SMART, is one of the first words that comes to mind when I think of Amber Thibaut.
A Stanford graduate that did business consulting for Deloitte after graduating, then helped her family open Monkeypod Kitchen and three Maui Brewing Co. restaurants, Amber has business in her blood.
Her signature brand, Coco Moon, launched in 2015 to offer buttery soft baby essentials made from natural bamboo fibers that feature designs inspired by her childhood on Maui.
Coco Moon is carried in over 50 boutiques worldwide including Nordstrom Department Store and T Galleria by DFS, with distribution channels in Japan and Israel.
A brand of social entrepreneurship, Coco Moon created its 1% for Hawaii program, which gives 1% of sales each month to Hawaii organizations doing powerful work in our communities. Since launching the program in 2017, they have given to over 30 local non-profits, with donations valued at approximately $40,000 in cash and product donations in kind.
Amber doesn’t waste time, or words, but has a way of being present and making your time together feel valued. She is a woman you always want more of and so we are lucky to get a glimpse into her beautiful life and learn how this female entrepreneur and mother of two is. . . evolving elegantly.
AJ: How did the brand Coco Moon come to life?
AT: I’ve always known I wanted to start a business, but I had a hard time landing on what it would be. Prior to starting a family, I had been really busy academically and in my career, doing everything from business consulting in Orange County to opening Monkeypod Kitchen with my family. They were intense and exhausting jobs, but they were also exciting and so fulfilling.
After I took time off to start a family, I missed that quick pace and interacting with driven people. I was grateful to have the choice to stay at home, but I was eager to reconnect with the part of myself that existed beyond my role as “mama”. So I spent time actively thinking of what I could do to still have time at home with my son, but also have a creative and intellectual outlet.
One day, as I was nursing my second son in the middle of the night, I was looking around at all of our baby blankets, and I realized that I didn't really like any of them. Some had baby giraffes or baby lions, and they were cute, but I didn't feel like they represented our family or lifestyle. Even though I had two boys, I would use my favorite pink pareo to nurse my son, and he got really attached to it, much to my husband’s dismay, haha. It got me thinking, why couldn't there be baby blankets that our entire family could connect with and that also really genuinely represented our island home? That was the genesis of Coco Moon.
AJ: Tell me about your first design.
AT: The first design idea that really sparked the start of Coco Moon was of a traditional Hawaiian quilt print on a swaddle. It didn't come to life until four years after the company started because it took a really long time to find the right person to help me bring it to life. I didn't want to just have an interpretation of a Hawaiian quilt design, I wanted it to really represent the tradition and craft of quilting. I eventually found a wonderful woman, Patricia Lei Murray, who is a master Hawaiian quilter and has been wonderful to work with. She hand designed our first Hawaiian quilt pattern and helped me infuse it with the mana it deserved. life .
AJ: What strategies do you use to build confidence in yourself going into challenging situations or taking big risks?
AT: Step one is really trying to take myself out of the moment to remember and identify where the feeling of fear or failure is coming from internally. For me, finding confidence is often about conquering self doubt, so I try to remind myself that my fears are just a trick that my mind is playing on me, and that helps me to take a step back and remember it's all in my head.
I grew up surfing, and I find myself reflecting back on situations where I was in the water, outside of my comfort zone, and let fear overcome me. I think about why that happened and the regret of giving into that fear, and then remind myself that the fear of the potential consequences is usually bigger than the actual potential consequences. Sometimes my fear would come from the physical presence of the wave, but sometimes it's also fear of embarrassment or failure, which is just silly. Once I recognize that the fear is just in my head, it makes it easier to push myself over that ledge to move past it.
AJ: What is a daily, weekly or monthly routine you do to manage stress and provide yourself with self care?
AT: I try to do some type of physical activity at least four times a week. I have a few fitness apps that I use and I also have a Peloton bike at home that I love because I can jump on at anytime. I also love the Jillian Michaels app because there are so many options to choose a workout by the length of time you have and the area of your body you want to focus on. Even 10 minutes helps, and sets a great tone for the day. Getting my physical energy out early in the day helps me maintain my mental clarity and sanity.
Surfing is the ultimate cure for me. In the beginning of 2018, I set a resolution to prioritize surfing and I found it has made a big difference. It recharges me and makes me happier the moment I touch the water.
AJ: What specific practice do you do to stay focused on your goals, help your team stay focused on their goals, and move forward each day towards achieving them?
AT: My team is just two people, and most of the time I work alone in my small office from home. When you’re running your own business, it can be hard to prioritize because there are hundreds of potential things you could be working on. I have a big whiteboard hanging right next to my desk that I write our most important goals on, and then I track the key metrics monthly. I look at those goals every day and they act as a good framework. That way, if I have 10 things on my plate, I think about which task will most move the needle on the goals I've set out, and start there. Having our goals right in front of my face day in and day out is really helpful. I also make my goals really specific so I can track them.
When I worked in business consulting, the framework we would use is to identify strategic objectives, or really big goals that would take you 3-5 years to accomplish. Underneath those, you have goals you can get to in 12-18 months that contribute to the strategic objectives. Beneath those, you have deliverables, which are specific action items that you can achieve in 3-6 months to work toward those larger goals. It’s a great framework because it gives you a really big picture understanding about the business and objectives. That’s the framework that I’m working toward in my business.
AJ: How do you and your husband balance everything it takes to run a business and a family: grocery shopping, cooking, childcare, cleaning, and more? How did you reach this point in task division, and what tips can you share with other women?
AT: My husband and I both own our businesses, and each business comes with its own highs and lows. Task division for us depends on each other’s emotional capacity for the day, depending on what we know each of us needs to do. We work to recognize those cues in each other and prioritize communicating how we’re feeling, and what we can and can’t do with our schedules both physically and emotionally. We also try to divide things up based on what we love doing. I love cooking, and he is really good at bedtime with the kids. So we take all the pieces based on what we want and can do, and then try to put together the puzzle from there.
We recently hired a cleaning lady to come to our house weekly, and it has been such a lifesaver. It has helped to alleviate the physical time it takes to clean the house as well as the mental burden of arguing about it, and it allows us more quality time to spend with each other and with our kids. Finding things like that to carve out more time is key.
AJ: Tell me about a time in your business or career where you failed, and how did you move forward from the situation?
AT: When I was in the initial phase of wanting to start a business, I was settled on an idea that I thought was a winner. I developed a business plan and was running it around to different friends in the industry to get their feedback, but in retrospect, I was really just looking for their approval. I talked with a friend of a friend that tore the idea apart and it just crushed me and ultimately crushed the idea. Looking back, it was a failure in my own confidence because as soon as I didn't get approval, the idea was done. If I had really believed in myself and the idea, I probably could have picked myself back up, made some tweaks, and kept running with it.
In the end, it was a really good learning experience, because by the time I got to Coco Moon, I knew I had such conviction in the idea. I didn't look for anyone else’s approval. I knew it was the right idea and I trusted myself. Looking back, that time of “failure” laid the foundation for me to start a business I love and believe in.
AJ: What is your favorite pair of Mohalas and how would you style them?
AT: The Pikake shades in Havana Tortoise are my favorite. I love that they're polarized and perfect for watching the ocean. They're a great everyday pair of glasses. You can style them with anything and everything‒a day at the beach, dressing up for the day, or with simple shorts and a t-shirt.
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