Business student combines faith, creativity in aromatherapy company
While most University of Michigan students spend their gamedays tailgating, Business sophomore Gabi de Coster spends her Saturdays going back home to Grosse Pointe, Mich., to work on crafting scents for her aromatherapy company, MONTA.
MONTA is a health-and-wellness business that utilizes all-natural products to create unique products like scented rollerballs, bath soaks and body sprays.
“I’m taking inspiration from the place the products are named after and translating that into scent,” de Coster said. “It’s the colors, feelings and emotions that I tie to those important places in my life that are relayed in the plants I use to make the scents.”
Originating in a South Quad Residence Hall dorm room, MONTA now has a dedicated studio in de Coster’s home. The extra space was needed to keep up with additional products and rising demands, as the company has found its way into retailers across the country. MONTA has even been featured on Buzzfeed, obtaining a spot on its “26 Awesome Beauty Products You Didn’t Know You Could Get At Urban Outfitters.”
De Coster’s business is a solo operation; she manages all the marketing, branding, production and social media. She finds she needs separate calendars for school and MONTA to keep up with the volume of work.
“Balance is still something I’m trying to figure out, honestly,” de Coster said. “You have to make a lot of sacrifices and really love what you're giving up some normal college experiences for.”
The business was born out of personal struggles in de Coster’s life. While in junior high, de Coster experienced medical issues that forced her to be more cautious about what she puts in her body. This, in conjunction with an extensive leg injury obtained four days into de Coster’s freshman year, provided the inspiration for MONTA.
Instead of sitting in her dorm room, however, de Coster used aromatherapy as an outlet for her negative emotions and created the first MONTA products.
“MONTA was born to express my longing for nature and to relay those emotions in another language,” de Coster said. “There is a faith component, as it expresses my relationship with God also; I can look outside and view his ultimate creativity.”
MONTA has partnered with other businesses to craft new, communal products. One such collaboration is with Los Angeles based fashion line Gracemade, where the two will create a rollerball entitled “Be Still.” De Coster will also be working with Alex Elle, writer and self-care advocate, and Tara Mackey, owner of The Organic Life.
Jasmine Rennie, creative director and owner of Gracemade, chose to work with de Coster due to a shared faith-driven background and mutual appreciation for each other’s brands.
“She just has a beautiful story; her whole concept of creating her scents was based on her own faith journey and things and places she experienced in her discovery of who God was in her life,” Rennie said. “She has a great mind and a great spirit about her and it shows throughout everything she does in her company.”
As MONTA begins to gain more traction, de Coster is planning to expand the size of her operations. She intends on taking advantage of the Business School’s student facilities, like the Zell Lurie Center for Entrepreneurship, to help her make this transition.
As her business begins to grow, so will her workload. Business sophomore Max Devooght, a friend of de Coster, believes de Coster’s work ethic is well suited for this change.
“Everybody’s sitting there and enjoying themselves on gameday and she’s building a business,” Devooght said. “Her business is literally an extension of herself; I didn’t know it was possible to be that connected to a business.”
MONTA has not only been an outlet for de Coster’s emotions, but for her artistic side as well. She sees her products as a unique blend of business and creativity and feels it will not be easy for anyone else to replicate.
“I consider MONTA half business, half art,” de Coster said. “There is no one else that has the same design eye or personal experiences as I do, so I like to refer to the products as my sensory diary and no one else can write my diary for me.”