We love learning more about how some of our favorite mamas started their companies. Today, we’re featuring Monica Royer, the founder of the beloved brand Monica + Andy. Read on to learn more about this mama and how she got her start, below:
Interview with Monica Royer of Monica + Andy
Tell us about the Monica+Andy line and why you decided to start it?
Well I have always been obsessed with fashion and had considered designing women’s dresses (I truly am dress obsessed). After having my daughter, my world totally shifted. I fell in love with everything baby, with baby clothes at the top of the list. I was shocked at how rough the fabrics were. I wanted her clothing to be as soft and organic as possible. Beyond that, I wanted an easy shopping experience with exceptional customer service who could answer all my questions. These were my beginning thoughts on what the brand would look like. It has evolved from there.
Your brother Andy started Bonobos, what is his involvement in the business and what kind of things do you seek his advice on?
My brother is my biggest cheerleader and mentor. He is on the board and does not play a huge role in the day-to-day business. That said, I go to him with a few questions every week of the items I can really use his help so he plays a role of helping shape who we are and where we go. I am his sister but when I started this I asked him to take a new role as my toughest critic. I want him to tell me what he thinks of how I do and be brutally honest. This will help me learn and grow. He is still so kind but I love the totally honest feedback.
Your parents must be very proud of both of you, are you from entrepreneurial family overall or did this generation just catch the bug?
My parents are amazing. Andy and I always say we have already won the lottery in life to have them as parents. They are such incredible humans. Our parents supporting us has played an integral involvement in our ability to build businesses. I hope they are proud of us, but I know I speak for Andy here when I say we could not be more proud of them. I can say with certainty neither of us would have these brands if we did not have their love and support.
Our parents supporting us has played an integral involvement in our ability to build businesses.
It’s been reported that your mom helped picked out the name Monica + Andy, what were other contenders?
It was hard to decide and my mom did pick the name out. We wanted something that was aspirational for siblings to be best friends. All our lives, we had heard “Monica + Andy” so this really seemed to fit.
Bonobos was early on the direct to consumer e-commerce model, shying away from traditional brick & mortar until recently, and even then in untraditional ways. Can you talk us through Monica & Andy’s approach to brick & mortar/e-commerce?
Andy was such a pioneer in what he did with Bonobos. He really took something that had never been done before and made it happen. In doing so, he really paved the way for the rest of us. Initially he focused all of his efforts on e-commerce which was incredible at that time. It allowed him to get one channel going well and then move on to the next – with innovation of course, and the small footprint guideshop model. My key learning from Andy was you can do a successful e-commerce business and have guideshops as these incredible customer acquisition tools.
Do you feel brands have a greater responsibility now than before to their customers to contribute in other ways to the communities they are a part of?
I feel like it is always great to contribute to your community and it can be so fun doing so! Just this past weekend, we worked with Share our Spare, an organization we love in Chicago, to bring our friends and customers together to donate to those in need. We collected a lot of items and had so much fun doing so. There are so many incredible organizations that we love and have so much fun working with all of them.
What do you think are your biggest strengths in business? Weaknesses?
My biggest strength is that I am surrounded by great people and a great team. I base a lot of my hires around being empathetic and kind along with making sure that they have great core competencies in their field. This has helped with company culture and building a team I adore and trust. As far as weaknesses, the list is long. Nothing exposes your weaknesses like building a brand and a company. Probably the biggest is learning to delegate. I have had to learn that even though I love doing certain things as we grow there are people not only more qualified to do them but people who can do them faster. I will want to take something on but literally don’t have the time for it. It is about prioritizing and delegating, and I am getting there. It is still a work in progress.
As far as weaknesses, the list is long. Nothing exposes your weaknesses like building a brand and a company.
Day to day, how do you manage your time between your business at Monica + Andy and parenting?
It is the hardest part to manage the time. I try to do a lot of my email work either very late into the night or incredibly early in the morning. This leaves my day open to meetings and spending time with Bella.
What did you do before Monica + Andy and how did that experience carry over?
Before I did M+A, I was in the pharmaceutical industry. It was a high stress job that involved a lot of multitasking. I learned a lot from having to try and do so many things at the same time.
It must feel incredible to be doing what you love everyday, how do you manage the guilt working mamas often feel?
Oh my gosh! This is the hardest part. Seriously. The hardest part. I feel the guilt that all working mamas feel. Even though my work follows me everywhere, I want to help to build a new type of workplace for working mamas. Retail aside (as those are very set hours), we like to allow flexibility for the moms who work with us. In my case, I always want to pick up my daughter and drop her off from school. I might come home and spend 4-7 with her and then be on my computer from 7-2 am just to get my work done. I feel that in this new digital age, you don’t always have to be at your computer as a mom from 9-5. You can email early and late to fit that family time in. It’s so important.
I feel that in this new digital age, you don’t always have to be at your computer as a mom from 9-5. You can email early and late to fit that family time in. It’s so important.
Helping other moms with their businesses is something you feel passionately about (as do we), how has that played a part in Monica + Andy’s voice on the blog and overall mission?
I am SO inspired by the creativity of the moms around me. We are excited to dig deeper into building out our marketplace this year. We can’t keep in stock the incredible goods that other moms have brought to our Mommy Marketplace. Not only do we want to provide an e-commerce platform to these moms, but we want to help them further their businesses in any way that we can. Even as part of our daily life at the brand we love working with full-time and part-time moms. Working with moms is such an integral and important part of the brand.
Your store locations are super mom friendly, for your next store opening in NYC, do you envision building it for the kids just as much as for the moms?
Yes. We LOVE involving the kids in what we are doing. It is so much fun to have an interactive space. When I was a new mom I felt a little lonely at first. Meeting other moms at classes was amazing because they had babies at the same stage. Suddenly there were other people who understood what you were going through – the fun and the long nights.
Who’s your entrepreneurial inspiration and do you have any mentors that have helped you get to where you are?
I am fortunate in that I have a lot of inspiration in my own family. The first is my brother Andy Dunn (chairman of the board Bonobos) who is an inspiration and a mentor. I have watched him work so hard from his launch. From an early age, his business instincts have always been incredible: his ability to communicate with others and beyond all of that, his ability to lead. From the outside, running a company always looks fun. On the inside, it is so hard. He has managed it with such incredible grace. I admire that so much. My mom has also been a mentor and inspiration. She was a leader in her field for so many years, and I watched her manage a large group of people. She taught me that you can be empathetic yet firm, that you have to follow your vision. That you can have a family and follow your career dreams too. My husband Rob Royer who is the Founder of www.interiordefine.com is also an amazing inspiration. He has built a beautiful brand that I admire so much. His background is in marketing and I am always inspired by his creativity. I learn so much from him about the creative experience just by watching him work.
She taught me that you can be empathetic yet firm, that you have to follow your vision. That you can have a family and follow your career dreams too.
We love to end our interviews on an inspirational note… what are some of the words you live by or quotes you love that speak to you most?
“It’s now or never” is my new favorite. Sometime you have to seize the moment and in this new digital world I have to look up from my phone and computer and just do that sometimes. Especially when it comes to parenting. My daughter is 4 and a half, and these moments only come once. The moment to start this company, the moment to watch her first steps. My challenge is always to be in that moment.
To learn more about Monica, check out Monica + Andy here.