The idea behind Amber Thibaut’s Hawaii-inspired blanket business, Coco Moon Hawaii, started with inspiration from a hot pink pareo she used to nurse her second child.
“I was so disappointed with the generic animals on blankets and wanted to use something that I loved,” she said. “I found myself wondering if there could be a baby blanket that I loved as much as the hot pink pareo, with some island soul behind it.”
Thibaut, who is from Maui, started selling keiki essential products based on Oahu in 2015. Soon after, she applied to the Hawaii-based accelerator Mana Up’s third cohort, where she joined nine other small businesses looking to gain insight into how to better their business.
Since then, the company has doubled its sales over the last year.
“Up until this year, about 80% of our profits came from B-to-B sales and 20% from direct consumer purchases,” she said. “This year, it’s been shifting to more 70-30%.”
While her background was in business, she had no prior experience in product development. Out of college she worked for Deloitte Consulting, an accounting firm, where she said she received invaluable experience in a large, respected professional business.
“When I got the idea for Coco Moon, I had missed the challenge of interacting with adults after becoming a mom,” Thibaut said.
After researching how to bring her idea to life, she launched nine prints in nine different categories including blankets, towels, a mommy-and-me collection, and more.
“I didn’t connect with any of the baby blankets I had [prior to the business] and really wanted to create a product that was high-quality and functional. Now, our products are known for being buttery soft (made with bamboo fabrics produced overseas) as we collaborate with artists to bring an island-style design,” she said.
Thibaut operates the one-woman business by hiring independent contractors and designers to help illustrate the graphics on the apparel.
Coco Moon Hawaii products are in more than 25 retailers across the state, along with retailers in nine states on the Mainland. It offers limited edition prints, such as its “Aloha Kalikimaka” quilt, for the Christmas holiday, designed to represent a Hawaii-style wreath.
The business has a presence in Japan, which Thibaut said was launched before joining Mana Up, in which the process helped solidify its international reach.
What did you gain from being a part of Mana Up? I loved that experience. We had been steadily growing at the time – but through it, we increased our growth and gained a network of support I could have never dreamed possible. My biggest takeaway was the incredible business advice, learning that we were capable of growing at scale and expanding our international footprint. It gave me a great vote of confidence.
What has been the biggest challenge of owning a business? The balance between a running a business and being mom. Operationally, it’s been a challenge for us to optimize our inventory, planning, and how to distribute effectively. We’re learning as we go.
What has been the most rewarding part of the experience so far? Playing a tiny part in the memories of families across the world and our giving program, [which was launched in 2017]. Coco Moon Hawaii proudly donates 1% of our sales each month to local organizations doing powerful work in the communities. Since we launched the giving program in 2017, our total donations have been $40,000 in both cash contributions and products.
What is your vision for Coco Moon Hawaii? We want to continue to diversify our product line and expand our reach across the world.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start a business? Just start. Don’t overthink it. Learn as you go.
Coco Moon Hawaii
Amber Thibaut, owner and founder