Vancouver born luggage brand, Monos, has pivoted business resources to create CleanPod, a hand-held rechargeable sanitizer that uses ultraviolet UVC light to effectively sanitize and disinfect products and surfaces used on a daily basis, including cell phones, bags, and more.
The spread of COVID-19 has challenged a lot of businesses to think quickly on their feet in order to save and boost sources of revenue. In the case of Monos luggage, what was most important was developing a product that would help consumers immediately, but also in the future when travel resumes.
Co-founders Victor Tam and Hubert Chan had previously been prepping for the brand’s new line of travel accessories. As the majority of their revenue disintegrated over night, the team refocused their production efforts to create a product that would assist consumers and give back to the community that has supported them since its inception.
“With the impact of COVID-19 growing so rapidly, we wanted to find a way our business could help our community during this difficult time,” says Tam, “We wanted to create a product that is beneficial to the everyday person, while also contributing to a good cause. We feel so passionately about the CleanPod because it is a product that offers a sustainable, long-term way to stay safe and sanitize, but also because we’re able to give back to our community during this time when travel is uncertain.”
With the same sleek design that Monos is known for, the CleanPod is retailing for $128 CAD ($90 USD), the UVC rays kill 99.9 percent of pathogens instantly. A portion of the sales from every CleanPod will be donated to United Way Centraide Canada’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund. The rechargeable wand weighs less than a pound and can go wherever life takes you, even if for now that is within the four walls of your home.
We spoke with Victor Tam and Hubert Chan about the importance of centring community and mindfulness in business during unprecedented times.
Every company goes through turbulent seasons. What was on for you and how has it helped you navigate the COVID-19 pandemic?
Victor: What we noticed was our fellow companies in the travel space were already slowing down in January due to COVID-19 and the holiday hangover. We were still growing at a quick pace: 40 to 50 percent growth, month-over-month, even going into the first week of March. As soon as WHO officially declared a global pandemic and all flights and events started getting cancelled, we saw an immediate 90 percent drop in our daily revenue. With no specific end in sight for an event like this, a company must fully shift its strategy and stick it out for the long haul. That means scaling back operating expenses as well as finding new goals and initiatives to keep the team motivated. Clear communication to the team and working on a new short-medium term company goal gives them new inspiration and purpose.
Hubert: They say that pressure creates diamonds, and we’ve found that to be true. Some of the best ideas and executions come out of hardship and when your initial plans fall apart. When things are going smoothly, it’s easy to get comfortable and stick to what you know. But when you’re facing adversity and multiple constraints, you’re forced to think outside the box and get even more creative.
You mentioned that over night you had to face your company’s revenue dropping to almost nothing. What are the thoughts that go through a business owner’s head when something like this happens and how would you advise other business owners to deal with something like this?
V: We believe it starts with a foundation of good fundamentals first. My hope is that anyone reading this really focuses on building a sound business with lean methodologies. Building a business with good cashflow and reserves will allow you to weather these hard times a bit better. In the past 10–15 years, I’ve seen a lot of startup founders and businesses over-leverage themselves to chase growth, and they often end up being at the mercy of outside capital to survive.
A lot has changed in the midst of the pandemic, however Monos has always worked to be an innovative brand in marketing, design and function. How has this pandemic motivated Monos to continue being innovative and what has that looked like for your team?
V: It made us really think outside the box and think creatively of how we can bring aspects of travel back home. We have some amazing products in the works that will bring a bit of travel into everyone’s lives, even at home, while aligning with our values of mindfulness and being present.
Monos has spoken publicly about shifting from doing to being. What does this mean for the company and the way you have shifted reaching your audience?
H: I think that as a society, we tend to value a fast-paced hustle culture. We fill our days up so we can work toward our goals and feel productive, and that’s great! But now, with almost every aspect of life being put on hold, “getting s*** done” isn’t the best metric for how we feel about ourselves. When we shift from doing to being, we quiet our racing minds – we take a step back from our own thoughts and feelings, and observe them with curiosity. We shift our attention from the future or past so that we can experience the richness of the present moment. In reconnecting with ourselves and the present, we can find calmness, resilience, and a fuller view of who we are. And we can care for ourselves with compassion so that we can do the same for others. Mindfulness has always been a core part of our brand and how we travel, and we think it’s especially relevant now. Even though none of us can travel abroad at the moment, we can all benefit from what mindfulness can teach us at home.
Monos has dedicated itself to sharing positivity, what has this commitment entailed so far?
H: It started with our message to our community. With the daily influx of bad news, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed – even scared. We recognize that we’re living through an unprecedented time in history right now, but we feel a sense of global solidarity through it all, and we’re seeing the best of humanity on display around the world. We wanted to inspire a sense of hope, unity, and connectedness in the message we sent out, and we had many people tell us that it was exactly what they needed to hear. We decided to continue our mission of positivity by launching two initiatives on Instagram: A Movement of Kindness shares inspiring stories of kindness and connection around the world; and #AtHomeChallenge invites our audience to participate in weekly home activities that encourage creativity, reflection, and just plain old fun.
Many small businesses have taken it upon themselves to support their community during this time. What do you feel is the importance of community at a time like this?
H: We are the product of the communities we live in, and we’re so much stronger when we come together. In this extraordinary time of need, it’s amazing to see so many small businesses step up and do what they can to help. For our part, we’re donating partial proceeds from every CleanPod to United Way Centraide Canada’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund, which helps provide essential needs and support services to the most vulnerable people being impacted in communities across Canada.
It may be some time before things get back to normal again, but I’m confident we will get through this as a community, as a nation, and as a planet. I’m hopeful that we’ll have more strength, resilience, empathy, and kindness when we get to the other side, and that we can take our renewed spirit of solidarity with us when the world opens up again. Until then, take care of yourselves and each other.