Moon Jamaluddin (’07)
Moon Jamaluddin (’07) is the owner of Events by Momo, a full-service event planning and catering company. She began her career in finance in the oil and gas industry, and what started with throwing dinner parties for friends eventually became a full-time job. Events by Momo has worked with the Texans football team, M.D Anderson, SAP, WHR Architects and Texas Instruments, to name a few, and hosts private events in their midtown space.
LUNAR COUGAR: You started Momo Catering while working in finance in the oil and gas industry. What drew you to the hospitality business, and why did you decide to form Events by Momo and dive in full-time?
MOON JAMALUDDIN: I’ve always loved to serve people, and hospitality came naturally. Honestly, what started as throwing a lot of dinner parties at home slowly turned into catering events. I never really thought that food could become a career for me. Until it did.
When the catering business got to a point where we were doing so much more than just serving food, I decided it was time to expand into Events by Momo and take the challenge of running a full time business. I left corporate America and have had zero regrets. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Your website details the importance of philanthropy and being as green a business as possible. What role does philanthropy specifically play in your business philosophy?
The way I see it, we’re not in business just to make money. Of course, that’s a big part of it but we want our efforts to mean so much more. Growing up, I watched my family act in ways with such big hearts towards other people that it just became a part of who I am. In leading the team at Events by Momo, I want us to have the same type of big hearts as we interact with other people. We value our community ties and what we’re able to give back in order to make a difference. Even it it’s a small difference, it makes our work feel like so much more.
What originally brought you to UH?
To be perfectly honest, it’s not so much what brought me to it; UH was there for me. I was already scheduled to go to private school. I got a scholarship and I had my whole four years planned out. But a month before I started school, family tragedy made it necessary for me to stay here in Houston.
My plan at the time was, “I’ll stay home for a semester and then go back to my life plan.” But after I started going, the challenging courses gave me a reality check. I realized, “This is an opportunity, I can make the most of it.” Everything happens for a reason. I ended up really enjoying it and I found myself a little niche within the Honors College and the GEM Program.
What’s the GEM Program?
Global Energy Management. It’s a track that they apply to engineering, business, and science. This program helps shape a fundamental understanding of the energy industry — those types of programs are what kept me at UH. I really appreciated the fact that UH supports students who work full-time, and your fellow students understand the effort that you’re putting in: working full time, going to school full time, and having other responsibilities aside from just going to campus activities.
What kind of work did you do while you were a student?
My career started at BP. I worked 35 hours a week and I had 15 hours of Honors classes. I had to schedule to sleep, literally 4 to 5 hours a night. But that’s a sacrifice I had to make to get myself to a better life. So those are the things that I really appreciated about UH, giving me that opportunity and having the chance to do that. I probably couldn’t have done the same thing if I had gone where I was originally headed. It wouldn’t have been the same.
Do you have any favorite memories or classes from Bauer and the Honors College?
What I really enjoyed and what I remember are the Honors classes because they were smaller, about 15 to 20 people. I know I definitely learned better being in a smaller group setting.
Art Smith was one of my favorite professors — he was one of the people that organized the Open Outcry Competition. Bauer hosted this nationwide NYMEX Open Outcry Competition (New York Mercantile Exchange), which I was lucky enough to win one of the years. I couldn’t believe I got through more than 100 competitors from around the country! Winning took me to New York for a summer to work at NYMEX. It was just like those Wall Street movies where they’re screaming in a pit, paper going everywhere — it was pretty incredible.
Have you been back to campus recently?
I went back one year to be a judge for the NYMEX competition, which was cool to be on the other side. Aside from that, I drive by campus every now and then since I live pretty close to it.
President Khator hadn’t yet arrived while you were a student. Have you been aware of the changes on campus, even though you’re not a student anymore?
Absolutely. When I went to UH, it was more commuter-focused, and there wasn’t a lot to do on campus. Now I see that that’s different. I can see a stronger sense of community — which is really what college is all about, right? It’s nice to see the differences. UH is starting to get the recognition it deserves.
What advice would you share with current or prospective UH students who are aspiring business owners?
For aspiring business owners: just do it. It might feel like you made the wrong choice — but just stay focused, and remember the passion that you feel towards your goal. And, of course, know how to manage your finances. Even though corporate life was not right for me, I have a lot of respect for all the time I spent gaining experience of how to be a professional, how to manage others, and how to be a part of a business ecosystem. It’s the reason I have never had to borrow money for the business.
For people in college, from a UH perspective: if you want it, you’re going to have to go get it. No one’s will hand you anything no matter how you got there or why you stayed. But remember your passion, and you will get there in the end.