My name is Valentine Mghoi and I am the founder of Mats by Vee. I work as a graphic designer during the day and in the evenings I work as a mat maker.
My name Mghoi means pillar. When a hat is built, the center pillar that gives it support is what is called Mghoi.
I can’t put a date to the exact moment I began calling myself a maker because all my life I have been very crafty; making different sorts of things, not necessarily for money but simply because I couldn’t help myself.
If you can't find it, make it.
I started making mats back in high school when my aunt taught me the skill. She would come home in the evenings from work and make mats that she would later sell as her side hustle. I helped her a lot but never took it seriously until later on in life when I moved to my first house. I was shopping for household items but could not find anything that matched my vision and budget, so I decided to make my own rugs.
After that, I made a couple of other rugs too that I gifted friends which they all seemed to like. This birthed the idea of making rugs for sale to boost the income from my day job as a freelance graphic designer.
The happy dance that's every small business owner does.
One of my favourite moments are when my clients receive their purchases. They always go crazy with excitement and this warms my heart. It validates all the hours that I put into make their piece.
Surround yourself with Inspiration.
I draw inspiration from a lot of things to keep me going but my mother has always been my biggest source of inspiration. Her and her sisters have always shown me what a determined woman can achieve.
Secondly, my landlord has been another source of inspiration as the thought of a locked door really scared me so I keep going (hehehe).
Thirdly, poverty is another thing that inspires me. I would not want to be in a space where providing for myself would be challenging so that inspires me to keep going.
Last but not least, I also draw inspiration from the fact that I will have to be answerable to a higher power. At the end of my life when I am held accountable to the gifts and talents that were given to me, I would like to respond that I used all that was given to me at 100%.
Be willing to adapt to change.
I had simple goals this year. I wanted to grow my online audience, to achieve more sales and to hold more training sessions than I had in the past years, create a range of different rugs that are very unique… and then The Rona happened!
I can say that despite the pandemic, I am blessed enough to still be on track with these goals. All I had to do was change a few tactics and adapt to the situation. I am most excited about being home more which allows me to get so much more work done. That collection I have been dreaming about is coming to life and this really makes me happy.
To move forward, you have to give back.
Mats by Vee trains interested individuals not only on how to make mats, but also a bit of online marketing for the products one creates.
I believe it is a skill that can help someone gain some money either as a main hustle or as a side hustle- just like I do. In the past, I was able to hold in-person training but due to the pandemic, I have not been able to do this hence switching it to online tutorials and some zoom classes that I am currently organizing.
Influence of culture in your makes.
I am Taita but I can’t really say that my culture has affected or contributed to the making process. Mainly because most of the pieces I have made in the past are custom designs hence my clients have a say in what they want made. My clients have been from all different cultures and we have embraced them all. Mats by Vee has found a way to weave in all sorts of cultures and I am proud of that. Some of the pieces I have made are inspired from patterns that are from other cultures all over the world. Some Aztec and tribal patterns and most recently some warm colours that are found from the sunset.
On tribalism & racism.
One very scary instance, was after the post election violence of 2007. I was out buying groceries when someone, believing that I was from a tribe that I’m often confused for, pointed at me shouting that I was lucky they did not know where I was hiding otherwise they would have strangled me. What scared me most about this encounter was the far reaching implications of prejudice.
Don't be so hard on yourself.
Be patient with yourself. Always work on being better with each project. Remember nothing comes easy. There are no short cuts to attaining excellence at your craft, you have to put in the hours. Find a way to love those hours.
Disclaimer: All photos provided for the purposes of graphics & illustrations for this article, Shuhuda:Valentine Mghoi, are from Valentine Mghoi of Mats by Vee.