Monica Royer became an entrepreneur when she couldn’t find high-quality clothes for her newborn.
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Monica Royer is the founder and CEO of Monica + Andy, a children and family brand that provides products, resources and support to raise a family. Royer’s entrepreneurial journey began a bit differently, as it started in a delivery room instead of a boardroom. After realizing the clothes provided for her newborn daughter were irritating her sensitive skin, Royer set out in search of high-quality clothing and essentials free of the harsh chemicals and irritants commonly used on baby and kid clothing. When she couldn’t find easily accessible options that met her high standards, she decided to make them herself — and the idea for Monica + Andy was born.
“Monica + Andy was really started out of a necessity, out of things I wish I had and found. It was a desire for parents to have a better path than I felt like I had, but it was never because I thought I wanted to start a company,” Royer says.
Royer’s close relationship with her brother, Andy Dunn, gave her a front row seat to his experience founding and growing Bonobos, one of the first direct-to-consumer men’s apparel brands (he later sold the brand to Walmart in 2017 in a deal valued over $300 million.) Seeing the business take off inspired Royer, who at the time was working at a stable pharmaceutical job. Royer witnessed her brother build his popular ecommerce brand and took notes while unofficially consulting and advising him as he navigated the early days of running a high-growth business. A few years later, after the birth of her first child spotlighted a clear need for high-quality baby essentials, Royer approached Dunn with the idea of creating a brand designed specifically around meeting the needs of parents and little ones alike. With the buy-in and support of her brother, Royer started building the Monica + Andy brand.
Royer’s primary vision was to create a brand that served as the “parenthood manual” she always desired and never had. Since launching the brand in 2014, she has continued to do just that — the brand currently has four Guideshops in Chicago and New York City, all of which serve as a place for parents to find support and community. Royer wanted to create an in-person environment where parents didn’t feel embarrassed or nervous about their baby’s natural behavior.
“I wanted to have a store with screaming kids and cookie crumbs all over the place. Let’s just make it chaos, so you walk into chaos and you’re not worried about creating it yourself,” she says.
Today, the shops serve as a central hub for the Monica + Andy community, offering ongoing programming centered around education, guidance, entertainment and community.
When the pandemic hit, Monica + Andy was one of the first to shut its stores down.
“As a team, we’re a team of parents, we’re family first about things and not knowing what was happening we were one of the first to say we don’t know what will happen, but we’re shutting down our stores until we feel better about things,” Royer says.
During this trying time, the brand reduced its prices permanently in effort to be more accessible to more people and transitioned its in-person classes to a virtual format. Upon realizing how many families were going to hit milestones during the pandemic — from becoming pregnant to delivering to raising littles ones without outside support — Royer decided to evolve the brand’s programming to focus on the topics, information and needs of pandemic parenting. Overnight, Monica + Andy went from classes of 30-40 attendees to getting thousands of RSVPs for hot topic events. Over the past year, the brand has held over 500 virtual events, with upcoming plans to create a hybrid event model as retail opens back up. Royer noted that while the brand’s physical retail locations are now open and are bouncing back quickly, the virtual world is here to stay.
Royer stresses how hard starting your own business truly is, having experienced it herself firsthand as well as from watching both her brother and her husband (founder of DTC furniture brand Interior Define) on their entrepreneurial journeys. Royer says her investors and other mentors have been very influential, especially when it comes to “seeing around the corners” for her. This invaluable support and mentorship is exactly what she hopes to pay forward to other women in business as they bring their own visions to life.