I first met Monika in 2019 when I flew to Lisbon for The House of Beautiful Business (the House). Spending five days learning from dozens of poignant speakers and sharing meals with unlikely strangers, I left feeling hopeful, and in awe of what can happen when a group of eclectic humans show up and open up. And as the Head of Content and Community, I had Monika to thank for the experience. In 2020, when the world came to a standstill I jumped at the opportunity to work alongside Monika and a global team of residents to bring the magic of the House to people’s living rooms. Monika has an innate ability to encourage honesty, nurture intimacy and create community- both on and offline. If we all had Monika’s curiosity, compassion and courage to question the status quo, we’d be living and working in a very different world. And I can’t wait to see the changes that Monika and her team help to facilitate in years to come.
“I wanted to be many things when I grew up. At first, I wanted to be a librarian. I loved the sound of the stamp they used and the idea of being surrounded by books. And then, I wanted to become an actor. As I moved through school I decided I wanted to get into design. I had an ambition to create big beautiful billboards for luxury brands that featured Asian women because I never saw myself represented in advertising. This led me to study Media and Communications in Berlin.
During a six month internship in the marketing department of a large corporate here in Germany, I quickly became disillusioned with standard approaches to work. The team were exceptional- super nice, incredibly hardworking, very dedicated- but the system was so flawed.
There was a distinct lack of curiosity in the way people went about things. As an intern, I was hungry to learn and to contribute, but I was so far down the chain that I was never able to. Decisions seemed to sit with individuals in positions of power and everyone else became little more than a tiny screw inside a huge machine. The experience left me feeling undignified. If this was all that business was about, I didn’t want to be part of it.
Fortunately, I then spent some time with SOULWORX, a purpose-driven consultancy where I witnessed how soulful, meaningful and kind an organisation can be.
Then in 2017, the SOULWORX founder, Julia von Winterfeldt, and I went to the House of Beautiful Business’s first annual gathering in Lisbon. I didn’t understand what beautiful business meant and had no idea what to expect. I remember spending eight hours inside a dark, crowded room listening to mind blowing speakers and their ideas. I was in complete awe and couldn’t help but question why I deserved to be there, among such incredible people. At the same time, I knew it was something I wanted to cling on to.
After that experience I had a year of exploration- freelancing in the culture, change and communications space and doing some work for a non profit dedicated to building educational programs for young food and agriculture entrepreneurs. I also reconnected with Tim and Till- the founders of the House who asked me to help out with their content and social media.
In the same year, at the 2018 House gathering I distinctly remember thinking ‘this is it. These are the people I want to surround myself with and this is where I want to be’. Fortunately, Tim and Till invited me to come on board as a member of the team and here I am, three years later. My role is to oversee content and community. This involves a lot of curation along with nurturing our existing House community while seeking opportunities to grow and reach into new windows of the world.
The House creates brave new spaces that bring together people from different backgrounds who share a common desire to make humans more human and business more beautiful. We believe there’s a chance to turn business as usual on its head to create something that is far more beautiful.
The House doesn’t exist to propose a solution- it’s an invitation to reimagine.
Through online and offline spaces- our annual gathering in Lisbon, our Living Room Sessions and our content- we encourage the use of a new shared language that inspires a different approach to life.
Exploration of self is key to making humans more human. I think we should all have a continuous provocation, expression and dialogue with ourselves, to challenge our world views, question our everyday actions, pay more attention and learn to express greater care and love toward ourselves and others.
For business to be more beautiful it needs to have a purpose and move us towards a more livable society. The issues we’re trying to create a conversation around aren’t new. We always come back to the same things- social polarization, sustainability and climate.
Business has the potential to be a huge force for change in these areas because it has so much power. Business shapes our lives, how we build our cities, how we create our products, how we perceive the world and each other.
Over the past 12 months, the House has experienced a real coming of age. There are now so many ways for people to get involved whether they’re subscribing to our weekly newsletter, Beauty Shots, tuning into our online Living Room conversations (which started during global lockdowns in 2020) or attending our community led local chambers or the annual gathering in Lisbon.
Residents come from a range of fields from healthcare to manufacturing to tech to education. We have entrepreneurs, founders, executives, coaches, consultants and grads. We have people starting their career and those who have spent a significant amount of time in the corporate environment and are searching for something else. The common thread between them is that they want something more and this shared desire really brings people together. I think the House shows people that they can impact change and influence something. It’s led to career changes and new alliances for those involved.
By investing in our digital spaces, we can reach more people and carry the idea of beautiful business forward, creating a movement that transcends geographical barriers and exists beyond our events.
Every time I am in touch with the House community on and offline, I’m in awe. I get goosebumps just talking about it because people are so generous with their presence. If we can maintain that intimacy, humanity and honesty and make it more accessible for under represented and underprivileged groups, then I think we will have achieved something pretty special.
My hope is that in future, we speak about business differently. I hope that business is not associated with work, greed, exploitation, efficiency and burnout and instead we can associate it with imagination, compassion, care, and decency.”