups and Cakes Bakery in Rumson, and Alice’s Kitchen in Sea Bright is our go-to spot for weekend family breakfast.
NJMOM: Where do you reside and vacation in New Jersey?
Mia: My family and I moved to Rumson from the Upper East Side four and a half years ago. Rumson is tucked between the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers, and a bridge-hop away from the ocean. We love summer here, and especially “local’s summer.” Asbury Park has been my absolute favorite discovery and our go-to place for a quick night away. I can’t get enough of its history in music, love all of the delicious restaurants to choose from, and it’s close proximity to home.
NJMOM: What advice might you have for a fellow NJMOMpreneur who is just starting out?
Mia: You will absolutely have a moment where you think any blend of, “What am I doing? How am I going to do this? How can I possibly get all of this together?” If your work inspires, excites, and motivates you – I say, go for it! You’ll figure the rest out as it comes.
NJMOM: Anything else you’d like to tell moms in New Jersey?
Mia: Text less, write more, and always, be kind.