In today’s Behind the Biz interview I’m chatting with Tanya, the founder of the socially conscious fashion and lifestyle brand, Mango + Moose.
Please tell us about Mango + Moose.
We are a socially conscious fashion and lifestyle brand. We work with Artisans in developing nations to curate and design jewellery, accessories, home and baby goods. Our expression “where global meets local” embodies the nature of Mango + Moose. Located in Canada, we provide a marketplace for goods made in Guatemala, Haiti, India, Nepal, Mali, Kenya, Uganada, Vietnam, and East Asia.
This is a company born from the desire to see all people thrive. We believe that partnering in relationship to provide dignified jobs is an effective way to move families into freedom and stability, and empower women through opportunity.
How did you decide upon the name of your brand?
Mango + Moose is a fun combination derived from the delicious Mangos grown in Haiti, one of our partner countries, and Moose indicative of Canada, the homebase of our marketplace.
Your business is built on ethics and sustainability. Please tell us how this has developed and been put into practice.
Knowing our partners and continuing to build relationships of transparency with them is key. We strive to work with the same Artisans to ensure that the impact is sustainable. Placing one large order with a group might meet an immediate need, however, placing several large orders year after year will create stability and continued advancement in the lives of those who make our goods. In addition to personal needs being met, our partners are quick to include many others in their community when enough work is available. Another beautiful aspect of partnering with people living and working on the ground in their own communities is they know how to best help their people through outreach programs. Medicinal gardens are built in Guatemala; a girls’ education fund is established in India; childcare systems have been created in Haiti, and recovery programs have begun in East Asia, just to name a few.
What did you do before setting up Mango + Moose?
My family and I were living in Haiti, where I own Ti Kokoye, a cafe/boutique/spa. This included working with Artisans to supply our boutique with wares for travellers. When we returned to Canada, I continued working with our Artisan partners in Haiti and expanded into additional nations to design and curate amazing handmade goods to bring to a global market.
Did you always have your heart set on the journey of self-employment?
I did. I have always been an entrepreneur. It is something that comes naturally to me and I love it. I love to build and create things, although managing them is not necessarily my first love, but I do what needs to be done. There is something extremely rewarding about pulling all the pieces together and eventually seeing the fruition of my work in a successful business.
Please share a business high and low with us.
It might be tough to share just one of each. I’ll start with a low, so we can end on a high. Cash is king in a startup and I overbought inventory right off the get-go, and it hurt us bad. In addition, I wasn’t yet great at sourcing the best margins and saleability for products within my market, which also did not help the bottom line.
But the highs, oh the highs, they are rewarding!
Without a doubt the highs are the people – the impact! My work is directly tied to the lives of others. I LOVE when one of our partners walks me through their newly built home, or passes over their little one to cuddle, and I know they were safely brought into this world in a hospital with medical care. I get celebratory messages about kids enrolled in school because our August orders provided the funds for uniforms and school fees. I get photos of cheering teams as they expand and hire others. What could be more rewarding? I am not sure.
What advice would you give to aspiring social entrepreneurs?
Be You! Always Be You!
We tend to think that we should be a certain way to do a certain job or hold specific accreditations or skillsets, but nothing beats heart! Skills help, and hiring the right people for areas where you are lacking in knowledge is just good business sense. However, as the owner of your business YOU are the visionary. YOU are the one who will need to strategize to see your mission through. Determine what that mission is, strategize the best way to get there; however this can be a team effort. Effectively communicate this to your team and try as much as possible to work ON your business and not get overwhelmed with working too much IN your business. You must have the energy to lead. And one more tip – do not compare your start to someone else’s middle or end game! It is easy to forget every business started somewhere.
Where do you hope to take your business in the year ahead?
Brand awareness is still very key for Mango + Moose. Getting the word out about our company, and having people who want to see ethical fashion become a way of life join us. The more of us who can connect together in this mission, the greater the impact we will have. We are engaging many innovative ideas for expansion this year, including helping young people to learn more about their purchasing power. If we can change the mindset early on, we have a greater chance of it becoming a reality for the next generation.
Thank you so much to Tanya for taking the time to be a part of Behind the Biz. I love the concept and ethics behind Mango + Moose and can’t wait to see the business grow over the years.
I hope you all enjoyed today’s interview with Tanya as much as I did. It was fantastic to hear about her business journey. Tanya’s passion for social business shines throughout this interview, she’s a real inspiration.