Bianca and Paola Muns co-founded their own designer brand called MUNS in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2015. Using minimalist designs, the company calls upon their seaside environment for inspiration for the looks of their products. Their jewelry usually comes in sterling silver, vermeil, and gold.
With MUNS, Bianca and Paola Muns wanted to create a different brand than the ordinary. They wanted to create a brand that is “rich in design and quality.” Firm believers in the idea that “less is more,” the sisters always try to create single timeless pieces of excellent quality as opposed to numerous lower-quality items that don’t survive very long.
Bianca and Paola Muns want their brand to become an example of a “responsible and sustainable slow fashion brand.” With their commitment to using sustainable fabrics and methods of production in their recent clothing collection, the sisters stay true to their values and create more sustainable business goals along the way.
At MUNS, Bianca and Paola Muns have shown consistent growth both personally and professionally. The sisters wish to create “consciously and responsibly timeless” pieces that you can use, and that you can pass to the next generations. They would like to get more customers to share in their growth journey.
Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Bianca and Paola Muns: I think that as a company we stand out because of who we are at the core; we believe in community, in supporting others, in reducing our carbon footprint to help the environment, in customer relationships, in collaboration. Our store has been the home of other local brands for some time now, we also love to make events to connect with clients and collaborate in product making with other brands that share the same values as us.
But customer relationship is at our core, us, designers/owners, make deliveries to clients’ homes, write dedicated notes, help them at the store, and as a consequence, have built special relationships with many of them. We know about their lives and they know about ours, ultimately, we have become friends. Also, from time to time we host events at the store for customers, so we can connect and get to know them more. We genuinely enjoy all of this. Most of our successful customer relationships are born out of our personalized service.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Bianca and Paola Muns: One of the tips that we always share with our colleagues is to rest when your body asks for it, exercise, stick to routines and eat healthy. Us, as small business owners have to be on top of so many things and we can easily find ourselves overwhelmed and uninspired. Taking care of yourself is a top priority for a thriving business.
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Bianca and Paola Muns: I would have to say that there are many people who have helped us along the way, but the most important is my boyfriend/best friend. He believed in us from the first moment, showed us the possibilities of digital design and helped us with our first collection before Paola took the digital design course. He also helped us design our store and built the furniture, all while starting his own business. He is amazing!
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The Pandemic has changed many aspects of all of our lives. One of them is the fact that so many of us have gotten used to shopping almost exclusively online. Can you share a few examples of different ideas that eCommerce businesses are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the Pandemic?
Bianca and Paola Muns: When the pandemic started, the first thing we did was join a local same day delivery business/app. This is a great partnership, and especially so during the months when we all were on lockdown when stores were closed. Also, we are more focused on social media and creating value content for our clients, collaborating with clients/muses and email marketing. Through our content and work we want to connect with our clients, that is our primary goal. In June when we re-opened our store, we included curbside pick-up.
Jerome Knyszewski: Amazon, and even Walmart are going to exert pressure on all of retail for the foreseeable future. New Direct-To-Consumer companies based in China are emerging that offer prices that are much cheaper than US and European brands. What would you advise retail companies and eCommerce companies, for them to be successful in the face of such strong competition?
Bianca and Paola Muns: I think that selling value is important and creating a product that you believe in and other people can identify with. When I talk about value, I mean a high-quality product with a story behind it. We have seen a slow shift in consumer behavior, they want a story, a maker, a community, a product to connect and relate to.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start an eCommerce business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Bianca and Paola Muns: I think that common mistakes that CEOs & founders make when they first start an e-commerce business are: not creating unique product and not investing in well-designed branding/website experience. Many companies tend to copy what others are doing instead of creating something unique.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running an eCommerce brand tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Bianca and Paola Muns: In my experience as a small business owner overall, we are very underestimated. People tend to think it is an easy job and we have control of our time, I used to think this too. This perception is wrong, we work 7 days a week and manage all departments of the company at first. This is why taking care of yourself is super important.
Jerome Knyszewski: One of the main benefits of shopping online is the ability to read reviews. Consumers love it! While good reviews are of course positive for a brand, poor reviews can be very damaging. In your experience what are a few things a brand should do to properly and effectively respond to poor reviews? How about other unfair things said online about a brand?
Bianca and Paola Muns: In my experience; we recommend that brands manage negative reviews by responding to them as quickly as possible and to try to work with the client by acknowledging and solving the issue at hand. Letting them know that we care, and we are listening. This has worked well so far! We live in an unfair world so from time to time there will be someone that wants to hurt you and your brand. We answer it as fairly as we can, but it really depends on the issue. We tend to handle these types of situations individually.
Jerome Knyszewski: You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Bianca and Paola Muns: I would love for all individuals, brands and companies to join the sustainable movement. This is super important; global warming is real; worker exploitation is real. As part of a society, in which all actions have an impact, we should all feel heed the call to include more responsible and sustainable practices in our daily life for a better future. This should be the norm.
When buying a product be aware of what you are buying, ask yourself: “Do I really need this?” It is all about consciously spending your money, taking into consideration how ethically a product was brought to life. Change will happen when there is a major shift in consumer behavior.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Thank you so much for having us!
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!