Melissa Stocker had long held ambitions to export her own brand of duvets. Her husband Kevin has manufactured and exported OEM wholesale duvets and underlays for more than 20 years at Princess Wools in Manukau – and therefore was operating in a market segment that didn’t require a strong brand focus.
Melissa knew all about building brands and selling them, thanks to her sales and marketing background, which included a number of years as a key account manager and as a marketing manager. She has also spent the past eight years importing and distributing e-cloth microfibre cleaning cloths; so was keen to experience the opposite end of business and build a strong export brand of premium wool products.
Three years ago the decision was made to launch Moemoe, a brand initially applied to pure New Zealand wool cot duvets, because that was a product they could easily supply. There is a more extensive product range planned, including single, queen and king sizes, and later cashmere and alpaca duvets, which Melissa believes will be especially well received overseas. Melisa worked closely with Auckland design agency VanillaBrief, who developed the brand logo for both New Zealand and Chinese markets. The name Moemoe is derived from the Maori verb ‘moemoe’ – meaning ‘to sleep’ (Melissa tells me moemoe also means ‘naughty child’ in Chinese).
With Kevin manufacturing OEM duvets and underlays for export to Australia, Asia and Europe, Melissa had access to not just manufacturing capability, but some great advice. Her sights were set on the world’s premium markets and loyalty-point program clients in New Zealand became her first customers. “For me personally, it was really my only option [to target the loyalty points market], because I had two young kids at home. I could cover a big market just by talking to one person. In New Zealand I only had three customers to work with, which made it so easy compared to my e-cloth business, where I had more than 250 stockists.”
With the necessary business systems now in place, the Australian loyalty points market was next, followed by Europe – the latter covering the traditional downturn in sales during summer.
Meantime a market to be reckoned with was opening up. That market was China. Today it makes up the bulk of Moemoe’s sales.
Initially there had been a lot of interest and requests for samples from potential clients in China, but Melissa says most leads went cold (she’s since learnt not to get too excited about enquiries, but admits it’s hard not to). Then one day she was approached by a particular Chinese distributor who had an agent in New Zealand. That distributor was not just all talk and she’s never looked back – her first order was for one single chain of 2500 stores in China and involved 15,000 units! Needless to say, the business has grown significantly in 2014; Melissa believes the China market is a “little bit scary” in terms of size, and may be all that they can handle in the short to medium term. “But we definitely want to explore the European markets with our duvets, and maybe the US at some stage.”
New Zealand made
Melissa says Moemoe’s growth has exceeded her initial expectations. “The business has continued to grow month on month. This was expected as it is a great product, however the level of growth has proved that there is a high demand for premium New Zealand made products both in New Zealand and overseas.”
And that’s another key to the success of the Moemoe brand – all products are and always will be strictly New Zealand made. “Our distributor in China has specifically asked for New Zealand made product, because he is targeting that premium market. He’s also asked me to source other premium Kiwi products.”
That one Chinese distributor provided much-needed impetus for the business; Melissa says he appreciates the honest, straight-forward nature of Kiwis, “the fact that we don’t promise him something we can’t deliver”. And having been to visit the Manukau-based factory, he’s realistic about output capacity, she says, as well as passionate about New Zealand and proud to be representing its premium products.
Melissa admits that there are still challenges with the business. Finding staff who’re as passionate about Moemoe as she is, and can latch onto the vision, is a major stumbling block (at the time of writing Melissa had a vacancy for a high calibre local sales rep), as is finding customers prepared to spend good money on their bedding, and buyers who want to offer their customers premium New Zealand-made products.
But the buzz of seeing Moemoe products in store and receiving positive customer feedback makes it all worthwhile. “I love getting orders and planning how they will be executed. And, of course, when the invoices are paid – that makes me pretty happy!”