Meet Monique Hoell, founder of Europe’s fastest growing direct to consumer cosmetics company
Based in Berlin, Monique Hoell is the founder of HelloBody, Europe’s fastest growing direct to consumer cosmetics company, boldly producing authentic, high-energy and natural skincare. She’s not here with tips on toning though, nor is the beauty industry where she imagined herself landing five years ago.
Hedoine founder Alexandra first met Monique in 2015. What began as a ‘start-up sidekicks’ kind of relationship between the pair, has morphed into a friendship that will last beyond beauty. And while they both love talking about business and bouncing ideas off one another, their WhatsApp chat couldn’t be more sarcastic and their phone conversations rarely involve the weather. In Alex’s words, Monique offers the straight-to-the-point feedback everyone needs. Determined and practical - with drive to envy.
This fierce-ness and focus is what saw HelloBody recently sell for a nine-digit figure and as Monique begins the official wrap on the last five years of her career, we thought it was the perfect time to reflect and report back. Don’t go expecting fluff or forced answers in this interview though.
This is a Monique-style, straight-to-the-point, three minute read - the equivalent of a dry martini, with a few extra olives.
You have been building HelloBody for close to five years and just recently sold it for a nine-digit figure to Henkel making it one of Europe’s largest D2C sales in history. How did you celebrate this major milestone, five bottles of wine for five years?
We didn’t celebrate with the big closing dinner I would have liked - maybe that might have been different if it hadn’t been for Covid - however we have actually always managed the business in a lowkey way to begin with so it was quite fitting how it turned out. Once the sale had gone public it became real and I had dinner with my co-founders Bjoern and Gennadi. We had some great food and two or three very nice bottles of wine while reflecting on the one-of-a-kind experience that we had just lived through together. And then business continued as usual!
What’s your favourite indulgence?
It depends on my mood and cravings, plus traveling to remote areas and experiencing the weight of the world often allows me to re-set my priorities. That said, I do LOVE to dine out. From food markets to Michelin restaurants - I love to try new things and places, so food is my favourite indulgence by far.
Knowing now that building a company you care about takes time and energy, what would you say helped you to not give up in times of turmoil?
My team. Knowing I’ve put together this brilliant bunch of people that I have wanted to see evolve and grow.
There will always be someone with more than you: knowledge, power, money, contacts. It‘s easy to be influenced by that. Know your worth, trust your gut.
What was the hardest moment whilst running your business and why? How did you overcome it?
It can be lonely when tough decisions need to be made - you start to move in spheres where there’s no one else to share the experience with. I remember longing for someone to give me advice on the challenges I was facing, or someone to just simply tell me ‘I know the feeling!’ – but there literally wasn’t a single woman in Europe that had done what I had done within the industry, which felt isolating sometimes. All experiences are individual though – be it my personal one or be it the ones of other executives.
I’ve been working with an executive coach for about three years and having someone challenge you to set a frame and put things into perspective is a massive support, and something I would recommend to every high level executive.
What is the boldest decision you’ve ever made?
They all revolve around travel. At 19 I packed my belongings and flew to a foreign country to start a new life. Into the blue without having a solid plan - and only a few bucks in my pockets. At 25 I took a backpack and travelled through South America by myself - without speaking a word of Spanish. Very recently I went hiking in the Caucasus alone. I love to challenge myself - and I try to on a daily basis or a bigger scale when opportunity arises.
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned professionally?
There will always be someone with more than you: knowledge, power, money, contacts. It's easy to be influenced by that. Know your worth and trust your gut.
Having known you for many years now, I would say one of your biggest strengths is leading people and keeping a cool and clear head when things get hectic. Would you agree with that? If so, what’s your secret?
I believe that every person by nature has a specific set of virtues. I’m grateful that amongst others, mine include being very rational. Another thing that drives me is a massive longing for fairness. There’s my level-headedness again! Other than that, you don’t need to be a natural born … entrepreneur, manager or leader. If you are honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, a lot of virtues can be learned.
What does authenticity / being authentic mean to you?
Authenticity for me means having a specific and individual set of morals that you speak and act upon. Your morals make you predictable, in a good way. Being truly authentic always means being somewhat predictable. You and me - we don't have to share the same values or have to agree on everything - but I trust and value people I know I can rely on. Authenticity and predictability play major parts in building trust.
Many believe that to be successful in your career as a woman means adopting more “masculine” traits. How have you navigated the balance between being "the boss" and being feminine?
I don't. Neither am I perceiving myself as a boss.
Also I‘m not actually a big fan of gendered expressions like Bossgirl, Mompreneur, She-E-O or anything similar. I lead, challenge, guide and enable. I help make decisions and set frames to create an empowering and trustful environment to enable more people to make more decisions. I'm a woman and I'm an entrepreneur. That's it. No more, no less.
Would you say personal growth follows company growth, or the other way around? And why?
Both. But both need to be consciously managed. Growth doesn’t just happen. It’s hard work, it’s making decisions, it’s making tough decisions. At times it’s also making the wrong decision and learning from that. It’s not linear. All of this applies to organizational as well as personal growth. Growth can be brutal! If you don’t toughen up while your business starts to scale you as well as your business will most likely fail. Same goes if your business seems to be stuck and you’re unable or unwilling to see a bigger picture and grow beyond yourself to lead where no one else is capable of at that time.
Growth doesn’t just happen. It’s hard work, it’s making decisions, it’s making tough decisions.
What's good advice, that sounds like bad advice?
Enjoy being uncomfortable.
Growth does not come from comfort zones.
What is your favourite quote or saying? Why do you relate to it?
Not my circus, not my monkeys. Not sure if it’s my most favourite one but I'm a huge fan of focus. I believe it to be crucial for success. Do not let yourself get distracted by what everyone else is doing.
What makes you a Hedoine?
I love life and I’m driven by passion. I've never been driven by a love for balancing sheets or profits. It's always been the passion for a bigger picture that made me do what I do - success came as a positive side effect. I think that fits very well with what a Hedoine lives upon.
You can keep up-to-date with Monique Hoell via her LinkedIn or why not take a look around at HelloBody. While you're here, share this article with someone who you think might be inspired or sign up to our newsletter and have the latest Real Hedoine interviews conveniently delivered to your inbox.