I met these lovely guys who have launched the brilliant mail order present box company MORI a few months ago and I love what they’re doing. Inspired by The Finnish Baby Box – the Finnish government sends a box of essentials to every newborn baby. It’s such a lovely idea and Akin Onal, Chip (John Charles Gasser) and Cameron Miller have made it possible for others to buy a perfect little box of goodies to send to new mothers after the birth of a child. They mix bamboo and cotton for the ultimate in comfort and have no scratchy labels. The box also fits perfectly through the letter box. Such a great idea all round and the perfect gift!
Tell us a bit about the story of how the three of you met, and came together to launch MORI.
Akin: Chip (John Charles) and I met years ago through a global network of friends. Cam and I met at J.P. Morgan about four years ago. We were both investment bankers at the time and also working through our MBA degrees at London Business School and Wharton.
Chip: Over a year and a half ago, we were trying to buy something meaningful for my godson Oliver in Soho, New York. Not knowing what a two year old would actually need, the immediate thought was to go with a fancy cute shirt. Seeing the $140 price tag on this tiny shirt and knowing that he might not even wear it once showed the important gap between the need and the reality. That’s when the idea of MORI was born.
Cam: In bringing the idea of MORI to fruition the three of us quickly found that despite having very different geographical and professional backgrounds we have complementary skill sets. More importantly, we share similar values and aspirations, which make us a good team.
Tell us about the concept of MORI?
Akin: After coming up with the idea for MORI we started to heavily research the space: spoke to mothers, friends, doctors, manufacturers. Then we came across the Finnish Baby Box, which was a key point of inspiration – the Finnish government sends a box of essentials to every newborn for the last 75 years. It even has a mattress at the bottom so that the box could be used as a crib for the first weeks of baby’s life.
Chip: So, MORI was borne out of a desire to simplify the early stages of parenthood through a unique parcel service that delivers beautiful, refined baby essentials to your door. Almost all clothing brands focus on fashion driven products, but not the essentials, and there is no guidance service built around that. We want to be the go-to essentials brand that you trust.
Cam: The essential-wear category has historically been very commoditised ”” cheap, multi-pack, mass-produced goods to buy on sale ”” but that is very different from the role these products play in a baby’s life. Essentials are worn everyday ”” they dictate how comfortable the baby is. They matter. Furthermore, essentials are currently not often gifted which we feel is a shame as they are the items that are needed most by parents – so we hope to open up the essentials market to gifting.
Tell us about the products you source for your parcels?
Akin: We are proud to say that all our products are sourced mindfully, using the most natural processes.
Most of our collection is made out of a very smart material, a combination of bamboo and cotton. It is naturally thermos-regulating, keeps the baby warmer in the winter, and cooler in the summer. Bamboo is also a lot more sustainable crop than cotton. It is also incredibly gentle and soft on the baby’s skin.
We manufacture in Turkey through top global textile companies – excellent quality, favourable cost. I am Turkish and from a region that is prominent in textiles.
The most important component of our business is being able to have full control on the production of our garments. For example, to achieve the best industry standard shrinkage rates, we pre-shrink our fabrics using water vapour (and not chemicals).
Cam: It is important to note that MORI is more than just beautiful and smart clothing. It is our subscription service that makes MORI even more unique. The contents of our 6 weekly parcels are carefully chosen with the baby’s growth and development as well as the changing season in mind. The items don’t only grow in size, but also evolve based on the baby’s growth cycle and the changing season. For example, folding sleeve mittens on bodysuits and feet on the sleepsuits come off at six months. Fabric thickness and necklines differ by season.
Which celebrity would you most like to see using MORI?
Cam: Of course we would love to see MORI on the royal babies! Back in 2013 George was the recipient of a Finnish Baby Box from the Government of Finland and we were surprised there was not a UK offering akin to this at the time. We then developed the MORI parcel with this is mind so it would be great for the evolution of the business to come full circle with the second royal baby and brother sporting our babywear.
Share with us your favourite family recipe.
Chip: We are a big fan of the Australian chef Neil Perry, and his book The Food I Love. It’s all about simple dishes made with the freshest ingredients in an uncomplicated but generous way. His Rigatoni with Artichokes and Pancetta is one of our favorites.
The three of you are doting Uncles. How much do you think your line of work will prepare you for fatherhood, if the opportunity should arise?
Akin: We all feel that fatherhood is coming soon. We learned so much about parenting in the last year and a half that it feels like MORI is our baby. There was a long preparation and MORI was born a few weeks ago – bringing an indescribable joy to our lives that we are all proud of, and as every baby, is keeping us up at nights.
Chip: Hosting so many mother gatherings as we were formulating and developing MORI gave us a really good perspective on what parents generally face. It’s not the same as having your own, of course, but it was definitely a learning process, and one that will help us when the time comes.
What do you do for fun in your spare time?
Cam: As well as being an advocate for entrepreneurship as a force for positive change in our society, I am an avid surfer, kite-boarder and triathlete – having completed Ironman France in 2012.
Akin: I am really passionate about start-ups, technology and travelling. I have travelled to all the seven continents including Antarctica. I climbed glaciers in Alaska, woke up next to elephant seals in Antarctica and faced many white-out snow storms in remote locations. I try to do some volunteer work as well. Post my trip to Darfur region of Sudan in 2008, I raised funds to build the first public library in the town.
Chip: You are probably seeing the common theme here. Along with a few other friends, we hiked through the world’s largest cave last year in central Vietnam. We were some of the first people in the world to see the cave, which was only discovered less than 10 years ago and opened to visitors last year. We all like adventure but for me it’s just as important to have a beautiful hotel or camp to return to at the end of the day.
What’s in the pipeline for MORI next and yourselves individually?
Akin: We have high expectations of MORI. We want to build a strong global brand and upgrade basics to essentials. We want to inspire parents to reconsider how important these items are to their baby’s comfort.
Chip: For me, having developed a successful venture with Forbes, I am looking to forward to the challenges and fun that comes with developing our own brand. Also, I like the fact we can make a real difference with MORI and help to simplify and improve the lives of parents. Ultimately we would like to develop a program to have a national baby box in the UK that all expectant parents receive, similar to what Finland has.
How would you sum yourself up in one sentence?
Cam: Thoughtful, kind, fun and adventurous.
MORI is the summation of our common values as a team. Who we are and what we want from life. We are intelligent, diligent, adventurous and fun. We believe sophistication is achieved through simplicity.