giving when you have little to give.

When I started Moustache, I really wanted the business to be a vehicle to somehow give back to the community. But being such a small start-up founded on a 20-year-old kids saving’s, working 3-4 jobs to get this dream off the ground, we have always bootstrapped & had to be super creative with everything we’ve done.

Being small means I am always faced with the question “How can we help others with the little resources we have?”. What is it they say? If you have much, give of your wealth. If you have little, give of your heart.

Thus, every year since Moustache was incepted 4 years ago, I have spent each Christmas baking Moustache cookies & delivering them to people who deserve a little treat.

Last week a box of our cookies were given to a lady who was with her children, rummaging through a bin for food. When she was given the cookies, she started crying because her kids had a shared lunch the next day & she had nothing to bring. But now, her kids had a big box of yummy cookies (yes, I just complimented my own cookies as being yummy).

Last year, a woman and a group of her friends came into our tiny little original store & bought a whole heap of cookies & dined in (despite it being super cramped and tiny!). At the end, the woman gave me a hug & through tears thanked me –  she was a mother with cancer whom I’d written an encouraging letter to alongside a box of cookies last Christmas. She was about to go into hospital that day but very much wanted to come visit me in person. And through my own tears, I wished her thank you & bid her good luck. Two strangers, connected by something as simple as a cookie.

There are so many stories I see every year on Christmas – people who were burgled Christmas morning, people who lost their daughter to illness, solo mothers with 6 children struggling to put food on the table let alone have any treats on Christmas Day…good people going through bad times.

There are so many stories…yet I don’t know them yet. So if you know of anyone in Auckland who deserves a box of cookies on Christmas Day then please let me know as it would be my absolute honour to bake for them. You can nominate them by emailing deanna@moustache.co.nz or PM me via facebook. I may not be able to reply to everybody but I will do my utmost to visit as many homes as possible.

However, if you don’t have anyone to nominate, you can also help by visiting our online store http://www.moustache.co.nz and pre-purchase a cookie for a family in need (just $3.50). Every cookie pre-purchased, Moustache will match the donation. These cookies will directly go towards the people we will be visiting on Christmas Day.

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I know…it may seem a minuscule way of giving…but it is my own minuscule way of giving for now until I grow to be a big strong business.

But man, I was on my way to donate about $600 worth of Moustache cookies to the Auckland City Mission when I got stuck in that new Bus Lane on Hobson Street that is impossible to get out of in peak hour bumper-to-bumper traffic ’cause nobody wants to let you in, resulting in me getting a $150 fine JUST as I was about to approach the City Mission.

All my friends say I have the worst luck. If i ever live outside the law for even a second, like forrealz, I swear I’m a pretty good kid but if MY LITTLE TOE SO MUCH AS STEPS out of line, I will most certainly get punished for it (yet somehow, Donald Trump, quite possibly one of the worst human beings ever, is President of the United States). Like once I was driving in a friends car which was manual and was getting used to the different clutch right so I was revving to take off at the traffic lights but made a skid sound & next thing you know WOoOooOOooOO, cop pulls me over for DRAG RACING.

This has made me disproportionately scared of other “crimes” i might commit. Okay so the other month I was positively despo for an apple (as you do). I was at Countdown & ended up eating one of those apples in the “Free Fruit for Children” bins they have. And omg I am NEVER doing that again because I was almost at nervous breakdown thinking “Deanna, you are living outside the law….the free fruit is FOR CHILDREN ONLY!!”. My anxiety meant that the apple was not nearly as tasty as it should’ve been.  I am sorry Countdown. Please invoice me for the apple.

It is okay. It’s coming to the end of the year. It will soon be a new year. No more pullovers. No more hungus fines. No more illegal apples.

But YES to cookies to those who deserve a treat on Christmas Day.

PM me. We want to help – even if it’s minuscule.

Much love,

De & Team Mo x

p.s seriously my anxiety that I always get in trouble for the most trivial things is even causing me to get scared that now since I’ve publicly admitted to eating the apple, that Countdown are going to hunt me down about the apple. GOIZ I’M SORRY OKAY. I WAS WEAK.

 

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Starting from scratch again. The second time is always harder (according to some girl who makes cookies)

Moustache V.I closed in January. And now we are on Moustache V.II. The second time round is always harder to start up because you feel like you’ve already paid your dues. It’s like when you’ve almost finished that 10,000 word essay & even though you ALWAYS SAVE, but the one time you DON’T save, Microsoft Word crashes. And though you’ve done it before so it should technically be easier this time around, your brain is just like “AW HEEEELLL NO GURL, YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN”. So here you are trying to recreate your essay on whether or not Woodpeckers get headaches from pecking trees 12,000 times a day (the answer is no, they do not) but emotionally you’re dead.

But that’s the thing with life, you ain’t ever paid your dues. I’m now in my 4th year running Moustache & by now you’d think it’d be much more smooth-sailing but I think we’ve just endured our hardest 6-months ever. There are no shortcuts in life.

But second time round has definitely taken a much bigger toll on me than expected. I felt an enormous amount of pressure on me to not let people down. To not let my friends, family & most importantly staff down. I think the human element is the hardest for me as I do care very much about others (and as I’m told, to my own detriment & wellbeing). Someone else once said (re: being in managerial positions) that it’s not so much the actual tasks on hand, so much as it is dealing with people & their feelings & complaints & wants. I felt like everybody could complain & be up-in-arms about things but me? Never. As the leader you have to take it all and be the bad guy and make the hard decisions whilst meanwhile be expected to always lead & be positive & inspire. It’s often those that are absorbing all the knocks & look like they’ve got everything under control, who sometimes need the most support. Which is why entrepreneurship can sometimes be a very lonely path.

And doing this the second time…like seriously, even though I’m still only 26…I SWEAR MY BODY IS JUST NOT LIKE IT USED TO BE! I expressed disappointment to my brother exclaiming “I’m annoyed at myself because when Moustache first started, I would work 16-20 hour days and cope much better than I am now. OMG…HAVE I GONE SOFT???”

Justin: De…remember YOU’RE NOT 21 ANYMORE.

De: But I’ve only just turned 26 which is still young!!!

Justin: But in the last 5 years you’ve worked such long hours & beaten your body up so badly. Working that hard takes a toll on your body. You might be 26, but your body isn’t. Your body is probably in your mid-30s y’know!

To which I had no words in response. Just shook my head in disbelief & walked off.

So when I’m down and exhausted & want to kill Moustache with my bare hands via strangulation to the oesophagus, I try to sit & remember the feelings I’m feeling. Even if it’s sadness because harnessing sadness or anger into something positive (pushing you into action to change) is probably the most influential feeling for me. Because even though this year has emotionally been demanding, that has somehow manifested itself into a Cookie Bus, opening in amazing Wellington, AU Store & finally our reincarnation on K Road. I’ve come to realise that feeling happy & comfortable leads to inaction & complacency. I guess fear is a pretty good motivator huh?

Because another problem with “The Second Time” is that when you do things again & again, you no longer appreciate it as a good feat anymore.

For example, another thing on my Bucket List (Open a Cookie Shop was #1 on my Bucket List) was to get 7 Chicken McNuggets when only ordering a 6 Pack of Nuggets. I ticked this achievement off on August 28th 2012 in the Queen Street Mcdonalds. I will never forget that day. I was with my one of my best friends, and he was chatting away about his life problems but I interrupted him mid sentence & was all like “HOLY SHIT IMA STOP YOU RIGHT THERE, I HAVE 7 NUGGETS IN MY 6 NUGGET PACK. DO YOU REALISE HOW AWESOME MY LIFE JUST GOT???”

But since then I’ve  had this happen to me at least two more times (I’m not sure if this is testament to good luck, or testament to the fact that statistically, because I buy so many Chicken McNuggets that this is bound to happen on da regular ). But I gotta say…that 7-nugget-accomplishment that I once thought was awesome? Not really appreciated as a good feat anymore.

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PROOF YO. I KNOW YA’LL #JEALOUS.

The feat is exactly the same…but second time ’round it’s almost like an expectation or something. If I get 7 now, I’m like “C’mon Maccas…WHERE’S MY 8TH NUGGET AT?”

So this time I’ve been really hard on myself & think I should be doing better. I am my own worst critic. But as my brother once said to me, “De, there are very few people who would lose their shop in January and within 6 months somehow turn that into 2 stores and a Milk & Cookie Bus…without any help from the bank and by sheer creativity & hard work create so much more. It’s just unheard of.”

It’s so easy to look to where we wish to be, without fully appreciating where we have come from. I would always think “Okay, in 6 months, things will be easier. After this happens…then it will be better”. But I realised in life we are always chasing for that “better” but it never comes because when you reach “better” you aren’t interested in it anymore because you’re looking for something else even “better” than that.

The past is gone and the future is never guaranteed so whatever circumstance I am in now, I have to feel it at it’s fullest & make the most out of – whether it’s good or bad. So as I sit here in my new little shop, I am tired & a little rundown but I am ultimately proud of where this 8-year-old’s dream has taken me. It’s hard to imagine but so many people have said to me when they see the Bus tooting along that she (Moustache) is becoming a little Kiwi icon in its own right.

Sometimes it’s not always about the big wins. Sometimes the smallest of wins are just as cool.

‘CAUSE C’MON GUYS…..I GOT 7 NUGGETS WHEN I WAS ONLY MEANT TO GET 6!!!!

Ha ha, no but really. My win for this week is that since we finally have a shop to call HOME, it also means we can now launch our Online Cookie Shop!!! WE SAO TECH NOW! So if you can’t visit us in store at 309 K Road, see you on the interwebz mebbe? ‘Cause we can deliver to your doorstep now! http://www.moustache.co.nz.

SHAMELESS PLUG. OMG AND NOW HERE COMES THE DISCOUNT CODE….HOLY CRAP I’M IN FULL PLUG MODE….USE LAUNCH15 TO GET 15% OFF YOUR FIRST ORDER TO EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC THAT IS ONLINE COOKIE SHOPPING. K I’M GOING NOW. BYE. REMEMBER TO USE THE CODE. HAVE FUN. BYE.

So, what’s Plan B?

People over the past 4 years always ask me at each stage of the business,  “So what if Moustache doesn’t work, then what’s Plan B?” “What if the crowdfund doesn’t work, what then?” “So what if the Cookie Bus doesn’t work? What if K Road doesn’t work? Do you have a Plan B?”

Plan B? What do you mean Plan B? There is no Plan B, there is only Plan A. If there is a Plan B, that would already be admitting that Plan A is going to fail. Plus you should be so busy hustling to make Plan A work that there’s no time to concoct Plan B.

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Growing up, we had very little. Mum was a solo mother with 3 children to feed. She did a terrific job with us. But we couldn’t, and we still can’t, afford to stop the grind because the difference is not between having more or having less, it’s about survival.

In an essay written by David Tran titled “The Hardest Part About Growing Up Poor Was Knowing I Couldn’t Mess Up. Not Even Once.” he writes,

“Many others who’ve tried to escape poverty — are motivated by survival instinctBeing poor, you cannot afford to fuck up the opportunity that comes along.

You don’t take it for granted because you understand you’re playing by someone else’s rules.  Given the long odds we beat to get here, sometimes in our heads, our world feels very fragile; at any moment, the clock could strike midnight.

In the face of adversity, you have far fewer chances, a much smaller margin for error.

And this is where the sleepless nights & the anxiety mostly stems from for me.

I have invested literally every single cent I own & every fibre of my being has been poured into this business.

It’s been 4 years and despite having been mentioned in almost every media outlet possible in NZ, & with over 30,000 fans, banks still think I’m going to be “a flop” (their words, not mine). My bank sponsored this big party once (where they paid for my Milk & Cookie Bus to come & supply unlimited cookies at) which must’ve cost $30-40,000 for that one night. Big party where my Cookie Bus is good enough to provide unlimited cookies for = Hell to the Yes. But lending a similiar amount of money to my small business that I will pay back within 2 years with interest? = Uh HELL NO sistah, who do you think you are gurl? You’re just a flop…a big delicious flop that we want unlimited amounts of at our party HAHAHAHAHA. Oh gosh. Tis unfortunate but tis also very humorous to me. The world is an upside down place. It’s all a big game but as frustrating as it can be, we must relish the challenge.

This is why I’m even more grateful to those who contributed to our crowdfund – you believed in me when others did not; resulting in a humbling $91,000 raised in just 4 weeks. And I think those 1277 backers speak volumes above the opinions of some old farty banking big shots in their safe corporate chairs.

We have worked tirelessly to make you all proud. The new K Road store looks amazing. Whilst our neighbours have a bar counter that cost them $100,000 alone (which is beautiful and genuine kudos & admiration for it) we have to bring beauty in our own way because we must do it at a fraction of the cost. That one counter alone is almost double the price of our entire fitout. Coming from different worlds means we have to work in different ways. There is no right or wrong way to get from Point A to Point B; some routes are more direct, some are winding and hilly. My journey has been crooked & not exactly perfect but what we lack in money and resources, we make up for in love, grit & pure hard work.

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A design firm upstairs asked “Who fabricated your steel bulk head? We want one just like it but the quote came back as $20,000!” to which Justin replied that he had welded it himself, in the home garage for two weeks straight.

People won’t truly understand my feelings towards K Road because K Road is a symbol of survival. Every nook & cranny, every tear shed, every frustration with that shop was us sitting in that damn shop often until 5am in the morning, barely sleeping, barely eating, to make sure we got that bloody place open in time to compete with everybody else’s actual real life builders unlike us phony make-believe builders.

So thank you to mimo inc (the amazing brains behind our design), Justin Yang (my big brother with whom Moustache would not have survived without his incredible aptitude for creating magic out of nothing) & Paul, Nick & Jacky for enduring those long nights & cold mornings when you owed me nothing.

Survival is a very sweet taste. Getting that damn shop open was one thing. But whilst others could hang up their hammers & know that the shop was done, the battle had only just begun for me. And that’s where the ensuing anxiety and meltdown started. Fuck, people would never know because I must be the most high-functioning mess of a human being ever.

Coming from a very humble background, and with a family & mother to support, unlike other people, I literally have no margin for error and I fucking know it. The pressure on me to provide & make the right decisions for 15+ staff and for my family felt so much it rendered me unable to sleep, eat or drink the last couple weeks. Last week, there was a day I came home from work at midnight & realised “Hey…it has been over 2 days since I last ate a meal”. Two entire days since I last ate a meal & I didn’t even realise….but don’t worry peepz, I’m doing a lot better now and a comment I said tonight exemplifies that, “OH MY GOOOOSH I AM SOOOOO DEHYDRATED” which is good news because it means my anxiety has come down enough to have human feelings again. Feelings such as hunger and thirst.

To end Tran’s essay, he writes, “To everyone who has experienced this— who has felt like they don’t belong or aren’t good enough — the world needs to hear your story. Only then can it begin to give current and future underdogs a better chance at a better life. And just remember: You are good enough. You do belong.”

These blogs are always hard for me to write as it forces me to commonly practise the art of humility. Exposing all my weaknesses and mistakes (that ultimately make me, me) in such an open forum is hard but necessary (I can’t exactly pinpoint why it is necessary, but something inside me tells me it is).

Good enough? Belonging?

Growing up those were common themes of my childhood. I guess everyone at some point feels they aren’t good enough or they don’t belong.

In the 90’s, there were very few kids of Asian descent in my school, Arahoe Primary school out in West Auckland. I used to be called an “alien”, a “dog eater” or a “ching chong” on a more regular basis than I would like to admit. It’s been almost 2 decades since then but I still remember every single name. I would always wish that I was white. And being bullied for my ethnicity from so young & having so little to our name meant for the next 10 years of my life, I would continue to believe that I was inferior & would wish that I was a “Kiwi” too. Naive as I was, I didn’t realise, that I already was one; believing all the names that the world called me. Luckily, I have since grown up (but only a bit) & have immense pride in my heritage & unique place in New Zealand…whether or not some New Zealanders like to admit that I “belong” here or not. Apparently the shape of my eyes makes me an evil alien or something. It’s great though, I don’t even have to dress up when it comes to Halloween because I could just appear with my yellow skin at an Auckland house auction & people will be scared of me hahahaha. Yes in New Zealand, our worst fear isn’t ISIS…no, our worst fears are ASIANZ. 

Just because my life is different now, doesn’t mean I just leave behind where I came from. A lot of my upbringing resides in me today.

The humble beginnings, the feeling of unworthiness sparking a desire to be more. But still, the warm comforts of my mothers home baking, the simplicity and happiness that a mere cookie dunked in milk could bring me. Those are all the things that brought Moustache to life.

Because as an 8 year old I knew that I was made for more, that whilst people didn’t like the colour of my skin or the shape of my eyes, or whether people believed I’d be a flop or because I came from nothing that I’d amount to nothing, I always knew that as long as I was the best version of me possible, then I knew I would be destined for more.

That’s why cookies is #1 on my childhood bucket list because dunking my cookie in milk as a kid told me that it is not the grandiose things in life that make people happy but it is the simple things that are good & good things are simple.

Moustache is an expression of my childhood.Moustache is an ode to my mothers baking. Moustache is an expression of every struggle I once had. And Moustache continues to be an expression of the struggles we will continue to have in perpetuity. And those new struggles will reveal new layers & depths of Moustache.

And this year has been the most revealing of character.

Never have I doubted myself so much. Never have I questioned whether or not I should quit now. Never have I hated myself so much. Never have I been so scared shitless.

To be writing here to you today, going from nothing in January when we closed Moustache, to building & launching the Bus in Wellington, to opening a store on Auckland Uni Campus & to finally…oh so finally…rebuilding our flagship store on K Road…to have been nothing, to have no backing, to be told constantly that I had made a mistake closing Wellesley…to be told my new stores were going to be a flop…to have nothing except for our own wits & a bit of creativity…and to have survived….

These are the struggles that will create the foundation for the next era of Moustache.

It has been a year of great weakness. But as Chinese philosophy believes, yin & yang is when seemingly contrary forces may actually be interdependent. So great weakness can only mean one thing: that you have had to procure great strength to endure it.

Thank you to our loyal fans for sticking through this year with us.

It is in your worst of times that you realise who your true friends are.

Thank you for your loyalty & belief even when others didn’t.

We hope to see you again at our new home on 309 Karangahape Road, Auckland City.

Much love,

Deanna

Chief Cookie Officer // Moustache Milk & Cookie Bar & Bus Operator at Moustache Milk & Cookie Bus (haha)

 

Four years on: was Moustache a good idea?

We just turned 4 years old. So it’s been 4 years since the 21 year old version of me decided Moustache Milk & Cookie Bar was a good idea. Now I’m 25 years old & about to relaunch Moustache Mk.II.

With four years of hindsight, I ask myself, has it been a good idea?

In the beginning there were very few who genuinely believed Moustache was a good idea…not my mum, my siblings, my best friends or even my cat (who I kid you not, literally shit on my first set of designs for the shop). The one friend who I do remember saying it was a “neat idea” was my university friend Nick who only after Moustache had opened told me, “Remember when I said that I thought it was a good idea? Yeah I was lying…I thought you were crazy”. Ha ha ha, bless those friends who lie to your face to not hurt your feelings.

After I announced my decision to shut down my beloved original store because I’d rather start from scratch than bow down to corporate bullying, there was a customer who would consistently tell my staff that I was a “bad boss because you’re all going to lose your jobs” & he became so well known for his comments (it was as if he regularly came to buy his coffee & cookie just so he could tell everybody how I was the spawn of Satan…but yet still be sitting down in my shop eating my cookies…the audacity of it) that I went on to label him “Code Red“. Every time he came in the staff would shout “CODE RED!!! CODE RED!!!” and then I’d come out with a wife beater singlet with my guns ablazing and be like “ALRIGHT, YOU AND ME OUTSIDE RIGHT NOW” (the latter part may or may not have occurred only inside my head).

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Code Red even emailed me personally to say there was absolutely no way we would raise $80,000 through my crowdfund therefore my business would meet its demise. But “my father is a businessman & we know what you need to do to run this business properly” & then proceeded to give me his mobile number to help my poor stupid ass female soul. Okay yes perhaps I am a little optimistically risky or that’s just the biggest ‘treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen’ pick up line of all of time (see how I go about deluding myself that my haters actually just harbour a secret obsession for me HAHAHAHA)

But to give Code Red credit, he was right. We DIDN’T raise $80,000…because we raised $91,000 bitch…*MIC DROP* AND WE OUT.

….

Okay, I’m back. I only did that *MIC DROP* for dramatic effect but actually I have more to say.

Over the years, I have drawn a lot of criticism for the way I have chosen to do things; whether it be on the business idea itself, the choice to close it down, to risk everything on a crowdfund campaign, to sell cookies off a milk & cookie bus, to restart all over again on K Road, to buy my cat a cat toilet seat to train him to use the human toilet etc etc the list goes on.

People often ask “Why don’t you say something to them? Why don’t you stand up for yourself?”. Sometimes this can be viewed as weak. When I get an email from Code Red for example, staff have asked “Well, what did you reply?” and the truth is, I didn’t. It’s not because I’m scared or hurt, it’s because I don’t feel the need to waste my energy on proving myself to anybody. Fuck, I haven’t even proved myself to MYSELF yet. What am I meant to be proving anyway? I don’t for a fact know that I’m going to be a success. But I’m going to try anyway. I just don’t feel the need to justify myself to others who clearly think I’m a stupid ass little girl anyway. Let them think that…I’ll own it. This is me, bro…you don’t like little girls? Fine by me. (Actually that’s a good thing; you could go to jail for that).

But to put it bluntly,

I. Don’t. Give. A. Fuck.

People think that entrepreneurs are naturally born to feel more comfortable with taking risks. Which is why I hate associating myself with the word “entrepreneur” because I really don’t think there’s much difference between a so-called entrepreneur & a regular person. Just like everybody else, we too feel the anxiety, the fear and if I’m being completely honest, I damn straight feel like I’m gonna piss my pants sometimes.

The difference is to look at failure straight in the face and say “Fuck You” & then go and do it anyway. The key for me to get through this year has been to not give a fuck about embarrassing myself or failure or adversity or pissing my pants & just laugh it off & keep gunning for it anyway. Because even though people said I was stupid for shutting down our original, I knew that this was more important than myself, my own pride, my own fears, inadequacies and my own needs. That this was the right thing to do. This is what I had to do.

I’m still learning ‘the fine art of not giving a fuck’. In his book, Mark Manson points out that “Not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different”. We don’t have an unlimited supply of fucks to give out, so we need to make sure we’re giving our fucks to things that matter such as family, friends, helping others… cookies. Yes. Cookies is on my list for important things.

J.K Rowling once said,

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life”

If I’m being completely open with you guys, after my shop closed in January, I hit rock bottom. Though the crowdfund had been a success, the Cookie Bus was well over schedule and over budget. If it was delayed any longer & with no shop bringing in income, I was close to completely running out of money, all my staff would’ve lost their jobs and I would be stuck at a standstill. The weight of my entire team fell on my shoulders, and even if I didn’t give a fuck about me, I sure do give a fuck about them. That’s when the doubt started creeping in & my anxiety hit record highs. But that spurred me on more to stop feeling sorry for myself & get creative with whatever resources we had available to us. Not wishing for this or wishing for that or regretting what had happened, but just accepting that I was not entitled to feel comfortable & happy all the time & just keep going regardless.

So to answer my question from the beginning of this blog: Was Moustache a good idea?

All I know is that we went from nothing 7 months ago in January, to a fucking badass Milk & Cookie Bus now open in Wellington, a store on the campus of the biggest university in New Zealand & now in 3 days we will be launching Moustache 2.0.

The banks tell me Moustache 2.0 is going to be a flop, the haters say we can’t do it…fuck ’em.

All I know is that we survived. We are here. We still give no fucks about the naysayers, but we definitely still give a fuck about this humble Moustache Milk & Cookie Bar.

If you have visited us or supported us at our Cookie Bus or at our AU Campus store since our store’s closure in January, you have directly been a part of our resurgence. In fact, you are the only reason our resurgence exists. To our loyal Moustache fans, thank you for sticking by us even in our hardest of times. I know this is only the beginning & I still have a lot more hard work to go. Thank you for supporting small local business.

So is it a good idea? Who fucking knows?

But we are here. 

And for now, that’s enough.

MOUSTACHE K ROAD // OPENING SEPTEMBER 21 2016 // 309 KARANGAHAPE ROAD, AUCKLAND CITY.

 

Moustache II: Reincarnating the store we shut down

My brother passed on a message to me from John, a good man but one with whom I have a tense relationship with (think Twilight, I am Team Werewolf & he is Team Vampire. We have respect for one another but ultimately have a wall between us) [omg you know the world’s gone to the dogs when you’re using Twilight as a case in point]

The message was, “On a side note, I was talking to the Auckland City Council at a group meeting about enhancing the Aotea area [N.B this is where my old shop used to be] and the name of your shop and its wonderful products were mentioned by various people there…your reputation goes before you

Your reputation goes before you. What meaningful words. It is the things that you cannot buy, such as reputation, respect, love, honour & self-betterment through sheer painstaking moments that give life meaning. I’m not saying I have done enough to earn those things yet, and of course having a economically sustainable business model is important, but those are the core values on which this business should be built upon.

That small message made me feel a pang of nostalgia for that original, albeit crappy, little store. However any sad feelings were quickly overtaken by reflections on how my life has changed since that shop has closed. In fact, it was only a mere 6 months ago when we demolished her in January of this year.

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Since her closure, we have hand-built a cute little Moustache in Auckland University Campus.

Since her closure, we built a milk & cookie bar in a 1978 Bedford bus and road tripped down to Wellington to open the first Moustache outside of Auckland.

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And since her closure…well, I haven’t really written anything about this before but now that we’re opening in about 3-4 weeks, I figure I probably should say something…

Next month, Moustache 12 Wellesley Street will finally be reincarnated. Soon her spirit will be rehomed into our new little flagship store on K Road in Auckland City. Whilst the cookie bus in Wellington & the shop in Auckland University will still be operating & are awesome in their own right, this store will be our home kitchen & will be where our new wave of innovation and creativity will stem from.

3 shops in 3 months. 

Without the closure of that original shop, we never would have been forced into being creative & built the Cookie Bus which allowed us to keep all of Team Mo’s jobs & keep us trading while we looked for permanent solutions. Without the closure, I never would’ve received the opportunity to open a store on Auckland University Campus. And without the closure, I wouldn’t be building this new flagship store which will be even more epic than the original.

It’s like 12 Wellesley made the ultimate sacrifice. Just like in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, Spock enters a radioactive chamber to repair the ships malfunction so that the rest of the Enterprise crew may live on.

Spock: “Don’t grieve, Admiral. It is logical…the needs of the many outweigh…

Kirk: “…the needs of the few.

Spock “Or the one.”

Spock places his hand on the glass;

Spock: “Live long & prosper”

Captain Kirk places his hand opposite while Spock’s hand slips down as he collapses and dies.

OMG WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH HOLY CRAP. SUCH EMOTIONS. DAMN YOU SPOCK. DAMN YOU!!!! THE MOST HUMAN VULCAN WE WILL EVER KNOW.

….anyway….wait, where was I going with this?

Oh yeah, that’s right, I was comparing my life to Star Trek (because the demise of the Enterprise & the death of Spock is totally the same thing as closing my one tiny minuscule shop…)

As much as I adored and loved that store, it was the logical choice. It needed to be done. And with her death, an injection of life into the three projects inspired by her.

I am writing this on the plane as I fly out of Wellington. I had an amazing time in Wellington setting up Moustache Milk & Cookie Bus but now it’s time to come home to Auckland to reincarnate that store I shut down. When I moved the bus down to Wellington, I was told by bankers and other professionals that they had doubts that I could do it because I was too young and inexperienced to know how to manage 2-3 different shops let alone in 2 different cities. UM BUT EXCUSE ME, my homegirl J.K Rowling once said that “It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”.

Four years ago when I was 21, did I have the ability to open Moustache? Did I have the resources? Nope. No. Nada. I agree with you Old Banker Man, I am inexperienced, I own that, but at least I’m doing something about it instead of sitting in my safe cushy banking chair telling others they can’t do it. Because how am I meant to become experienced if I don’t go and become experienced? 4 years on & I ask myself the same question, do I have the ability or the resources to open 3 stores? Same answer again, nope. no. nada. 4 years on and bankers still won’t touch us, 4 years on & we’ve had to close our doors and resurrect into a new form. But when I say new form, I don’t mean one new form, I mean 3 new forms cuz we going from Diglett to Dugtrio up in this bitch.

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4 years on and I still know nothing. None of us truly know anything. You could have the perfect plan, know all the stats and have all the resources and you still know nothing. Because that’s the real world. Only by doing will you know.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Teddy Roosevelt

People might see that we have built three stores in 3 months and think, “Oh wow they must be doing really well!”. Well, I’m not writing here so that I can be frontin’. As comfortable as it is to hide behind a wall & put up that successful front, it would be incongruent to the entire point of this blog…scratch that, it would be incongruent to the entire point of life itself.

I can’t sit here and tell you I have everything under control. Because I can’t even control my weekly intake of fries let alone the entire future of our business. Because the reality of it is that we are still a startup. The reality is that the only thing that keeps us going are our amazing Mo fans supporting small local business.

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But to achieve this, my hair is unkempt, my nails half chewed off, my brother & I (who quit his $100k engineering job to help me make this dream a reality) are here with stress up to our eyeballs, slogging it out day in, day out, to make this work. These 3 shops, in these 3 months with no backing and little to no resources are not a product of fortune but are a product of grit & scrappiness.

Scrappy. It can mean one of two things: disjointed/incoherent/ imperfect OR it could mean determined. I like to think we are both the definitions of scrappy. Imperfect and disjointed yet despite that, still determined and pugnacious.

So, now you know the news. We may have closed the original store in January but we have been on the grind ever since.

And next month, Moustache’s flagship store is coming back from the dead ‘cuz baby?

You know we saved the best for last. 

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Leaving home for Wellington. Musings on the good & the bad.

I admit, Wellington & I didn’t get off to a very good start. Somebody slashed our Moustache Bus tyres the first week we arrived, I got screamed at on the street “FUCK YOU ASIAN CUNT” (yes, this was the exact wording) & I got my ID checked for an R16 movie….R16!!! To get checked for an R16 movie means they must think I am FIFTEEN YEARS OLD OR UNDER BAHAHAHA. I’ll have you know, Mr Cinema Man, I own a humble but popular Milk & Cookie Bus (yes a milk bus is a very grown-up business okay) & I can legally buy fireworks without parental supervision, thank you very much. And by the by, I haven’t been 15 for over a decade so if you could just give me my gummy bears & frozen coke with twisty straw then I’ll be on my way…good day to you sir!

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On a separate night, I watched Finding Dory (after waiting a casual thirteen years to watch this movie) to which someone replied “Oh, is that the only movie the cinemas would let you into?”. Oh, HA HA very funny, aren’t you just a Witty Wellingtonian.

I was born & raised in Auckland (yes even us “Asian Cunts” can actually be born & raised New Zealanders…& while I’m at it, NZ was only colonised a few hundred years back so sorry to break it to you mate, but unless you’re tangata whenua,  your family probably came on a boat too), so being a JAFA (Just Another Fucking Aucklander) I wasn’t certain I’d like it down here. When I first arrived I really didn’t quite “get it”. It was freezing cold (being around cookie ovens for the last 5 years has made me a delicate little peach sensitive to colder climates) & I didn’t understand the distinct lack of game arcades in the city (wow, this is the 4th pair of brackets I’ve used in this one paragraph).

Having a highly addictive personality (I once got addicted to the game ‘Kitty Cat Clicker’ on my friend’s phone resulting in the hijacking of said phone spending days clicking away on that damn illuminated screen to feed my “Milk Delivery Cats” and “Grandma Cats” and would even force him to feed my cats every time I had to go to the toilet) so I don’t allow myself to download any games or watch any TV shows lest I get addicted & fall into the spirally pit of crazed addiction with the inability to go toilet without somebody taking over the controls of my game for me. Which is why I have not allowed myself to download Pokemon Go and no, I don’t care whether Jon Snow is dead or not because he’s dead to my heart anyway since I don’t allow myself to start sliding down that slippery slope.

With such an extreme personality, I have to be strict with my media consumption if I am to achieve all the dreams on my Bucket List. Life is a constant battle between becoming consumers or creators. I’m terrified that if I consume too much, I won’t create enough…even if what I’m creating is rubbish.  Better to create trash than to consume Kardash trash is what I say (okay, I don’t think I’ve ever said that before but whatever).

Anyway, that was a long tangent to explain that arcade games are the only sort of “game” I am allowed to play therefore, I was heavily saddened to arrive in The Capital only to find little to satiate that niggling gaming desire except for a sad little Timeout in Burger King in which $5 was invested in a claw machine only for the money to be gobbled up & it didn’t even put out! Story of my love life eh? JOKES (that was a very bad crass joke, but who doesn’t like the odd crass joke or toilet humour…). Perhaps Mr Cinema Man DID have a point questioning whether I am indeed over the age of 16 or not…

But. It’s now been over a month of living in windy Wellington and of that time, Moustache has been open for almost 3 weeks in this brand new city. And now. I. don’t. want. to. leave.

When we drove the bus here, it was on the basis that we would come for a couple months to test it out & drive back to Auckland if it didn’t work out. But it has worked out. It is working out. People here are so lovely & encouraging & supportive & excited that we’re even here. We have regulars already and it’s so warming to see their faces coming back. Even after 4 years of making a livelihood from cookies, I am still in awe that people know about Moustache and are actually coming to eat from us. I am still humbled and grateful every day.

There is a very strong community feel here. And an appreciation and understanding of small local business & supporting owner-operaters that I haven’t quite experienced before. When we’ve had a super busy day and have to close 20 minutes early because we literally have nothing left to sell, people say “Aw no I missed out this time…but congrats! I’m so glad to hear you’ve been busy”.

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There seems to be a greater understanding that when you buy and give money to small local business, you are not funding that owners next lamborghini, you are fuelling the growth of a tiny business which will go on to employ more young Kiwis & in their own small way, contribute to the economy. You are helping put food on that family’s table, you are helping put a roof over our heads, you are supporting the 8-year-old kid in me whose number one dream was to have a cookie shop because she believed that simple things were good & good things were simple. That even though growing up we had so little to our name, something as simple as a cookie dunked in milk could make me smile. And with that idea, maybe, just maybe if our cookies could also make other people smile, then that would make me happy…then that would be meaningful to me. I know it sounds stupid. To think that there is some rich underlying depth to a fucking cookie…but everybody derives their own values in life that are unique to them. This just happens to be mine.

There is something unique about Wellington that I still can’t put my finger on. I feel it but it’s not quite tangible. But I want to feel it more. It’s a feeling of… cosy? Of quirky? Of simplicity. Of getting away from all the noise & remembering what’s important in life. I feel at peace here. When I first arrived, as usual for me, I was plagued with ulcers from the anxiety I often experience from running the business. But…there must be something in the water here because I haven’t had a single ulcer for almost a month now. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say that.

That reason alone is enough reason to say, I like you, wind & all, I like you.

So, Wellington. If you’ll have us, do you mind if we stay in your quaint little city for longer? Thank you to those of you who have visited our little cookie bus on Marion Street already. And to those who haven’t yet, we hope to meet you soon.

Much love,
Deanna & Team Mo x

p.s I still adore you Auckland. I have VERY exciting things coming up for you…even if it induces ulcers.

 

the crazy story behind why we can’t open long tomorrow.

It’s 3am. My brain is absolute mince right now so I have no idea what will actually become of this blog. We closed up our all-you-can-eat-dinner & dessert buffet at 10pm. It was put on to be a fun shindig to say goodbye to Auckland before we road trip down to Wellington on the bus.

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The road trip itself will be a feat. Even driving down to Wellington in a CAR is a bit of a mish let alone with my entire life in tow – business, suitcase and life all packed up in a 10 metre long bus that weighs 7 tonne and doesn’t have power steering. Yes. NO. POWER. STEERING. 7. TONNE. BUS. I swear I need to see a counsellor about my obsession with choosing the most epic but ridiculous decisions in life.

Gosh. I feel sorry for my mum.

“Mum! I’m gonna quit all my jobs and open a milk & cookie bar which no one even knows what the hell that is!”

“Mum, I’m gonna buy a big giant bus that we can’t fit anywhere and sell stuffz off it!”

“Mum, oops did I tell you I’m moving to Wellington in 3 days time? Oh yeah but I’m homeless so we’re sleeping on the bus indefinitely!”

So why I thought that two days before moving to a new city, holding an incredibly extreme event such as a buffet where hundreds of people showed up, was a good idea, is beyond me.

It went. Pretty successfully. People kept congratulating me on a successful event. But. I feel i could’ve done better. Scratch that, a lot better. I had done huge volumes off the bus for Auckland City Limits and office runs where we had pretty good service for thousands of people. i actually thought this was going to be a cinch for us because of how we dealt with those events in the past. But. A buffet is on a complete ‘nutha level.

But. We learnt a crapload…about how to serve a crapload in a crapload of quantities. It would be awesome if I could go back in time & apply the knowledge I learnt today from the buffet, to BEFORE the buffet. But evidently, that’s just not how life works ha (otherwise I totes would do that BEFORE buying a cat toilet seat with the intention of training my cat to use a human toilet. YES. DON’T BUY THIS PPL. CATS DON’T NEED A TOILET SEAT. BUT IF YOU WAN’T TO TRY, I HAVE ONE I DON’T WANT IF YOU’RE INTERESTED LOL)

I am notoriously known for sleeping in movies. In fact my boyfriend has never actually witnessed me stay awake for an entire movie before. Conversely, I often find myself with insomnia, Exhausted physically but mentally wide awake which keeps me up at night. So when this happens, I usually put on a movie to try get me to sleep. The other night I put on Kung Fu Panda 3 at 2am in the morning. I lasted just long enough to take solace in this quote from Master Shifu (what animal is he btw? a raccoon or what the heck is that?!) who says:

“If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than you are”.

And if I’ve got anything to say about our Team Mo, it’s that we’re constantly testing our boundaries. Doing things we have never done before & things outside our comfort zones, although I think a lot of the time, we play a little too closely with fire. Tonight during the buffet, our power cut out due to the sheer pressure we were putting on everything and I swear I saw my life flash before my eyes. THAT’S how much we don’t want to let you down CUZ I WILL DIEZ.  But like raccoon/lemur/red panda/whatever-Master-Shifu-is said, you can’t expect to do the same thing all the time & expect to become more than that.

And I can see it everyday that this team of us 20-something-year old kids are becoming more than we ever have been. People try knock us down & although sometimes it might feel like it’s 2 steps backwards, 3 steps forwards but ultimately, we are always going from strength to strength. Even with the knocks. We are better humans for it.

I  know one day we will change the world in our own special way.

And if the buffet itself wasn’t nuts enough, getting the bus out of the venue itself was a heart attack & a half.

But even though my heart was palpitating like crazy, I also found myself in stitches over how hilarious the situation was.

Because…THE SIZE OF THE VENUE DOOR TONIGHT WAS PRETTY MUCH THE EXACT SAME SIZE AND SHAPE OF THE BUS. LIKE LOOK. SOOOO RIDICULOUS RIGHT?!

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Who the hell goes & measures up a door which only gives you a couple millimetres each side of their bus & then goes “Yeah, it’ll fit!”. FARRRR OUT MAAN WAI U DO DIZ TO YOURSELF?! I thought I was under the gun tonight but the REAL MVP tonight goes to Team Mo’s resident Bus Driver, Justin Yang (my big brother), for being ON POINT with his driving skills. I’M SORRY BUT I’M DEF GON’ SHOW PEOPLE THESE PHOTOZ WHEN THEY TRY TELL ME ASIANS CAN’T DRIVE ‘CAUSE FAAARRRK TRY DOING A 27 POINT TURN REVERSING OUT OF A DOOR THAT’S 2MILLIMETRES BIGGER THAN YOUR VEHICLE WITH NO POWER STEERING AND REMEMBER SHE WEIGHS 7 TONNE!!! NOT. A SINGLE. SCRATCH. MADE. BOOYAH.

Phew. Okay. It’s now 4:21am. I should probably take it easy on the caps lock.

Anyway so this is the very long story as to why we can only open 12-4pm tomorrow at our AU Campus store.

Because. Well. Buffet. Died. Bus craziness. Heart Attacks. Staff. DED. No. Cookies. None. Nothing. Barren. EVERYTHING. EATEN. Must. Replenish. But. We love you.

Thank you to everybody who came and supported us at the buffet tonight. I know it was a little bit crazy but I heard many people groaning about how stuffed ya’ll were so I hope your belly is round (we held this event in winter so nobody would notice under all the layers if you’re looking a bit rotund).

3 hours sleep. Then back to rolling more cookies for ya’ll tomorrow (technically, today?). It’s bloody hard work but truth be told, you Mo Fans really do inspire our little hearts. To this day, I still underestimate how crazy enthusiastic people are. I guess I still can’t believe it.

As always, THANK YOU. WHETHER YOU’RE IN AKL OR WLG…SEE YOU SOON, MAYBE? XOXO

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