Meet Bianca and Paola Muns, Owners of MUNS

by Jerome Knyszewski
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Bianca and Paola Muns, owners of MUNS

Bianca and Paola Muns took the work ethic, industry, and discipline they have learned from growing up surrounded by working people to start their own independent and family-owned luxury brand, called MUNS.

Since their youth, Bianca and Paola Muns were inspired heavily by fashion. They also had the privilege of working closely with their uncle in his jewelry company, which gave them the tools, experience, and habits they needed to run their own brand.

When Bianca and Paola Muns grew older, they decided to found their company, though they knew they still needed to gain more knowledge and expertise. For Bianca, she went to college and studied accounting, and then she went to work in “retail, merchandising, web development and product analysis.” Currently, she is studying interior design, her second major. Meanwhile, Paola also took a business major, but she studied digital design on her own, while gaining the relevant experience in production.

In 2015, Bianca and Paola Muns started MUNS as a jewelry line. Now, in 2020, the sisters decided to expand their products, eventually releasing clothing collections created through sustainable materials and methods. Along the way, they received help and support from their fashion colleagues, friends, and family, all of which paid off in the brand’s present success as the MUNS brand known today.

Check out more interviews with young business leaders here.

Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Bianca and Paola Muns: Hi! Thank you so much for having us, we are really excited to be here.

My name is Bianca Muns and the name of my business partner and sister is Paola Muns.

We were influenced from an early age by fashion and had the privilege of working with our uncle at his jewelry company in the 90s and we learned so much, mostly the do’s and don’ts. We really think this experience was the foundation of what MUNS is today.

As time passed, we knew we wanted to create our own brand: but first, we needed to expand our knowledge. Paola majored in business, independently studied digital design and gained experience in production methods. I studied accounting and gained experience by working in retail, merchandising, web development and product analysis.

Our company is 100% self-funded. We started with an initial investment of $600 and our first year was mostly selling and buying jewelry to raise capital. We have built from that and learned so much along the way.

Jerome Knyszewski: What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Bianca and Paola Muns: For me, the “Aha Moment” was working in the retail industry, having first-hand experience on how it works, and how quantity is valued over quality. I believe that the slow fashion movement should be more recognized and widespread. Building a brand with the opposite values that prioritized quality and responsible consumption all the while still being beautiful is a priority for me. Paola’s entrepreneurial spirit is at the core of who she is as a person, so she always wanted to have her own business. From a young age she was always up to something; selling brownies and other things at school.

In 2015, while having coffee, Paola approached me with the idea of making our own jewelry brand, I said yes! It was perfect timing since Paola had returned from studying abroad and I had just quit my job to focus on finishing my degree. From the start we had a clear vision of what we wanted the company to be but that didn’t happen overnight.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Bianca and Paola Muns: We launched MUNS in our home country; Puerto Rico. The island has gone through many obstacles in the past decades; therefore, it has not been smooth for us and many others. First, we have a failing economy; and in 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico destroying many properties and the islands’ entire electrical grid. We were without power for a few months which paralyzed and ended many businesses. But this did not stop us; on the contrary, it gave us more purpose. People were helping each other and somehow, very slowly, everything started going back into place. On May 2018, we signed the lease for our first brick and mortar store in the heart of San Juan — Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Us, Puerto Ricans are very resilient, and we don’t give up. This has never crossed our minds.

Jerome Knyszewski: So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Bianca and Paola Muns: On June 2018, after we opened our first store, we received a lot of support from other countries, locals and new initiatives. Everyone wanted to help, and I think that prepared us for what we are living today. Currently with the pandemic, everything is more challenging, but we are still fighting and giving 100% to our business. We have seen the results of these efforts with sales increasing by 30% even with a pandemic happening. We are so grateful to our community!

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Bianca and Paola Muns: When we first started, we made a few mistakes some of them funny and some not so funny as we lost money. But the funniest mistake that I can think of is when we designed a choker digitally (CAD) and sent it to production, when the sample arrived, it was 4 times the size it was supposed to be. I think the choker could have fit a bear, ha-ha. The ‘takeaway’ for this is to always make samples of your products before producing, a mistake like this can lead to losing a lot of money which can be crucial to a young business. Not only that but the waste created if sent to production without sampling. Always double check everything!

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a few examples of tools or software that you think can dramatically empower emerging eCommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?

Bianca and Paola Muns: An example of software or tools than in my experience have dramatically empowered my e-commerce business since the beginning is definitely Shopify and Instagram. Shopify is an e-commerce software where you can have one or several point of sales, see analytics, manage inventory, create and manage your website and ship orders, it is a very complete software for small and big brands. It is simple to navigate too, and the initial investment is very low. Instagram is great to create a community, share your brand and product and engage with old/new customers.

Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies an eCommerce business should use to increase conversion rates?

Bianca and Paola Muns:

  1. Abandoned cart emails.
  2. Discounts from time to time.
  3. Having messenger connected to your website to answer questions about the product.
  4. Product credibility.
  5. 10% discount on first emails.

Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that an eCommerce business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

Bianca and Paola Muns: I think this takes time, you launch a product and hope that your target market loves it, but it does not happen overnight or even with a purchase. Customers need to experience and try the product. Their level of satisfaction with the piece of clothing or jewelry, may turn into more purchases and product recommendations. Also, another thing that has helped us through the years is that we offer repair services for our pieces, we always help the client extend the lifespan of their purchase.

Jerome Knyszewski: Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful e-commerce business? Please share a story or an example for each.

Bianca and Paola Muns:

  1. Resilience:

At the start there will be days with no sales, maybe a week, don’t let this get to you. This will happen and even more so when you start from nothing. Things take time, keep working. Grow your business slowly, there is no rush. Enjoy the little steps!

2. Target Market:

You have to know what you are selling and to whom you are selling it to. Know your audience.

3. Delegate:

Your brand is your baby so it always feels very personal and delegating can be difficult. With time, I have learned that finding the right team to support you on daily tasks is essential. Delegating is a big step for growing any brand.

4. Listen to product reviews and ask your clients for feedback:

Listening to reviews of your products is very important. This will be key to keep improving your products and brand. Nothing is always 100% perfect.

5. Rest:

Find time for yourself, you will need it. Stick to routines.

Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?

Bianca and Paola Muns: You can follow our journey through our Instagram and shop our products at our website.

Thank you so much for having us!

Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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