Fifteen years ago, Tui Cordemans hit rock bottom. She had spent years abusing alcohol and drugs, was hiding her sexuality from her family and had no financial security. Then in 2009, Tui began her uphill journey of recovery, finding herself at a meditation retreat and co-founding Koh Living, a now successful $3 million giftware business.
Tui said after being in a terrible place for so long, she eventually reached a place of determination to break the negative cycle she was in. “I joined a meditation retreat and spent seven days there whilst detoxing. It was insanely difficult, but it kick started an ongoing practice of meditation and mindfulness which filled the hole I had in my life and gave me the head space to start my business,” said Tui.
Tui created Koh Living alongside her best friend and business partner Nyree Hibberd with a goal to bring connection and meaning to others through inspiring giftware. “Having no meaning in life can lead to addictions and destructive patterns,” says Tui. “I found that Koh Living’s core mission has given me purpose and allowed me to give up addiction and thrive.” Strong personal connections are incredibly important to both Tui and Nyree. Tui grew up in a disconnected household filled with alcohol abuse, while Nyree also experienced a challenging childhood. Both women rallied against the challenges and suffering they faced to forge a better future for themselves and their families.
“We both gave up drugs together, and came out together. It tested our friendship, but we managed to save ourselves in the end. Now we are indestructible business partners because of the adversity we have overcome,” says Tui. Both women traded addiction for engaging artists, designing products and establishing Koh Living as a creative homewares brand. “We built this business up from nothing with determination, passion and a lot of hard work. If we can do it whilst battling addiction, anyone can,” says Tui.
Thoughtful gift giving is a good way to make someone feel special in a society that is time-poor, mentally stressed and sometimes unfriendly and hostile. Koh Living’s mission is to provide meaningful gifts to help connect friends and family and strengthen emotional relationships. “When someone gives a gift that is tailored, it provides a sense of belonging and helps them feel appreciated and recognised,” says Tui.
Koh Living collaborates with artists to create unique and creative designs for their products. It supports indigenous artists such as Kathleen Buzzacott and Melanie Hava, and local community projects with the Dreamtime Range. The mindful Transcendence range is particularly close to Tui’s heart as it was inspired by the positive effect meditation has had on her life. The collection, which includes Minikin Lanterns and Oil Burners in various designs, helps bring balance and peace to the home, mind, body and soul.
Koh Living is a wholesale retailer whose products are available nationwide at select retailers, through their online store, and at the shopfront in Mornington, Melbourne. Tui and Nyree’s goal is to inspire 5000 people each day through gifting to be grateful, loving and generous.
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