Robyn Jones left her career as an advertising account director after 15 years in the media industry with the desire to start a business that would make a difference in people’s lives. Eighteen months later, Robyn’s Mama Maya brand of fair-trade and organic baby wraps has now funded over 3,500 birthing kits with over $10,000 donated to women in need.
The social enterprise model was simple, with every muslin baby wrap purchased, Mama Maya provides funding for at least one clean birthing kit and caregiver training to ensure that at least one other mama in a developing country will be able to access a cleaner and safer birth. Mama Maya’s wraps are incredibly popular gifts for new babies, and are stocked by a growing number of retailers in Australia, and loved by stylish celeb mums including Kate Waterhouse, Teresa Palmer, and Candice Lake. We asked Premium member Robyn about her brand’s mission to helping reduce maternal mortality for women in developing countries.
What made you take the leap into launching your own brand?
For years I’ve been wanting to start a business with a philanthropic focus; I’d only recently finished high school when I read Anita Roddick’s ‘Business As Unusual’, and later fell in love with the story of TOMS shoes, and their one-for-one business model.
During my maternity leave three years ago, I started to brainstorm ideas for product-based businesses to follow a one-for-one model. Looking around my son’s room, I saw something that every baby has multiples of – the simple (yet extremely useful) muslin wrap! – and immediately began researching how to bring it to life. As someone who is always looking for gorgeous baby shower gifts for friends, I knew that this had potential to become the go-to gift for a new baby, and a stylish essential for any new mum.
Why is the social enterprise model important to you?
I would never have started Mama Maya if there wasn’t a philanthropic focus to the business. Our business growth and success means more money for the Birthing Kit Foundation, and more women having a safer childbirth – it’s such a brilliant motivator.
My passion lies not just in the design and in bringing the product to life, but in using business to make the world a better place. We know that our customers love that their gift has double the impact. In our category, there are more than enough brands selling beautiful baby goods, but what we need is more businesses who ask themselves, ‘how can I give back with what I’m doing?’.
Why did you partner with the Birthing Kit Foundation?
I learned about the Birthing Kit Foundation not long after my eldest son Hugo was born; I was blown away that a simple kit costing $3.00 could give a woman in a developing country the access to a cleaner and safer birth. It was so humbling to learn of the conditions in which many women around the world give birth, especially since I had just my own experience of childbirth.
When I decided to launch a brand of muslin wraps to benefit maternal health, they were the perfect partner.
A Birthing Kit contains six items – a plastic sheet, gauze, gloves, soap, a sterile scalpel blade, and a piece of cord to tie off the umbilical cord. It’s very basic, but it enables mothers to give birth in a cleaner environment, reducing post-natal infections for both mother and baby – in remote areas, this can mean the difference between life and death.
What’s the most challenging thing about starting a social enterprise business?
You can’t build a product-based business solely around the social aspect – the product needs to stand on it’s own feet, otherwise people won’t buy it again. I had some strict criteria for our muslins – they needed to be better than any on the market. Super-soft GOTS-certified organic cotton, ethically-made, and beautifully constructed with premium finishing. Finding the perfect factory was a challenge, especially since I had zero experience in dealing with international manufacturers – it was a massive learning curve! After issues with my first shipment, I travelled to India to personally meet with another fair-trade certified factory who have become a trusted and incredibly supportive partner.
When did you have that first aha moment where you thought ‘this is going to take off’?
When I had to commit to a big order from my new manufacturer. Their minimums were a lot higher than I was comfortable with, and I remember standing in the kitchen with my husband saying, ‘Are we going to press go on this?’ because it’s going to be a lot of money to invest in this one round of production. At the same time, a PR agency, who believed in what I was doing, and another large online retailer contacted me. I said to myself, ‘OK – I’ve got to do it.’ From that point on, the orders have flowed in – and we haven’t looked back!
How has Mama Maya evolved in 18 months since launch?
When I originally launched Mama Maya I wasn’t planning to wholesale, but then we started to get approached by some large online retailers – they loved our product and wanted to stock it. I initially said no, preferring to focus on selling direct for higher margins – however the volume driven by wholesale has really helped us to have a greater impact, as we give the same amount from every purchase to charity, whether it’s wholesale or retail. It’s also helped us to increase our brand awareness, and aligned us to other brands of similar appeal. All of our retailers have approached us so far, and it’s a channel we’ll be looking to grow in the second half of this year.
Being a social enterprise has also opened up opportunities with corporates – we’ve supplied a large order of our muslins to Westpac, who’ve included them in selected staff and customer gift packs as part of their Bump campaign this year.
We’re also selling our muslins to several obstetricians who give them as gifts to patients when their babies are born. Mums love them because not only are they really beautiful and useful, it’s heartwarming to know that this product has also helped another woman have a safer birth.
What’s next for Mama Maya?
We have a really exciting collaboration with another brand launching later this year in some limited edition prints, which will compliment our signature Spot print. We’re continuing to focus on creating beautiful muslin wraps – a simple product with a beautiful benefit.
CONNECT WITH ROBYN HERE.