These 2 Brilliant Entrepreneurs Turn Trash Into Gorgeous Baskets With Their Company, Mo's Crib
Here at Sweety High, we are all about sustainability, and when we discover brands that are using new and unusual methods to make amazing products, we can't wait to share them.
That's why we're so in love with Mo's Crib. The South African-based company, founded by sisters Mo and Michelle Mokone, makes high-quality homeware and decor made by lessening waste and reusing and recycling their resources. Their signature products are their baskets and planters made from upcycled PVC waterpipes, which are collected from landfills and construction sites before being treated, cut into strips and woven into stylish and durable pieces.
When we found out about them, we just had to tell their story—and the team behind Mo's Crib was also kind enough to send us a basket to check out for ourselves. Keep reading for our honest thoughts on their baskets and an interview with Mo and Michelle themselves on Mo's Crib's mission.
We were sent a Mo's Crib PVC basket/planter (selling for $109 each) in the tan and navy color, and it's a sizeable and gorgeous addition to any room with natural elements. Even when you're up close to it, it looks like a beautifully woven traditional straw basket.
(via Mo's Crib)
It's only when you touch and handle it that you can see that the thick strands are made of plastic. The baskets are pretty big—22 inches in diameter, and 16 inches high—and they feel ultra-durable and long-lasting. We haven't quite picked out the plant we plan to house in ours, but when the time comes, we know it'll look fantastic.
(via Mo's Crib)
Sweety High: Have you two always had the entrepreneurial spirit? At what point did you decide you wanted to go into business together?
Mo Mokone: I fell in love with the art of crochet as a little girl in the '90s—I used to take plastic bags and weave them into rugs as my creative outlet. We have always been entrepreneurial and both started several businesses while growing up. It wasn't until 2016 that I started to think about my artistic hobby as a potential business—thanks to the encouragement of my sister who has always been a cheerleader for my artistic side. Michelle had let me know about a holiday market where I saw origami artwork being sold, which made me think about bringing my own craft to the market and to participate.
The first product we sold at the market was a beautiful origami swan made from paper. We sold out within the first few days of the market and realized we were on to something. We continued the side hustle while working in our corporate jobs, introducing new products under the name Mo's Crib. In 2019 we finally decided to quit our corporate jobs and get into the business full time.
(via Mo's Crib)
SH: Where did the idea to upcycle PVC pipe into baskets that double as planters come from?
Michelle Mokone: Growing up in Africa, we have always felt a strong connection to the natural world and are painfully aware of the risks facing our environment today—both locally and globally. When we were looking for unique recycled materials to use in our manufacturing process, we learned that PVC is the third most-produced plastic in the world, but under 1% of it is recycled. With every basket we sell, we're having an impact on the growing issue of irreversible plastic pollution in Africa. Cleaning up our landfills isn't glamorous work, but we're turning trash into treasure with every design and also raising awareness about the importance of eco-friendly manufacturing—from the PVC range to our responsibly sourced natural grasses.
The planet is giving us warnings and it's up to us to respond. It doesn't matter what industry you're in—we all need to use our talents to be a part of the solution so that we can create a sustainable path towards the future.
(via Mo's Crib)
SH: Why was it so important for the two of you to create a decor brand that was also sustainable and supported women in your community?
Mo: While we don't come from affluent backgrounds, we are so proud of our South African heritage and the many treasures of our city—the artisans, the nature, this history, the community. Michelle and I worked incredibly hard to put ourselves through school and break into the corporate world—but we don't want it to be that hard for others—especially women. 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 of 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?
Michelle: South Africa is a country that carries massive collective trauma, and one guiding ideal that we live by as a nation is "ubuntu," a word that encourages compassion and the spirit of connectedness. Our values as leaders are very much influenced by ubuntu—we see our employees, our customers and the environment in which we operate as an interconnected unit that drives the overall success of our vision, so it's important to ensure that we're treating each of those with the utmost respect. Committing to handmade products allows us to ensure our manufacturing process is sustainable while also maximizing job opportunities in our community— preserving existing artisanal talent and teaching new skills. While machinery ensures productivity, it takes away from the unique, artisanal element that evokes the spirit of South African artistry that we know our customers love. Our entire supply chain is incredibly low-energy, and many of our products require no electricity at all, which reduces our ecological footprint. Our goal is to create sustainable products, use sustainable materials and create long-lasting sustainable jobs.
SH: So far, how much plastic pollution have you taken out of landfills and construction sites thanks to your products?
Michelle: Over the past four years since this product has been introduced to the market, we have saved over 7,000 meters of pipes. In the beginning, it was fairly easy to source pipes because, being one of the least recycled plastics, it was abundant in our landfills and PVC pipe manufacturers just had piles of broken pipes which were hard to discard. The impact of our growth at Mo's Crib has forced us to go beyond our usual sites and reach new provinces (states) within South Africa—which means we're fulfilling our mission to clean up our ecosystem, one landfill at a time.
SH: What does the name Mo's Crib mean to you?
Mo: Our native names both have the nickname "Mo," mine is Morongwe and Michelle is Moshibudi. Our last name is also Mokone—so the name is eponymous! We both have a forward sense of home design and décor. It was our dream to create a design brand which would resemble "a home, with style" and what better way to name it "Mo's Crib," bringing together our love for African design with a modern twist. With our growth over the years, the name has expanded on its meaning and it now not only represents our names, but the collective effort of our team to make a difference in the environment and homes of others.
SH: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Michelle: In addition to our best-selling PVC line, we also create products out of grass, which is still uniquely sustainable and responsibly sourced. We source non-invasive grasses from abundant fields in Africa that are already dried, and repurpose them to make beautiful homewares. At Mo's Crib, our desire is to share a never-seen-before craft that offers more than style and décor, but functionality. Each product we offer has multiple uses, ensuring the customer real value for their spend. This spans through grass trays, baskets, planters and even furniture.
(via Mo's Crib)
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