ISWAS Meets: Dee Monti, Founder of Monti by Monti

Since going out into the world as an independent - as in, a small business - all those months ago (I’m fast approaching the one year mark!), I’ve been exposed to a number of amazing people who have set up their own small businesses and making their own way in life. It’s fantastic to see and inspiring to be around. The attitude is that they’re done with working for someone else - they have in their head an idea that has some standing and so, with a lot of risk, hard work and belief, they keep going and are still ‘going’ right now. I personally know and follow a number of these amazing small businesses (predominately women-led might I add) and I’m watching their success on a daily basis - I couldn’t be more motivated to work hard and see that same success with my business. 
For some time, I thought about how I can best shout about these businesses - these women - and I’d been toying with the idea of running interviews on the blog. And then, a few weeks ago, the guys at Appleton Estate Rum got in touch with me. 
This year, they’re celebrating 20 years of the craftsmanship and dedication of its Master Blender Joy Spence (the first female Master Blender in the world) by partnering with a series of British artisans who reflect the same passion as Joy in their own work. Joy represents the passion and enthusiasm that goes into creating Appleton Estate Rum and stands as an inspiration within the industry and beyond. Each of the artisans chosen identify with and reflect an element of Joy’s character and skill, including her unique blending of art and science, the important of heritage and provenance in her work and her pioneering position as a woman operating in a typically male-dominated industry.
With that, it brings me to my first inspiring female which I was fortunate enough to have the chance to meet as part of Appleton Estate Rum’s 'Crafted With Joy’ campaign. Dee Monti is the girl boss and brains behind Monti by Monti but let’s allow Dee to tell her own story shall we?

Hi Dee! Please introduce yourself and tell us what you do! 

I’m Dee Monti, I’m a glass designer and my business is Monti by Monti, which I launched two years ago in May. My surname ‘Monti’ is actually Italian for mountain so it kind of fits as everything is to do with triangles and shaped like mountains!

I left my job in retail which wasn’t for me; I didn’t like working for someone else and it wasn’t a very inspiring atmosphere. I needed to see what I could do on my own and so, I moved into my mum’s spare room and spent from August 2014 to January 2015 literally just having solid 12 hours a day teaching myself all about glass. People often ask why I chose glass but honestly, I don’t really remember! I’ve always been interested in knowing how things are made and remember seeing a picture of a terrarium so I googled it - I think I probably was having a breakdown the week after I left my job, living in London and not knowing what I was going to do! - and went from there, seeing if I could set something up for myself using glass. I bought loads of materials, sat on the floor, did it all wrong, broke loads of glass and then spent the next 7 months trying, trying, trying. Finally, I perfected it, designed this collection and these shapes. Then I did my branding, the logo, my website and then I launched it in May 2015 when I was finally ready.

How did you find out where to source materials from?

Just lots of googling! I bought all the wrong materials in the first two weeks - the wrong glass, everything. It was just trial and error and contacting a lot of people like other glass designers to ask. It took a really long time, the first month I was just practising with loads of materials and learning new skills like soldering. I actually bought the wrong soldering iron when I started! The first pieces I ever made barely hold together!
How did you go about promoting/ people find out about you?

Instagram. I do have facebook but I feel like it’s dying out a bit, I only really use it to share my pictures from instagram. The platform has been amazing, I honestly don’t think I would have got to where I am without it. I started my instagram account three weeks prior to my launch date, just so people could be aware of it - even if it was just a handful of people. It was better than launching an instagram account on the same day as launching the business! I think I’ve got most of my work from instagram - I don’t really understand it still, I find social media so stressful! 
Then in September 2015, I started doing small shows and markets which were really good. All in London - Quirky Fox (all handmade - they’d only been around for 3 years before I started, it’s part of London Design Festival in the Arches in Old Street), then I did Renegade and Urban Maker’s East which were great as people could actually touch and feel the products for themselves. 

Do you ever contact people/businesses to do collaborations?

Most people actually have contacted me. I did contact some people when I first launched but I don’t think I was established enough so people got back in touch a year later and then we worked together. I mostly get contacted through instagram or etsy, which is where I get loads of international orders through. 

Have you done any exciting collaborations?

Yes, I did one with Liberty London, doing their displays in the jewellery hall! I’ve also done quite a few shop fits - I did a window display for AQ/AQ in Carnaby St - and also lots of wedding photoshoot collaborations. I’ve worked with a few people abroad, such as in Belgium where I make some bespoke pieces for a woman who owns a plant shop in Antwerp!

I’ve been open for two years now, I feel like the first year I did good, and then the second year, bigger things have started happening so I think it just takes time - I have to just take each month as it comes. 

How long does it take to make things?

So I would say for the little ones - the tiny triangles - from cutting the glass, foiling and soldering and then polishing would take about a solid hour. Literally no breaks or distractions! Then the bigger ones, I’d say about 1hr 45m. The plant stands probably take about half a day. It can get quite intense sometimes! 

Where are you sold?

I’ve just started stocking with Aida on Kingsland Road - it’s amazing in there! They’re an independent shop and don’t have any other stores so they’re true to independent makers which I really like. I’m also in a lot of online shops - some in the UK and quite a lot in Scandinavia.
When you started out, did you ever have the feeling of ‘oh my god, what am I doing’?
Yes - I still have that! When I break glass or when I have one of those ‘meh’ days, I wonder why I choose to do this! Sometimes I think it would have been easier if I’d just had an office 9-5 job because I know what to expect but then this is so much better. I don’t have to be anywhere, I am my own boss, no one’s telling me what to do. You just have to push through those down days. There are so many more benefits to having your own business rather than working for someone else’s and seeing that business grow! It’s a bit soul-destroying when deep down you know you can definitely do what they’re doing - if they can do this, so can you! I think I launched Monti at the best time - about two years ago, there was a slight incline in people setting up their own business and now, the people that I followed on instagram then are becoming more established, with lots of followers and it’s so nice to see - it’s a great time for independent makers! 
What’s next for Monti by Monti?
I’m thinking of getting a pop-up shop space for a couple of weeks and just seeing how that goes. One day I would love to have a shop/studio space - that would be perfect. I think it’s happening in London quite a lot but obviously it’s very expensive! So maybe I’ll try the pop-up nearer to Christmas. I’ll also be launching a few new products including plant stands and letters - which actually I wasn't going to launch but I made for a show recently and people were going crazy for them!

You can check out Monti by Monti and shop online:

This post was created in collaboration with Appleton Estate Rum and their #CraftedWithJoy campaign