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Moo Shu Ice Cream storefront. Photo provided.

Moo Shu Ice Cream is now a Living Wage Employer

By Jamie MacPherson on April 27, 2022


Trailblazing can be the hardest, loneliest work, but it can also offer great rewards. One example: Moo Shu Ice Cream & Kitchen owner Liz Mok’s recent Living Wage Certification.

Moo Shu Ice Cream owner Liz Mok. Photo provided.

“It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Mok says, but she kept putting it off. As she learned, waiting for ideal conditions has consequences. While savings from more efficient equipment permitted her to offer some wage bumps and health benefits, these top-ups weren’t enough. One day, while doing paperwork, Mok realized, “I was done waiting for our business to be mature enough to afford living wages. I wanted to do it now.”

Moo Shu Ice Cream storefront. Photo provided.

Businesses paying employees more than minimum wage covers their basic costs and creates active community members. “Our staff can’t thrive on passion alone,” Mok says. “Earning enough to live should be a reasonable expectation of employment. We pay wage rates that give our staff a chance to keep up with rising costs of necessities, with a modest margin for nice-to-haves.”

Put into practice, as living costs increase, so do wages, and store prices rise to help offset those higher payroll costs. However, creativity can lessen the impact of these changes. Mok implemented a program called Suspended Scoop to “avoid pricing customers out,” influenced by  Bread By Us, who Mok calls pioneers in this area. “Customers purchase scoops to be picked up later by friends/neighbours they may not have met yet. Anyone can contribute or claim free scoops with no questions asked,” she says.

Suspended scoops are available to anyone who needs them, no questions asked. Photo provided.

Mok’s view of success is that her business succeeds when its staff are successful members of the 613. She shares some examples: Staff can afford to live, teams enjoy higher morale, they experience less turnover and retention increases. Mok wants her team to have “more disposable income and less price sensitivity in the community” so they can support locals instead of corporations.
Equally important, success leads to “better mental and physical health across the team [and] less disruption to operations.”

There are risks, of course: Higher wages mean slimmer profit margins. Errors cost more, as does inefficiency. Outside factors have greater impacts with less room to absorb added costs. But the pandemic illuminated a need to take brave leaps right now. “Bold moves come with risk,” Mok says. And without trailblazers leading the way, community improvements don’t happen.

Happy staff at Moo Shu. Photo provided.

Women role models often experience negative feedback about their leadership, and indeed, Mok faced blowback for raising prices “from people feeling left behind due to inflation.” Nonetheless, she responded with information, so everyone knew “where the extra income was being allocated” and drew attention to the difference between price gouging and necessary increases.

Strong, fearless women business owners like Mok remind us we can all take big steps to create positive change for our communities.

Moo Shu Ice Cream is located at 477 Bank St in Centretown. Want to support more Living Wage employers in Ottawa? Check out the directory here