Mica May became the queen of notebook design by accident. In 2009, the graphic designer started innocently putting clients’ logos on 5-by-8-inch notebooks. Then living in Houston, she spent one day going to 10 different woman-owned businesses and showing the owners mock-ups of notebooks personalized for them. Would they buy them? She sold 1,000.
The Texas A&M graduate who grew up in Dallas quickly expanded to noncorporate clients. Women who didn’t have a company logo started asking for personalized notebooks of their own. She created a website with different patterns they could choose and different fonts they could use to personalize the notebooks. Suddenly, people with unusual names had something they could hold with their name on it.
And then came “Good Morning America.” On Dec. 1, 2011, May’s notebooks were shown on the air. She got 33,000 orders. That was the day she got to quit working for other clients and work permanently for herself. It was great timing, too. She had given herself until the end of 2011 to make a go of the notebook business or to drop what was started as a fun side gig. She knew with two toddlers she had to make a choice between the notebooks and the graphic design business. She could no longer do both.
Slowly May Designs started growing. She hired an assistant and then more employees. She moved the business out of her home and into the garage apartment, and then, when Code Compliance came knocking, to its own studio.
By 2014, the business was growing and it was time to make the move to Austin, which she and her husband, Jonathan, had always wanted to do. They moved with their three children, now 3, 6 and 8, and the company grew up.
She found Austin’s like-minded creative class and made connection after connection. Soon notebooks turned into calendars and leather notebook covers. The world of on-demand printing meant that she could take one pattern and put it on many different things, and clients could customize those items as well.
This year, May Designs is really growing up: It’s making its first foray into a nonstationery product. May has turned on-demand printing into clothing. Mica May, 36, will be showing a capsule collection at Fashion X Austin on May 18.
“We’re excited to expand, to bring fashion on-demand as a model,” she says.
Her first clothing designs are created on neoprene fabric, which means they can be rolled up into a ball and not wrinkle. She’s offering a short skirt, a longer A-line skirt, a shift dress and a longer summer dress with adjustable spaghetti straps. Each piece will be $65 to $95 and available at maydesigns.com.
The skirts and dresses come in XXS to XXXL. “We hope it fits any size of body,” she says.
And thinking of moms like herself, “everything we have has pockets, which I absolutely love,” she says. “Pockets are crucial.”
May Designs now has more than 500 patterns but will probably start with about 200 when the line launches after the Fashion X Austin show.
You can go casual for summer with a T-shirt on top of a skirt and flip-flops or dress up a dress with the right heels and jewelry. You also can layer the dresses and skirts with leggings and boots, jackets and sweaters for winter.
Her favorite is the Peonies Sky print in the A-line skirt. It’s like the grown-up version of the twirly skirts her daughters love.
“This is the beauty of on-demand printing,” May says. “We literally launched (Peonies Sky) on a notebook pattern. Then we loved it so much, people were responding well, we actually ordered some wallpaper, put it up as kind of our statement wall in our office. And this is one of our capsule collection pieces,” she says holding up the matching A-line skirt. “We’re able to take all of our patterns that start out on a notebook and transfer them to all the future things.”
Her office on Kerbey Lane in Central Austin is filled with samples of purses and pillows and more stationery products, but first things first: Fashion X Austin and the launch of the clothing line.