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Who said that cleaning and organizing had to be miserable and unimaginative? Not Monica Nassif. She founded Caldrea and Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day because she was tired of products with harsh chemicals, medicinal smells and lukewarm, inconsistent performance. Monica was inspired to give customers a different experience. A repeat entrepreneur, Monica left the corporate arena and started a marketing communications firm that she grew to 24 employees prior to launching Caldrea and Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day. With multilayered product fragrances like rose pomegranate and cypress bergamot, and single-note aromas like geranium and baby blossom, Monica is definitely cleaning up. In 2003 she authored Spring Cleaning: The Spirit of Keeping Home and in 2004 followed it up with Laundry: The Spirit of Keeping Home. Monica’s products have appeared in Women’s World, Star, Glamour, New York Magazine, In Style, Redbook and Better Nutrition. In 2008, the Minneapolis-based Caldrea Company was purchased by SC Johnson to expand distribution.
When Monica was working as a corporate marketing consultant, she had the opportunity to see all types of businesses, large and small, build brands, ruin brands, even ignore brands. She learned plenty about the time and attention it took to make a company successful. And, frankly, Monica was tired of helping launch brands for other clients and watching them succeed. She always dreamed of taking a concept from idea to market.
One day, during a visit to Atlanta, Monica stumbled across a pallet of cleaning products at a local store. The packaging looked horrible, all the bottles were knocked over and they had a big starburst saying “new.” Yet to Monica there was nothing new about it. In fact, the products were tired, toxic and horrible smelling. At that moment, Monica had her “eureka” moment when she thought, “Why can’t these products be great? Why can’t they be a desired purchase versus a necessary evil?”
On the plane ride home from Georgia, she wrote a one-page business plan. Monica couldn’t sleep that night so she knew she was on to something. She believed that cleaning products could be created and marketed much like personal care and cosmetics – delightfully fragranced, earth friendly, hard-working and beautifully packaged. According to Monica, “Caring for our homes should be just as luxurious as caring for our bodies.” Monica used a combination of her daughters’ names, Calla and Aundrea, to create her company name, Caldrea.
Once Monica launched the Caldrea brand in 1999, she realized that she had struck a chord with consumers by creating a premier cleaning experience through beautiful products and passionate know-how. As a result, she created the Mrs. Meyer’s brand to essentially knock off the Caldrea concept and offer a more affordable brand for the grocery stores and discounters. Monica named the second business after her mother because she is a true-blue inspiration for being authentic, hardworking, frugal, earth friendly, as well as a great cook, gardener and mother of nine. As a child of the depression, Monica’s mother operated by the motto, “Waste not, want not.”
Monica and her team of 65 employees have worked diligently to create cleaning products that consumers actually enjoy purchasing and using, much like their favorite personal care item. The products have lovely fragrances, work hard and perform, and are safe around the home, children and pets. That’s why from the start, long before it was the trendy thing to do, Monica used essential oils as part of the fragrances and plant-desired surfactants from renewable resources. In addition, all of the products are biodegradable and are not tested on animals.
Caldrea products are sold mostly at specialty shops like the Container Store, high-end grocery stores like Whole Foods Market and other upscale locales. Monica’s company also produces a collection of cleaning products for Williams-Sonoma. Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day can be found at Target and Whole Foods.
Monica’s business vision is to continue to create brands that consumers love to purchase and love to use, made by people who love to come to work every day. She believes, “If we do this right, we will have a very successful company for the long haul.”
What we learned from Monica:
“Oftentimes it’s easier to build a system for execution before you do the hard work of making sure you have the right strategy – which is the essential work of business. So you need to ensure you’re going down the right path before you start building the roadway.”
“The more you can be self-aware of your talents and your weaknesses, the better you’ll make decisions about how to surround yourself with complementary talent and resources. I have learned this lesson the hard way.”
“Show people the vision – where you want to go and why. Treat people like adults. That is, let them run their own show. Hold them accountable. Take your work seriously, but not yourself.”
“Place your problems in perspective. No one died and no small children were injured. This is my mantra when things go awry in business because I used to be a secretary in the emergency room during college. I saw a lot of horrible injuries and illnesses. We’re just making soap.”
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