For those of us with kids – or for those who simply can’t find a way to not stow away their entire closet for a weekend getaway – packing for a trip and trying to stay organized is a feat no less daunting than a mission to Mars. For Gabriela Mekler and Maribel Moreno, founders of mumi, a shared passion for organizing and maintaining structure amid their busy lives as working moms sparked an idea to bring to market a solution that’s both practical and fun.
“Maribel and I met in a prenatal yoga class,” Gabriela said. “Even though we were both in very different situations with our lives, we had a lot in common. For one, we were both from Mexico. We also shared a passion for family, putting our kids first and for organizing. We started hanging out more and more often and eventually became inseparable.”
Gabriela continued, “As we grew closer, our discussions shifted towards starting a business. We’d go back and forth giving each other advice until one day when we thought about starting something together. During a family vacation, while unpacking our luggage, we discovered our shared love for organizing and tidiness. That was the genesis of mumi.”
For years before their serendipitous discovery of a shared passion and skill set, Gabriela and Maribel both used packing cubes to stay organized on trips and to keep order in their homes. However, despite their early adoption of packing cubes and other tools to stay organized, both entrepreneurs knew that the majority consumers in the United States were slow to catch on. They also discovered a lack of available packing products – especially those with a certain look and feel.
“That was really our ‘ah-ha moment’,” Gabriela said. “That’s when we decided to do our own unique line of packing and toiletry cubes for busy moms. We drained our savings and devoted 100% of our time to building mumi. We have a lot of contacts in Mexico and originally wanted to order our products through a manufacture in our home country, but they couldn’t compete with China. Fortunately we have a contact in China that helped us secure the smallest possible order the factory would produce. For us, placing an order and moving forward with our idea was a ‘what’s the worst that can happen’ type decision.”
Gabriela continued, “When that first order came in, the packaging wasn’t right and we had to flatten out logos using books. Since we’re both OCD, we wanted everything to look perfect. The first place we featured our products was at a local school bazaar for moms. Our booth – that included hand-painted vintage 1920s style suitcases as displays – was beautiful. A lot of people didn’t know exactly what we were selling, but they were attracted to the branding. Nevertheless, when it was all said and done we sold out. Then we did it again and again and kept reinvesting our profits to place bigger orders.”
It didn’t take long before Gabriela and Maribel were walking into stores in Miami and New York to meet with buyers. Not everyone agreed to carry their products, but many who said yes remain loyal partners today. Their distribution model quickly progressed from direct retail to wholesale and eventually ecommerce. As mumi’s online presence grew, so did the impact of the company’s social media marketing.
“I had no idea the power of social media until a travel blogger from Australia wanted our products,” Gabriela said. “By luck, she was traveling to Orlando. We decided to greet her with a basket of our products, which led to her blogging about it. From that point on, Australia became a huge market for us.”
According to Gabriela, mumi hit a tipping point in May 2019 when a male investor took notice of what they were doing. As she explained, he was the right person at exactly the right time to give mumi the push to continue scaling.
“At that point, we were both feeling a little bit in over our heads,” she said. “We were getting orders and requests and there weren’t enough hours in the day to make everything happen. We kept thinking we wished we could find someone – specifically we wanted a male partner that didn’t have the same non-work commitments we had. We were two full-time moms dealing with a lot of distractions and very little extra time. He came along, not only as a partner, but also as an investor at the perfect time.”
Working through the challenges of balancing work, family and life, and learning many things the hard way, Gabriela and Maribel have built a lifestyle business they’re proud of and passionate about. With optimistic attitudes and laser-sharp focus, they’ve persevered through many obstacles – including COVID-19.
“We went from record breaking sales in February 2020 to big losses in March,” Gabriela said. “We were in complete disbelief with what was happening. We had recently attended one of the largest trade shows in the U.S. and were backed up with orders. Things came to a halt and we had to let go of team members we loved – we were devastated. However, there was something that gave us hope – something we had already started planning for the future of our company. We introduced mumi Homes knowing that we had to expand beyond just travel products.”
Gabriela shared that despite their challenges – including the COVID-19 pandemic – their trials and tribulations have given them more passion and confidence that the mumi brand is strong and well-positioned for future success. The two founders thoroughly enjoy bringing new ideas to life and connecting with their customers.
Looking ahead, Gabriela and Maribel are focused on bringing mumi products into as many households as possible. Along the way, they want their customers to not just adopt the products, but also the brand and the lifestyle.
What advice does Gabriela have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Believe in your idea and start small,” she said. “The worst thing that can happen is you go back and start something else, but that will be way better than never trying. I know people that want to start a business but they’re afraid of rejection and people not connecting with their idea. Remember, nothing is 100% and nothing is for everybody. There are people out there just like you – go after them. Lastly, embrace and learn from your mistakes. Everything you go through shapes who you are and what you become.”