- What is your career background?
When I left collage at 18 I went to New York to do an internship and then worked in London for the same company doing product co-ordination for a Cashmere Jumper company Duffy. I was with the company for about 2 years. I worked with designers, sales and warehousing so it was really an all round job working on the process of new collections and what our customers wanted to see in upcoming seasons. I used to attend the shows in Paris and Scoop and assist the sales team.
2. What led to the opening of Moo and Boom?
In the March 2020 I sadly lost my job as the company ceased trading and so did my mum. We got really enthusiastic in lockdown about sustainability and ethics and I just got really passionate about fast fashion brands paying their workers and what materials are destroying the planet. I stopped buying high street brands and started going down the independent route. I then started selling second hand clothing and it all grew from there because I realised it wasn’t just fast fashion destroying our planet it was the mass producing of other products. So we started in a tiny little office researching and selling online and I thought imagine if I could get this out wider with a store front.
3. How difficult was it opening a new shop in the middle of the pandemic?
The pandemic was hard because of restrictions but I had so much support from family and friends who helped decorate and build what was necessary for restrictions and social distancing. I am always a great believer in positive thinking so I thought if I can survive a pandemic I can do this. We did all our renovations throughout the 4 months before opening so we used it to our advantage. However with no funding because I was such a new business it was hard but that is why I started off with my pop up shop to test the water first.
4. Why did you choose the location and unit?
I moved back home after loosing my job and I live 5 minutes away from Whitchurch so it has always been a town we shopped in however there were a lot of empty units. I actually had a friend who helped me create a pop up shop in one of the units so I started off with half the size of the building I am in now. After the pop up 4 months were over it went really well and I had a lot of good feedback so I signed the lease 4 days before my 21st birthday which was crazy if you saw the size of the unit I am in!! Whitchurch is now such a thriving town there are so many independents and great businesses throughout the whole town.
4. How would you describe your ethos and what the store offers?
So we are a Sustainable Lifestyle Store. I work with other suppliers who are ethical and have sustainable morals and are working to help others. We offer such a range of homeware and gift ideas and I try to be as unique as possible. I personally love being different and I was everyone to have something unique. I want workers to be paid fairly and goods to be helping our planet with recycled materials or biodegradable goods.
5. How important is sustainability to you and why did you want to focus on this for your business?
I am so passionate about sustainability I personally don’t buy into high street brands anymore I do a lot of through rough research into what I buy or I do a lot of second hand buying. I wanted to help educate people on this topic and how serious this really is. I wanted people to know how in our country we have a minimum wage and in others they don’t so they are being paid pennies to make a polyester top that will go into landfill after a few years and how the plastics used in the process go into our water streams. So for me to build a platform where I can talk about it and make it fun without being too preachy is great. I try to just give facts on what my products do and how they help others.
6. What sort of products can shoppers buy at Moo and Boom?
What don’t we sell.. Ha Ha. So we sell gifts, home interiors, soft furnishings, we do a lot of antique furniture and upholstered furniture giving them a new lease of life, clothing, accessories, beauty, jewellery, stationary! This is why I class myself as a Lifestyle Store!
7. What percentage of your product line-up is fashion?
I would say 30% of my products are fashion. I worked with different brands but I am still looking for some that will fit in well to my ethos.
7. Which womenswear brands do you stock in particular?
We worked with b.young and fransa however we pick up the sustainable items made with the eco vera viscose and BCI cotton so I’m afraid we don’t pick all the sparkles as much as we would love too however it is just not sustainable so it doesn’t fit into what I do. I also work with Pachamama who are super fair trade working with 100% Wool and they are great suppliers and I work with Passenger who also work with recycled materials and is sustainable outerwear. I want to be more sustainable with my clothing and that is what I am working towards.
8. What sells well in terms of fashion (products/ brands/ categories)?
A lot of my outerwear and accessories do really well. My customers love a story behind a product and I have a lot of those as I source everything myself so I know who has made them and where they are from.
9. Where do you do your buying? How do you find sustainable brands?
I go to the shows to do my buying however I have good relationships with suppliers and people I used to work with so I try to source something really different that other shops around me may not have. This is really important to me. Finding sustainable brands is hard because although they have to be sustainable they also have to be ethical.
10. How easy is it finding suitable sustainable products and brands?
It is hard because a lot of companies do greenwash and I am not 100% there yet on how sustainable I want to be but that’s why I am continuously working hard to find brands who have the fair trade and ethical standard I require. I go through a big process and ask the right questions I make sure all my beauty products are natural and use sustainably sourced essential oils so there are no paraffins or synthetics in the products. I make sure all my homeware is ethically made so I get a lot from India and my suppliers are great they have good working conditions and work with small groups to give a fair wage.
11. What sort of criteria do you work towards when considering a new brand for the shop?
I find what’s missing or if I do my research and love something I will email or call the supplier and ask the questions like how sustainable is your business, where is it made, is it fair trade, ethics of a business, what is used and what materials. It’s like the game 21 questions... haha
12. How would you describe the physical store to someone who’s never visited?
I would describe it as FULL of colour, it smells gorgeous with all our natural aromatherapy. Our staff are great and so friendly. We have a café kiosk at the back of our store and we do vegan and gluten free cakes and little light bites. We have a cosy wood burner so it’s great for the winter. It’s a very inviting space where anyone can find something unique for themselves or someone else. We also have a studio where we hold classes we do a lot of holistic workshops, yoga, Pilates, creative workshops such as journaling, wreath making and pottery.
13. What kind of shoppers do you get visiting the store?
We get all kinds of shoppers to our store a different range of ages. I have a lot of young people who love the crystals and the holistic side of the business and I get older people who love the café... our café is great because a lot of people come in by themselves and they always come out having chatted to a like minded person. My store isn’t for everyone and I get that but I have some amazing loyal customers who support me and spread the word.
14. How is the online side of the business? Have you managed to expand your customer base beyond your local area?
This year and winning both my awards have really helped spread the word for my online business. I am slowly growing it I redid my website this year which took me a few months but it was worth it and I am constantly pushing to expand online. We do a lot of sales through Instagram and Facebook our social media really helps.
15. How involved has the rest of your family been in the business (I know you mentioned your mum is on board and also your brother)? Do they have retail backgrounds?
My family is very involved we do class ourselves as a family business. I have two brothers and one is now working in the business running the male side and the other brother and dad help me decorate, move the store around and are very hands on. My mum is defiantly my rock in the business she has a strong retail background and used to be an auctioneer so she helps me buy my antiques and furniture. She always has an amazing vision for things and we work well together as I love seeing and making those visions come to life. My brother who is running the male side is only 18 so he is very new to retail however is just as passionate than me on sustainability and is so great at finding new brands.
16. Please could you tell us about your new men’s store? Where/ when is it opening and what will it offer? What will it be called?
So our new Menswear Store is called JB and BOOM (Jonjo Benjamin) and I am MOOand BOOM ( Maddie MOO) The BOOM is for boomerang and what goes around comes around, it’s our sustainability take! So we opened the menswear on Friday 9th December and it is just up the high street from me. It is exactly like my own store but for the male side so we are doing homeware, soft furnishings, antiques, Male clothing, Male grooming, Male accessories and leather goods. We have had such a good response so far as there is a lot lacking for Sustainable menswear stores so we are trying to bring that unique edge to men’s Lifestyle and clothing!
17. What’s been the most challenging thing so far about running your own business?
I think the most challenging thing is that I own such a big building and we have rates on top of a high rent so I always have to be very aware of that. With heating bills increasing it was hard however I got a wood burner fitted in my café! My wood is from the UK and sustainably sourced) However I do believe I can do it and I will keep working hard to achieve my bigger goals.
What will be your main focus for 2023 and what are you most excited about for the new year?
2023 is really exciting because I love going to my first few shows and finding something completely different and NEW for my customers. I have a lot of ideas and my main focus will be becoming more sustainable and growing the male side of the business as JB and BOOM is SO new and I feel like not enough people know about it yet!! I love achieving and growing as a business this year has been incredible and winning two awards made me so proud.