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.


Vashti Uys
Vashti Uys is head designer and founder of MOOI. Based in Australia with her two young sons Kingsley and Kobi, Zimbabwe-born husband Darren and her dog Frankie, Vashti’s own personal easy-going style mirrors her design ethos - favouring the functional and fuss-free with a strong emphasis on beautiful fabrics and a foundation of luxury.

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