COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the travel industry, forcing many companies to adopt new business strategies to survive. As part of our recent profile series in partnership with The Globe and Mail, Passion & Persistence: Stories of Business Resilience, we spoke to four business owners about their journey navigating the intense uncertainty caused by the pandemic. One of those business owners was Victor Tam, CEO and Co-founder of Monos, a Canadian direct-to-consumer travel and lifestyle brand.
Monos, whose name comes from the Japanese concept of “mono no aware,” or the appreciation for the beauty of fleeting moments, offers consumers premium, high quality travel goods at affordable prices. Monos weathered the storm of this challenging year through the power of innovation and developed a new product called CleanPod, a hand-held rechargeable UV sanitization wand used to sanitize high touch surfaces.
Here, Victor shares his business journey, the impact of the pandemic on the travel industry, and the importance of innovation during this unprecedented time.
Q: What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
It all started in high school when I got my first computer and discovered the Internet. I realized that everything I needed to learn could be found online, which really ignited my curiosity and interest in the digital world. Since then, I’ve started multiple businesses in the digital space, from consumer products to digital brands and everything in between. These businesses have taught me a great deal and shaped the entrepreneur I am today.
Q: How has Amex helped you on your business journey?
Early on, my business partners and I decided that we wouldn’t raise outside capital for our company, so being able to leverage a card like Amex with a flexible credit limit was extremely helpful. For small business owners just starting out, maximizing cashflow is essential, and with Amex, we had the cashflow we needed to invest in growing our business.
Q: What is it about the travel industry that makes you passionate?
For me, travel is a time when people are finally able to self-reflect and enjoy the present moment. It’s when you’re able to step outside your regular everyday routine and see something new. That’s what I love about travelling. However, oftentimes, people get very focused on following an agenda or ticking off destinations, as opposed to immersing themselves in those beautiful, new experiences. This concept of mindful travelling was the inspiration for our brand and is a mindset myself and my business partners live by.
Q: Travel, of course, has been one of the hardest hit industries. What was the immediate impact on your business?
Not surprisingly, luggage stopped selling once COVID-19 erupted and the travel ban was announced. Our revenues fell drastically over night and we needed to quickly determine how to best respond. We shifted into analytical mode and started planning for the worst-case scenario so that we could quickly find a solution. Dealing with a crisis or facing a new challenge is actually a great opportunity to get creative and break out of the norm. We knew we had a very capable team and wanted to find a way to drive purpose and motivation. After a short time, our thinking shifted from ‘what is the worst-case scenario?’ to getting excited about what we were going to do next.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for the CleanPod?
The idea for the CleanPod came out of the need for COVID-19 protocols and stricter sanitation measures. We were initially using wipes to clean everyday items in our office. However, we realized that this was not very efficient, and very wasteful given that you use these wipes once and then throw them away. We wanted to create something that was reusable, portable and still relevant to travel. After about four weeks of planning, we released our CleanPod UVC Sterilizer.
Q: How were you able to bring the CleanPod to market so quickly?
It wasn’t easy to bring an entirely new product to market amidst the pandemic. We had to work with the factory designer to implement what we required for this new product without seeing it first-hand. We also experienced delays in receiving the product due to a backlog with the air shipments. However, this pandemic greatly increased productivity among our team – we’ve been able to do things that we had no idea we were capable of.
Q: How do you define success?
At Monos, we define our success by our people. One of our core values is “people before profit” and that principle informs how we treat both our team members and customers. The most important thing to me is that we stay true to our values as a company. We want our customers to know that we have their backs and take care of our people.
Descriptions and opinions are those of Victor Tam and Monos, not those of American Express.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. It should not be regarded as comprehensive or a substitute for professional advice.