I am delighted and honoured to join a prestigious list of people from the watch industry who have been interviewed and featured in The Naked Watchmaker.
Monica Porracin is the founder and Managing Director of Distribution company, The Blue Company, London.
1. Describe briefly your childhood.
I was born and brought up in the beautiful Italian countryside, on the outskirts of a small city not far from Venice. My childhood was spent in a villa with a large garden and majestic trees. Despite having the freedom of this garden, I was always attracted to running away and exploring the neighbours’ fields! I had a lot of freedom, whole days spent outdoors in nature without worrying about the weather, schedules, homework… I had a pretty wild childhood until the age of 10! Then suddenly, I went through an impressive transformation; I decided to completely focus on school and studying to make my family proud.
My father ran his own company, with the factory situated just a stone’s throw from our house. Despite his long working hours, he was always present and was always there for me, no matter what. We shared a deep and magical bond.
I was the second child after my sister, who was 9 years older than me, due to the age gap, I was like an only child until my teenage years when the age gap with my sister became less significant.
My mother dedicated her whole life to us. She has been and still is, our “partner in crime” and our inexhaustible source of energy despite her tendency to say everything she thinks (no filter!). She can light up any room with her presence.
2. As a child did you have any driving ambition?
Not really, when I was a child, my motivation and all my energy went into playing outdoors. No thinking, just playing!
When I was a teenager, I developed a yearning to live and experience other parts of the world, metropolitan cities. I began to feel that the environment I was in was too quiet and was not offering enough. Italians are very attached to their roots, so I didn’t feel truly understood until the moment I met my husband who is a kindred spirit. So, my first experience of living abroad started with him in Singapore. At that time there was no Skype, Zoom, Facetime or anything… the internet was still in its infancy, so it was challenging being away from home. I was homesick sometimes, but the Singapore experience gave us strong foundations for our lives.
3. What is your first significant memory as a child?
When I was eight, my parents booked us a holiday on a cruise from Venice to Greece. They didn’t tell me anything, I was always on the go, running and playing outside, then when we went to Venice, I was shocked. I still remember the feeling of excitement I had as we saw the enormous cruise ship. That week was memorable but again, I was always exploring, my parents found it impossible to keep me still. I was a lively child with a lot of energy!
4. Have you ever had another profession?
After university in Venice and achieving a master’s degree in Economics, I moved from Italy to Singapore to embark on a new challenge, with my boyfriend at that time (and my husband today). My first job in Singapore was in banking in project and export finance. I found it very boring and didn’t like it at all. After a few years in Asia, we moved to Stockholm and I started my favourite experience as an employee, working for Pirelli Tyres. After Stockholm, we moved to Milan and I oversaw the planning and forecasting of the Original Equipment of the Automotive Industry. I loved the experience, the environment and the people. Pirelli was an amazing “gym” to train professionally to become who I am today. It was very technical, and a challenging place to be, managed predominantly by men. When I look back now, I see few similarities to the watch industry.
5. What made you decide to go in the direction you are currently in?
It happened completely by chance, 15 years ago my husband was given an opportunity to move to London. At the time, I was on maternity leave with our first child. I enjoyed the time off, and when my leave was finished, I had to decide what to do with my career path: go back to Italy to my job at the time or try a new experience in London.
I grew up with an entrepreneurial father and I decided that the time was right to follow in that direction. I had a few ideas from clothing to furniture, all Italian design. I had a vision to start my own company, but I needed a strong and clear product. One day, a close friend from Italy called me and asked me to develop his fashion watch brand in the UK. At the time, I didn’t know the difference between a quartz and an automatic watch, the idea of working with watches was a bit intimidating; however, I decided to take the opportunity and The Blue Company London was born. I started from scratch, as a foreigner and a woman in a market completely new to me without any connections at all.
I started as an agent for the brand, then one year later I took on distribution and step by step, new brands joined my portfolio, today we manage 7 brands. It has been a journey, I promise you.
6. What’s the worst job you’ve had to do?
Banking in Singapore. It was a great opportunity but it just was not me, I am very pragmatic as a person and investment banking was not a good fit.
7. What’s been the hardest moment in your life so far, and how did you overcome it?
The sudden loss of my father 9 years ago. Coping with his death was extremely complex, emotionally and physically painful. It had a huge impact on me as a person, I lost my smile for a while. Family, work, and time have all been essential to me since. As a person I love to be challenged and being very busy has helped me deal with the loss.
When I first started The Blue Company, 13 years ago it was just a bit more than a hobby, immediately after my father died, I threw myself into work and it turned into a proper business. I kept myself very busy.
8. Who has had the strongest influence on you?
My parents gave me the fundamentals. From my mother, I took her energy, her smile, and her enthusiasm, I am never tired, and I like to keep myself very active. From my father, I have his commitment, his ethics, his strength, and passion to work. From both my parents, I got their stubbornness! I felt very loved as a child and a sibling. My sister was also inspirational with her studies and work career. She was like a third parent to me and she always gave me valuable life advice.
Later in life, as an adult, my husband was the one who supported and addressed me the most. He is a strong point of reference in life and his advice and input are key when I need to make important business decisions.
9. What are you most proud of?
My two children. I learn from them every day. They are both very determined to be successful in life. I am just sorry I keep embarrassing them with my Italian accent! They never miss the opportunity to make fun of me.
My daughter is only 15 but has all the characteristics of a strong and independent adult, on occasion she can even tell me off which is scary! My son is the younger of my two children, he is very sweet and has a big heart and is very caring and empathetic. Both of my children are showing entrepreneurial traits which makes me very proud!
My business, the brand portfolio we have and the team. I am very enthusiastic about all the brands we have. I only work with brands that I like myself and each one has a very rich DNA and heritage. Regarding the team, I couldn’t have better collaborators. It was a difficult step for me to employ someone as I needed people I knew and could trust, for that reason, I have known both team members on a personal level for several years before working for The Blue Company and now we are all very close.
10. What advice would you give to a 20 something someone thinking of taking a similar path as you?
The only thing limiting you is what is in your mind, if you want something, fight for it, put all your energy into it and don’t give up. Journeys are not always easy and enjoyable, but from your mistakes and the hard times you can learn and become stronger as a person.
11. Name three things on your bucket list.
I have a lot more than three!
– I would like to continue to grow the business and maybe the next step can be adding a Jewellery brand, who knows?
– Get a sailing license.
– Travelling is my biggest passion however, the pandemic has made me realise how much I miss the “Bel Paese”. When my children are grown up, I would like to be able to split my time between London and somewhere in Italy.
12. Where do you think the watch industry is going to be in 10 years’ time?
Since I started in the industry, I have seen a lot of new brands quietly trying to break into the market. Most don’t last very long. The brand’s which came in more aggressively had their initial success and then disappear as fast as they arrived, like a flash in the pan.
In the future, I would expect fewer attempts by new brands as the watch industry is clearly defined by the big giants/groups which dominate the market. However, I think there is still a piece of the pie for independent brands, especially the ones with strong character and heritage, brands with a history and DNA will always find their space.