Meet Natalia Monnard. Born and raised in Mexico City, She first started her career in humanitarian services, volunteering in a refugee camp in Nepal and working for big philanthropic institutions in Latin America. Natalia then moved to Switzerland in 2011 joining UBS, where ultimately the Management Committee appointed her Chief of Staff for WM Europe Emerging Markets. She currently leads large-scale projects across business units at the bank focused on growth strategies, client experience enhancement, and IT platform deliveries.
But Natalia is not only a corporate citizen, her entrepreneurial spirit has always led her to build, support or advise business initiatives and start-ups. One of her key areas of focus and personal passions are sustainability topics, which means she is always on the lookout for healthy natural products that ensure humans coexist better with our planet. SQIN Ø is the outcome of her experience in strategic business growth combined with her drive for a healthier living and a more sustainable lifestyle, creating a company that is in line with her values and vision for the future. Co-founding this all-natural cosmetics company is her effort to contribute to the health and wellbeing of both people and our planet.
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Table of Contents
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Natalia Monnard: Co-founding SQIN Ø has been a really big personal step, not only because it focuses on a topic that I wholeheartedly believe in, but also because this came to life during a global pandemic, which brought with it different learnings and challenges, but also opportunities.
I very often hear people talk about how they are now choosing to eat healthier, going to local markets so they know where products come from, avoiding pesticides, opting for organic fruits and vegetables – in a nutshell, actively deciding to live a healthier lifestyle. However, frequently these same people go ahead and buy cosmetic products they use on a daily basis and are full of harmful ingredients, hindering their efforts to take better care of their bodies.
This is derived from two key problems: on the one hand, there is a lot of misinformation about the impact some of the ingredients in our daily products can have on our bodies, along with an enormous amount of greenwashing; on the other hand, being a natural cosmetics user myself, it is hard to find 100% natural products that deliver great results along with a satisfying customer experience.
After years of battling these problems myself, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and to do so in a way that would be in line with my sustainability approach to business. This is how SQIN Ø came to life, and how this entrepreneurial journey became a big part of my professional and personal purpose.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Natalia Monnard: The SQIN Ø purpose is to help people make healthier choices while supporting their effort to stick to a more sustainable lifestyle: finding a container that suited that purpose was really difficult and made us want to give up more than once!
We had a very clear idea of what we wanted: something made from a natural, recyclable, reusable material that could preserve our product well. It was always tempting to go for straightforward recyclable plastic, but this would not provide the natural experience we wanted, or use beautiful amber glass, but this could be dangerous as it can easily break. Finally, after months of talking to hundreds of suppliers, we found someone who was willing to adapt their existing product helping us deliver the customer experience we were looking for all while sticking to our sustainability values.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Natalia Monnard: I have been an advisor and consultant for many entrepreneurs and there are three trends I see more often than I would like to, some of which I’ve even caught myself doing now that I have decided to launch my own start-up:
- 1. Complexity: in the excitement of building a new business, entrepreneurs often burry themselves in complexity, which only gets worse with time. When we started thinking about SQIN Ø we wanted to launch with 10 products. This would have been a logistics nightmare. Remember simplicity is your best friend when starting.
- 2. Spending vs investing mindset: many entrepreneurs are short on resources, particularly capital. This translates into entrepreneurs seeing every transaction where they spend money as an expense rather than an investment, but you can’t grow a business without spending money! Be clear about where you invest and where you spend.
- 3. I know best: being an entrepreneur requires a lot of self-confidence and courage, unfortunately, sometimes this can have the terrible effect of making entrepreneurs know-it-all that has a hard time asking for advice, listening to experts, or worse of all taking in feedback. Stay hungry and humble.
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
Natalia Monnard: I guess the straightforward answer would be the ability to continue thriving despite challenging circumstances to obtain the desired results. However, I have always believed that resilience is a matter of energy and attitude rather than outcomes.
I am not talking about being naively optimistic, a good entrepreneur will see reality for what it is but find the opportunity in it despite the challenge: this would be the attitude part of it. But your strength and time are limited, so you need to make smart choices about how you invest both resources: and this is the energy part of it.
Today’s world is undergoing something unprecedented over which we have little control. What we can control is the way we react to it, and that is the real power of resilience.
When you think of your company, 5 years from now, what do you see?
Natalia Monnard: I see SQIN Ø helping customers all over the world make healthier choices when it comes to the cosmetic products they use, fostering more transparent information about ingredients and their impact on our bodies and health, and enabling a more sustainable lifestyle that allows for better coexistence between nature and humans. I see a company that has committed to its purpose and grown while doing so.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Natalia Monnard: Decisive: when you set up your own company you need to make many decisions, often fast, with limited information and many moving parts. Being able to make decisions with conviction has been crucial to my success as a leader. This doesn’t mean you act as a bulldozer, it means you have established a way to collect feedback and organize your thoughts to evaluate options as fast as possible and that, once the assessment is done, you move forward without hesitation.
Engaging: a lot of people focus on communication, but I believe communication skills on their own are not enough. Of course, you need to be able to express yourself clearly, but if you can’t engage your audience, the impact of that information will be limited. In addition, being engaged and committed yourself is a clear sign of authenticity, which is an incredible tool in building trust with partners and customers.
Adaptive: today the world moves at an ever-faster pace and that means change is constant. If you can’t adapt as a leader and business you will be left behind. This is something I need to constantly balance with my decisive character trait: learning to decide and move forward with conviction, all while remaining as agile as possible to adapt to inevitable change and doing so proactively.
Being a CEO of the company, do you think that your personal brand reflects your company’s values?
Natalia Monnard: This is such a crucial topic for me and my absolute favorite part of being the CEO of SQIN Ø. When my co-founder and I decided to go ahead with this project, we knew it was going to be a big challenge, but we were fuelled by our own experiences as users of this kind of product and the constant disappointment that brought.
There are so many products labeled 100% natural which is not, eco-friendly cosmetic companies that have single-use plastic packaging or products that simply do not work or are far away from the customer experience we believe should be delivered. Deciding to build a company based on values we live by every day was the easiest choice ever, but also a great business opportunity!
How would you define “leadership”?
Natalia Monnard: Leadership is walking the talk with a contagious sense of purpose. It is based on a deep sense of self-awareness and a clear appreciation of the impact one has on others. Leadership is a lot about skills and all about people.
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Natalia Monnard: You won’t have all the answers from the beginning, and that can be a bit daunting. But guess what? You don’t need to! Be brave about acknowledging that you don’t know it all and ask for advice, support, expertise…
Take one step at a time, and surround yourself with trusted partners, you will figure it out as you go and learn with every decision you have to make. Sometimes the lessons will hurt, some others it will be a walk in the park, simply enjoy the ride and keep going!
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Natalia Monnard: “In life, there are no problems, only solutions” – J. Lennon
Some people may think this is about being creative in finding ways to solve problems or manage circumstances, and in a way it is. But on the other hand, it’s also about acceptance. Realizing that, although one may not like the solution, it is the reality of things and we have to make the best of it.
It’s by no means the same as giving up, but rather the intrinsic power that allows us to move forward faster and more effectively, focusing on what we can control and change rather than wasting energy and time on the things that we cannot.
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Natalia Monnard for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Natalia Monnard or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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