From side hustle to a successful small business:

Miimi & Jiinda

9 May 2024

How do you know when to take your side hustle to the next level - and what happens when you get there?

When Melissa Greenwood launched Indigenous art and apparel brand Miimi & Jiinda in 2018, she never dreamt that she’d be showing it at Australian Fashion Week just five years later – especially considering it was never about fashion in the first place.

Here, Melissa shares what happened when her humble side hustle “blew up” – and six practical tips you can use if you are looking to follow the same path. 

Don’t be afraid to follow your passions

Melissa started her side hustle selling the paintings she and her mother, Lauren Jarrett, spent every day painting side by side. Lauren is one of the estimated 17,000 survivors of the Stolen Generations and the mother-daughter duo found painting together was a way of connecting and healing. Using bright colours and pastels, their paintings told stories of Gumbaynggirr country on the New South Wales Mid North Coast. Melissa realised these stories needed to be seen and heard so they started their business, Miimi & Jiinda, which means mother and sister.

Think of creative ways to evolve your product

Seeing the early signs of success, Miimi & Jiinda expanded into ceramics and then women’s and kids clothing. Now, they’ve entered the realm of high fashion. “It was definitely not something that I ever dreamt of happening,” says Melissa. “It just exploded, and we went along for the ride.” Still, that’s not to say the business has accidentally found success. “We have had to make decisions quickly and scaling up can feel scary,” she admits. “But we have also considered each step and have expanded into products we believed were worthwhile.” 

Control your supply chain

A challenge for many small businesses is that their supply chain can cause issues - think late deliveries, rising costs or unreliable partners. That’s why experts often urge them to consider vertical integration, which is when a business expands operations to include activities that are either earlier or later in the production process. It can give them more control over costs and quality. For Melissa, this added level of protection happened naturally. My mum is a master weaver and creates the beautiful woven adornments for the runway and also creates artworks with me on the occasion. My husband Abe does all the framing.

Know what you bring to the table

One of the things that Melissa says made business decisions easier when it was time to introduce new products: she had a firm grasp on what it was about Miiimi & Jiinda that appealed to her customers. From the visual appeal of the artwork and fabrics to the thoughtful design of her clothes and the strong sense of family and community that was woven into her brand story from the get-go, this balance ensured that her customers were loyal and supportive. “When you know your brand really well, then you know when to invest.”

Stay true to yourself and your business values

Even for a thriving lifestyle brand, not all opportunities are for the taking. “We often have to say no to big projects because they don’t align with our values,” she says. “It’s always been a very heartfelt business – it’s who we are, it’s our culture.” One of the brands they said a big yes to collaborating with was Adairs. “They were really respectful of our brand and really got to know us,” says Melissa of how she knows when to take on a project. “It just felt right – it’s a feeling.”

Celebrate your wins and savour meaningful moments

As a founder, Melissa admits the work can feel relentless at times. Deciding what to focus on can be a challenge when there are so many parts of her business that need attention. Still, she believes in savouring special moments - like last year, showing their Burraaba resort collection as part of the Indigenous Fashion Projects runway at Australian Fashion Week. Melissa’s brother, Minjarrah, opened the show with a traditional dance, and – in a major pinch-me moment – Lauren closed the show in the collection’s final look.

For support on how to start, run or grow your small business, visit or talk to one of CommBank’s small business bankers.

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Things you should know

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