• Our MOOI Journey so far...

    I often stop and reflect on my journey and where we are at now; but a recent piece shared in The CEO Magazine reminded me how far we have come with MOOI.  I have always been exposed to entrepreneurship, philanthropy and innovation, so it now seems natural that I found my way with my own business. While earning my degree in education and teaching at Auckland University, I also worked my way up in the street fashion industry, learning the ins and outs of the business and assisting in the setup of two retail stores. Throughout the years that followed, I sustained productive careers in both recruitment and teaching, becoming National Account Manager of a top recruitment agency and even co-founding an English school for children in Japan.

    My beautiful Mum, Viv Leachman and I with some of our earlier MOOI creations My beautiful Mum, Viv Leachman and I with some of our earlier MOOI creations

    MOOI was born in 2012 following a creation I made while living in South Africa. To think it all started when I selected the hide, shape, and design on her own, the inquiries of the origin of my bag and consistent compliments received triggered a light bulb moment to turn my hobby into a business!

    Since then, MOOI has grown from strength to strength. Although — like with any business — the entire journey has not been smooth sailing, I have found that the company has only grown through overcoming these obstacles. As a brand based devoutly in high quality standards, many of these challenges have simply involved maintaining MOOI’s top value and excellence. With every MOOI bag individually handcrafted and our extremely high values of quality and consistency, getting the productions team to ‘buy-in’ to our brand values took some time.

    Another challenge for me has been navigating international markets to discover cultural differences and the best approaches to marketing and communication.  It is almost like I need to start each marketing plan with a clean slate, a blank canvas, and work out that market’s intricacies and differences.  I do find this a challenge, but one that I find exciting, and love to conquer! These challenges have become my learnings!

    MOOI and I in the beginning! MOOI and I in the beginning!

    MOOI has also adopted sustainable practices by sourcing materials that are bi-products of the economic food industry, for example, by utilising the hides of animals already culled for meat. In this way, MOOI works with local farmers and tanneries in order to support sustainable farming practices.  I am also really proud that we have lent a hand to disadvantaged people in South Africa by offering employment opportunities to those with little-to-no training at our family-owned factory, Indigo. We are now creating as much as 80 per cent of the company designs, Indigo allows new staff to gain experience in different roles and work towards a permanent position in the company.

    Even the name ‘MOOI’ itself reflects the brand’s pure and genuine values. Meaning ‘beautiful’ in Afrikaans, MOOI was originally meant to represent the elegant and unique crafts we had come across in her travels. However, over time the name came to symbolise so much more. When we started working with the team in Cape Town I quickly realised that the depth of talent and design application from South Africa would be all consuming for me.  I wanted our business name to resonate this talent, craft and design. I wanted something that would encapsulate the beauty of this art.

    I am often asked what advice I would give to other women hoping to start their own business, I say take a leap of faith.  If I waited to have the perfect idea and the perfect business model, I would have never begun. I look back at our first website, business cards, and merchandising material and chuckle. Put your product or service out there — the market will let you know where to from here. Just start! If you have a dream to start a business, it won’t happen unless you make it happen.

  • A day in the life of Vashti Uys...

    I am an early riser! I’m usually up by 5am and can’t start my day without a Bikram yoga or boot camp session, or a nice run on the beach with my dog Frankie. I enjoy this very peaceful hour of the day that I have to myself to center and focus on what is to come. Once I arrive home, crazy starts! My husband and I get our sons Kingsley and Kobi out of bed and school ready… who would have thought brushing teeth is such a huge task?! We prepare their lunches and also work with them on homework tasks. Once we actually get the boys with all their books, pens and a shoes out of the house and on their bike, we ride them to school. I absolutely adore our morning rides! Everybody is refreshed and happy and we play Eye Spy and First One To Spot which provides loads of giggles. Gosh, I don’t want them to grow up! (laughs)

    Our mini MOOI's...Kobi & Kingsley; creating my business with the freedom to spend time with them was definitely a top priority! Our mini MOOI's...Kobi & Kingsley; creating my business with the freedom to spend time with them was definitely a top priority!

    Back home, I’m diving straight into my first meeting of the day: my husband Darren, our CS Managers and I discuss the tasks ahead and identify any issues we might have. This gets us aligned for the day. I ZOOM into the offices in New Zealand, the production sites and agents in Australia, to see what’s going on. I am very passionate about our brand, so I like to be on top of everything, from production to sales.

    Choosing materials, and patterns and being hands on with the brand is my passion! Choosing materials, and patterns and being hands on with the brand is my passion!

    Until 2.30pm I am usually doing a lot of office work. Nobody likes to do admin or accounting, however I am very hands on in our business. I absolutely love planning and design work – so before picking up the boys from school I play with new patterns, designs, materials and colours. This is what I love most about our brand – I can incorporate my creativity and see it in physical form in the end.

    After 3pm I transform from business woman to Mum again: I chauffeur my kids to their after school activities or we simply have a family visit to the beach and play. We all need such an afternoon every now and then, as it brings us closer together as a family. I wouldn’t trade this time in for the world. I consider myself very lucky that I can spend so much quality time with my family and am able to run a successful business at the same time. In the early evening usually I help Darren prepare dinner – and I’m purposely saying help, because I am the worst in the kitchen! (laughs) I am good at being helpful, but that’s about it. However, you have never seen a better dish washer than me!

    Mr MOOI & I - we mix business, pleasure and family time well! Mr MOOI & I - we mix business, pleasure and family time well!

    At around 8pm Kingsley and Kobi are well and truly ready for bed. A little bit of story time and the boys are out for the day – time for me to switch back to business. These two hours until 10pm Queensland time are reserved for meetings with the US and South Africa. Although working this late sounds like a nuisance, I have to say that I actually love this time of day. I can check my emails without having a phone ring or people distract me. I can enjoy pottering along at my own pace, listening to my favourite music. I wouldn’t change a thing!

    Vashti x

  • Sourcing in South Africa

    When we first started the MOOI brand, due to our low production volumes (as a new brand) we were very restricted with the variety of material we could source- both locally in South Africa and in the neighbouring countries.
  • Design Inspiration

    Working on our next summer offering these last few months has been particularly inspiring for me. As the MOOI brand goes from strength to strength, we now have the benefit of a team of dedicated sampling staff during the production process, as well as access to custom making our materials. This is super exciting and has opened up many more creative doors for our designs!
  • Live By Example

    Yesterday, whilst in New Zealand, I caught up with a good friend, who as the founder of her company, often speaks at various events. She uses these opportunities as a platform to share her journey while informing the audience about her product. It's her 'matter-of-fact' delivery that always engages great enjoyment in her audience. Yesterday, during the question and answer segment of her presentation, Lilly was asked 'how do you choose between being a great Mum and a great CEO?'. I was flabbergasted. Later in the day, when I shared this with Lilly, she explained that gender referencing was not a surprise to her, and in fact, was a constant in a lot her public appearances. Naturally, this got me thinking...
  • What is MOOI’s DNA…What are the values our business is based on

    MOOI Values: Passion: Loving what you do. Passion for us means, to act, live with a sparkle, with positive energy. At MOOI we live and breathe our jobs with passion – we are spirited and vivacious. Our NZ Business Manager is one of our employees that exemplify this value perfectly. When Alice sees our new seasons samples she squeals with delight. When you meet Alice, her warm, positive energy brightens your day.
  • Production; Behind the scenes

    Our gorgeous luxe leathers and cowhides are all handcrafted ethically in Africa. I wanted to share these behind-the-scenes images of our MOOI being produced along the way.
  • Why I started MOOI:

    Nowadays, I’ve come to realise that being asked the ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions can be the most realigning and grounding activity one can do for a business. How did you start your business? Why did you start?

    Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to be invited to join a gang of business owners on at unique learning experience in New York. Yes you read that right…NYC!
  • Really Real or Really Fake?

    On my recent travels I was lucky enough to stop by Florence, Italy. There I indulged in copious amounts of gelato (an absolute must) but I also visited Leonardo Leather Works - a showroom with a variety of leather products made in true Florentine tradition. Of course shopping was on the agenda, but first I sat through a leather demonstration where an expert taught us the difference between fake and real leather. She gave us tips on what to look for, how feel and touch is important and why most places spray that 'leather smell' to try and trick you.

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