By Annette Reeves
Moya O’Neill took her family-owned company’s specialized steel laboratory cabinets, added some color and creativity, and voila! Custom kitchen design will never be the same.
The ability of people to express their personalities and inner thoughts through the look and feel of their homes and businesses is such a beautiful and individual statement. From traditional to modern, soft lines to sharp curves, delicate pastels to bold tones, a designer and client can transform a blank page and empty room into a completely new world.
Moya O’Neill, of Moya Living, has set a course for dynamic creation and bold design above all else. Her confidence in using color and her true fascination and passion for stepping outside the box is what has catapulted her into her position as one of the most successful female entrepreneurs in Orange County.
It’s not fancy, nor is it located in a high-profile location, but the factory of Genie Scientific and Moya Living, nestled in a corner of Fountain Valley, down the street from Costco, and minutes away from South Coast Plaza, is the hub for a factory that produces some of the most creative and meticulously built furniture you’ll ever find.
Moya, along with her nephew Garrett LeVan, President of Genie Scientific, are part of three generations that have been serving the laboratory industry for over 30 years. Genie began in 1976 with patriarch Jack LeVan, finding a niche selling reconditioned analytical instrumentation nationwide to manufacturers like Perkin Elmer and Beckman.
Moya and her husband Wynn O’Neill are a successful team, making up a unique business and culture employing 26 people, many of whom have been with the company for well over 30 years. And don’t forget the loyal company mascot Darby, a Portuguese Water Dog who dutifully patrols the 30,000-square-foot Fountain Valley factory.
While from the outside, it may appear to be just like any other factory with giant steel fabrication machines and powder coat painting closets, this company is a completely different blend of creative souls, managerial geniuses, and compassionate employers who deeply care for their factory family.
“I would always try to convince my clients to bring color into their labs, step outside the box, be different.” —Moya O’Neill
Moya, who has always loved color, convinced her brother and partner, Mel LeVan, when she joined the company in the early 1980s, that the industry needed change and that change was color. Together, they ventured down the road convincing clients that the traditional stainless steel lab cabinetry colors were passe and that color brought personality.
Moya recalls that when she joined Genie Scientific, she painted every single cabinet in the factory and corporate offices a different color. “It was pretty cool. I’ve always been drawn to color. In disco days it was maroon and gray. With makeup labs it was soft pink, rich red, and blacks.”
Disco is a perfect word for Moya who cheerfully dances to her own drum beat, is a keen and trailblazing salesperson, and who sees opportunity everywhere. As a young adult, Moya sold Yellow Pages door to door, then transitioned to Pitney Bowes as a senior account sales rep. Faced with the opportunity to join the family business, Moya showed off her prowess by selling a unique technology that the business offered: airborne particle analyzers (say that three times fast). Moya sold them all out in one month. But her creativity had no bounds and she was determined to use her design education from Woodbury University and include it in the products she was selling.
“I would always try to convince my clients to bring color into their labs, step outside the box, be different,” Moya says. Her charming personality and sales proficiency often swayed stodgy lab owners to dip their toes into adding a touch of color, but for the most part, their goals and budgets led them back to sterile stainless lab cabinets.
As Moya and the team watched the industry change, with budgets getting slimmer and corporate policies getting stricter, they gathered their thoughts and focused on their talents. Moya, taking the wheel on this new venture, knew that Genie currently developed some of the industry’s highest-end lab cabinetry and equipment. She believed there was another segment that would truly appreciate and desire that level of quality, design, and beauty—residential homeowners.
Enter Moya Living. By simply elevating the quality of the cabinets to fit a higher-end and more assuming clientele, offering 18 standard colors in a material that typically is seen as a drab medium, Moya developed a line of residential cabinetry that could be customized to any project’s vision. You name it—kitchen, bath, outdoor, laundry, garage—there is no limit.
Converting an unused space of the facility into a working, living showroom for Moya Living, the team constructed a space with every color of the rainbow in steel cabinets, functional storage space for kitchen tools, and working appliances that allow for team and public events only steps away from the factory floor where each cabinet body, door, and drawer is fabricated.
Kim Holliday, general and operations manager, has been with Genie for 33 years. The team jokes that she actually came with the building. She did, in fact…the building was formerly owned by high school friends and when Genie Scientific bought it, Holliday was part of the package. Holliday said it was the best decision ever.
“I love metal,” she says. “I really do!” Supporting the entire business in estimating, sales, accounting, and production, Holliday has seen it all and loves where the company is headed.
“It all starts with Moya, her amazing skills and design. She can arrange flowers in a vase and make it look tremendous. She does that with everything, she’s brilliant.” Holliday loves this new segment and believes it gives their employees something to look forward to, something to be proud of, and a sense of responsibility and ownership in a new chapter of the company. “The employees were so used to a specific quality. This new phase has allowed them to hone their skills, be a part of a higher quality product, a beautiful piece of furniture, something you can hand down for generations to your family.”
Holliday believes that the success of Genie and Moya Living is due to the approach and care that Moya and Garrett take with their employees. “They’ve been very successful with letting the employees understand ‘we’re growing and we want you to grow with us.’” Garrett wholeheartedly agrees as he also finds himself learning more, growing more with Moya Living, and being pushed outside his comfort zone. “We have shop employees who have been with us for more than 20 years. Change is difficult when you’ve been building the same thing for that long. But we’re finding that the more we get them involved, the more responsibility they have, the more options and places they have for input, and they really enjoy it.”
As Moya Living, collectively with Genie Scientific, produces and delivers thousands of furniture and cabinet orders all over the nation, they are thrilled to see what the future holds. While they have a stronghold on their traditional business model and maintain a solid relationship through Garrett and his direction with the core business, Moya loves introducing this new venture to old and new clients. She is fully committed to networking and she and Wynn are always searching the horizon for collaborative businesses that appreciate their quality of work and endless depths of creative design.
Recently introduced to PIRCH, a plumbing, appliance, and outdoor retailer with soon to be six stores in the LA and Orange County areas, Moya and Wynn, who worked closely with CEO Steve Smith and management members of GE Monogram, developed multiple vignettes in PIRCH retail locations to showcase the Monogram appliance portfolio. Left to wave her magic wand, Moya designed black and brass cabinetry vignettes with bold Diana Garreau wallpaper, eye-catching plumbing fixtures, and unique cabinetry hardware. Couple that with the extensive design, build, and architectural trade that PIRCH supports, and Moya and Wynn now have their hands full meeting and greeting new contacts and quoting dozens of potential projects.
As we sit socially distanced with a glass of wine in her backyard, taking in the sunset and staring at the California coastline, Moya eyes light up as she reflects on where she’s been and the excitement of what the future holds. This adventure feeds her passion for success and her true love for all forms of design. Moya believes that everyone is drawn to their ultimate path.
“Life leads you where you want to go, and I believe you’re drawn to what you’re drawn to,” Moya says. “I’ve loved design my whole life; I know how to make stuff, sew, create, and build things.” But people are also naturally drawn to Moya and she loves the relationships she has established over the years. She has a unique ability to draw out each person’s sense of style, combined with the ability to embrace timeless elegance with baked-on powder coated colors, bursting with originality and creativity, whether it be a bathroom vanity, outdoor grill space, or an entire kitchen.
“I really love relationship sales; I just want to hone my relationships with the trades and have solid partnerships that go above and beyond,” says Moya. Her own partnership with Garrett emulates this appreciation for relationships. As a family member, she loves growing this third-generation company with him and believes that Jack is looking down from above, thrilled with the company’s evolution. She’s proud of Garrett’s passion for Genie Scientific and his own personal sales success within the company. Moya believes that she has the best job in the world. She can exercise her creative license and build something that she’ll eventually leave to Garrett and future family members. “It’s been a journey; all my friends are retired, and we are working our asses off. I’m building something I love. This is my passion, this is my conviction, and I’m having the time of my life.”
17430 Mt. Cliffwood Circle | Fountain Valley | 800.545.8816 | moyaliving.com