Monica Banks is the founder and CEO of Gugu Guru, a highly-personalized one-stop-shop that guides parents and parents-to-be through the overwhelming baby gear market and planning process. Inspired by her teenage obsession with the quizzes in teen magazines, she thought to herself, “There should be a quiz that helps a mom discover her ideal baby registry based on her lifestyle and personal style.” That was her a-ha moment. And Gugu Guru was born. Featured in Parents Magazine, Washington Post and Huffington Post, Gugu Guru has been recognized for its innovation and impact in the new mom market. Monica shares with us her passion for environmental issues and the many lessons she’s learned from building a business.
“Whenever something has not panned out, which happens a LOT when you’re building a business, I seem to always be reminded by the universe that, good or bad, everything happens for a reason.” – Monica Banks
What makes you a Beyond Mom?
I think any mom – and this is probably most moms – who is always seeking to better herself as a mother and a person is a Beyond Mom. My biggest struggle as a mother is the guilt I carry around starting a company while my kids are so young. I try to mitigate those feelings of guilt by unplugging and stepping away from work regularly.
What are the parts of you that have grown and expanded since becoming a mom?
My empathy. My patience with others and also with myself. I have really tried hard to stop comparing myself to others and remind myself that social media is just the highlight reel. The reality is that most people, whether they choose to reveal it or not, are struggling through life.
Do you have a Beyond dream that you are pursing?
To help brands in the mom & baby space connect with the moms that need their products the most – and not just any mom but the “right” mom. Launching and marketing a product in the mom and baby space is so challenging today due to the amount of noise in the category. There are so many great products out there – many of those products actually created by moms to solve a problem – but not every product is right for every family. Moreover, expectant and new parents are already overwhelmed with the selection out there. I created Gugu Guru as a platform to match brands with the moms who are the best fit for their products.
What relationships and activities help you stay connected to yourself?
My relationship with my husband is key because nobody knows me as well as he does. He is not only supportive and reassuring – even when I am doubting myself – but a great sounding board for me both business-wise and personally. My relationships with my siblings (I am the youngest of seven kids) and parents are also a big way I stay connected to myself because they’ve known me my whole life and serve as a constant reminder of where I came from, who I am and how I was raised to be. As for activities, I try to exercise every day – even if it’s just 25 minutes. I also practice mediation regularly through the Calm app, which I love.
Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that you live by?
Originally I was going to say “Sometimes man’s rejection is God’s protection.” because whenever something has not panned out, which happens a LOT when you’re building a business, I seem to always be reminded by the universe that, good or bad, everything happens for a reason. However, recently I saw this quote that just deeply resonated with me so I want to share it. The quote is: “Two things prevent us from happiness; living in the past and observing others.” So true!
What causes and topics are you most passionate about right now?
Ever since I saw the recent IPCC report that we have 30 years to make the changes needed to avoid catastrophic global warming, I have been focused on that and the little and big changes I can make as an inhabitant of this planet. My friend, Christine, who is one of the most passionate people I know about the environment shared three simple things with me that we all can do to help: 1.eat less beef (beef and the growing of corn and soy to feed the cattle is one-third of the cause of climate change) 2. invest in renewable energy like solar power (or shop at / give your business to businesses that do like Apple, Kohl’s and TD Bank) and 3. Plant trees. If you can’t plant trees yourself, then support organizations who focus on reforestation like One Tree Planted.
How do you think we can change our culture from one in which a woman is expected to be a “perfect mother” to one in which she is encouraged to discover and explore her evolving self?
I think it starts with moms ourselves! All the judging and the shaming of each other needs to stop.
Favorite go-to’s for:
Beyond Food (what do you cook & where do you go locally?)
I have a couple dishes that I probably make once a week but I just bought an Instapot and I am trying to cook more to build my repertoire. As for here on Long Island, my family and I love our local diner, Dix Hills Diner, and go there almost every Saturday. It’s become a tradition at this point.
Beyond Content (Books & Podcasts)
I read a lot of business books: The Lean Startup, Built to Sell, The Messy Middle, The Creative Curve… I actually can’t remember the last book I read leisurely for pleasure. I *think* it may have been Most Talkative by Andy Cohen. (My guilty pleasure is anything on Bravo.)
My go-to retailers in a pinch are simply Old Navy and Loft. I just don’t have time to shop for myself so at least once a year (usually as a birthday gift from my husband), I get a box from the personal stylist and shopping service Thirty Something Fashion. It’s a business founded and run by Carly Walko and in my mind Carly defines influencer. I spend a lot of time on social media for work, and she’s one of the only people I follow that has shown a pair of sneakers, for instance, and I go to buy them immediately. Whenever I get a box from her, it’s like Christmas because I 100% know that there will be quite a few pieces in there that will serve as my wardrobe staples for the season if not longer.
Nothing clears my head like a run, usually with Apple Music’s Classic Rock station playing. I always seem to get my most creative ideas when I am in that running zone. Sometimes due to my schedule or the weather, a run is not possible so I enjoy doing either the 21 Day Fix or T-25 work-out DVDs. It’s not a work-out necessarily but I also play soccer and basketball with my son regularly.
Photo Credit: Johnny Milano