Take Monday: For A Life More Organised
Claire Delap founded Take Monday, a range of clear, watertight travel pouches and bags using biodegradable, colourful canvas, that make a super chic alternative to the airport ziplock.
How did you start Take Monday? As a casting producer, I spent most of my twenties travelling. Production travel is particularly fraught with packing, and the ziplock bag was a huge part of how we stayed organised. It always struck me how useful they were in the travel process. But at the time we weren’t so aware of the damage being done by single use plastic. The gap was there; I decided to create washbags which were premium but didn’t use leather, that were clear but didn’t use PVC, and that were functional, durable and beautiful. Following that, I tried to find a product designer and we worked on putting some prototypes together. It took a long time but eventually I found a manufacturer in Italy who was willing to work with us on such a small run, and then spent the rest of our time getting ready to launch an e-commerce site. The time from idea to our first stock delivery was almost two years.
What do you love most about Take Monday? I am in love with our products! It sounds a bit simple but because it was something so new and something which I really wanted to exist but didn’t, the joy it brings me to hold my products, and to put them to use every day, to put them in other people’s hands is still an incredible feeling.
What are Take Monday’s brand values? I wanted to make something beautiful and of high quality, but accessibly priced, to bring a bit of joy and fun to the packing process. I’m very conscious of making sure we don’t greenwash because although we try and do everything in the most sustainable way possible, it's difficult to argue that producing travel bags is helping the planet. Having said that, the goal has always been to reduce the single plastic bags used in travel. I also wanted to create a business that somehow gave back, which is why we give 5% of profits to a small charity who does fantastic work.
Tell us more about the charity and why you chose it? I wanted to build something which did something more than just generate profit, just like lots of companies. I decided to build in a simple mission of always giving 5% of profit to do something good. But as it's not my area of expertise, I knew the best thing was to find someone who was doing something really good, really well and hand over to them. Hands Up is a young and innovative charity that funds health and education programmes in Syria and neighbouring countries. I was introduced to it by one of the Trustees, George who is a good friend of mine. Their aim is to make a positive difference to Syrians in need. They work directly with local organisations who know the needs and context of their local communities better than anyone. It was knowing someone who could tell me directly about what they do, and their simple, positive and transparent work which made me choose them.
What are you working on right now? What’s next? Working on building wholesale client lists, and growing the retail side at the same time. Testing some new products for our next collection. Testing marketing strategies, seeing what works. My focus is all over the place, but I’ve tried to set myself a schedule of one subject per day, e.g. press, wholesale, marketing. That way I can get properly into the tasks instead of dashing around between multiple tasks (which is my greatest vice).
Where do you want Take Monday to be in 5 years’ time? In five years’ time I’d like us to be turning over in the 100s of thousands, selling globally both online and in really cool spaces, with a collection full of variety, fitting to all the different ways we travel.
Claire, founder of Take Monday, tells us about her journey to building the brand and business, mistakes and learnings, and the best advice she has received and would give to others.
Who or what was most helpful when you first started? My friends and husband who spent hours listening to me banging on about this “fantasy” product I was developing, and who were always around to be a sounding board, or give honest feedback. Who reminded me that this was something real, and who have always been willing to help in any way. One friend Emma placed an order while I was testing the website. We were still about two months away from receiving stock, but she was just so keen and had obviously been checking the URL. Now that’s support!
How has your home and family life influenced you and your brand? The Korean influence I mentioned already, but I actually grew up in a very messy home which I think might have made me such a lover of efficiency and organisation! My mum has a very bold style so I think that affects the colour palette, and we travelled a lot as children so I think that’s what started my interest in the way we travel.
Who has inspired, supported and mentored you? In terms of mentors, I paid a couple of experts to help me in different ways, one was when I was choosing whether to manufacture in China or Italy. When I moved to Paris I started working in a coworking space and the people I met there became an invaluable network, always willing to chat about an issue or offer an opinion or some advice. The product designer I worked with from the beginning (and who still works with me) has always gone above and beyond to help and support me, she even travelled to Paris on her own dime to visit our stand at our first trade show.
Best advice you’ve received from others? “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you didn’t launch early enough”. My friend Aaron told me this and it was such good advice to hear early on where you’re so nervous about showing anything to the world that you basically try and keep it all a secret. The best thing you can do is just start. Launch the website. Put up photos which aren’t perfect. Anything can be refined later, but you won’t really understand your brand until it's alive and people are interacting with it. It also forces you to keep moving forward. As long as the idea is just an idea, there’s no impetus to push it.
Who most influences you and your brand? I love learning about the stories of other brands who started on a whim, and by people who had no prior knowledge/experience in that field. The two best examples of this are Sara Blakely of Spanx, and Sarah Kauss of Swell. I listen to their stories over and over, how they just rolled with their ideas, pulled every punch to get their products into stores big and small.
What struggles have you overcome? The obvious one is starting a travel accessories brand during Covid-19. Online sales ground almost to a halt and buyers were furloughed. Although honestly, that wasn’t so hard. Getting someone to manufacture the products was definitely the hardest part, and negotiating/managing all of that with absolutely no experience was pretty terrifying.
Can you tell us about any sacrifices you’ve made? Honestly, nothing feels like a sacrifice. Lots of hard work and sleepless nights, but it's all completely worth it to know I’m building something of my own. Hard work and sleepless nights come with the job of a producer anyway, so given that’s what I was doing previously, it's nothing I’m not used to. There’s also nothing else I’d rather be using my savings on. This feels like the “thing” I'm supposed to do.
Are there any mistakes you’ve learned from? So many mistakes. A few every single day! But the biggest lesson is to bring in experts when you’re truly over your head! Even if it seems like something you can’t afford, you can find a consultant in almost any field available to hire by the hour these days, so make sure you ask someone's advice if you’re lost or don’t know how to handle something.
What have been your top three milestone moments so far? The first customer to purchase online who I didn’t know (or who wasn’t a friend of a friend)! The first major retailer to sign the brand (we just signed with a big French department store) First press mention - seeing the brand name in the Irish Times! (We only launched in January so these small steps are still huge to us!)
What advice would you give? The advice I’d give is to test your product as much as you can as early as possible. For example, bring prototypes to a trade show before manufacturing. Get real people’s opinions, people who aren’t your friends. They’ll be more brutal with you. Find out what real people think they’re worth, if they would ever buy them. (I didn’t do this by the way, but I should have!)