By Charndré Emma Kippie
Founded in Gauteng, Mo’s Crib is a South African decor brand specialising in handmade, sustainable, and ethical homewares. Founded by sisters Mo (HR Specialist) and Michelle Mokone (Agricultural Economist), the brand is best known for their innovative, handwoven baskets, planters, and hampers made from unique materials such as ultra-durable PVC plastic reclaimed from landfills and construction sites throughout South Africa.
Mo’s Crib is a black-owned, female-founded business with over 90% female staff. They’ve recently collaborated with Woolworths, Builders Warehouse, and Mr Price home, alongside five-star resorts. The Pretoria-born sisters have made remarkable local industry moves that have caught the eye of U.S retail giant Crate & Barrel stores, which now grants the business the opportunity to sell their one-of-a-kind products to U.S customers online and in-store for the very first time.
This is exciting news for the décor duo as it allows the business to build a brighter future for their female artisans who hand make all of Mo’s Crib’s products, along with providing fair wages, housing, hot meals, transportation, in-house healthcare, and wellness check-ups, in addition to skills training including English language lessons. Mo’s Crib going international allows the sisters to create opportunities and make an impact in their community.
What got you two into décor?
While we were both entrepreneurial growing up, Mo fell in love with the art of crochet as a little girl in the 90s – using old plastic bags and to weave them into rugs as a creative outlet. It wasn’t until 2016 that Mo started to think about her artistic hobby as a potential business, selling her creative origami Swans at a market that we both attended as guests at first. Although we had corporate careers, we both had a love for homeware, and we knew this was the gateway. Building upon this, we introduced a new product to the market a year later which was the PVC Range, which is laundry baskets made from recycled PVC water pipes which sold out within days. This led us to decide to pursue the business full time in 2019.
What excites you the most about the work you do?
Being able to share the success of Mo’s Crib with our employees. Being able to make a difference in the lives of those that are employed by Mo’s Crib has been the most rewarding part because the small steps we took have now created an impact in the communities that we serve and in the homes of our dedicated team members.
In addition to that, we find it incredibly satisfying to be able to launch creative, sustainable products that change that decor landscape both locally and internationally. Offering products that are functional, artistic and resemble high quality.
In what ways, do you both think your business is enhancing the South African economy?
Through Mo’s Crib, we are able to create employment opportunities and skills training lessons that lift individuals up so that they can then build opportunities for themselves. The artisans who hand-make all our products are compensated with fair wages, housing, hot meals, and transportation. They also have access to an on-site health clinic for basic medical needs with weekly classes on sexual health, mental health, and hygiene. Lastly, employees are provided with English lessons and weekly classes on financial management to help them understand how to stretch their dollar and pay for their kids’ schools.
One of our proudest moments this year was learning that one of our employees recently bought a car – which doesn’t happen every day in Pretoria. How amazing is that? While we have recently shipped our first three Containers to the USA, it has always been a mission for us to contribute to the overall export of South African products internationally, while also ensuring that we limit the export of internal products. We have thus far been able to secure jobs through creating a consistent supply of locally made products and in our small way, we believe we are making a difference to the economy.
In some industries that are interlinked with our mandate such as suppliers and male employees, there is gender dynamics that get in the way where our role as leaders is not respected and that requires more effort from us to get the goals met.
What are your joint goals for the future?
To Continue making a difference in our community by offering sustainable jobs, more conscious product offerings and to be the best homeware brand globally.
What important/life-changing books have you read?
Michelle: Rising Strong by Brene Brown – It taught me to embrace my vulnerabilities and be more conscious of authenticity.
Morongwe: John Mackey’s Conscious Capitalism taught me that conscious leadership is key to business success and growth.
What advice do you two have for young women entrepreneurs who aspire to work in your field?
Be unique, have a product that tells a story and be willing to go beyond the standard practices as it pertains to design and art in the home space.
*For more, check out our bumper 16th edition of the Standard Bank Top Women Leaders publication on Issuu – Digital Publishing Platform – here.
*Stay up to date with all the latest on Top Women in SA, by signing up to the Standard Bank Top Women newsletter – here.