Gabrielle de Coster is the beauty and brains behind faith inspired aromatherapy brand MONTA. Every scent that she creates is intertwined with her personal journey of discovering faith in creation. We caught up with Gabi to talk Jesus-centered entrepreneurship, her creative process, and turning pain into purpose.
Photos by Shelby Robinson
Can you introduce yourself - tell us more about who you are, where you’re from, and what do you do?
I’m Gabi! I’m a follower of Jesus. I’m a creative. I’m a passionate human. While I’m originally from Detroit, MI, I currently live in Ann Arbor as I pursue my BBA from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. I’m only 25% finished with my degree, haha, because I’m in my sophomore year of college.
What inspired you to start a business?
I’ve been entrepreneurial and invested in natural beauty & wellness, honestly, since I can remember. I dabbled with handmade lip balms here and there growing up, cherishing the entire design process and learning from the many mistakes I made. The passion has always been there, but it wasn’t until a year ago where my life put me in the position to make that my art. It was born out of a rough time for me and it has allowed me to connect to God in a new way. I am confident that MONTA is only working because it’s not just a business for me: from the beginning, it has been an incredibly personal expression of my relationship with God and my longing for nature. It literally is my diary, just in an unexpected language. Take our Canoe Beach aromatherapy rollerball, for example: I was baptized on that beach and the aroma aims to mimic the surrounding nature and feelings of warm community. It’s more than a scent; it’s a part of my journey.
Tell us the story behind MONTA
A little over a year ago, I was trail-running downhill when I tripped over a root and sustained a sprain and bone bruising. A few ligament and tendon complications would soon follow. Before this, I had only ever injured a finger as a child on the playground. Activity and athleticism has always brought me joy, but that root put a stop to it. This was my very first week of college, I lived a mile from classes and I was barely able to walk. Two weeks prior, I was baptized on a beach surrounded by a vast forest of pine. It didn’t make sense. Immediately after a spiritual peak, I was in a season of suffering?
The doctors suggested a healing time of 6 weeks. They were wrong; it’s been 56 and I know I still have many more to go. This injury brought me more emotional and spiritual pain than physical; It was hard to find community in a new city when I was so crushed by my circumstances. I lost God. I missed being in nature and I missed hiking. I had no idea when I’d be able to return to the canyons I was craving, so one day in my dorm, I brought them to me through MONTA. Each product I share is named after a place I hold dear to my heart. The colors, the ingredients, and the aromas are all created to embody the feeling of that precious landscape. The logo is actually a tattoo of mine, its design pointing to my journey with Jesus. MONTA is firmly rooted in my faith. I see God’s hand in the nature that inspires me and grow in appreciation for how creative He truly is each time I am challenged to tell a story through a scent.
What message do you want MONTA to send?
There are two ideas I really want MONTA to convey. First, with this work, I want to encourage people to slow down and take a moment to bask in the beauty of this world. Scent has been a really valuable tool for myself and others around me to find peace in chaos. From our scents to our designs, it’s clear that we want our customers to feel serene. More importantly, though, I really want to glorify God with this business. I hope that when others enjoy my art, they see God’s hand in creativity, His hand in nature, and His hand in life.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs/creatives?
When it comes to dreams, I’m always one to encourage just going for it. It’s cliche and business is a little more complex than ‘just going for it’, but I’m serious. There is really never an ideal time to take this leap, so to quote Shia LeBeouf, just do it. I started this company from my dorm room my freshman year of undergrad; my parents discouraged me from doing this. I couldn’t wait, though. This is what I’m meant to be doing - being creative, glorifying God with my designs. So if you are deeply passionate about something (that is key! if you’re in it for just money, it won’t fulfill you), go for it. Utilize the powerful tool that is social media. Stay rooted in the brand experience you want to curate and just keep going. My sister jokes that I’ll take on 80 hours a week to avoid the normal 40 in a classic job. Only one of those feels like work, though.
Name a woman that inspires you.
Wow, this is so hard because being in this community of faith-driven creatives, there are people who inspire me all around. There are a few people I’ve been able to meet through MONTA that push me to grow with their very existence. Madeline Metcalf, a photographer, Vanessa Schmidt, co-owner of That Girl Trip, and Anna Woodman, also the co-owner of That Girl Trip are a few ladies I’ve connected with that I’m grateful to know. They glorify Jesus in their creative pursuits; that’s my ultimate goal. In my personal life, I find a lot of inspiration in my dear friend Maddie. She credits everything to Jesus and is a real reflection of pure satisfaction in the Lord. I want to become more like these ladies. I’m working on it.
Words you live byBe still and know that I am God. I really need to grow into this verse. It hints at the trust we need to have in the Lord through it all and that’s something I’m working on: falling into the arms of Jesus and letting my fear go, trusting in something greater. I don’t think I’ll ever stop needing to grow in that.
To see more from Gabrielle, follow her on Instagram