A simple girl from Wisconsin with a nomadic soul, a love of family and a passion for food.

Amanda Mouttaki has built two wildly successful businesses around her love and appreciation of culinary adventures. They have led her to Marrakech, the food-soul of Morocco, along with her husband and three sons. Her feet are now firmly planted in Marrakech. Amanda is single-handedly the ‘go-to’ when it comes to all things Moroccan travel, culture and gastronomy.

Morocco-DIPINTO17-JAN-144

At Mushmina we feel empowered by supporting and encouraging other female entrepreneurs. We wanted to find out more about the bold woman behind these two small businesses. How did she create her businesses ‘from scratch’ and build them to their enormous social media success today?

IMG_3050

You could say that this dream started 19 years ago when a young American woman with a globally nomadic spirit from the Midwest ran into an equally youthful Moroccan man on the mystical streets of Marrakech. They immediately fell in love. The rest was like a lovely cup of minty Moroccan tea-sweet and uniquely perfect.

Fast forward a few years and Amanda and Youssef were now living in the US; finishing up their studies, struggling as many new couples do to make ends meet.

Amanda had never intended her little idea to take off into a prosperous business, let alone two booming companies. Her original intention behind creating a website of Moroccan food tips and recipes evolved after curious family members continually asked her for food suggestions and dish ideas.

The future Moroccan food + travel maven started blogging around the same time but back then, it was just as so many other informal bloggers do-a savvy mother simply writing about deftly raising her children, food creativity, lifestyle tips, and rearing kids bi-culturally.

Quickly, Amanda realized that more and more, people were using her public forums in a good way. Her audience was becoming vast-those who had never been abroad but always dreamed of that exotic vacation and the ever-astute traveler who was interested in improving the authenticity and creativity of Moroccan fare.

Even more so, she saw that her posts were getting more traction, the more she wrote about Morocco.  By now, she had become an expert on everything and anything Moroccan. MarocMama, her intrepid and playful website, was born. As Amanda puts it, ‘We saw the traffic on my sites ticking up and we realized at that moment that I had made something special.’

By 2013, the Mouttaki family decided to take the plunge-they would move to Morocco and try to live the dream of sharing their Moroccan adventure with the world.

It was then, only natural, that Amanda’s audience started asking for her recommendations for the best places to eat in Marrakech. Instinctively, Amanda and Youssef had a vision-they wanted to share the most authentic places for tourists and visitors to eat in enigmatic Marrakech. Amanda explains, ‘Marrakech is a mecca of divine cuisine. However, often groups and just shuffled back and forth from the main tourist square, which is not where one can find the best Moroccan dishes. The most interesting, genuine food can be found in the little backstreet and tiny alleyways.’

On a whim, the pair decided to invest just $50 into a domain name and website-‘Marrakech Food Tours. They spent one Friday setting up a simple site and then the couple went away for the weekend, thinking that they would focus on advertising upon their return. Lo and behold, when they got home, they were astonished to see that they already had four bookings. Amanda chuckles and explains to me, ‘We thought it was my Mom, playing a joke on us! But it wasn’t. And that was that. Our business took off from there.’

influencers en Marrakech Davdi Maroto

Amanda (3)

She goes on to talk about their devotion to the company-‘We want our guests to see the extraordinary side of Marrakech. The behind the scenes-fascinating Moroccan flat bread hearths and enchanting tagine ovens. She adds, ‘We also mix quirky, authentic storytelling in with our tours-the history behind the dishes, personal testimonials from our guides. This creates an expedition that is whimsically unparalleled and family-friendly each time. There is nothing like it around.’

Speaking of family, it is Amanda’s driving force. Luckily for her, Morocco is a country where much of the traditions are based around kin. However, as self-proclaimed workaholic, it is difficult to find that work-life-home balance. She continually asks herself, ‘Am I doing enough for my children?’ I reassure her that it is a struggle, I strongly believe, that every mother feels. Particularly when you are running two thriving companies as a female entrepreneur.

Amanda graciously clarifies, ‘Moroccans have many layers. They are lovely, wonderfully warm people, but it is sometimes very challenging for men here to understand that I am the boss. It has taken me years to develop this peer-relationship with certain people but once I established this trust, it works. It’s something that makes me incredibly proud.’

Speaking of which, I ask Amanda what inspires her and she ponders, ‘ Food!’ And then we both laugh. But then she continues thoughtfully, ‘Food is how I experience the world, connect with people, understand humanity.’

Lastly, I had to ask Amanda-what would be your last meal if you were held at fork-point? I had to chuckle at her answer. ‘Stuffed cheese ravioli’s with a great marinara, grilled corn on the cob, and of course, a huge slice of chocolate cake. At heart, I’m a Mid-Western girl.’ Because, of course. Simplicity equals perfection.

By Tara Fraiture, Mushmina Blogger

 

*************************************************************************************

Coming to Morocco? Book a food tour with Amanda at Marrakech Food Tours.

Also be sure to check out MarocMama for all your trip planning.

 

The creations are timeless; simple but extraordinarily beautiful. The earrings are meticulously created in striking mixed metals of brass and silver that sing of the earth’s natural textures. The necklaces, whimsically inspired by nomadic wanderings and unique lands, are ever-evolving and spirited in their playful inspiration. One might think that the genius behind these gorgeous compositions is a wizened elderly savant, but in fact, this gutsy brilliance belongs to Katie O’Neill, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Mushmina.

Katie ONeill (1)

Katie’s breathtaking talent is unparalleled. It is rare that one finds a female master metalsmith, let alone one with such a fierce fervor to continue learning and honing her intricate, luminous skills. Katie is not only an accomplished metalsmith, she is also a textile and clothing designer.

Soft-spoken and with a dazzlingly genuine smile that shines with compassion, Katie is a force with which to be reckoned when it comes to her passion-creating enchanting, enduring art in all forms.

Katie treks the earth, seeking illumination. She has traveled to the Sahara desert of Mali to study the famed Tuareg ‘Blue Men’; well-known for their mastery of crafting spirited jewelry. She walks the walk, one could say. She sits with local artisans. She teaches them. She learns from them. She is constantly changing, growing, advancing herself, and searching for understanding and self-betterment. And she does all of this in the most humble of ways.

What inspires her? She pauses and is reflective. ‘ That special visceral reaction that happens when people “connect” in the world.’ Katie explains, ‘ I found that what inspires my interest in craft is its relationship to cultural anthropology and the deep rooted connection to our ancestry or childhoods,’ She continues mindfully, ‘It’s a nostalgia, a comfort, a trigger.  It is important to me that we be reminded of the origin and integrity from which art is created, its roots; the force behind the innovation and craftsmanship.’

Katie also has a passionate appreciation for unique storytelling though artistry. Luckily, this mindful mission is embedded in the soul of Mushmina. ‘I do what I do in order to allow other artisans to tell their story through our collaboration. As artists we have been given the duty of continuing to carry out these traditions. I think in a past life, perhaps I was a metalsmith or weaver and decided that in a future life, when I was in a position of freedom and opportunity, I would come back and use my skills to empower the fascinating stories of others. It is truly a gift to be creative.’

Katie and Heather have been honing authentic, reciprocal, learning relations with their team of skilled Mushmina artisans for almost 10 years. It is deeply rooted in their philosophy to support and employ local artisans from all over Morocco. It’s taken years to establish and the genuine rapport between the Mushmina Sisters and their team of experts is something of which they are extremely proud.

Katie looks to her own spirituality for guidance. Simplicity, earthiness, and the pure beauty in nature. Blending the unexpected. Mixing metals. Who creates striking earrings inspired by the lovely historical Art Deco period in Casablanca? Katie does. Who hand-draws and designs a best-selling line of handbags ingeniously taken from a vibrantly upholstered Moroccan couch? Katie did. Katie sees color and light in everything.

Fortunately, Katie has the best of collaborators in her adventures. She explains pensively, ‘Heather and I just mesh. We fit perfectly as sisters and work partners. There isn’t anyone who knows me better. Mushmina is not an actual word but rather, the nickname my sister gave me as a child. It doesn’t technically mean anything, but in Algerian Arabic, we’ve been told “Meshy mna” (spelled phonetically) means “Not by us”. I loved learning this as we often say the that the work happens “through” us. My creations are inspired by a myriad of things and are largely due to the people with whom I have the honor of working. This is what makes our items unique. They tell stories. The fact that the results are often a collaboration leaves room for the element of surprise…I then combine old and new, so it’s relatable.’

Lastly, I have to ask Katie what her favorite Moroccan food is. ‘All of it!’, she says without missing a beat. She explains with enthusiasm, ‘I actually love Moroccan food so much that Heather says she’s never seen me eat so much as when I’m in Morocco. I think it’s possible that I finish one meal and then start talking about the next one immediately afterwards. It’s a constant joke with Heather. ‘The food is yet another sensory stimulating combination of Morocco’s magic that makes you want to come back for more.’

You will often find Katie in the tiny, rugged workspace of Mushmina’s master jewelry mallum, Ahmed, in Tiznit, southern Morocco. Or in the high Atlas Mountains designing clothing with the women of the Eve Branson Foundation. Katie will be there, sitting with women’s co-ops and artisans, studying and participating, guiding and advising, and becoming enlightened herself. And of course, laughing with her peers. Because Katie is a friend to everyone. Her warmth glows as her gorgeous metals clink gently against her strong stride.

Luckily for us, enchanting Morocco has this bold, visionary woman to tell its beautiful story.

By Tara Fraiture, Mushmina blogger

%d bloggers like this: