Vashti Uys began her business MOOI in New Zealand five years ago and in that time it has grown to a truly global scale.
MOOI (pronounced ‘moy’) means ‘beautiful’ in Afrikaans, the language of South Africa, which is where Vashti’s husband hails from and where MOOI bags are handcrafted. Ethically produced from local materials, MOOI designs honour age-old techniques and designs specific to South Africa.
Now run from Australia, and making its mark in boutiques across the United States, MOOI is a testament to what can be achieved when you have a dream and a little moxy.
She’d been running her business for almost three years at the time she joined the Accelerator program, but Vashti says she is now teetering on the edge of graduating into EO proper.
“I just have to wait until the end of the financial year, but I think I’m just on it!” she says.
Vashti’s first experience of EO was attending the EO University in New York as the guest of a member.
“It was life-changing,” she said. “It really ignited my desire for a little more support as an entrepreneur in a small trade, where you’re quite isolated.”
On returning home from the University in New York, Vashti had joined the Accelerator program almost before the jetlag wore off.
“I felt it was important for my personal development. I’ve got all the books to read, but in terms of actually enforcing some of those accountabilities to grow professionally, I was a bit restricted.
“I thought the structure of EO would help support me with some of the learnings and also just provide a community of shared experiences.”
Vashti speaks passionately about the confidence and self-assurance she’s gained being a part of the program. She says she’s learned how bigger and bigger opportunities present themselves every time you forge further ahead.
“I would never have gone into America or grown the way we have in Australia without some of the learnings that I’ve taken away from EO, and the shared experiences and community.
“It’s given me the impulse to keep growing professionally, and extend my business further than my capabilities at the time,” she said. “Sometimes just hearing that other people have done this and it’s worked really well, you go, ‘We could give that a go.’”
The phrase, “leap and the net will appear” seems to sum up Vashti’s approach these days. Where she would overthink or second-guess things before, she has learned how possible it is to just take the plunge.
“You can sit and wait until everything’s complete or until you’ve got all your ducks in a row, but nothing beats actually doing it.”
Of course, this isn’t to say she doesn’t still run into challenges where things don’t pan out, but Vashti says that the collective experience – seeing all of the people who have been there, and done that – of the forums reassure her that she’ll come out on top. Hearing that others have made the same mistakes and experienced the same challenges came as an incredible relief.
“You have these extreme challenges when you go, “Oh god, what have I done?” but you just ride them out because you know other people have done that.”
Vashti says there are a number of benefits she’s seen since joining the Accelerator program.
“The sense of community, and putting strategic growth challenges into my business practice has probably been the biggest win.
However, her biggest success by far has been moving into the US, a move that’s paid dividends in the two years since then.
“Growing in multiple markets has been the biggest win on the business side,” she says. “We’re still in a testing phase; we’re in our second year of doing trade shows now, but just having the confidence to try has been my biggest win.”
Vashti says it’s a tie between which EO values she most aligns with – she can’t choose between Boldly Go and Cool. And it’s easy to see why – between expanding here at home and making strides in the competitive US market, MOOI is doing very cool things.
Vashti says there is something for everyone in EO Accelerator, regardless of your industry or other life commitments.
“It’s an invaluable resource for support, community and learning for entrepreneurs and small bussinesses that have gotten stuck.
“Everyone’s got family, everyone’s got loads of things they want to achieve. But the focus is on the business, whether you’re a mum, dad, or grandpa.”
Her advice? “Just do it.”