Amidst the sandstone houses in Mannheim’s Schwetzinger Vorstadt, a black sign with graphic letters catches the eye: “MAOMI – Raum und Gestaltung”. Double-wing doors lead to a peaceful backyard, where Dr. Uta Meeder’s design label MAOMI has its showroom in a former gallery. In the two-story building with its big windows and azure walls, Meeder and her five assistants design furniture and home accessories that combine urban design and functionality. For Meeder, it is integral that her products are manufactured in a sustainable way – both in a social and ecological sense. How did the University of Mannheim graduate come to start this successful business?
Her love for art and the world of numbers runs like a golden thread through Meeder’s life. After graduating from school with a subject focus on art and mathematics, she first completed an internship as a graphic designer at an advertising agency, which gave her the opportunity to work for a fashion and people photographer, who also worked with Jürgen Klinsmann. “That is where I first started to realize how important management, sales, and especially marketing are in the creative sector,” says Meeder. This realization led her to study Business Administration at the University of Mannheim instead of pursuing a degree in graphic design. She was the first exchange student from the university to go to Lille, France. In the little town at the Belgian border, she had the opportunity to get to know the French way of life. After her graduation, Meeder immediately joined the alumni network ABSOLVENTUM, to which she remains loyal to this day because of her close bond with the university and the city of Mannheim. For the first few years in her career, she worked for a business consulting company that specialized in marketing strategies and marketing consulting. Here she managed varied projects in the field of “new media” and was able to travel quite a lot.
After the birth of her first daughter, she paused her career in business consulting and accepted a teaching position at Ludwigshafen University of Applied Sciences. During her second pregnancy, Meeder was offered to pursue a doctorate at the University of Mannheim with Dr. Hans Bauer, Professor of Marketing. She accepted the position. Whenever she had a spare moment – which was usually the case at night – Meeder worked on her thesis on measuring advertising success online, assessed data and developed a model for their evaluation. “Looking back, my entire education in Business Administration was exactly the right choice for me. I acquired so many skills and knowledge that I used when starting and managing my own business instead of just having a creative education,” Meeder says. “When my fifth child was born, I knew that I was not going to return to business consulting. During this time, I experimented with quite a few things: I painted and did photography and even had some exhibitions where I sold my art.”
A key moment for Uta Meeder eventually came when she bought a small apartment in the heart of Mannheim’s squares. She renovated the apartment with travelers in mind who would have to stay in one place for a few months for work – her goal was to create a temporary home in a foreign country. She discovered a passion for renovating and decorating and quickly realized that she had found her true calling. “The design and creation of living spaces was what I really wanted to do.” Her first projects came in fast and over the years her business, which had started out as “renovation consulting”, developed into what MAOMI is today: a sustainable label dedicated to the design of high-end furniture and home accessories.
Sustainability is one of the most important factors in the production and manufacturing of Meeder’s products. She works with manufacturers from all over the world who pay fair wages and use only natural materials in their traditional handiwork. Porcelain from Vietnam, olivewood cutting boards from Turkey or a bathtub made in the Palatine tradition of barrel-making – Meeder’s products do not only look fantastic but must also be functional. She has even visited every single production center herself – for example in Sri Lanka or Romania – to make sure that the general environment and working conditions are up to her standards. “It makes us happy to see that in this way, we can play a part in maintaining and further developing traditional craftsmanship to bring this cultural heritage with us into the modern age. It is so important to us to demonstrate that it really is possible, that profit does not have to come from the cheapest purchase and from oppressing workers,” says Meeder.
In the last few years, she exhibited at different fairs all over the world. The “Maison & Objet” exhibition in Paris, which selects and presents the most fascinating and promising exhibitors, is her personal favorite. MAOMI has already been featured multiple times at the fair. Meeder’s objects can also be found in different interior design magazines, and she frequently receives inquiries from retailers or hotels who want to sell or work with her products. The love Uta Meeder has for her work is obvious in the enthusiastic way in which she talks about the design processes and all the other elements that go into starting one’s own business. Throughout her entire career, she has enjoyed communicating with customers, working with numbers, and developing marketing strategies.
Further growing and internationalizing her label is the definite goal, as well as designing and developing many new objects: “I have loads of ideas!” Meeder reveals that a new armchair is just about to be launched and that a new tableware series is in the works to come out this spring – and the Mannheim graduate has not even shown her full potential yet.
Text: Selina Supper / April 2022