The Mojo Factor

For 13 years, Wellingtonians have been caffeinated by Mojo coffee thanks to the vision and entrepreneurism of company founder, Steve Gianoutsos who spotted a gap in the market and quickly gained traction ahead of today’s widespread demand for good espresso.

With Steve and the Mojo brand now feeling their way in the United States market after very successful forays into China and Japan, the proven Mojo operation in New Zealand is headed up by general manager, Katy Ellis who moved to Wellington from the UK in 2005.

The Mojo story is a classic example of identifying an opportunity, being in the right place at the right time and executing a boutique, independent business model beautifully.

Today there are 21 Mojo cafés in Wellington, soon-to-be 12 in Auckland and multiple sites in Asia. The US won’t know what’s hit them when Mojo comes to town…

“There could be a great synergy with Chicago – also known as the Windy City”, laughs Ellis, who is no stranger to the Wellington business scene having held senior commercial roles with Wellington International Airport Limited prior to her pivotal position within Mojo.

Ellis agrees that Wellington is New Zealand’s home of coffee and the capital’s compact nature lends itself to the Mojo business structure which is characterised by partnerships with hands-on, passionate people operating out of stylish, strategically-located premises throughout the inner city.

“Mojo is intrinsically a city brand leveraging off the density of the population and the walkability of Wellington,” - Katy Ellis, general manager Mojo

“We align ourselves with the corporate market and cater for it well. You’re never far from a Mojo coffee outlet in the CBD – it’s the guts of what we do.

“Corporate workers tend to visit cafés multiple times a day in the course of doing business and Mojo creates café environments where they can feel comfortable hanging out with clients and colleagues all day – if that’s what they wish.”

When choosing where to base their Mojo outlets, Ellis says it’s less a matter of formulas and more a case of having an astute business nose.

“We’re always scouting new opportunities and identifying hotspots in the city,” she says.

“We have very good relationships with some of Wellington’s leading developers and city landlords and are fortunate enough to get approached about establishing a presence within their buildings.

“The city is continually evolving and for instance, we’ve shifted our presence over time away from the top of Te Aro and more down towards the waterfront precinct in line with changing dynamics in commercial real estate.”

Utilising the talents of designers ALLISTARCOX, Mojo creates bespoke café spaces to fit the buildings they become a core part of. As tenants in some of Wellington’s highest profile commercial buildings – including Spark Central on Willis Street and the newly redeveloped Aurora Centre at 56 The Terrace – innovation and style are Mojo hallmarks.

While the suburbs are not central to Mojo’s business model, they’ve opened satellite cafés at Wellington Zoo and at the airport where foot traffic makes its brand presence viable and highly visible.

However, the suburban feel of Wellington as a whole is something that resonates with Ellis and speaks volumes to this former UK resident.

“It is a privilege to be part of such a liveable city and one which has retained a sense of community. “It’s fun, creative, a bit quirky as evidenced by the laneways initiatives, the cruise ships want to come here and there’s a great events programme in place to keep things vibrant.”

There’s also sound governance and a commitment to enhancing the inner city.

“We appreciated the Council’s response in the wake of the recent earthquakes. As Mojo has a presence in so many commercial buildings around the city, we saw the proactive role the Council took in the ensuing days and weeks which enabled us to keep our staff and customers safe at a time of great uncertainty.

“Those were quite stressful times – definitely deserving of a great coffee!”