Henrik from talks about creating the online and international presence of a business that sustainably empowers artisans.

Could you tell us about your background and what Mamahuhu sells?

Mamahuhu is an ethical brand offering leather shoes and accessories, handmade by artisans in Colombia and Spain.

The most unique thing about Mamahuhu is that we don’t employ artisans, but help unemployed artisans to set up their own ethical workshops, and give them purchase orders to help them grow the workshops and create more jobs in the communities. In this way, they become independent and sustainable business owners, thriving with pride.

Over the last 6 years, we have helped set up 11 ethical workshops with over 120 happy artisans.

Mamahuhu Business Model

Mamahuhu was founded because of a need for this business model in the current marketplace.  In the 90s Colombia used to be a leather goods centre, but as more and more manufacturing was moved to South Asia the majority of Colombian leather artisans were left unemployed.

The founders of Mamahuhu were on holiday in Colombia, and one day saw a cobbler, Rozo, in a tiny stand on the street. They ended up asking him to make a shoe with their design, and when this very first red Colorines ankle boot was created, they were struck by the quality and beauty.

Rozo was once a master artisan in a big leather manufacturing company, but since the company closed down, he now had to work as a cobbler to make a living. Mamahuhu offered him a micro loan and helped to buy the equipment necessary to set up his own workshop, and hire two new workers to help. Then Mamahuhu gave Rozo’s workshop up-front purchasing orders. As the business grew, the workshop started hiring more and more workers, and train them to become artisans. Once it had grown to employ twenty workers, Mamahuhu aided Rozo in registering the workshop as a company that pays taxes and social benefits to its workers.

Mamahuhu Business Model

What were you and your wife doing before working with Mamahuhu and how did you get involved?

My wife, Effy, and I met in Shanghai in 2010 where we both studied at Fudan University. A lucky chance indeed, her being Shanghainese, and me being Norwegian. I was studying my masters in economics at the time together with Luis Moreno who actually founded Mamahuhu while we were studying.

After studies Effy and I moved to Ireland where we worked for fortune 500 companies, and got to experience how life is when you have a stable and good salary while being a tiny part of a gigantic machine.

We had early found out that we wanted to stay together, and both want to keep in touch with our families, so we needed to find a way to earn our money independently of location. And this is where Mamahuhu came in.

By end of 2015 Mamahuhu had opened 7 stores in Colombia and 2 in Spain, yet there was a tremendous untapped potential for online sales internationally. Having kept in touch over the last 6 years Luis knew our experience, and, even more importantly, (I like to think) that he could trust us. So we were invited to become intrapreneurs within Mamahuhu, tasked with creating the online international sales from scratch.

For us this was a fantastic opportunity to be our own bosses and work from anywhere, and we also got to transition into a field where we perceive that our work has a larger impact.

Where did your first sales come from when you launched the online store?

As wish most startups the first sale came from my mom :) The next few sales were from our friends who wanted to show their support. We got our first purchase from a “stranger” two months after going live with our Shopify store.

What helped us was that Mamahuhu had some international fans already on their social media, which drove some traffic.

Our next several sales came from our email list, which we got signups from through our App Sumo landing mat which we have had running since the beginning.

What strategies have you used to grow the Mamahuhu online store?

All of them.

It is a bit of a joke, and yet also somehow true. We have used paid advertising through Facebook, Reddit, and Google. We have done social media marketing through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Paid posts with fashion bloggers, and instagram influencers, brand ambassadors, and done product giveaways.

By far our two most efficient and important strategies has been PR outreach to bloggers and newspapers and SEO. As an example, over the last 3 months referral traffic accounted for 31% of our traffic, and organic search 29.2%.

When it comes to PR outreach it is pure sweat equity. We only send out personalised emails and pitches to journalists and bloggers whom we have thoroughly researched. No spam, and no one size fits all messages. (we get 10+ of that type each week and they all go straight in the junk) It is really hard work to be genuine and interested, and that, we perceive, is why it works.

With SEO it is first and foremost about getting the basics right. For an easy to understand and follow basic guide, check out this article. (No association, I just really like this one)

We perceive that what it comes down to is throwing the pasta at the wall and see what sticks. In other words, make sure you are familiar with Google Analytics and then try different strategies and see which gives the best results.

I would love to learn a bit more about the Kickstarter process and why you chose to create that campaign.

Kickstarter has been closely tied with Mamahuhu since the start, because it was after the company’s first successful campaign that they opened the first store. With a second successful campaign the second shop was opened.

We felt that it was time to run another campaign and use that as a marketing platform for our new style of shoes, because Kickstarter has a huge audience available for us to tap into. It is also a huge kick in the ass on getting things done :) Once your campaign is live, you really feel that need to get into a higher gear and perform at your absolute maximum, which is great motivation.

What potential Kickstarters need to also take into consideration is that your chance of success is really tightly matched with the level of preparation you have done before going live. We built an email list of 1000 people prior to our launch. Together with our friends and family this allowed us to reach our goal in the first 7 days. Without that preparation we might not have made it at all.

Most founders spend a lot of time preparing the campaign page, and way too little time building relationships with bloggers, journalists, potential customers, and doing all the marketing preparations that will truly increase your chance of success.

What we really like about Kickstarter is that it allows us to tell our story in greater detail, and people really take a deeper interest on the KS platform. They are more interested in the brands and learning more about the products, than if they come to your normal landing page on your ecommerce store.

Mamahuhu Shoes

Once the Kickstarter ended we tied the page to our Shopify store and we still get traffic to our page from the Kickstarter campaign.

Which Shopify apps do you use? Which apps are most important to your business? 

The easy answer is that we use:

Our top three apps are Jilt (Email recovery of abandoned checkouts), Loox (request reviews of items after purchase, and show them on our product pages), and Mailchimp (where we run our email list).

Both Jilt and Loox have had huge positive impact on our conversion rates, while mailchimp drives solid converting traffic to our page.

What is your average monthly revenue or number of orders?

We have now grown from one or two sales a month in the beginning to having sales every single day. That’s only the online part. We also run the Spanish Mamahuhu shops on shopify POS which sells over €10’000 a month each. 

What are you working towards now?

Currently we have three major projects. Firstly we are continuing to develop our SEO (which in the last two months have driven the largest part of our traffic), with the aim of doubling our current traffic by October 2017.

To give some more details, here are the top two action points we are working on for SEO:

  1. Every day we contact journalists and bloggers and ask to be included in posts where Mamahuhu would be a relevant and valuable addition.
  2. We are working on a series of blog posts that provides valuable information for our target audience, and include keywords we are ranking for in Google. 

Secondly we are working on improving our conversion rate throughout the sales funnel, focused on add to cart and start checkout.

  1. Increase on our knowledge about who our customers are and why they really buy from us. This is through surveys, and qualitative conversations.
  2. Using this increased knowledge of our customers to A/B test different changes on our webpage.

Through these two projects we are working towards a 400% increase in monthly sales by the end of 2017.

Where can we learn more?

We would love to have you all visit us at www.mamahuhu.online for stylish ethical shoes :) And a big thanks to Shopify for making an awesome platform, without which we would likely still be stuck in the starting gate!

More Interviews!



How one crazy idea turned into a global ecommer...


JewelV is one of the more impressive Shopify si...
Dire Envy

Dire Envy

How the pursuit of passion led this entrepreneu...

Shopify case studies in your inbox