FOUNDERS INTERVIEW WITH MONICA GEUZE
Monica Geuze is the co-founder of SOPHIA MAE. The lifestyle brand was launched in January 2022. Let's chat during this exclusive interview with Monica Geuze about the launch, and entrepreneurship, but also what SOPHIA MAE means to her, why SOPHIA MAE is called SOPHIA MAE, Monica's biggest challenges, and what she loves about having her own brand.
Why did you start your own business?
For about seven years I've been active on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. I really enjoy doing this but I can imagine due to the fact I'm getting older at one point I'll probably distance myself from it. Or just not sharing as much of my life as I do now. I've been involved in some other businesses so I learned a bit about entrepreneurship and this always has been my interest. But it was never hundred percent my own business. My goal was to set up my own business. It took me a couple of years because you can only start a company if you fully stand behind everything you do. At one point all the puzzle pieces fell into place. This should be it, it should be a lifestyle brand for everyone. For yourself, but for gifting to others as well. I wanted this company to be my second baby. I had this list of children's names saved on my phone. I scrolled down the list, together with the feeling I had of the brand. I saw the name SOPHIA MAE and, I don't know, I just immediately knew it was right. This is it, this is what it has to be. I Googled it, to check if there weren't hundreds of companies with that name already and there weren't. I really liked that, it felt like it was supposed to be this way. It's right, it's unique. When I looked on Instagram, the name wasn't even taken! This made me even more excited.
What is the best thing about having your own company?
What I like about having my own company is you can decide everything about it yourself. That's also why I wanted to start SOPHIA MAE. Because it is essential that SOPHIA MAE consists of products that I like to use in daily life. This can range from candles to fragrance experiences. It can be a Gratitude Journal, it can be hundreds of other products that contribute to self love. That's what I love about it. All the products that I like, or find beautiful, or want to use, I can create it by myself. That's a dream coming true. I get inspiration from everything now. When I'm in a department store in London or Paris and I see all the products there I really want to make those products but in the SOPHIA MAE style.
What does SOPHIA MAE mean to you?
SOPHIA MAE is about the inner muse that everyone has, or should have. What I mean by inner muse is the piece of you that may be the fire you light when you don't feel like it that day. That inner voice that says: "Go for a workout because it makes you feel better." The voice that motivates you every day to make the most of your day. But also the voice that says: "It's enough, take some rest." The part in your mind that takes the lead when you're a little lost. There's always a part inside of you that leads you the way. People always react surprised when I tell them that I feel like I am my own best friend. People are always like: oh my god. Maybe they find it even a little narcissistic. But I think self love is super important, especially now that I am a mother, I realized you have to love yourself otherwise you can't love others. If you don't love yourself, how can you ever receive love from others? That's why I wanted to call the brand SOPHIA MAE. As in, that is your inner muse which gives you time, love and energy and what you need in that specific moment. That's why I wanted to launch a brand that creates products that contribute to that moment for yourself. Products that strengthen your inner muse. It's the little things, like going to bed on time or canceling dinner plans with friends that were planned a long time ago because you just don't feel like it that day, and need some me time. But it's also making dinner plans with friends because you could really use it. As well as just taking good care of yourself, and feeling happy. When I'm having a bit of a hard time, taking good care of myself has first priority. While looking in the mirror and thinking: it's not that bad. The experience of scent contributes to that feeling. Walking into a beautiful hotel with a certain scent in the air can give you that feeling. Certain scents can really affect your mood. It brings you a certain feeling of peace. It can get you in a specific mood. I think it's very powerful that scents can create that. Little things can make a big difference. With SOPHIA MAE we created scents that match certain moods. They're products that contribute to your self love.
What's fun about having your own brand?
What I like about having my own brand is that you can create everything yourself. Because of what I do, I get sent a lot of products. For seven years, companies are sending my beauty products. Sometimes they're products that are great and need no tweaking and sometimes they're products that need some improvement to make them perfect. That's what I like about SOPHIA MAE. We're not reinventing the wheel. Products that moisturize your lips already exist. Cuticle oil already exists. But the main goal is to create our own SOPHIA MAE style. I think that's the most exciting part of having my own brand.
Is having your own business harder than you expected?
I never thought it was easy. But I also didn't think it would be this hard. You have to think about everything. I was already partaking in certain businesses, which says it already. You partake, so you don't do everything. You don't have to consider everything. When you have to decide the weight of the package and you don't know much about anything because you start out like a noob. You've never done it before. You have to think about it over and over and I think that people can underestimate the amount of work. Sometimes people say: "You made a candle, and you put SOPHIA MAE on it." Then I'm like: "Well, you go do it!" We have created every product completely ourselves. From the scent, what kind of wax, what kind of glass to what color it should be. Literally everything. The designs of the brand identity, the name, the website. You have to consider everything. You have no idea of what to expect in terms of the number of orders or if people are interested in it at all. You do worry during this process, is it all worth it? There's a constant uncertain feeling. You're going from: I really believe this is it, to: nobody wants these candles, this is ridiculous, why are we doing this?
What was your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is having to estimate things. This has been really hard from the start of SOPHIA MAE. Every supplier obviously wants to know how much supply you need. I have no idea! How much can we order to make sure we're not immediately sold out, because that's a no go. But you also don't want to end up with a stock you're never going to sell. While all of your money is in it. At some point we ordered some gratitude journals, they may not expire, which is also a thing to take into consideration. So we ordered a couple of thousand and three days before launch we found out that we forgot to provide certain codes at the distribution center. So we needed to sticker a couple of thousand gratitude journals before we could launch. That didn't really go as planned. At those moments you think: "Shit, we should have done this in another way", and you're trying to find solutions.
How long did the preparation take?
I think it really depends on the brand but it took us a long time. For almost two years we had this idea. It took so long because of the corona crisis and it was hard to ship things. So you can have the whole candle ready to go but the perfume from France is missing, in this case, you have to wait. You can launch the candle, but it's not a scented candle yet.
How was the launch?
I always thought I could handle stress very well but I noticed, that as the launch date came closer, I got really nervous. I didn't sleep the night before the launch. On the day of the launch, we were at the office, and I was so stressed. I couldn't handle it. I remember, a week before we launched the Instagram account. And the team and I were talking about how many followers we would get. I was so scared to make an estimation. Then I thought: "f*ck it, set yourself a high target that you do hope to reach." I hoped for 6.000 followers. When we launched, I don't really remember, I think we had 50.000 followers within 24 hours. I was completely shocked. This made me even more nervous about the launch. We were so excited, we were at the office and we turned on the big screen with orders that might come in. Then it just happened. The whole day was all about the launch. Later you're in the car back home and you're like: "why did this make me so nervous?" I think all the built-up tension in the months and even years up to the launch came out. I had never been more nervous.
What's the most special product?
The most special product... hard question, because all products of SOPHIA MAE are meant to be a treat for yourself. Therefore, I think all the products are special. I think the most personal product to me is the Gratitude Journal. I noticed, when you really journal constantly, it actually has an impact on your life and how you see the world. You can make such a big difference with a simple book. That's a beautiful thing.
How do you use the Gratitude Journal?
I use the Gratitude Journal as much as possible at the end of my day. It's stored in my nightstand and I always try to write in it just before I go to sleep. I try to do it as the very last part of the day because then there are things to be thankful for and then you can think about it a little better. I think you should keep the praises to yourself small because otherwise, it might not work. You might find it hard to praise yourself that much, but you don't have to. You can keep it modest, like: "Today I felt stressed and I took a moment to myself. I'm proud of myself for that." Or: "Today I didn't take the car to work, so I took my bike instead." These are small things that make your day a little better. Or that motivated you to make better choices.
What can you tell about the Eternal Balm?
You can use it for dry spots on your lips, but also for your cuticles. I saw on TikTok that people even use it as a highlighter. You just put it on your cheekbones and it makes you look a little more dewy and natural.
What can you tell about the candles?
I put the candles of SOPHIA MAE everywhere. I like to have specific scents in the different rooms of my house. I use Artemis in the bathroom, and Aphrodite in the living- and bedroom. I always take a candle with me when I travel. To me, it brings a personal touch whenever you are in the world. It's a feeling of luxury. Preparing for dinner and lighting the candle. It's so cozy. When your candle is burned up, you can very easily clean the glass. We've chosen to not glue the wax with chemicals. So it's very easy to remove the wax and clean it. You can basically use it for everything. I use it as a make-up brush holder so my whole bathroom is full of them. I saw someone on Instagram using it as a little vase with flowers in it which looked very cute. You can use it for cotton pads, hair ties, whatever you like.
How did you create the scents and what do they smell like?
It started with a feeling you get from something. I did want to create two different scents. Artemis was created to be more fresh. The feeling of a new beginning. When we created SOPHIA MAE, we did a lot of fragrance workshops. We created it all with a team of three. Orange blossom was a scent we all really liked. So it was a logical step to create a fragrance with that specific scent. Aphrodite is more with a touch of musk, amber and vanilla. It's a little warmer. The women in the team really liked it, the man thought it was maybe a little too sweet. But I like it.
What products can we expect in the future?
I have a huge list of products I want to create. It can be anything that stimulates your inner muse. At the moment we're creating a dry shampoo and volume spray. It's almost finished so we are waiting for the numbers to roll in and then we can put them online. There's also a shimmer oil coming soon. Actually, I wanted to start SOPHIA MAE with this product. But now it's finally coming, it's done and successfully tested.
Did you test all products yourself?
I absolutely tested all products myself. I am living my dream because I am crazy about scented candles. I always wanted to light them at special moments. But now they're my candles so my whole house is full of them. I light them whenever I want. I am living my dream by owning a brand with products I really love. Yes, I think I might be the biggest consumer of SOPHIA MAE.