With her daughter in mind, Latonae opens Mhavi & Me
When Bermuda’s stores did not have what she needed for her newborn, Latonae Smith decided to open her own.
Mhavi & Me offers clothes and accessories for preemies and full-term babies up until the age of three.
The concept fit the needs of Ms Smith, who had been told to expect a near-8lb baby and was surprised when her daughter weighed 5lbs 12 ozs when she was born on November 21, 2021.
“She ended up being so small and I realised that I didn't have any premature clothing for her. Nothing that was cute.”
She searched in stores but could not find what she wanted: clothing made from quality materials in neutral colours that would fit premature babies.
“Basically the hospital had to give me clothing because I had absolutely nothing of that size,” she said.
The limitations continued as Mhavi grew.
“Everything was pink, pink, pink, pink, pink. I don’t mind a little bit of pink but I prefer neutral colours – browns, nudes, everything like that. So that's why I started the business as well.”
With her partner, Mackih McGowan, she decided to import clothes and open an online store for baby boys and girls. Neither of them had any entrepreneurial experience but they had specific tools they believed would be useful in a business.
“I always knew that I wanted to start something, but I just wasn't too sure what I wanted to start,” said Ms Smith, who has a full-time job with Digicel and her own YouTube channel. “I also did a lot of brand ambassador deals for other people and I thought, ‘Why can't I do this for myself?’ So with the support of Mhavi’s father, we started this business.
“He used to work at Digicel as well, running the inventory. So he knew how to do product counting and understood about setting a selling price and so that's where he assisted very well.”
Additional help came from a friend with an athleisure business who gave information on “where to go and actually look at products or try and get what I was actually looking for”.
Ms Smith came up with a collection of jumpsuits, rompers, swimwear and sets that she describes as “the best quality micro-fashion in Bermuda”.
She is grateful for the reception the island has given Mhavi & Me since it was announced on Instagram. Sales have also gone well since the store opened on May 21. The pandemic has been a mixed blessing because it opened up more residents to the concept of buying online, from local stores.
“I did a ‘coming soon’ and then all the followers came. And then as soon as I launched – I got half the product out within the first month.
“I noticed that everyone wanted what I was looking for. So instead of the pinks and the flowers and the yellows, everyone was looking for neutral things; very cool and comfortable clothing for their child. And all the items are also in trend with the natural materials – bamboo, muslin.”
For her next shipment she plans to expand into accessories.
“So, you know hair bows and bibs and different things like that for girls and boys as well. We have a lot of unisex pieces, the majority to be honest.”
With an eight-month-old and a full-time job it is a lot, Ms Smith admitted.
“It's all about balance and support. With Mackih on my side, I get things done. He'll make sure that he assists with Mhavi while I'm actually you know, doing the next order or looking at the inventory count – he assists with the inventory as well, like I said, so it's all about balance and support.”
Mhavi & Me offers islandwide delivery and pick-up, in case there is a need to return an item.
“I’m easily accessible. People know where to find me as well but I do have a ‘chat with us’ on the website so if they have any issues they come straight to my phone and can be discussed there. They're easy to exchange as long as the product is not damaged and it's exchanged within the first three days.”
“Just watch out and look for the next order. We will have some cool stuff coming in,” Ms Smith said. “It's new, it's fun, it's trendy.”