How Monos Founder Victor Tam Built a Global Travel Brand

By Sam Tinajero-Alvarado

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Based in Vancouver, Victor Tam started his first company, Rove Concepts, out of a small apartment and helped grow the brand into a $100-million-dollar business in five years. His latest venture is Monos, a stylish travel brand that is shifting the narrative of what a premium suitcase should cost and the first luggage brand to be climate neutral certified.


In 2011, you co-founded Rove Concepts and grew it into a global company. What has been a key learning from that experience that has factored into your consideration of starting other businesses?


Victor Tam: I think operating Rove opened my eyes to the potential of what a company can be, and that all of it is centered around people. That’s kind of the light bulb moment that I had, I think three to four years in. A company can never be great or scale without good people with the right values. I want something that has a greater benefit than just being a transactional product and money exchange. I want the company to be healthy enough to contribute in other ways than just being a transaction with the customer.

Collection of suitcases ranging in different sizes and made of various materials like metal and black plastic.
Photo courtesy of Monos

What inspired you to start another company from scratch? 


Victor Tam: When you look into the luggage space, you have really established old brands. It’s a utility product for them. I think what we’re seeing is two shifts. One is that luggage is now starting to be treated as no different than a fashion brand. When you think about fashion brands, you get excited because there are new designs and materiality every season. People just didn’t see that in their luggage but now treat it as an extension of their own style. Today, with the platforms that are out there and the streaming of short-form videos and photos, that’s how the next wave of travelers is going discover new brands. They’re going to see that these items close to you are now extensions of your style. 


What was your experience like building a travel lifestyle brand during a time when travel stopped? 


Victor Tam: It has definitely taught me in times of uncertainty to really look at your team. During the pandemic, what consumers wanted to buy at that time was not luggage. What we identified from 2020 to now is that effectively we were in a blue ocean state—we had an entire ocean but there were just no fish swimming in it. But it was a small ocean, because there’s not a huge market for luggage. We always knew we needed to scale the company as quickly as we could and by the time there was a post-COVID event, we would be a large enough company with enough resources to take the majority of that market share when travel came back. That’s been our strategy. 

Man and woman wearing a sweat suit. Woman is in black with a burgundy suitcase and black bag perched on top. Man is wearing a beige sweat suit and has a hand on the handle of a smaller light brown suitcase.
Photo courtesy of Monos

What do consumers expect from brands today?


Victor Tam: As a brand that started off digitally native, you have one chance to really make an impression. It’s the first impression when they go to your website, before they purchase, and the entire post-purchase interaction. For us, that was just something that we over-indexed on compared to a lot of other brands that put customer service as an afterthought. From my experience, when you scale too quickly, it’s customer service that will break first. These days, consumers are looking for brands that they can attach this to and have certain values that align with themselves. 

Victor Tam wearing white sweatshirt with words 'KITH' embossed on top against light brown background.
Photo courtesy of Monos

What gives you the courage to stand up for your ideas and scale mountains that seem insurmountable?


Victor Tam: When I put myself out there and talked to investors and founders of other larger companies, I realized all the things I’ve learned and done in the past—there’s so much value to that. But it’s nice to have some validation from people that have done it before. Growing up, there was no, “Hey, you can do this. You have the right skillset”. I think now that I have that confidence, it does help in realizing, “Why not? Why can’t Monos be the next globally-recognized consumer brand for all things travel?” When I have that “why not” mentality, it’s what gives me courage.


What drives you?


Victor Tam: I guess what drives me is really the journey. You can think about a company and its end goal but the part that’s invaluable is everything in-between. It’s not every day that you get to be a part of something that gives this exposure of knowledge and firsthand experience. You just can’t put a number on that.