How Lynette Miya turned a passion for helping newborns and their mothers into a thriving South Bay business
Stand outside Bright Beginnings and Beyond on any given day before the store opens for business, and you’re likely to be surrounded by a cadre of women in various stages of ante and post-partum conditions waiting anxiously. Follow them inside as the lock is unlatched and the doors swing open, and you’ll soon realize that this is no ordinary Riviera Village boutique shop. Far from being your standard retail establishment, Bright Beginnings and Beyond is a gathering place and support system for new and expectant mothers seeking everything from the purchase of breast-feeding aides, to having their babies weighed and recorded, to training classes, to advice on skin rashes and other maladies.
A friendly social atmosphere pervades the store and this has led to many of the clientele forging friendships far beyond the racks and shelves. But this brainchild of Lynette Miya wasn’t conceived out of intense market research or focus group meetings; rather it was the result of a confluence of events as disparate as county healthcare cutbacks to the birth of her niece in Seattle, Washington.
Born into a medical family (sister-dentist, sister-internist, mother-psychologist, father-general practitioner) in South Torrance, Miya attended South High before moving onto undergraduate studies in nursing at Mount St. Mary’s. This was followed by a post-graduate degree from UCLA in Maternal Child Health. She entered the Los Angeles county health system as a labor and delivery nurse at near-by Harbor UCLA Medical Center in 1984, and soon realized she wanted more. She signed up for the Nurse-Practitioner program soon afterward because in her words, “It gave me more autonomy to do more for the women and babies I was dealing with.” Her scope of work soon broadened to include pre-natal care, obstetrics, gynecology, and baby wellness training. Life was good and she felt like she was making a difference in people’s lives.
Beginning in 1994, the Los Angeles County Health Care System went through a series of budget shortfalls and the resulting cutbacks, lay-offs, re-organizations, et cetera. Unlike others, Miya avoided the axe, but was demoted and moved around in a medley of re-organizations as the county tried to right its ship. She realized at that moment that her position and ability to help women was tentative at best, and began seeking options. She met Dr. James Scharffenberger and took a part time position as an OB/GYN nurse practitioner with him as an insurance policy against further labor reductions. It was a fortuitous move that would serve her well down the road
The county eventually stabilized, but it was only three short years before the system’s well had run dry again and another round of down-sizing ensued. It was during this time that Miya’s younger sister in Seattle was giving birth to her first child and she decided to fly up and support her. She lamented the dire economic situation with the county to her sister and how it impacted her ability to consistently be able to help women and their newborns. She wanted something else in her life, something where she could help women and was not at the mercy of a fragile county system.
Her sister suggested that she take a look at a store in the Seattle area that she had patronized during her pregnancy. The name of the store was “Birth and Beyond” and Lynette Miya fell in love with it the moment she stepped through its front doors. Not having any experience in running a business, she implored the store’s owner to let Miya hire her as a consultant for a week and work in the store with her to gain valuable first-hand experience. Realizing that a store located in Los Angeles would represent no competition to her, the owner agreed and Miya was given a crash-course in retail store operation.
She flew home to Los Angeles a short time later and put together a business proposal, which she promptly presented to her part time employer, Dr. Scharffenberger. Scharffenberger readily agreed to the concept, and the two of them soon became 50/50 partners in the business. Each of them would invest half of the moneys, but Miya would be in charge of the day to day operation and have creative control. And with that, Bright Beginnings and Beyond was on its way to becoming a reality.
The store opened its doors for the first time on February 1 5th, 2000. Miya easily admits that, like many new business owners, she was nervous and constantly asking herself if she had done the right thing. “My head was spinning for the first six months we were in business,” she recalls with a smile.
Before long though word began to spread, and her customer base grew rapidly. Classes in breast-feeding were offered and became an instant hit. To this Miya places the credit for the success of these and other classes firmly at the feet of her assistant Hillary Gray, a neo-natal intensive care nurse. Other classes have recently been added to the store’s curriculum such as Lamaze, infant CPR, child safety and many others.
GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT
Besides adding to the repertoire of classes, changes in the store’s inventory have evolved as well. Miya says that soon they will be getting out of the maternity clothing arena altogether as it has become apparent that it is too difficult to compete with the Targets of the world. Regardless the reduction of one product line, her sales have quadrupled in just eight short years and the business appears to be recession-proof.
“I was worried after 9-11 that our sales would fall off like many other businesses” she said. “But we didn’t see any change.” The current economic crisis has had no noticeable effect as well and Miya credits this to the fact that in tough economic times, mothers will still always put their babies first.
The store also donates its excess inventory to two charitable causes. One, known as “SAM’s Club” which stands for ” Substance Abusing Mothers” and is located in Miya’s old stomping grounds at Harbor General Hospital. And the other, “Casa de los Angelitos” which is a support group for abused pregnant women and their families.
Asked what her most memorable moment has been since that day when she first opened her doors, Lynette Miya recalls a mother with a Down’s Syndrome child who attended one of her breast-feeding classes. The mother was very withdrawn and shy about others knowing of her child’s affliction. Before long though, the other women in the class began to bond with her and offer words of encouragement and support. Many became good friends with the woman and it became a very warm and inspiring moment in the history of Bright Beginnings and Beyond. The woman even remarked to Miya at one point that it was through her experience at Bright Beginnings and Beyond that she “Finally felt like a mother, like all of the rest.”
“That was when I knew I was in the right business, and for all of the right reasons,” Lynette Miya says. Bright Beginnings and Beyond is located at 229 Avenue I in Redondo Beach. They have a website: www.brightbeginningsbeyond.com