Monica Nassif and Mrs. MeyerMonica Nassif, founder of Mrs Meyer's Clean Day and Caldrea cleaning products, had her "eureka moment" when she spotted a sorry-looking heap of household cleaners dumped in the corner of a bed and bath store. Why did cleaning products have to be so ugly, so awful-smelling, and, as she puts it, "filled with chemicals that seem like they are going to kill your pets and kids?"As a professional branding consultant, she immediately recognized a niche in the market and decided to try to fill it herself. She wanted to create a fragrant, earth-friendly, beautifully designed line of cleaners that women (because let's face it, women do most of the cleaning) could have the same good feelings about as their favorite shampoo or lotion.
Not everyone was a believer. Nassif describes the cleaning products business as tough to break into and something of a boys club. Her male competitors just didn't get it, but she refused to let that discourage her. As she describes it, "Women are constantly underestimated in business and can use that to their advantage. Men would come into my booth at trade shows and trash talk the product. I just smiled quietly and thought 'we'll see who wins at the cash register.'"Nassif first launched the higher-end Caldrea line 1999. Ironically, she initially developed a luxury product because she couldn't afford to widely promote a mass-market product.
Caldrea was an instant hit with buyers who loved having one beautiful aroma such as sweet pea or ginger pomelo run through an entire line of products from laundry to dishes to floor cleaners. It was also one of the first brands of cleaning products that looked pretty sitting out on the counter. But, as Nassif says, "If they didn't work, we were doomed. We invested heavily in science from the beginning. The bar is set much higher for cleaners than, say, a simple hand soap."With Caldrea off the ground, Nassif and her team realized that they needed to quickly get a mass-market line into grocery stores (where 75% of household cleaners are sold). Nassif says, "We needed to knock off ourselves before someone else did."
Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Nassif's brainstorming team knew they wanted a brand that was "mid-Western, authentic, and hardworking" - just like Nassif's mother, retired nurse Thelma Meyer.Meyer had had nine kids in ten years and, according to Nassif, ran a tight ship. Every Saturday, all the children were required to tackle a list of chores before going outside to play. A classic child of the Great Depression, Nassif says her mother "taught us that through hard work you could conquer the world."
While developing the new brand, when Nassif and her team were stuck on a detail, they would ask themselves, "What would Mrs. Meyer do?" Eureka moment number two.Nassif approached her mother with the idea of becoming a brand and she embraced it right away. For one thing, it gave her more time to spend with her daughter and her two young granddaughters. Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day products came out in 2000 with Thelma as their spokesperson. Nassif calls her mother, "A natural."
In 2008, billion-dollar giant SC Johnson bought Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day for an undisclosed sum. The brand is now found in over 30,000 stores across the country including Walmart and Target.Monica Nassif's advice to working women:
- Women shouldn't underestimate their intuitive skills. Connect the dots. Look for trends. Expose yourself to different ideas, people, and places as much as you can.
- "Balance" is oversold to women (and not sold to men at all.) There are chapters in life that are going to be crazy: like when you are taking care of your three year-old's ear infection all night and then you have to be at an 8 am sales meeting. Be in the moment, whatever that moment is.
- Learn to keep moving and if something goes wrong don't spend time looking back in blame.
- You aren't going to be able to please everyone so be true to yourself.
- We are all so busy. My mother taught me that when it comes to cleaning, "fine" is good enough.