Episode 154 – Coffee N5 – Brewing Brilliance: Tips for Navigating Your Business Trajectory with Monica Botkier

Discover the secrets to navigating the trajectory of your business with entrepreneur Monica Botkier on Coffee N° 5. From startup strategies to scaling success, Monica shares insights on funding, team building, and the art of brand creation. Learn how to identify your passion, respond to challenges like bad reviews, and maintain uniformity in branding and marketing. Tune in for valuable advice on embracing small wins and building a thriving business from the ground up.

We’ll talk about:

  • Trajectory – what it means for you and your business
  • How to know if you’re a startup person
  • Monica’s passion for beginnings and bringing a brand to existence
  • How to approach funding options for new businesses
  • The importance of being product-based
  • The art of building a team for your business
  • Why it’s crucial to listen to the small wins
  • Knowing how to respond to bad reviews
  • The centrality of uniformity in branding, marketing, and business

For more information, visit Chosenwoven’s Website.

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Also, follow our host Lara Schmoisman on social media:

Instagram: @laraschmoisman

Facebook: @LaraSchmoisman

LinkedIn: @laraschmoisman

About Monica Botkier

Monica Botkier: a trailblazing entrepreneur who has left an indelible mark as a Creative Entrepreneur and Founder of Botkier New York, a brand synonymous with innovation and style. Her Trigger bag is known as the bag that launched an industry. 
With a successful exit under her belt, Monica is not just a business maven but Co-Founder of Chosenwoven and founder of Market By Monica, her newest ventures showcasing her commitment to pioneering sustainable luxury. A true Renaissance woman, Monica Botkier wears many hats. Mom to three, author, founder, entrepreneur, and advisor. Her passion for creativity is the driving force behind her endeavors, where innovation meets passion in the pursuit of success.

Lara Schmoisman
00:05
This is Coffee Number Five. I’m your host, Lara Schmoisman. Hello, everyone. Welcome back to Coffee Number Five. And today I was thinking, you know, I’m always thinking and I’m those kind of people that my mind goes faster than my fingers sometimes. So sometimes I’m thinking and I give notes to my team so I don’t forget. I record audio event for myself because my mind can go so fast. But today I was thinking about trajectory. And trajectory is such a difficult word, I know mostly for the ones who don’t have the natural sound. But also it’s about legacy. It’s about doing something beyond yourself. It’s something that when you have a trajectory, it’s because you’ve been there, you’ve done that and you learn from it. It’s such a big word. So today I’m so inspired. Monica Botkier – is here with me, which I found inspiring. So welcome, Monica.

Monica Botkier
01:16
Thank you so much. It’s great to be here. Yeah.

Lara Schmoisman
01:19
And I mean, talking about trajectory, I mean, you’re an amazing example of the trajectory that you had as a business woman and you still have because you keep, how I said, recycling yourself.

Monica Botkier
01:31
Yes. And creating. And I think the interesting thing about the word trajectory is that there is momentum there. And that’s not something that you can control all the time. I think we like to believe that we can. But the truth of the matter is that once you get, whether it’s inspiration or connection to something and you start to go, it propels you, and then you’re on a trajectory that you don’t always know where you’re going to land. And so I think that when you’re starting out in a business in particular, I can say this now that I successfully founded a business, ran it, sold it, exited it, can you say that? Exited it. And then trying to find passion and inspiration all over again at perhaps a different stage in life and getting the courage to jump back in.

Lara Schmoisman
02:29
I was about to say that because it takes guts, it takes courage. After you did something successful, Lee, and then decide you’re out, you were successful and starting something again that might good well or not, because you never know when you start something new.

Monica Botkier
02:47
This is true. I think that for myself, being a creative person and leading a lot through product, and basically I find I’m successful when I make something that I actually want because I think that I represent a good amount of women customers. And so therefore, the creating it is the thing that pushes me so I’m not afraid of making it or taking an idea from your brain and bringing it to life. That’s the most exhilarating fun, I feel like, that I know how to do. I think what’s different each time is how you get it out there to people, and the business itself can be very different.

Monica Botkier
03:29
Like my original business, Botkier, was one of those kind of beautiful moments in the early 2000s where I got it into Barney’s almost immediately and it launched the brand, and I had celebrities wearing it and all kinds of things. The explosive nature of that business, that’s the kind of like, I couldn’t have planned that trajectory. I could have planned into it. Certainly if you’re creating a business plan and looking at kind of a long strategic road, but I couldn’t have planned that kind of astronomical growth and success off the bat. So then it was more about fielding it and trying to keep up with it and not lose yourself in all of it.

Lara Schmoisman
04:16
You’re also authentically one of those people that you’re right left side because you are very creative, but also you’re a business owner.

Monica Botkier
04:28
Yes, but the more experience I have, the more I realize I am a startup person. And basically the turn nothing into something is my sweet spot. There are people who are scalers, people who can take something into the mega huge company. I feel like I am really the startup person that can bring it to legitimate brand and perhaps a little bit beyond that. But the super scaler, I don’t enjoy that. That’s not what my superpower is.

Lara Schmoisman
05:04
Let’s talk about this superpower, and that is the startup. Because startup is hard. I mean, start with some funding or no funding, and start from scratch and surround yourself from the right people. That to me is key in anything. Start, you call it a marketing agency, a brand, whatever it is, you need to have the right team alone. You cannot do it.

Monica Botkier
05:30
No, you really can’t. And I think that you have to really dig deep and see who’s around you and work with those people that are going to be those supporters. I guess some people are really measured and planned from the very beginning, every single thing. But I think you have to be nimble, you have to be open and also spontaneous. Take advantage of opportunities that may show up, but really, truly, you have to be driven by passion, and you have to be unafraid to follow that, in a sense. So I don’t know, I think I go back to like, this is no different to me than art school project. Do like. Okay, this is what my vision is I’m going to figure out how to put it together and present it. And nothing brought me more joy than the project.

Monica Botkier
06:25
No matter what, I was always excited about making something and bringing it to life. So in theory, because I’m working on consumer goods. So with botcure, it was leather bags, because I was craving this very particular bag. It started with one bag that I couldn’t find anywhere for the price I wanted, and it had to function a certain way. So the idea of bringing all of that together and getting it to exist in reality was the best.

Lara Schmoisman
06:55
But today you’re with a new brand.

Monica Botkier
06:58
Yes. So fast forward today. And I have a fantastic partner. So she’s a really big part of. Her name is Olga Kapustina, and she comes from apparel design and she is very much a product person as well, but even more so, she understands material. So we’re working in a sustainable way with – to create lingerie that’s plastic free and it’s zero waste because it’s done through innovative knitting technology.

Lara Schmoisman
07:30
You guys need to see it. Please. You have to look at. It’s so unique, her line, and so eco friendly. But you guys go to the website, look at it, because it’s really incredible and it’s truly different of what it’s out there.

Monica Botkier
07:47
It really is. I mean, I will say that even the design direction, number one, I think Olga and I work really well together in terms of creating something beautiful and covetable. So it is luxury, but it’s also approachable and it performs. Marina wool. She taught me all about the dynamic properties of wool. So it’s brilliant because thermoregulating means that when you’re in the hot weather, it actually will cool you off and vice versa. Everyone thinks that it’s only warming, but it’s actually cooling. It’s antimicrobial, it’s moisture wicking, odor resistant. It’s the perfect material to have close to your skin. And we’ve been able to develop this without spandex or nylon. So there’s no plastic. There’s no plastic leaching into your body. There’s no plastic when you wash it, leaching into the water system, but it is washable and dryable.

Monica Botkier
08:41
You should treat it a little bit specially, but not to a point where I don’t. I kind of just toss it in and I try to be mindful to take it out of the dryer before it’s fully dry. But it doesn’t matter if you do, so it’s easy.

Lara Schmoisman
08:54
Let me ask you a question. You have an idea, you had a concept, you met your partner probably by then. Where do you start? Because we have so many of our listeners that they are business owners trying to get these startups out of the ground. And where do you start? Comes the money first. Come the idea first, because a lot of people are. You guys, we’re going to have another podcast. I promise. I’m going to be bringing someone from the financial space as well. But in many regards, of course you need money to start. That’s not a solution.

Monica Botkier
09:33
You need some money. Some money. But with my first business, it was a small loan from someone close to me at the time just to make samples, and I was able to build that business on wholesale. And that was a different time, though. This time around we’re self funded up into a point of lifting it out of the ground. And now in order to actually take it farther, we definitely will have funding and we’re working through how we’re going to approach that. But in the meantime, we’ve birthed it ourselves. And I think a lot of people have ideas and I think a lot of people talk themselves out of pursuing it. For me, you have to make the product. You have to prove the product if you’re doing something like this, right?

Monica Botkier
10:25
I mean, I’m always product based because that’s what my love is and my interest is. So to make that product, you have to prove it to yourself. You have to fall in love with the product that you’re making because how can you sell it to anyone, investor or consumer and everyone in between if you don’t love it and you don’t experience the benefits of it?

Lara Schmoisman
10:45
So that’s number also, you need to understand that making a product is not going to be the first product that works. You’re going to have a lot of.

Monica Botkier
10:54
Iterations and it can take many, or it can just take a few, but you’re always thinking about improving it. But I think that what’s more complex today is that the marketing is also very important and that also takes a big lift in terms of money, creativity. What are you trying to say? How to engage the consumer. There’s a lot of noise out there, so there are many layers of getting the business out of the ground.

Lara Schmoisman
11:22
I’m going to say this because you guys know that I have no filter about it already. And I feel like in a lot of entrepreneur business right now, I don’t know why there is so many consultants in this space or coaches that at the end of the day, I’ve been seeing that they are the only ones who make money without getting any tangible goods. I’m not saying that all the consultants are bad. I’m not saying that don’t work with them. I’m just saying do your research, but also make sure that if you’re going to be working with the consultants, what are you going to get at the end of the agreement? Or that you’re going to have different steps. Consultants are great if you get someone super specialized in what you’re doing, but ask a rasp questions.

Monica Botkier
12:11
Yeah, I mean, that’s a good point. I think that the business of coaching has exploded. And so you can be coached on every single aspect of your life. And it is pricey, too. There’s a commitment of time, there’s a commitment of money. I guess you have to align yourself with someone that you think you really look up to, what they’ve done and their synergy enough that you feel you can learn from them. But ultimately, I think that one of the bigger markers of success is also your network. To be able to lean on your network, to be able to feel supported by your network. And it doesn’t mean you have to be completely plugged in, because of course that really helps.

Monica Botkier
12:54
But even to be able to get in front of people and make a connection or two sometimes if you have a coach that perhaps is connected to somebody that can work well for you. Advisors are also important. But I do think you have to choose wisely because I’ve gone down the path here and there where I’ve engaged, and it’s nice to have a support. It feels like you have a person in your corner, kind of like your own personal team to help you realize your dreams. But at the end of the day, it can be very formulaic and you have to kind of see what’s working for you. And I would say choose wisely, but you’re absolutely right. There’s like a massive business, and I’ve.

Lara Schmoisman
13:38
Seen it so many times lately, that when product, and this was triggered by what you said about marketing. Marketing is a big expense in any business. It’s something that many times when people are developing products, they are not accounting for.

Monica Botkier
13:56
Absolutely.

Lara Schmoisman
13:56
And so when they get to me after they have the product, they have no budget for marketing. I can tell you people that you can get through a friend or a friend of a friend, you reach out and a lot of advice, people that they will talk to you for free. It’s not that you can knock them all the time, but they will have a conversation.

Monica Botkier
14:16
Oh, I do that all the time. Sometimes people will reach out to me because they want some advice on something and I like to give. Obviously it’s not going to be a multiple meetings, but definitely half an hour chat about. I love to give people direction. I recently actually was doing some consulting myself. Sometimes I do it as well, of course. And I had to give somebody some really harsh advice that they were putting the cart before the horse, like building out all of this stuff, financial plans, marketing plans, all of this. But they never actually made the product. And I know you can do it that way, really depending on the product. But I also felt like in this particular, the scale of this business was not going to be huge and the product itself needed to be realized.

Monica Botkier
15:11
I thought in 3d form from the marketing standpoint.

Lara Schmoisman
15:18
For example, someone asked me for a quote the other day to pitch them our services. I say, sure, but I need to know more about your business. They told me, they sent me a request for a proposal, which it had a lot of information on where they want to go, but I knew nothing about the product, so it wasn’t realistic for me to put a proposal. I said, I don’t know if I can get you there. I know nothing about the product. Haven’t seen it.

Monica Botkier
15:48
It’s true. I mean, I think what’s wonderful today, and what’s different, let’s say, starting a business today than 20 years ago, is that actually the barrier to entry is a lot lower. The word entrepreneur applies to a lot of people now. Before, it was a very specific person that would even allow themselves to even take that leap. Right? And then you have it commercialized like Shark Tank. And some of these, they’re really great companies that are coming out. So there’s a lot of inspiration and a lot of people are seeing alternative ways to make a living and express their desires for what they want out of their professional lives. And in a lot of cases, help people or bring something wonderful to market. But it’s a very full on ride and it’s nonstop and the beginning is very hard. It’s every little piece.

Monica Botkier
16:47
You do need to find some kind of a team, I feel. What’s really fascinating to me now is this current business, chosen woven, that I’ve started with Olga. We have a partnership. So that is nice to have someone to lean on and someone to divide and conquer with, in a sense. Right? But when I did it before, I was alone and I had some very supportive people around me. Not to say I was completely alone, but it’s a different understanding. And then the team that you build slowly but surely. That is a huge.

Lara Schmoisman
17:23
When you talk about team, you’re talking not only your assistant or when you build a team, it’s the factory that is working for you. It’s packaging, the agency, marketing, whatever. Those are your team. It’s not necessarily your core team.

Monica Botkier
17:43
Exactly. And a lot of it is fractional, too. If you can bring somebody in once a week, twice a month to help support you in a particular way, that’s who you have.

Lara Schmoisman
17:56
Startup, you don’t need more than that, but you need to get that specialty. I’m part of a group that I’m fractional. It’s a fractional community, actually, and that’s how I build my. I always call it that we’re like a fractional agency because we help as a whole team, but fractionally because I totally believe in the fractional needs. Not everyone needs a full time team.

Monica Botkier
18:24
Yeah, that really works both for companies and for contractors, basically because you have freedom to do whatever multiple jobs you want to do. And it allows the company to have support without having to be able to afford the full time support at that moment. So I think it’s a win. I think people are more flexible these days to work in different ways.

Lara Schmoisman
18:50
But also it’s super important to understand about the foundation or whatever you do, because from the beginning, have all your legal docs in a place.

Monica Botkier
19:02
The admin.

Lara Schmoisman
19:03
Yes, get all your admin, all your shipping. I mean, you need to be prepared. You can always need to be prepared. What happens if you have an order or a large order? Can you deliver? You need to have all those answers in place. I see in business failing because things happen and they weren’t prepared to deliver.

Monica Botkier
19:25
Right. Well, I can understand. I’m definitely one of those people that I’ll say yes, and I figure it out. And I would say nine out of ten times, it does work out. But it’s risky too. It’s certainly risky.

Lara Schmoisman
19:44
Well, I’m a yes person too, but I think with experience and over the years, we learn just to have a contingency plan, at least in our mind. We know I’m come also from the production side. So I’m always contingency. After contingency, what happened is a rainy day. What happened if this. You always have a plan. So that’s how I was trained. But you always need to have a foundation to know that you know who you go to if you have those questions or you have those problems. I think the worst thing is if you have a problem and you don’t know who to go to, right.

Monica Botkier
20:27
No, this is true. If you can’t solve it on a quick moment, it’s a problem. So you have to have backup, you have to have plan b. You can’t really give up.

Lara Schmoisman
20:38
No, you can’t go into business. I love that you say that because sometimes in entrepreneur world you feel like this is not working and you are so stressed about the money you put in, that is your seeding money, that when you start a business, you need to understand, this was my seeding money and I put it in. Now we need to make it work. And if it doesn’t work, what do you do? If it doesn’t work?

Monica Botkier
21:05
Yeah. Well, I do think it’s important to know when to walk away from something, but you also have to know yourself well enough to understand that those really tough days, they’re just tough days. And that you’ll get through this current business. Listen to the feed, listen to the tiny wins and let them build up as you push through. Because even if your business is flying and off the ground, you’re going to have a manufacturer have some kind of delay. There might be a weather problem, somebody is screaming at you because this wasn’t delivered or there was something wrong with the stitching. I mean, it is never not a problem.

Lara Schmoisman
21:46
Yeah. And you need to be prepared even how to deal. This is conversation I was having today, actually, with my team, that we always need to be ready and train our clients also how to deal with a bad review.

Monica Botkier
21:59
Oh, yeah.

Lara Schmoisman
22:01
With a bad comment. You need to learn how to, as a company, you need to be prepared for that. Because how you react as a company to a bad review or to a complaint from a customer is super important.

Monica Botkier
22:16
It is true. And I’m also a stickler for uniform branding. So all communications look a certain way and come across a certain way. So that is definitely my pet peeve.

Lara Schmoisman
22:32
Is that story. My pet peeve for all my clients. But also I think a lot of people, they don’t think that this is marketing, but how someone answers an email to a customer, that’s marketing too.

Monica Botkier
22:47
It is. It absolutely is. You have to have a little bit of a personal touch. The customer has to feel taken care of and cared about. I mean, trust through. I’ve gone through a lot and in the very beginning, like right now for chosen woven, Olga and I field all that stuff ourselves. And I did that 20 years ago with Bodcare in the very beginning, too. And then when you hand it off to people or an agency, I mean, an agency, you feel better about but when you early steps but not very beginning, when you hire somebody to take care of it still like letting go, it’s your baby, it’s your face on something, right? So you want to control.

Lara Schmoisman
23:28
I think this also from the agency point, I’m super respectful of my clients and their branding and their guidance. But sometimes as an agency and because we take data, we can see a lot in the data that is a missing piece. And I see a lot of the founders also so in love of what they want to communicate with their clients that maybe something is missing there. Open minded also because the trends change and also as the trends change, like for example for your brand, it could becoming very popular with a sector that you weren’t expecting.

Monica Botkier
24:14
Oh, totally. I think we’re trying to keep our eyes and ears open all the time to see if there’s movement in something and we are, we’re kind of starting to find the demographic is maybe a little bit different than we thought. And there’s also the idea of pushing into certain markets and things like that. So being aware of all of it at all times while trying to develop new products, while also pushing into new sales channels and marketing communications, all kinds of content to be creating and campaign and ecom imagery, I mean it’s a tremendous lift. So in the very beginning and actually for a long time, you have to look over it and be part of it and then eventually trust to let some of that go.

Lara Schmoisman
25:15
Even when you’re established brand, sometimes you need to refresh a little because otherwise we do a lot of email marketing, SMS marketing, you cannot always say the same thing. You need to refresh it once in a while.

Monica Botkier
25:29
Sure. And I think you need to be conversational, you should be engaging. But it’s hard from within the walls of your brand when you are sort of so inundated with your mission and your aesthetic and the control of all of that. It’s hard. But if you’re lucky enough to have an amazing partner or agency or creative outside, they can guide you. And you should listen because that’s idea.

Lara Schmoisman
25:59
At the end of the day that you as an entrepreneur, business owner, you can run your own business. And what you have to do as a business owner and not having to be stuck doing the little things like answering an email or doing an Instagram post, totally.

Monica Botkier
26:18
It’s hard to weigh because your hours are worth more. You’re planning and growing the company, but then on the other hand, you have to figure out where your cash goes. Time management is the big one for sure.

Lara Schmoisman
26:31
Always big so what’s next for you?

Monica Botkier
26:34
Well, right now, chosen woven is just a wonderful opportunity. We want to get this thing to be huge because we really feel like everyone can benefit. And it’s also healthy clothing close to your skin. So it’s an important movement. It’s good for the environment, it’s good for your body. It’s beautiful. And we want to be able to be in multiple categories. We see swimwear opportunities as well.

Lara Schmoisman
27:01
I love that.

Monica Botkier
27:02
Yeah. And really to crack the athleisure code there, because that clothing is so heavy with plastic and chemicals. And I’m sure you’ve been hearing a lot about, there have been some class action suits and things like that. So we have a long way to go, but our beginning is very bright. So right now the focus is here and then. I’m also a mom of three. I have one in college and two in high school.

Lara Schmoisman
27:30
Oh, I know. I have the same ages. So I can tell you.

Monica Botkier
27:34
Yes, I can tell you.

Lara Schmoisman
27:36
You think that it’s going to get easier. It doesn’t.

Monica Botkier
27:39
I would just say that the one in college is like, wonderful and easy. But the two at home are. They’re younger teens.

Lara Schmoisman
27:49
Once a mom, you’re always a mom.

Monica Botkier
27:52
Yes. And that takes a lot. When I started my other company, I was not a mom yet, so I had a couple of years of total focus, and then I was lucky enough to have some wonderful help along the way. So now it’s just different time all around. And I’m really grateful for the time that I’ve been able to lean in with them over the last five years, while I was sort of in between startups, I guess, for lack of a better way of putting it. So, yeah, I’m just going to keep on pushing and make sure everyone understands that merino, undies, bras, anything close to the skin is the absolute best material. And we want to really grow this brand. The key word for me, I thought of a word for 2024 in the new year, and that word is expansion.

Monica Botkier
28:43
So that means heart expanding. That means business expanding. That means finances, expanding opportunities, expanding experiences, like know, open to all things and growth.

Lara Schmoisman
28:58
I love that. Well, Monica, thank you so much for having coffee with us today and sharing so much of your journey and sharing all this piece of advice that you don’t realize how much it means to me and to everyone because you can learn so much from others and from experience and from this incredible journey that you’ve been on.

Monica Botkier
29:22
Well, thank you for the conversation. It’s always nice to put in perspective and meet other people on their journey, swap experiences and really learn from that. I mean, I think learning keeps us always excited, really.

Lara Schmoisman
29:37
And inspired and on our toes. I always keep me on my toes. Okay. Thank you so much. And to you guys. We will see you next week with more Coffee Number Five. Find everything you need at LaraSchmoisman.com. Or in the episode notes right below. Don’t forget to subscribe. It was so good to have you here today. See you next time. Catch you on the flip side. Ciao. Ciao.

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