I'm very excited to feature my good friend and fellow business owner, Caroline Rodrigues of the beautiful artisanal toy shop in Los Angeles - Merci Milo. She is an outspoken advocate for social justices and women's and minority's rights. She's also a great friend, someone I feel comfortable calling and sharing good days or bad days with over the years. A talented creative in her own right - she's also a metal artist and sculptor - I'm constantly in awe by her incredible work ethic and her kind spirit. I'm proud to introduce my friend, Caroline, as our Mien Muse.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I am the founder of a whimsical toy shop called Merci Milo. We are a local small business toy shop and online store. Woman and POC owned, we have been around for about 4 years now. I am also art director at Ergobaby here in Los Angeles.
Please share with us a typical day in your life.
I work a full time job during the day and in the evening manage my toy shop online while my husband runs the day to day operations. We have a pretty full schedule and have to make it a priority to spend the weekends with our family.
You’re an entrepreneur and own the beautiful toy shop Merci Milo. What is your favorite part of starting and owning your own business? How did you get there?
There are so many favorite parts but there are also so many challenges. As of now due to COVID we are facing some hardships but I know that if we are smart we can make things work and get past this difficult time. I have always wanted to own my own business having an entrepreneurial family, I decided to try it out. It all started with one tiny online business to fully having our own brick and mortar shop. I worked full time and I still do now to help fund the business.
How has the pandemic changed the way you look at and operate your business?
We have to now operate solely online which comes with many challenges and competition but we just have to work efficiently.
You’re also a busy mom, how do you attempt to balance the day to day challenges?
I have to say, working full time, having a full time business and now teaching remote full time has been rough. I try to make sure those weekends spent together are special and we leave work out. Quality time is important to our family and setting those boundaries are just as important if not necessary.
What is the definition of a life well lived to you?
Doing what you love while staying healthy and happy.
You have always been an outspoken advocate for important social issues and causes. What do you hope your child, Milo, learns from your standing up for injustices and living a life of empathy and compassion?
If I could I would be a full time activist and I think that would be a long term goal of mine. I hope Milo grows up to have a compassionate heart and is always rooting for the underdog. I will instill in her that spirit by teaching and opening up to her what is happening daily. She chants “Black lives matter” every chance she gets because she understands what that means, she knows how important it is, and she sees me stand up to those injustices.
You make a great effort and travel across the world to source and carry toys, books, and goods from family-owned or long-standing heritage makers in your store, why is this important to you?
Traveling has always been an important inspiration for me. I need to be moving constantly, exploring different cultures, and meeting new makers and artists. That is my passion and why not do it for the one business I wholeheartedly am passionate about. For me carrying smaller makers and smaller brands is what brings and creates a community. Community is what I am trying to build with our brand and shop.
What is your go to meal for a weeknight dinner?
I have to admit I am a terrible cook! My husband actually does all the wonderful cooking in the home. If we do cook for dinner, we enjoy baked cauliflower that we drizzle with our wonder valley olive oil and we add a bit of hummus and pepper to finish. It is super easy, simple and delicious.
Do you try to practice self care? What are some of the things that help you unwind and recenter?
I need meditation in my life or to sit with myself in peace and quiet. Living in a city and working and owning demanding jobs/businesses can really take a toll on your mind and body. I try to make it a priority to just meditate to start fresh.
What are some of your favorite activities or places to go when you have some free time?
We love to explore our city we live in or we like to take road trips for the day. It is always exhilarating to explore a new place.
How would you describe your sense of style?
Relaxed, casual, timeless and chic
What are some of your favorite Mien pieces? How and when do you enjoy wearing them?
I love my Lakeside Jumpsuit, it’s an easy piece to wear all year round. I especially can not wait to wear it all the time when I am pregnant, if that day comes soon hopefully.