Moja’s impact: how a business adaption supports Tanzanian boys and girls

It’s partly new, and more importantly, it’s better. Alumnus Thom Uildriks (International Business Administration, 2020) created something good and profitable that helps society. And then he improved it – and created a new company – to make an impact on even more people’s lives. 

Thom won the I WILL Award 2018 with Boxrs4ALL, a social enterprise that aimed to improve children’s health in Tanzania. For every pair of boxer shorts purchased in the Netherlands, the local community in Tanzania made another pair for a boy whose family cannot afford to buy them. 

Now, four years after Thom and his friend Spijk Geene co-founded the company, they have transitioned into a new launch, Moja. We caught up with Thom on how it came about, and what’s next.

"We want to convey the message that we are altogether one, and that we want to help each other."

Where did the idea to create Moja come from?
“In the past years, nearly 2000 pairs of underwear have been made and distributed to boys in Tanzania. But on our last visit to Tanzania, we also noticed that girls were lacking access to underwear and sanitary pads. It shocked us that young girls can miss up to a quarter of their education once they start menstruating, because they stay home from school during those days. We really wanted to do something about this.

“During this time we also got to know more people in the start-up hub where we worked in Rotterdam, particularly with our new partner, Elissa Glorie. We decided to create the company Moja so we could help provide underwear for boys and girls in Tanzania as well as reusable sanitary pads.

“Next to supporting some local mothers with what they earn from sewing this underwear, we want the communities to become more self-sustaining, in particular in educating their children. We provided workshops before on health and puberty for the children, and we want to hand that over entirely to the locals.”

What does Moja mean?
“We had an extensive brainstorm about what to call ourselves. We thought of Moja, which means ‘one’ in Swahili, the language spoken in Tanzania. There are three core reasons why we chose Moja. For one, it aligns with our business model of selling one online, and creating and donating one in Tanzania. Another reason is because every time a child wanted to ask a question during the workshops, they would hold up their index finger like a one. And third and most prominent reason is that we want to convey the message that we are altogether one, and that we want to help each other.”

How did Covid-19 affect the launch of Moja?
“We were planning to launch Moja in March this year. But this had to wait, mainly because our production factory in Portugal had to stop production because of the lockdown. 

We’ve now finally launched, and our seven-member team is working in the same space again. We noticed that the pandemic has influenced what and how people consume. With Moja we also want to create more awareness in consumers with what and where they buy their clothes, and the impact their choices have.”

“We at Moja are really trying to find the balance between impact and fashion."

What have you learned throughout the years as entrepreneur?
“One of things I’ve learned is that if you are able to tell an honest and real story, that you can convince people a lot easier than if you don’t. Then it doesn’t matter who you’re talking to, whether it’s the CEO of Jumbo (who we won financial support from in a national competition) or whether it’s presenting at the I WILL Award. People will believe in your brand based on emotion, not on what is the best (quality) of something. If you can touch someone’s heart with your story, you’ll get a lot further than with numerical evidence or background.” 

Where to now?
“We at Moja are really trying to find the balance between impact and fashion. We are a fashion company because we sell clothes, but our main aim and motivation is that we make impact in places where it’s needed the most. 

“We’re working on a mini documentary that portrays what type of impact we are trying to make. We want to improve healthcare and help educate Tanzanian children on health and puberty. 

“Now that we’ve launched, we are looking to work with new partners and organisations. We were able to prove our impact with Boxrs4ALL, and we’re now looking for people who have experience in fashion and creating impact. Besides new partnerships we’re also welcoming students who are interested in learning what it’s like to work in a social enterprise. So I’m up for having a coffee for those that are interested, anyone is welcome to contact me through LinkedIn.”