How Gabrielle de Coster’s Injury Turned Into Her Business MONTA

Inspiration can come from anywhere, and for this University of Michigan sophomore, it came from nature and a premature college injury.

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Inspiration can come from anywhere, and for this University of Michigan sophomore, it came from nature and a premature college injury.

Gabrielle de Coster turned her passion for outdoor activities and the misfortune of a college injury into her aromatherapy creation (Image via MONTA)

MONTA, an injury turned business, began during Gabrielle de Coster’s college days, but the foundation and inspiration for the business had been a part of her life since middle school as her experience with natural beauty and wellness began while in seventh grade.

At the time, Coster was receiving traditional medicinal treatment for health issues. Only when her mom took her to a naturopath did she begin to see results as naturopathic medicine seemed to be the only thing that worked for her. From this experience, Coster found her interest in natural ingredients and holistic health. “From that medical situation that I experienced in middle school, I was forced to consider the ingredients that I was putting on my body and in my body.”

The business student’s interest in holistic health continued on through her high school career. “When I came into high school,” Coster said, “I kind of experimented with making my own products in that way, some of the same kinds of products that MONTA carries now.” Through her focus and attention to what she put in her body, she was slowly creating the blueprint for ingredients she would come to use in MONTA.

Gabrielle de Coster (Image by Shelby Robinson)

In addition to early medical difficulties, Coster suffered from an injury at the beginning of her college career, which later sparked her inspiration for MONTA. The company and its products would become Coster’s way to express her longing for things the injury caused her to miss. “What I was actually doing in the creation of MONTA is almost expressing my longing for being outside again,” Coster said. The injury prevented her from not only enjoying the outdoors she loves, but it limited her in terms of joining campus organizations, specifically her school’s outdoor hiking club. She manages to relay those emotions of longing and experiences “into a scent.”

For Coster, MONTA became her diary and a way to write about her experiences through the unique language of scent. Each one is unique because it creates a sensory image of a memory she holds dear. Transforming a visual memory into scent is no easy task, but she successfully brings the scents of nature to the aromatic sensors of her customers, and the stories each place holds is just as personal as their aroma. The story of one rollerball, Canoe Beach, demonstrates just how this is done.

The story of Canoe Beach begins at Spring Hill Camp in Evart, Michigan. Coster, a counselor at Spring Hill, would come to remember this place not only for its scenery, but also for the importance it has on her faith and spiritual journey. The camp was surrounded by forest and pine trees, a place, you can imagine, perfectly embedded within nature while the people and the community of the camp, as Coster remembers, surrounding her with kindness and warmth. It was amongst nature and this warm community that she was baptized, making an outward declaration of her faith and beginning a new step in her spiritual journey.

She was able to transform this story into scent. The pine trees and forest are represented by the scent of cedar wood. The warmth and kindness of the camp community are represented by the scent of vanilla. Finally, the joy experienced at the camp is represented by the top-note scent of jasmine. With these three scents, Coster uses the Canoe Beach rollerball to tell the story of her baptism, a tender community and a camp encircled by nature.

MONTA products (Image by Monica Friese)

The tale of Canoe Beach also reveals that not only is nature a source of inspiration when creating MONTA products but faith is also an essential part of the company. “Honestly without my faith, there is no MONTA,” said Coster. She sees nature as being a part of God’s art which is something she portrays in her products: an appreciation for the world God has created.

While MONTA holds great importance for her, Coster also understands that the company could become just as special to her customers. The memories she relays in her products, while specific to places she holds dear, aren’t the only stories each scent tells. For some, the scents have the ability to cause other forms of nostalgia and Coster encourages her customers to purse “their own memories connected to the scents.” It’s a sensation she describes as “just beautiful.”

Aromatherapy, while able to evoke nostalgia, can also be used to get through taxing college classes. As a business student, it’s only natural that the semester is filled with long study nights, but Coster used essential oils and aromatherapy to push through testing and tedious study hours. She even introduced her close friends to aromatherapy. When trying to make it through a challenging economics course during freshman year, she and friends would bring out peppermint oil, rub it on their wrists, and put it on their desks before a test. This became somewhat of a ritual for the friends, and the connection to the scents encouraged rest and stillness in Coster as it forced her to reflect back on positive memories. The use of aromatherapy encourages peace and rest, especially in those stressful academic situations. For Coster, the ability to reflect back on positive memories and feel the joy those memories awaken can be uplifting and positive for mental health.

In terms of MONTA, Coster explains the happiness she feels as a result of the company and its products. “I think MONTA satisfies so many of the things that fulfill my soul in a way that it just felt right to be pursuing this.”

MONTA products (Image by Monica Friese)

From the challenges of brainstorming new products to the production process, Coster has placed MONTA at the forefront of her college experience and the company has, in a way, become a part of her everyday college life. “I kind of equate my college experience with owning a business,” she says; and the business only continues to grow.

Coster released her newest rollerball, Be Still, on October 27 as a collaboration with another Christian based company, Gracemade. The rollerball differs from MONTA’s typical products in that it is not named after a place in nature, but rather the Biblical psalms, “Be still and know I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  The collaboration and product is something that celebrates the faiths of both Coster and Gracemade founder, Jasmine Rennie. Coster will further brand expansion into retail stores, including Urban Outfitters, along with work on new holiday collaborations.

Coster continues to manage both university life and MONTA, but when both require a lot of dedication, twenty-four hours just doesn’t seem enough. Nonetheless, the future for MONTA is bright and this aromatherapy girl of business school is not throwing in the towel. “I’m not one to really push back following my dreams. You know there’s never going to be a good time to start a business. I figured why not do one from the couch.”

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