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  • Writer's pictureSocial Scaffolding

Design Thinking with Mu'ooz

Empty chairs, empty tables, stock in the cupboards, produce in the fridge and distressed phone calls from her employees.

This is what greeted Saba Abraham, the founder of Mu’ooz Eritrean Restaurant and Catering Service in the last week of March as the impact of COVID-19 became apparent in Queensland. This was also the time when Social Scaffolding was beginning to deliver on the Social Enterprise Grant funded by the Department of Employment, Small Business and Training. Our marketing and engagement

deliverables included identifying business areas and opportunities as well as developing in-house capabilities and systems through; streamlining, training and coaching over a 15-week period. The big picture was to help the business to create an on-going marketing and engagement strategy.

Over the next few weeks, the government support would go a long way in keeping the business afloat and paying the wages, but as a social enterprise, Mu’ooz’s created much more than just economic value and needed to keep going. As Saba shared in one of the first meetings; “The cooking is not just important for money, it gives the women something to do, something to keep their mind busy, something that gives them confidence, something that gives them a place of their own that they are proud of”. For those who may not be aware of Mu’ooz yet, it is a not-for-profit social enterprise aimed at creating employment, training and work experiences for disadvantaged refugee and asylum seeker women, who have suffered traumatic experiences of war, poverty and had little opportunity for education. Since commencing in 2003 as a catering business, and then moving to West End as a restaurant, Mu’ooz has helped over 240 women into training and employment.

We knew during that conversation that the planned activities would need to pivot! The traditional marketing and business development approaches while effective for generating awareness and increasing sales, they would not be enough to sustain the mental health needs of these women. How could we ensure these women continued to receive the stimulation that they require and maintain their value of self-worth, during these times of uncertainty? We needed to think differently.

Drawing on the principles of design-thinking, we initiated multiple in-depth conversations with various stakeholders, where we developed a deep understanding of Mu’ooz challenges and aspirations. We found that any solution, from a strategic perspective, would need to harness the core skills of cooking, build on the goodwill and track record of the restaurant and catering service, as well as use this opportunity to future proof the business. Using a systematic and rigorous process that could help our client deal with the uncertainties of an existing business model, we worked with them to define their problems, brainstormed, co-designed solutions and created sample products that were then tested with a close-knit stakeholder group. In addition, it was important to be sensitive to the needs of the women and meet customer requirements. For example, some of the women training at Mu’ooz are unable to read English - therefore the label colours were critical to the production process. Green was chosen for the vegan items and red for meat dish.

Image credit: IDEO, David Kelly

THE RESULT - Mu’ooz in early October, launched a line of bottled pastes. Similar to curry pastes, Mu’ooz’s products serve as a base sauce where customers can lightly cook the paste adding in their choice of meat and/or vegetables to serve with rice or breads. Three products are already available in store with another two being tested as you read this. The production of these pastes mean that the women can keep cooking and customers can continue to enjoy and experience the products in the comfort of their own home. As an added benefit, these products are also creating economic value for food-focussed consultants, graphic designers, photographers, and label makers who were involved in the process. Future plans include streamlining the internal business processes, creating more products and strengthening digital marketing and selling platforms (including leveraging e-commerce opportunities). A proposal for this new market strategy is now under development.

Image credit: Mu'ooz

Our approach to helping you develop your business is based in design thinking where we take into account your organisational goals, culture and people, your end client or customer, all while maintaining the aim of creating sustainable solutions.

Is your business also looking to adapt or pivot? Or perhaps you are thinking of where to now? Contact us for a conversation over coffee.


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