Michelle Ibbetson had her second baby last year. She quickly realised there were limited choices of baby items on Rarotonga.
“It was really hard to find items for myself and baby,” she said. “There was basically only one outlet that really catered for most of the baby supplies.”
After trying to figure out what she should do, she thought of other mums who were facing the same difficulty.
She searched online for products for both mums and babies – and this was the beginning of her business plans.
Ibbetson says it was one of the hardest things she’s had to do, coming up against obstacles in finding suppliers prepared to do business with her – or even to reply to her queries!
“So that was a feat in itself. But very motivating whenever the response was a positive one,” she says.
Months later, against all odds, she started her new business: Mouria. Since last month, she has been selling everything from waterproof splat mats, to snack bags, wet bags, adult-sized Mouria t-shirts and infant clothing, baby blankets, bibs, breast pumps and reusable breast pads.
Mouria is a Ma‘uke word meaning to hold, to gather and embrace, Ibbetson says.
And it is very special to her: it is her daughter Genesis Mouria Hansen’s middle name. She takes her name from her great-great grandmother, who was from Ma‘uke
Her business logo, the kikau or coconut frond, is the first sprout from the coconut, representing new life and new beginning, and can be woven together to create new things, she says.
Ibbetson’s parents are Ian and Tuvaine. Her mum is a Cook Islander and dad is Canadian. They owned a plumbing business for more than 30 years (PTS, The Plumbing Shop) they they sold last year in September.
Michelle Ibbetson met her partner Bobby Hansen, a Cook Islander, in 2006, and in 2008 they had their first daughter Brielle.
As young parents, Brielle’s arrival was life-changing – and a huge learning process for both of them.
After some years, they decided they were ready to have another child and planned to have a baby in the month of October, so they could share the same star sign (Libra).
Ibbetson worked in the family business for more than 15 years, until Genesis was born last year – in October.
Mouria is an important project for Ibbetson, who feels there is a need for quality and essential supplies for both mums and babies.
“Being a second-time mum after 11 years, I practically had to start all over again, and not being able to get supplies was very frustrating.”
For instance, purpose-made swaddling blankets are great for ensuring a newborn baby gets a good sleep, she says. “It helps baby feel safe as baby adjusts to life on the outside of the womb.”
And that means more sleep for mum and dad – time to express milk, do the laundry, have much-needed shower or just sit back with a snack. “Having me time.”
She wants to engage with other mums in identifying and catering to their needs their needs, though this depends on her suppliers as she is still in the early stages of starting her business.
At the moment all her products are imported, but she wants to begin producing locally-made items.
“I researched all my products before purchasing them, and at the same time ensuring that I wasn’t bringing in supplies that other outlets were already bringing in. I tried not to step on anyone’s toes, so to speak.
“My products are quality and essential, and catered for all mums’ and babies’ needs.”
And Ibbetson feels she now understands exactly what those needs are. Good baby supplies can help mothers embrace and enjoy motherhood, she says, as well as ensuring babies feel loved and comfortable.
Now, Ibbetson is encouraging all women to do what they set their minds to.
“If you are in doubt and need help in preparing a business and budget plan, don’t be afraid to ask. Because you need to have one.”
Everyone makes mistakes, she says, but don’t give up.
“One cannot know the outcome of fulfilling that vision to starting your own business, until you take that first step. Being challenged helps you discover things about yourself you never knew you had.”
Her products can be viewed on www.rarobubs.com and orders can be placed through messaging Michelle via website or messenger on Mouria.