We talked to Victor Tam of Monos about the Japanese concept of mono no aware and he had the following to say about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Victor Tam: We are doing great. Fortunately, COVID has allowed us all to be closer. Getting to spend more time at home with the kids and being able to see and be part of their daily development, both physically and mentally has been great.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Monos.
Victor Tam: I founded this company after exiting my last D2C company in 2018. Prior to this, I’ve been building digital commerce sites since the mid-1990s.
How does Monos innovate?
Victor Tam: When we founded our company, we had 4 core pillars that we wanted to hit. Sustainability, Design, Quality, and Accessible pricing. Currently, in the market, the brands that exist only hit 1, 2, and at most 3 out of these 4 core pillars. You will see that usually very well designed suitcase with the quality behind them are very expensive and do not have sustainability top of mind. On the other end of the spectrum, you will have the department brands that are very cheap that usually do not have sustainability, design, nor quality.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Victor Tam: We saw our revenues drop 90% once the pandemic was announced in March. Things were looking grim, and we were one of the industries that were hit the hardest. We decided to quickly shift our focus to produce a product that was relevant now. Our team of designers and creatives got to work, and we came out with a new travel portable UVC wand called the CleanPod. This has been tremendous for our company as we saw our revenues immediately get back to pre covid levels. This boosted our team’s morale and optimism that we could tackle any crisis together.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Victor Tam: Our most difficult choice was to let go of one newly hired team member; however, shortly after, we were able to rehire that person due to our pivot’s success.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Victor Tam: I run every morning and up to 60-80km a week. This is my personal time, free from the business and the family. Being incredibly present and letting my mind wander.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Victor Tam: Our immediate competitor would be AWAY. They have paved the way in the space of a D2C luggage brand that appeals to consumers. Being the 2nd mover in this space, we are much more nimble and can improve upon their mistakes. We can provide much more value to our customers with a quality product and not just a pretty one in AWAYS case.
Your final thoughts?
Victor Tam: It is during the toughest times where we learn the most. When you are riding easy success, it is easy to get comfortable…nothing challenges you, and your creativity goes down. See these tough times as the test for yourself to improve and see opportunities where others don’t.