Adina Jacobs is an impressive woman. She is the Co-founder and Director of Product for STM Brands, a global company designing, developing, and producing lifestyle accessories for personal tech devices.
Jacobs has a background in product development and fashion and so it only made sense to start her own company.
Dynamic Business spoke to Jacobs about her journey and why mentorship is so important.
How did the story of STM Goods begin?
Back in 1998, my business partner Ethan and I were both working for the same fast fashion company. One day, he bought a laptop but couldn’t find a suitable bag that was protective, looked good and suited his lifestyle, so he used a padded envelope from the Post Office instead. He slid his laptop into the envelope and then put it in his normal backpack. We used to commute to work together and spoke about his troubles finding a good laptop bag, and we both realised that he couldn’t be the only one looking for that type of product, and that this could be a great business idea. And that’s how STM was born.
Fast-forward twenty years and our products are available in thirty countries with three offices and a team globally.
What were your initial challenges with STM Goods when first starting up? How did you get through them?
In the past twenty years, like any business, we’ve experienced our fair share of challenges. One of the initial challenges when first starting up was our misconception about the demand for our product. We thought people would be lining up for our backpack, but we were wrong. We thought that we could sell our samples and our enthusiasm, but we didn’t get much of a reaction. We called all the technology stores around Sydney and nobody was interested, because they didn’t see the point of purchasing an expensive backpack for their laptop when they could just use the free standard black briefcase supplied with most purchases.
The realisation of the lack of interest was daunting, but we refused to give up. We believed in our product, so we took a leap of faith and put all of our remaining money into producing 500 units of our first backpack. We then proceeded to knock on doors every single day until we eventually found our customer – people who were looking for laptop protection that didn’t actually look like a laptop bag. These people happened to be the Apple Mac users, a niche group back then but they were much more creative and bold than any other crowd, and they really liked our product. It was a challenging time, but our belief in the product and our determination helped us get through it.
What has been STM’s biggest milestone so far?
Celebrating twenty years in business has been our biggest milestone so far, and our newly released Myth Collection (a six-piece assortment of accessories) is a culmination of all those years in innovation, creating products that are smarter than most and continuing to develop products that set new standards for effectiveness, efficiency and originality.
Over the twenty years we have achieved so much, including entering new markets, building a team overseas and going through a re-brand. Entering a new market is a particularly big achievement for us because it gives us wider access to more talent, cultures, and new and interesting ways of doing things that inspire future concepts.
What keeps you inspired every day?
So many things! Of course one is the latest technology and how STM can develop a product that will better support peoples’ needs when using their devices.
I also love the fact that I’m now at the point where people ask me for my story and advice, which is inspiring in itself. It’s often through looking at other people’s businesses that I’m able to think a little more clearly, and then apply that back into STM. The people I work with are also a huge inspiration. I learn every day from the people around me. Their fresh ideas, learnings they’ve brought from previous workplaces, and their enthusiasm for what we’re doing, gives me an injection of energy.
Why is mentorship so important?
I believe that community and lifting each other up is so important, and that’s the reason why I co- founded Mentor Walks, a not-for-profit organisation focused on community and mentoring for women that connects emerging female leaders with highly accomplished women. It’s really valuable to have a mentor to support you, question you, and to push you. Someone that you can share your experience with and who can help you workshop any challenges you may have encountered at work, or in your personal life. As a mentor, it is also so rewarding to be able to listen to a mentee, share your experience with them, and to help them along the way and support them in the best way you can. I think having a mentor is one of the most important investments you can make for yourself, and Mentor Walks gives women a taste of the impact that really good mentoring can have.
Do you have any top tips for mentorship, both as a mentor and mentee?
My top tip for mentees is to have a clear idea of what you would like to ask your mentor and what you would like to get out of the meeting. Before you meet them, ask yourself, what does a successful meeting with a mentor mean to you?
In my experience, mentees get more out of me sharing my own experiences rather than me telling them what to do. This works both ways for me, whether I’m a mentee or mentor.