[00:00:00] The biggest challenge of it is like what you’re saying is it, the work never leaves. Right. Especially like when you’re at. I don’t know if it’s just like as an entrepreneur, like I’m sure a lot of people take their work home with you.
Brian Bloom: And it means even more about that and how kind of in the COVID post COVID days, cause oftentimes work from home, but, uh, but it follows you around everywhere, right? Like there’s, there’s, you’re not just your responsibility to shareholders, to your employees, to your customers is like always there. So it’s not like you go home and you turn it off and as a parent, right?
Monica Royer: Welcome to The Mentor Files. I’m your host, Monica Royer, founder and CEO of Monica Andy. Join me as I chat with leaders across the fields of entrepreneurship, parenthood, health, and lifestyle. This season we’re digging deeper than ever before to learn the story behind the story. Think of the show as one part Audible MBA and one part certification to be the confident CEO of your own life.
Here we go.
I’m thrilled to welcome [00:01:00] Brian Bloom to The Mentor Files. As my Monica and Andy co founder, Brian and I have been on quite the journey together, but rarely, if ever, do we sit down and reflect, especially during a recorded conversation. This is truly a first. Through the years, Brian has become like a member of the family and he’s gone from being a bachelor to a married father of two.
I really enjoyed this conversation about how we’ve evolved together and what lessons we’ve learned about business, which have gone a long way. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
Welcome to the mentor files. I’m your host, Monica Royer, and I’m very excited today to introduce you to one of my favorite people, somebody that I talked to at least, I don’t know, 50 to 60 times a day. I’m pleased to introduce you to Brian Bloom, my co founder, Brian. Welcome.
Brian Bloom: Thanks for having me.
Monica Royer: Yeah. Would you say it’s accurate the 50 to 60 times a day of
Brian Bloom: Yes, but never with cameras and microphones.
Monica Royer: Yes. I do feel like this is a little more formal than some of our general conversations.
Brian Bloom: Most formal, yes.
Monica Royer: Yeah. As we get into the season of the podcast and we have a little bit more of an intimate look behind motherhood and entrepreneurship felt like Brian was somebody really important to introduce everybody to. We have worked together since 20, almost the brand launched in 2014, but we really started working together in 2013.
Brian Bloom: Yeah, probably the very end of 2013.
Monica Royer: And as I first met Brian, he was, and don’t quote me, and we won’t go into the age, but Brian was a bachelor just finishing [00:02:00] up his MBA at business school. And for whatever reason, Brian decided to take a chance and work with, um, work with me on a baby business at a time before you had babies.
Brian Bloom: Very passionate about baby clothes as a single bachelor.
Monica Royer: So tell me a little bit, but tell everybody a little bit, Brian, about how we met and you actually decided to take a chance on working with me.
Brian Bloom: Yeah, so we met, I went to undergrad at Northwestern, um, and there was a person who I met my freshman year, lived on my hall, uh, named Sabina, and I hadn’t seen her in Probably close to a decade. And I bumped into her one day, my second year of business school. And the long story short is Sabina was your cousin.
Um, I was taking the non traditional route, probably exiting business school. Like most folks were going into finance and banking and consulting. And I wanted to. Have the experience of building something. So it was kind of thinking more of the startup route. Uh, and I caught up with Sabina over coffee [00:03:00] and, um, she was there touring the school that day.
And she called me about a week later and told me, Hey, my, my cousin, Monica is thinking about starting this baby brand. Her brother is Andy Dunn and he started Bonobos. I had been a big fan and customer of Bonobos, um, from the very early days. Uh, funny enough. Um, and it actually met Andy a couple of times, like randomly.
So. It was, uh, you know, I think somewhat of a serendipitous bump in that turned into this and one day I’ll determine, I think, you know, looking back, if it was perhaps the best day or worst day of my life, but, uh, that is yet to be determined.
Monica Royer: be determined. We’ve been having fun ever since. It’s so true. You know, I think it’s interesting as I think about it, I think, as I was thinking about, um, a co founder, actually, when I started really thinking about Monica and Andy, my daughter had just been born. At home as a mom and I had watched the evolution of Andy build the business of Bonobos and so as I got closer to doing things, I thought, you know, I think I need [00:04:00] a co founder and somebody to build this with me and to really, um, you know, to really support in the areas that I felt like.
That I had weaknesses. Unfortunately for Brian, the list of weaknesses is long. So there was, there was a long list of things that probably need to be covered off on. And I think as I look back on it now, as if you’re thinking about it, getting a co founder or a partner in business, I think one of my biggest learnings is.
You really have to have a lot of the same values and like value a lot of the same things and you know Somebody that’s been married for oh my gosh 17 years at this point I feel like for my husband and I that was one of the things I think back on a lot too It’s like wow, we we share a lot of the same values and so I don’t think we realized it at the time but it’s like We’ve kind of evolved in the same direction as humans, which is, which is how we’re very fortunately still married.
And I think business partnerships is a similar relationship in that sense, in the sense that you’re putting the success of your future in somebody else’s hand and saying, Hey, I want somebody to be making equal [00:05:00] decisions with me on this. And so I, I wasn’t. I think I was knowledgeable enough at the time to have been evaluating Brian for all of those things.
But I think having like a really good human being as somebody that founded the company with me. And I think as I think about Brian and for, of course, those of you that know, don’t know him. Not only is he one of the hardest working people that I know. Working. Equally hard to me, if not harder at things, but he’s a good person.
And I think if you’re, if you’re thinking about a business partner, obviously you want somebody with the right skillset, but the type of human being that you work with is going to matter. And I don’t think I knew that in the early days. I was just lucky to, to have Sabina in my corner and making that introduction.
Brian, as you’ve evolved now, you’re a bachelor when I met you. That’s when we started the company and my daughter Bella traveled with us. I have to say Brian was. It’s an absolute same. Like a lot of times you were helping me like throw her stroller in the overhead compartment and she’s been with us almost every step of the way.
You now have a beautiful wife, Alison, two [00:06:00] gorgeous little girls. Tell me a little bit about how your perspective has changed on the business. I mean, obviously they can wear the clothes now, which is
Brian Bloom: Yeah. I’m an end user of the product. Uh, so, and there’s obviously the perk of, um, of having great access to baby clothes, which is nice and kids clothes. Um. I actually think that’s the biggest it’s like, I, I didn’t connect, I always connected with the business, right? Like you’re building the business and you’re passionate about what you’re building and you obviously see the big opportunity to go in and disrupt a space and build, you know, uh, you know, a company, but also like deliver great value to your customers.
But I don’t think it was until I was a parent myself that obviously like I was an end user of the product, but like you connect with the product in a different way. And as you know, I’m. There’s certain products that like, we just do way better than others. And like, I say it a lot, you know, to the team. Um,
Monica Royer: hooded
Brian Bloom: yeah, our, our towels are just spectacular.
Like I was like, you know, like [00:07:00] we have, you know, people gift you product. Funny enough, like even when you’re at the helm of a, you know, baby kids brand, like I still get clothes as gifts for the kids sometimes, which I always think is like a little bit funny. Um, but now I can see it side by side against other products.
And it wasn’t until I was a parent myself and my kids were. You know, using the product that you actually see and you connect with it in a different way. And same with the creative and the content, right? Like a lot of our brand is about, I would say the building, the community. Right. And so like being able to attend the events with our kids and like, you know, Alison, my wife going to some of the kind of the workshops and the talks that we host for, for moms and for parents, like you just consume it and you see the brand in a different way.
And I think. It resonates more now than it did then, you know, then pre pre kids.
Monica Royer: Definitely. And what about, I feel like I want people to understand the real behind the scenes of what business is like, and you’d say motherhood or parenthood. [00:08:00] I think one of the things that people don’t see, and I feel like you’re going to share a very similar sentiment to me on this, is it’s hard. Like, this has been a hard, hard work.
Like, is it hard? I know it’s. Harder for me, and I shouldn’t be surprised. I saw how hard it was as Andy was building bonobos. My husband is also an entrepreneur. We’ll get a chance to talk to him this season as well. But I think the stuff, the stuff that people can’t see is, you know, Brian and I are still on zoom sometimes.
7 30 p. m. where the work never leaves us. And so it doesn’t matter if we’re on a plane. It doesn’t matter if we’re on vacation. There’s always something to do, but I’m wondering what your perspective is of it now versus what you thought it might be like.
Brian Bloom: Yeah. I mean, behind the scenes is kind of a scary place. Um, but, but also where all the fun happens. Right. So I think the biggest, the biggest challenge of it is like what you’re saying is it, the work never leaves. Right. Especially like when you’re at. I don’t know if it’s just [00:09:00] like as an entrepreneur, like I’m sure a lot of people take their work home with you.
And it means even more about that and how kind of in the COVID post COVID days, cause oftentimes work from home, but, uh, but it follows you around everywhere, right? Like there’s, there’s, you’re not just your responsibility to shareholders, to your employees, to your customers is like always there. So it’s not like you go home and you turn it off and as a parent, right?
Like if we’re, you know, part of the podcast here is like talking about like what that’s like as a parent. It’s like. That’s challenging, right? Like I, you know, your phone kind of follows you everywhere is kind of attached to the hip and your kids see that. And I, that’s something I’ve had to be a lot more conscious of since having kids, cause, um, you know, cause they see you constantly working, constantly like checking your phone and, and I don’t know how healthy that is in the long run, um, but you’ve been, you know, I’ve watched the way that Bella has watched you build a business.
And I like. I aspire to have that with my kids as they grow older, like seeing that side [00:10:00] of it. And my parents are both entrepreneurs. That was what inspired me to go and do something different. Right. And take a slightly different path. And, um, and so, yeah, I don’t know if that really even addresses the question you’re asking, but
Monica Royer: Oh, it does, I think, and I share that same perspective and, you know, Bella’s a little bit older than Marnie and Blair. So I’ve been on the. Journey for a little bit longer, but I will say that that’s another really important part of the partnership with Brian and I is that, um, we don’t always agree on everything that’s happening from a business perspective.
And I actually think that’s strong. You don’t want an echo chamber as you’re building something. You want somebody that’s going to be strong enough to tell you what they think and for their opinion to. Be divergent from what you’re thinking. I think is really is a really important thing, but I think that fundamentally we’ve both tremendously supported each other from a personal perspective.
So I feel like in the time I’ve known Brian, you know, I’ve had 3 miscarriages and multiple and all of these other things happening. That no matter we’re working so hard on a day to day basis, but whatever happens in our personal lives, like if something [00:11:00] comes off, I feel like we’ve always got each other’s back to think, all right, like, how can we support until this person is completely back in action?
And I think that, all right. And our head of people often says, says this, like if you’re a close knit team. You’re living life together. You’re working together. And so I think sometimes as I reflect on the most fun moments, it’s never the big occasions. The big occasions are always kind of stressful. And, but the, the fun occasions are the times that we’ve actually gotten to have our family spend time together or travel together, be able to go out to dinner and actually get to meet people beyond the zoom lens.
I think obviously we spent a lot of time in person working together, but we spent a whole lot of time on zoom since COVID too. And so I think the opportunity to, to get to know each other’s personal lives is. It has been, it has been really nice as well.
Brian Bloom: definitely. I mean, I consider, I mean, like you guys are an extension of my, I certainly spend more time with, with Monica than I do my own family. Uh, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or
Monica Royer: Well, that, but that is a good point. It’s like, if you’re looking for a partner in [00:12:00] business, you could spend more time with this person than you do with your own family. And so you have to choose wisely.
Brian Bloom: Legitimately in the early, early days, pre wife and kids, I went on family vacations with you. Like I was like your parents and Bella and Rob and, and then me.
Monica Royer: Yes. And then I think of the one area where I should have learned from Brian is he got a dog. And I mean, I saw how difficult it was to have a dog and then we got a dog. I think our opinion is dogs are probably harder than kids, but we can debate that back and forth. So Brian, tell everybody a little bit as we look behind the scenes of how your job even has evolved since we work together, because I think part of entrepreneurship is also this idea that you found a company and you start out doing one thing, but over time, it feels like you have to evolve in your job has to evolve as well.
So I don’t literally mean the job you’re doing necessarily, but some of what you thought you would do in the early days and sort of what, what you’re actually doing now.
Brian Bloom: Yeah, I mean, I think in the [00:13:00] early days, it’s, you’re a, you’re in the business, you’re a player, right? And like, as the business grows, you move from kind of player to player coach and Eventually, I haven’t gotten there yet, but like, I presume one day more to just coach, um, as the team grows and like the work that you’re doing changes.
Right. And I think one of the other things we often talk about is like, as the bigger, as the business gets bigger, the problems get bigger, um, and more stressful. So I think that’s another element of the job, but I think. The biggest transition is like in the early days, it was you and me, right? It was it like everything that we did, like whether it was, you know, legal, getting legal set up or raising money or building a pitch deck or like literally picking and packing orders that was us, right?
Monica Royer: Thank goodness it’s not us anymore because we were not good at picking
Brian Bloom: yeah, we were, we were, it took a long time to pick and pack an order. Um, shockingly long, not efficient, but like that evolves, right? Like you move, you kind [00:14:00] of. You kind of move beyond the, you got your hands on every single dial. And the beautiful thing is like, you get to bring more specialized talent into all of these areas of the business.
Um, and really start to learn from those folks as opposed to like having to learn it and figure it out and do it all yourself. So I would say that’s probably like the biggest evolution and we’re still evolving, right? Like we’re bringing, you know, as you bring, continue to bring talent into the business, like.
The job changes on a daily basis, weekly basis, annual
Monica Royer: It does. I think that one of the biggest surprises for me, even as I’m hearing you say that are thinking about it to your idea of sort of like the bigger kids, bigger problem. If you think about a business from that perspective is it never gets easier. It’s, it’s, as you said, it’s like different types of stress.
And I think the thing that I’ve learned about myself, and if you’re thinking about starting a business is you kind of have to enjoy the stress. And I think if there’s two things that Brian and I, one [00:15:00] of them will admit to enjoying and the other one, I don’t think we would admit to enjoying as we both love coffee.
So I feel like we drink each what multiple too much coffee a day, but I think I wouldn’t say we enjoy stress. But I think that we’ve learned to live with it in a different sense, because I can remember in the early days, like these feelings of panic that would bubble up. Oh, X, Y, Z is going wrong and we need to make it right.
And I still feel the panic to a certain degree when things happen, but you learn to tolerate, like, higher and higher levels of stress and panic over time. And I think even Irene or the executive coach that we’ve worked with, like, You build, you build something within yourself that allows you to go up and down a little bit more so we can come off of a really stressful day and turn it off maybe.
And then you turn it right back on like a few hours later, but you almost have to do that to survive, to kind of bring yourself down. And I struggled more with that in the early days. I feel like that’s something that I’ve got, I’ve just gotten more used to
Brian Bloom: Yeah, I think, I don’t know if you fully [00:16:00] turn it off, but you’re right. Sometimes you have to learn to, to dial it down and dial it back up because otherwise, yeah, it just follows you around. I think part of that, at least from my perspective is when you, when you know, like. You’ve been doing this long enough to know, like, you’re just going to figure it out, right?
Like one way or another, like whatever the challenge is, like we’ve dealt with some challenges, right? We’ve dealt with pandemics. We’ve dealt with, we’ve dealt with a lot of things over the last, whatever it is, eight years. Like you just know that one way or another, like you may have to make tough decisions, you know?
And, um, but if you’ve got a good partner and you know, that like you’ve got someone by your side, plus good investors, good advisors, like a table around us, it’s not always just you and me that are having to make decisions. Um, that you’re going to figure it out. And I think that helps, you know, I think it certainly like you may not sleep great at night, but at least you can fall asleep at night sometimes knowing that like one way or another, like we’re going to solve the problem and we’ll figure it out and we’ll move on.
And there’s another day on the other.
Monica Royer: definitely of all the [00:17:00] advisors that we’ve worked with. Cause I think that Brian and I have been fortunate. We’ve had. Wonderful investors. We’ve had wonderful community around us. Great advisors. Is there anyone that stands out in your mind, Brian, as somebody that you’re like, Hey, we’ve learned the most from a single person, or is it sort of multiple people for us?
Cause as people are thinking about getting investors or getting advisors, like, what do you feel like we’ve gotten the most out of?
Brian Bloom: Oh man, that’s a, that’s a very difficult question. I don’t think there’s any single individual. I feel like there’s certain people that have pushed us along the way. I mean, like your brother obviously has been a tremendous advisor. Um, Um, you know, I’ve watched him for, for many years. I, right, he transitioned out of his company, like watching the exit, watching that whole thing was with the behind the scenes kind of seat was a pretty neat place to be.
And then obviously like what he’s done personally as well. And like what he’s, you know, he’s built a, a tremendous voice for, for mental health. Like I think that’s, I don’t know so much advisor, but maybe [00:18:00] like role model in some ways. But, but we have other like fantastic investors like without Bobby. This business doesn’t get to anywhere near where it has today.
But also like, you know, I, I think we’ve learned a lot just as leaders, right. And like how we manage the business, how we think about planning the business and from, from people like him. So I don’t think there’s any. Single individual, I can say, I think there’s just certain things you kind of pick up along the way, and we’re still continuing to pick up, whether it’s from our board or from investors or people that we meet.
Monica Royer: I think it’s great to hear you say this, because I think so many of our conversations are for other people. We’re having conversation with team. We’re having conversation with investors or advisors. And it’s funny because we’ve done so many of them over time that even on zoom, Brian, I don’t have to like, be looking at each other because he’ll know when I’m going to stop saying something and when he can start or which questions, which of us are going to answer, which is kind of fun.
But I think as I reflect on it and think about, you know, people out there that are thinking about starting their own business or. [00:19:00] We’re thinking of bringing investors and advisors. I think people that can tell you the hard truths has probably been one of the best things for us. And I think that includes Bobby and that includes Andy.
Sometimes as you’re mentoring people, you want them to feel good about things. And I think even as I’ve been doing that for other folks, or as you and I have done that, you really have to, to tell people the truth. Of what you think or to be able to see around that corner for them is so hard. And sometimes it’s so hard to take that advice.
And I think 1 evolution that I think I’ve seen for us is that we’re less afraid of some of those hard conversations. And now we’re just saying, all right, it doesn’t matter. We got to go out and talk about this. We got to get the right advice. And I think it’s taken. A long time to build up the, the bravery to go out and some of these conversations and really hear what people think.
But I think that has been 1 of my biggest takeaways is being able to get feedback from great folks and being able to take that, that feedback and incorporate it. And I think it doesn’t mean that you have to go and do what everybody’s telling you to do, but to really internalize. The things about yourself that you can improve, the things about [00:20:00] the business that you can improve, the things about the brand you can improve.
And I think in the early days, it’s hard. You’re so excited about the idea. What could possibly be wrong with the way you’re thinking about it? And I think that’s a big evolution that both of us have had to make.
Brian Bloom: Yeah. But if everybody always tells you you’re doing things perfect and right, you never evolve. So I think that those have been probably the most, uh, Productive conversations, right? Whether it’s a board meeting or meetings with, you know, Bobby or Andy or anybody else, but getting the truth, right? That’s what you need.
Like, what are we not doing? Right? Because that’s, that’s how the business gets pushed forward. And I would say on the other side of that, as a leader, like something I’ve seen you do very, very well, like in the early days, we always wanted to make people feel better. Right? But like, if you’re talking to team or you’re talking to partners or like whatever it is, it’s, It’s the hard conversations that actually propel everybody forward.
So I think something we’re still, you know, personally, like I still got to get better at, right. But, but [00:21:00] that’s right. Like you’re, if it’s someone that’s working with us, right. And the business, like if we’re not having those hard conversations with them, we’re not pushing them forward. Right. And that’s something that we’ve taken away, I think, from, from the advisors that we have.
Monica Royer: Absolutely. And I feel like we could keep talking, Brian. There’s so many more things that I want to dive into with you. So I feel like this is only part one of our conversations together. But I’m so grateful that you joined me today today.
Brian Bloom: Thanks for having me.
Monica Royer: Outro three, two, one. Thank you for tuning into this episode of the mentor files. This was truly a unique recording experience. I’m so glad you got to hear more from Brian as we talked about our business partnership and personal growth. For more, check out Monica and Andy. com. If you have an extra minute, I would be so grateful if you could subscribe to and rate the mentor files, wherever you listen to podcasts, I’m your host, Monica Royer, I’ll be back with another episode soon. Welcome to the mentor files. I’m your host, Monica Royer, and I’m very [00:22:00]