They say necessity is the mother of all invention. When new mom Monica Royer delivered her daughter, she also gave birth to a successful children’s clothing brand. Upon being disappointed by the lack of available organic clothing options for her new baby, Royer took matters into her own hands and created more. We caught up with the Monica + Andy founder to learn about what drives her professionally, turning workouts into dates and accepting the limitation of what can be accomplished in a day.
What was the impetus for starting Monica and Andy?
Prior to launching Monica + Andy I had always been interested in fashion but my background was very corporate. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I started thinking about what my next career move would be following my maternity leave. When I walked into the hospital to deliver her, I had never had any plans to start a baby brand. By the time I took her home a few days later, I knew that it was what I was going to try and do. I was shocked in the hospital at the quality of the clothing they provided me to dress my newborn baby. I had packed nice things for myself to wear throughout my stay, but the clothing she was wearing was stained and had been worn several times before. On top of that, she was a tiny baby and the clothes didn’t fit her. The opportunity to start the brand just hit me like a bolt of lightning while I was sitting in that hospital room. I had watched my brother build Bonobos over the previous 5 years and I saw what a powerful medium e-commerce could be. As I was shopping from my hospital bed for new clothes to dress my newborn baby girl, I realized there wasn’t a brand offering the things I was looking for. After that realization, I spent the next 3 years as a stay-at-home mom building the brand during my daughter’s nap and bed times. The best part of it all was that I got to experience all of the challenges I faced as a new mom and incorporate solutions into the foundation of the brand.
Was there something specific you felt was missing from the marketplace?
I felt there was a place for a brand that focused first on the quality of fabrics and exceptional customer service. I believe moms need a strong community and guidance. Especially as a new mom, women need to feel they have a few reliable friends nearby. I was excited to have us become that first friend.
How would you describe the Monica and Andy customer?
The Monica and Andy customers are multi-tasking mamas! They usually discover us first as a gift giver, before pregnancy, during pregnancy or while on maternity leave.
What do you feel differentiates your line from others?
I think the number one differentiator behind the brand, in addition to the quality of the product, is the uniqueness of our prints and the exceptional customer experience. Each order we send out is gift wrapped in a beautiful box with a bow. We try to be very timely in responding to every customer service inquiry we get. We know what it’s like to be on the verge of having a baby, so we put ourselves in our customer’s shoes each day to anticipate and respond their needs.
What was it like starting / running a newer business with a young child?
I was just starting out the brand when my daughter was a newborn, but it actually was a very manageable and slow integration. I learned a ton by paying attention to all of the things I felt were missing as a new mom and that really helped me build the framework for what I wanted the business to be. With that said, I think it would be a very different situation if I had a second child. It would be a totally different game to have a newborn while running a busy business. It would be fun, but also extremely challenging.
What have been the biggest milestones / challenges of building a brand?
Our biggest milestones for me have really been more about the success that happens behind the scenes.
For example, we now have a weekly meeting with our leadership team. The first time we had that scheduled and I realized we had such a great team in place, was such a big milestone for me. In the early days, it was 1-2 people.
However, the same milestone is also what can be the most challenging. When we started out, we had quite a few people on the team who were generalists and jumped into many different roles. Now that we have a slightly bigger team, and continue to bring on more people, the scope of what each person does has narrowed. It helps to really go deeper into each area but there definitely is an adjustment period when we bring on new people. No matter how busy or challenging, it has truly been so much fun!
As a business owner, how did pregnancy affect you? Did you take a maternity leave?
I had my daughter before I started the brand. However, since launching Monica + Andy, I have had two miscarriages. To be honest, running the business, along with the support of my daughter, husband and family have helped me keep going.
What are your goals for the brand?
My number # 1 goal for the brand is to make new moms feel they are “in the know” and not alone.
Royer with daughter Bella
What does your typical day look like? Schedule-wise.
I usually get up really early and start on emails right away. If possible, I try to get a quick workout in at 6am. Even knocking out a power 30-minute workout can make a huge difference in my day. After that, it’s off to the races with making my daughter’s school lunch and getting her out the door. From the minute I walk into the office, it’s usually back-to-back meetings until school pick-up around 3:30pm. Luckily, my daughter’s school, the office and home are within a mile radius, so I am able to pick her up and drop her off in the middle of my work day. My parents are a lifesaver and watch her after school. From there, I head back to the office and then home before bedtime routine begins. As soon as she’s asleep, it’s back to work for me.
What do you do to carve out time for yourself? Meditation / Exercise / Nights out with girlfriends, etc?
It’s hard to carve out time so I try to be creative during those rare times I get. My husband and I try to fit in walking or running dates throughout the week. It’s a great way for us to spend some time together and catch-up but also get a good workout in. I also do hot yoga classes as much as I can and I’m starting to dabble a bit more with meditation. I’ve been trying to get my daughter to do it as well!
If any, what changes did you make to your work hours/life in order to create more time with your daughter?
I usually try to work late into the evening after my daughter goes to bed or wake up really early to get some emails answered before she wakes up. That allows me to get some work done at home but also be present when we’re actually together. On Wednesdays, I take her to ballet and work from her class. We also just started taking a dance class together on the weekend! My mom joins us as well, so it’s a family affair.
How would you describe your personal style?
During the week I would describe it as a bit modern chic and sophisticated but also effortless and functional. I run around town quite a bit for meetings so need to be comfortable but professional! On weekdays I love to dress up for meetings and really get to play in my closet for fun pieces. I love Black Halo, Azeeza, AYR and Reformation. My weekend uniform usually consists of sneakers, high-waisted jeans and a white t-shirt (although I’m still on the hunt for the perfect one).
As a busy working mom, what is your best advice for other working moms trying to strike that balance between work and family? What is your biggest challenge?
I think truly finding a balance is really hard. I think we all give up something in the pursuit of “having it all”. With that said, it’s important to really prioritize so you can get to the things that are most important for you. For example, my husband and I don’t often have time for date night but we try to go for long walks and runs together on the weekend so we can just catch up and talk. Do I miss the evenings out? Of course. However, I still get that one on one time with him and also get a workout in at the same time. I have also found with my daughter that trying to really be present when we’re together is so important. During the day, it can be a challenge but in the evenings and on weekends, I make the time. As I’m writing this, it’s super early in the morning and my daughter is still sleeping. Once she wakes up, I’ll put this aside and finish it later. I try to be totally focused on her in the morning when she wakes up and when she goes to bed at night.
What has been the biggest change to your professional life since welcoming your daughter?
Realizing there aren’t limitations to what I can achieve but there are certainly limitations to what I can physically do in one day. If I’m due back at home to be with her, I can’t stay at the office all night working regardless of how much work there is to do. I have a hard stop and need to go home. I can’t just hop on a plane with 24 hour notice to go meet someone that would be good for me to meet. However, I think it really does help me prioritize what’s really important.
As a mom, which age do you think has been most challenging in terms of finding enough time & energy to balance everything? i.e. Newborn, toddler, etc
I think the early months are the most physically grueling. There is nothing that measures up against all night feedings and sleep deprivation. However, the older they get the more complex the issues become. When your child goes to daycare or school and someone hurts their feelings, it’s heartbreaking. Now I try to create time to hear about her day and help her navigate through social situations. It also just gets so much more fun with each year.
Did many of your friends have kids at the same time and if not, how did you find a community for support, activities, etc?
I did not have friends who had kids at the same time which is why I felt so alone when I first had my daughter. This is one of the major reasons why we create local communities in each of our guideshop locations. Our original flagship guideshop in Lincoln Park became the community that I felt I was missing.
How do you balance your time between work, your child and nurturing yourself?
It’s not easy! On the weekends when my husband is home I do try to fit in personal appointments and work out classes to take care of myself. My parents are also very supportive and jump in to help when I need to run out. If I work out during the week, it has to happen at 6am. When the weather is warmer I try to walk as much as I can. Also DreamDry is a great place to get a quick blow dry and get caught up on email. Sometimes that is the most productive 45 minutes of email I have and I get a bit of pampering in at the same time.
What is the most valuable thing motherhood has taught you?
It has taught me to really appreciate my own parents. I never had any idea how hard they worked and how much they did until I had my daughter.
What has been the most surprising thing about becoming a mother?
There is nothing like it. The capacity that you have to love, empathize and really want to watch another human being discover all of the joys of life is immense.
What are some of your specific gadgets, organizational tools or aids that help maintain a stress-free work/family balance?
We use a lot of different tools to keep track of what we are doing but nothing beats face to face communication with my husband. Sitting down for a quick 15-minute weekly catch-up helps get us all on the same page. With work, travel, meetings and school events, it really helps to pause for a moment with my husband and take a look at the week ahead. Also, instacart is a lifesaver. I love cooking and making food at home and it saves me a ton of time to have it delivered as opposed to grocery shopping in person. We haven’t set up a family slack channel yet but we probably should.
To what do you attribute your strong work ethic? What do you hope your daughter learns from watching you work & run your business?
I attribute my work ethic to my parents. They were both so hardworking. I hope my daughter learns that it takes hard work to succeed.
What is your beauty routine? How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?
I really enjoy the time on my own to get ready for the day (when I’m able to get it!). I will take as long as I can get but it usually ends up being about 15- 30 min. I’ve recently gotten into Honest products. Their Clay mask and organic oil are amazing. For serums I love Glossier. The trio of serums that include vitamin C and Boost is nice because you can choose between a few different ones. I am also obsessed with the beauty blender for foundation.
With less time to get ready in the morning, what is your go-to look in order to look chic and put together for a full day and possible evening events?
For an evening event my office is right next to the MAC store and it is great to pop into after work for a quick touch up. I always just add a little bit of a smoky eye and wear a pretty neutral lip color. I’ve also found that throwing my hair up in a high ponytail is a quick way for me to look more pulled together — especially if I haven’t had time for a fresh blow dry.
What are your wardrobe essentials? Do you have a daily uniform?
Most of my wardrobe essentials are from AYR.com. Their camel robe, Black blazer, and high rise skinny jeans in jet black are for sure my go to pieces. I’m still searching for the perfect white tee. That said I do love to get more dressed up at times when I have major meeting days and Black Halo dresses are a staple.
What are your 5 Must Have Mom Essentials?
Jacks or La Colombe Coffee
A Dream Dry blowout
Annie’s snacks in my purse at all times for her to snack on
Mac Prep and Prime spray to refresh
Thorough daily calendar to stay on track