I remember the feelings of insecurity and anxiety when I was having my first baby, as if it were yesterday. Becoming a mother, and all of the unknown can be incredibly overwhelming, particularly when it comes to all of the baby “stuff” you need. The market is so saturated with products, and stores only promote and have knowledge regarding what they are currently selling. Moms need an honest and reliable resource for all things baby, and Monica Banks, aka the Gugu Guru, has filled this gap! Monica created an incredible lifestyle and parenting quiz, powered by an algorithm, that allows experts in the baby market to provide product recommendations suiting your personal needs. They are not fueled by any advertising dollars, it’s just straight up great advice from the people who know best. I cannot tell you how helpful this would’ve been for me in my beginnings of parenthood! It eliminates so much time stressing about giving your babies the best, and figuring out what that even means. Gugu Guru is your new BFF!
How many years have you been in business in NYC?
How did you get your start and what was your initial inspiration?
When I was pregnant with my son back in 2010, I was working as a consultant in the mom & baby industry. As an expectant mom, I was in the unique position of being the target customer of the brands that I was consulting for. Like most first-time moms I spoke with, I found that the process of shopping for baby products and creating a registry was overwhelming due to the amount of selection and information out there. On the other side of the equation, the brands I was working with were all fighting to break through the noise in the space to get in front of the right mom that needed their product. My so-called aha moment was when I was on Facebook and saw one of those Buzzfeed quizzes, like “What Disney character are you?” and I thought to myself, ‘Someone should really create a quiz for, “What baby products are you?” That was July of 2014 and I launched the Gugu Guru site about eight months later.
What do you feel differentiates you from others in your field?
Gugu Guru is powered by a patent-pending algorithm, which uses the information collected by our fun lifestyle quiz to match parents with the best products for their respective lifestyle and styles. All of the product recommendations are totally unbiased and curated by industry experts or by other parents. We don’t allow brands to pay us to list them in our recommendations. Another thing that sets us apart is that if you go to a big baby retailer, the store associate will be knowledgeable about only those products offered at that store. Gugu Guru lists products from everywhere and our consultants are deeply knowledgeable about ALL products regardless of where they’re sold, including the many new direct-to-consumer offerings out there.
What do you feel gives you longevity in this big city with so many options?
I really believe that Gugu Guru is doing something different in the parenting space than a normal retailer or a baby registry.
How do you positively impact your clientele?
We save our clientele stress, time and the tons of money often wasted on products that are not a right fit or that they will never use.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Without a doubt, connecting with so many of these first-time moms and hearing their personal stories.
What is your favorite secret NYC spot?
My husband and I lived in the East Village in the Red Square building on Houston and one of my favorite secret spots was the roof of that building to watch the city’s 4th of July fireworks.
How do you benefit mamas?
Gugu Guru was created to help moms win at shopping for baby. Our moms benefit from feeling relaxed and confident about their product choices.
What is the most memorable feedback a client has given you?
When I first launched the site, as with any technology business, there were kinks and things that needed to be worked through. I remember one user in particular had such a buggy experience using the site and I felt like I was constantly apologizing to her. The situation started to take a bit of a toll on my self-confidence about the business. Then after she had the baby, the same user emailed me and said she couldn’t wait to tell all of her expectant friends about Gugu Guru because, in spite of the “early adopter issues” she experienced, she very strongly believed in what we were doing and wanted to help us become a success. I will always be grateful to her for that feedback.
Pay it forward and name your top colleagues in the same field or related field.
Natalie Diaz founder of Twiniversity, Elina Furman of Elfin Media and Olivia Howell of Howell Media House.
What is the best advice anyone's ever given you? Or what is your "mantra" / words to live by?
My words to live by are that good things take time and there is no such thing as an overnight success. One of the biggest lessons that I have learned while building this company is to have patience and that’s easier said than done when we live in a culture of instant gratification. I’ve learned that if I get impatient, I can make impulsive decisions and those rash decisions can often turn into big mistakes.
As moms, the day can escape us, what is your best time-saving trick?
I’ve started filtering my emails into different folders and scheduling time for each folder so that I don’t feel distracted and overwhelmed by a thousand unread emails every minute of the day.