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One-on-one with Mia Klitsas

Millie and More's director and co-founder on her journey to make women's periods as convenient, stylish, bearable and glamorous as possible

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Mia Klitsas

08 February 2017

Most young ladies in their 20s are living recklessly, enjoying their freedom, travelling to exotic locations around the world, or beginning their studies at university. Mia Klitsas, however, is not like other young ladies. At the age of 21, Mia was leaving the security of her full-time job and spending her life savings on a dream, a dream that has flourished into reality and proved to be more rewarding than she had ever dreamed. This is the story of Mia Klitsas, co-founder of Moxie.

Mia's parents, both Greek, from Ypeiros and Limnos, raised her like most other working- class parents of that era. She tells me she felt spoilt, not with gifts and money but rather with time, as she was the first grandchild on her mother's side of the family. More than half of her childhood memories involve her grandmother and the time they spent together in her beautiful garden, as Mia was cared for by her grandmother while her parents and grandfather were working in their knitwear manufacturing business, or on renovations of their new family home, purchased with the first spoils of their labour.

As a result of this, Mia spoke Greek as her first language, with her grandmother often recording their conversations which she now has passed on for her to have. Mia says she loves listening to how much of a little "chatterbox" she was. She feels blessed to have had that time with her grandmother, who she describes as being very patient and nurturing, with all the time in the world to help answer questions that her curious little mind had, culturing her young and impressionable brain.

Mia went on to do her marketing degree at RMIT, which involved a final year out in the workforce as work experience. She was scouted and placed in a firm working on new product development and she felt that she was in her element, as she always considered herself to have a creative mind. Things weren't always smooth sailing, however, and in a male-dominated firm, she was often patronised and told she was "too young to have an idea". She was young and impressionable, and in the earliest days of her career, people who should have been mentoring her were attempting to dishearten and discourage a 19-year-old girl who was full of ideas and bursting with enthusiasm. After graduation, Mia was offered an ongoing role with the company which she chose to accept, in a strategic move to place herself ahead of her peers.

Something great did come out of that workplace though − it was where she met her business partner Jeff Gore, whom she refers to as her second dad. When Mia spoke of Jeff, she was smiling from ear to ear, fondly speaking about this older man, who took the time to get to know her and her ideas, seeing her potential. Mia attributes their successful friendship and partnership to neither of them being an "ageist". She says they share the same values and drive and have always pushed one another.

It was during one of their regular lunch breaks, at a chicken shop in Southland, that they chatted away about ugly and embarrassing packaging, as you do; it was their job. Jeff often encouraged Mia to "come up with something" that would get the ball rolling for them to be able to quit and start something of their own. Mia recalls a story of a time she found herself embarrassed to be buying tampons, even though she was with a group of girlfriends, and how this was a big problem. Why was it an issue? That was their light bulb moment. They would reinvent the tampon box, in a pretty, crush-proof tin, which was reusable and more importantly recyclable.

Mia excitedly tells me of how they started Moxie, from quitting her job and pouring her life savings into ordering a container of tampons from overseas, to making a handmade "rustic" prototype, then to literally cold calling supermarket giants to stock her product.

Reflecting back, she wonders if it was naive of her to call the two largest supermarket giants as her first attempt at sales. Although she was hung up on the first time, her second call resulted in an appointment a few months later that would potentially change her life. Mia vividly remembers sitting down for that first meeting with Woolworths, in an office she described as feeling like an airport, completely overwhelmed and thinking "what have we done".
The meeting was a complete success, and they seemed very impressed by the fact that Moxie were so confident in its product that it had already ordered a container of product that was already on its way. This also meant they placed an immediate order and Mia and Jeff walked out of that meeting on the biggest high of their lives, but also at a loss as to where to start.

They pooled the few thousand dollars they had left and invested into a laptop and a small foot heater for their new 'office', which was the study of her parents' house and then a small space in her dad's factory. She recalls a point where they sat and cried about the balance of their new account and not knowing where to begin, but they got their heads together and before they knew it, Coles was calling to ask why they didn't have this product on their shelves. Before long they were being stocked nationally across Woolworths, Coles, Priceline, Chemist Warehouse, and going global fast.

With all the success they were having, Mia wanted to give back, so she started the initiative Pads for Pads to help with school absenteeism in developing countries, an initiative fully funded by Moxie. Girls in these countries miss a staggering 20 per cent of the school year as a result of feminine hygiene issues. In Uganda alone they have a team of 120 women that sew reusable pads for the community, as they have found these women preferred something they could wash and reuse as well as being less of an environmental issue. Mia felt this was important and impactful, to teach these girls not only about feminine hygiene, but also sex education in general, with an end goal being to keep them in school. Pads for Pads has helped over 12,000 young Ugandan women and thousands more in homeless shelters and across Indigenous communities around Australia. The initiative has not only helped educate, but in many cases created much-needed jobs in underprivileged areas.

I asked about plans for the future and Mia let me in on a new project she has just started called The Brand Maketh, working with new startups and helping to guide them in the right direction on how to bring their product ideas to market, just as she did. Beginning in February, customers will also be able to sign up for a Moxie Box Club subscription − online ordering of their sanitary needs that will be delivered monthly, just in time for those special visitors. Mia said she would love to be doing more talks at schools and to keep expanding her initiative globally. There's absolutely no chance of slowing down for this self-proclaimed perfectionist. Mia told me she feels like she hasn't done enough, right after running through her long list of accomplishments, which included AFR/ Westpac 100 Women of Influence and Telstra Young Business Woman of the year.

Lastly, I asked Mia how she came up with the name Moxie and what it means to her. She told me that one night, while watching a Humphrey Bogart movie, and hearing him describe the leading lady as having "moxie", the word just stuck with her. The definition for the word moxie as per the Oxford Dictionary is: force of character, determination, or nerve. Mia feels that it encapsulates the very essence of a Moxie customer.

To see more, go to moxie.com.au

* Zoe George is The Subtle Mummy. Visit www.thesubtlemummy.com

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