Finding the perfect baby gift? Akin Onal on starting MORI

Finding a gap in the baby gift market whilst shopping for his niece, Akin Onal was inspired to set up MORI to revolutionise the baby market.

MORI, the baby sleep experts, have been running for nearly two years, selling organic bamboo baby products that they believe will revolutionise the baby market – allowing babies and their parents to sleep all over the world! They have sold products in 50 markets. They are now at a £1.5 million run rate and aim to grow three times in the next 12 months.

Founder Akin Onal, wants to reach half a million families globally.

What does your business do?

MORI crafts the softest and safest baby clothing essentials, which are made from sustainably sourced materials to look after baby’s health and future. Everything we design has been made with quality sleep in mind; we provide families not only with clothing but with a better night’s sleep through products and our online help.

Where did you get the idea from?

The idea first came when I was searching for a gift for my nieces. I wanted to gift something that would be practical for the family, giving them more time to spend together, but that looked beautiful and also was made from the highest quality materials. After an extensive search, it became clear that this wasn’t available on the market. From there, MORI was born.

How did you know there was a market for it?

We spoke with as many people as possible about the types of gifts they bought or had received, and what they would have loved to receive. We looked into several other brands and read everything we could find online about the market. From the research, it also became clear that what parents receive as gifts are rarely what they really need, and a large portion of these gifts are left unused, with the intention of being thrown away or donated to charity. There was a lack of conscious brands and organic options in the market, but a clear request from parents who cared about the materials that touch their baby’s skin, as well as the environmental impact on the planet.

How did you raise funding and why?

Building a brand is an expensive venture, which requires a lot of nurturing and is a labour of love. You have to invest time and capital investment, and therefore we decided to raise funding through several rounds of financing. The first rounds of financing came from our friends and family in small amounts, but everything helped towards our goal and their support was vital to helping us kickstart the business.

Afterwards, we received an investment from one of the largest silicon valley seed investors (500 Startups), and from there joined their accelerator program in Mountain View to further develop the company. We started growing rapidly, which then attracted larger investors and helped us in our last rounds of financing to reach investment firms with deep experiences in technology and retail.

Describe your business model in brief

We try to do as much as possible in-house. From the design of our products, to the photography, to the online marketing strategy; we believe that high standards are met in all these areas as using in-house resources means we can control all aspects of quality. When needed, we onboard expert advice and skills by consulting them in order to ascertain whether a certain product or fabric will benefit a family and their needs. For instance, we invested a lot of time in research and constantly consulting with industry experts in order to engineer our signature fabric that is bamboo and organic cotton.

We are an online, direct-to-consumer (B2C) brand, which means we can deliver high-quality products at an affordable price to the market without having to involve a middle man for the large part of our business. This allows us to build a trusting and direct relationship with our customers, who always come back to MORI first when their baby is growing and needs more clothing. We have very sophisticated CRM tools to follow each of our customers’ journeys, and propose the most relevant solutions and products to them. We are constantly asking our customers for feedback, and finding out where we can improve the customer experience and also our products to keep them delighted and coming back for more.

We recently launched the wholesale arm of our business, which helps us to reach potential customers in places we may not have before. The best part of selling wholesale is it allows our customers to see and touch our fabrics, and feel the brand and quality. We are excited to recently become a part of Selfridges, and now our potential customers can feel MORI in-store.

Your lowest point was…

Last year we encountered an issue when our main stock delivery was delayed right before Christmas. We had several thousands of customers who had to wait for their orders to be sent, many of which were Christmas presents. At the time, it felt like we had completely failed them. We tried our very best to communicate what had happened, with absolute honesty – we sent apology gifts, and worked exceptionally hard to make sure everyone got their orders as quickly as possible, and luckily managed to fix things in almost all cases. We took serious measures after that incident, and in the New Year we reduced our factory lead time to a record 4-5 weeks and outsourced our fulfilment operations to one of the most trusted firms in London. Now, the majority of our orders are shipped within the same day and we are confident that this Christmas, all gifts will be delivered on time.

Your highest point was…

We’ve had some amazing breakthroughs here at MORI; achievements in product development and adding new collections, our online growth and selling all around the world are just to name a few, of which we are all proud. There will be many more high points as we continue to grow, and I’m excited to celebrate them all with an incredible team!

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

Overthinking is a burden and will stop you from following your dreams. However, you need to find as many quick and smart ways to test your hypothesis before diving into it. You need to find the right balance, but just thinking without actually doing rarely results in any value.

Where do you want to be in five years time?

We want to be a global company with offices across Europe, the US and potentially in Asia. Our goal is to continue improving the sleep of babies and families, and we hope to be helping half a million of them to sleep better by 2021.

If you weren’t an entrepreneur you would be..?

In my previous career, I was a technology, media, and telecommunications advisor, both as an investment banker and management consultant. Now, I have moved to the other side of the computer screen! It is a lot more enriching to engineer products that improve people’s lives and build strong organisations, rather than advising others how to do so. I don’t think I would ever go back.

If you could go back in time, what would you change?

Business-wise, I don’t think I would change anything. Although on a more personal level, I think I would have preached more about Brexit! It seems many people didn’t take the poll very seriously, so maybe we should have created baby sleepsuits that had “Vote No” on them. Because babies love promoting politics, right?

What is your plan to grow? You are clearly ambitious, but how do you get there?

With a dedicated and hardworking team at MORI, we are always thinking of new ideas to expand our business and create exciting new products. Teamwork really does make the difference when it comes to growth, which is why we work closely together and support each other’s ideas. Through research, understanding the industry and talking to parents to really know what they want and need to make their lives better, we can continue to grow.

How do you stay relevant in the ‘baby products market’, an industry that is already dilated?

At MORI, we focus on creating quality products that make a difference to the lives of parents. By combining innovative design with sustainable, soft and safe materials, we’re able to offer the market something different from what’s on offer from every other company. Our ethics and beliefs resonate with a lot of people and make them feel that MORI is a brand they can trust and a brand that truly cares about their well-being. We hope to reinforce our unique selling points by working with leading professionals and experts in the baby, mother, expectant and general fields to provide accurate, informative and entertaining online resources that really give families a better quality of life.

Owen Gough

Owen Gough

Owen Gough is a reporter for He has a background in small business marketing strategies and is responsible for writing content on subjects ranging from small business finance to technology...