Sonia Micu, Founder of NALU: ‘’Reading should not be about building a competence, but about building character’’
For more than seven years, Sonia worked for The Coca-Cola Company, advancing from Junior Brand Manager, to Marketing Manager of the Creative Excellence department for Central & Southern Europe.
In 2015, she decided it’s time for a new challenge, quit her job and started building the underwear brand NALU. Sonia believes that there are many complicated things that could be simpler, especially the things we use in day-to-day life. She saw a flaw in the way lingerie was created, with obsolete design standards and functionality, and decided to solve that.
NALU’s core mission is to create lingerie that’s comfortable to wear and allows us to move freely, while highlighting the natural shapes of our bodies. They offer simple, non-underwired and non-padded bras, briefs and bodysuits.
NALU is based and produced in Romania, but they offer international shipping and they’re available in a few other European countries as well. Sonia’s creations are even distributed in a Manhattan shop – basically, on the other side of the globe.
In an interview she gave for Forbes Romania, Sonia talked about how her entrepreneurship journey was nothing like she had imagined. Everything she knew about management and leadership was overturned by the entrepreneurial environment she discovered when creating NALU. It just goes to show you: you can never be 100% prepared to become an entrepreneur. However, you can get closer to your goal by reading the books that are right for you. 🙂
We talked to Sonia about why she stopped reading business books, how she decided to get a formal education in analytic philosophy, her strict reading-routine, favorite biographies, and more. Enjoy!
What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.
I don’t read books on business (anymore). Nor can I recommend one for that matter. There was a time when I was consuming this type of literature intensively, mostly because I was struggling with a master’s degree in marketing at London College and the required bibliography was impressive. I continued reading business books after my studies as well, this time because I thought that what I did for a living required that I read them. There is little I learned from business books that I consider relevant to the way I am living my life today or to the way I am running my business.
The books I enjoy come from the non-business area, but I don’t think I have one that tops them all.
When it comes to biographies, I have cherished My Early Life by Winston Churchill for a long time, as the book that had it all for a profane reader like myself. It is beautifully written and Churchill’s writing style is highly entertaining. Plus, it gives you a glimpse into the early years of a flawed (yet brilliant) character.
When I need something that is soothing, I read anything by Hemingway and life starts to feel like some sort of an adventure I shouldn’t miss. The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway is one way I got a taste of it. The Strange Country is my favourite.
The book I read many times already is Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Don’t say it’s pretentious. It is beautiful. Some even say it’s poetry. I am far from understanding his complicated genius, but I think I’ve learned how to read it and I think I’ll never stop going back to it.
Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?
A few years ago, I became interested in philosophy. Maybe it was because of where my life was at that time, but I was absorbed in it for long hours. As I was getting deeper into the topic, I reached a point when it became too hard to grasp without some background. I decided to get a more formal education on it, not for a degree, just to be able to read more of what I liked without getting stuck in misunderstanding concepts. This is how I ended up studying analytic philosophy at The University of Bucharest, an uncomfortable and beautiful experience. It is to this day one of the best decisions I made.
What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)
There hasn’t been one single book that changed my career, nor my life in general. But, if I were to name a book that made me question things in my professional life, it would have to be Quiet by Susan Cain. It is in this book that I first read a criticism to a practice that has been used and abused throughout my corporate life: teamwork. It was refreshing to read about the power of working alone and to be reminded that most of the ideas that shaped our world did not come out of a brainstorming session.
What five books would you recommend to young people interested in entrepreneurship & why?
I am not in a position to recommend books to people interested in entrepreneurship. I just don’t read those books.
The only thing I could tell them is that reading should not be about building a competence, but about building character. Competences are best developed by doing, while character is shaped by what we read. I think we should stop reading books that teach us “how it’s done” and start finding our own way of doing things, whether it’s entrepreneurship, relationships or what have you.
Quitting the idea that we must read certain books also helps. Plus, it saves a lot of time to read beautiful books that you actually enjoy.
I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? What format do you prefer?
My reading habits depend on the subject.
One behaviour is very thorough in terms of planning. This one has to do with what I read for school. I read half a day on Mondays every week. On Tuesdays, I go to the library from morning until 4PM and I read there. We have a library at school as well, which I hear is great, but I just love the building next to the Royal Palace. I usually bring my own books.
Reading anything not related to philosophy usually happens on weekends or if I happen to be at home during a work day and I have some free time. It is spontaneous. Then there are the flights and train rides which require some planning and I usually bring those books that have been sitting around for too long because I “couldn’t find the time” for them.
Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?
I take notes for some of the books I read. I also have a notebook in which I sometimes write a short summary of the book I just read. Trying to explain the main topic to someone also helps. A good technique for “conquering the torrent of information”, as you call it, is probably just being open to quit reading a book you started if you don’t like it.
How do you choose what books to read next?
The list of books I would like to read is already long and constantly growing. It would probably take many years to complete anyway, so I just pick from there.
Last question: what book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?
I am currently reading From a Logical Point of View by W. V. Quine and The End of History and The Last Man by Francis Fukuyama. I don’t have any expectations to gain something from them. I finally read just out of curiosity.
Links where you can follow Sonia Micu or find out more about her projects:
- NALU – webstore
- Connect with Sonia on LinkedIn
- NALU underwear “ESSENTIALISM”
- A city made by people: ‘NALU – A Bucharest-based lifestyle brand‘
- Forbes: ‘Sonia Micu, fondatoare NALU: Ideea afacerii a pornit de la nevoia unui alt fel de a trăi: unul în care consumăm mai puțin, deținem mai puține lucruri și mai puțin complicate’ [Romanian language]
- DoR: ‘NALU Underwear – Cum transformi o tendință de lifestyle în business?‘ [Romanian language]
- Start-up.ro: ‘NALU Underwear – lenjeria intimă românească se vinde la New York‘ [Romanian language]
All books mentioned by Sonia Micu in this interview:
- My Early Life: 1874-1904 by Winston Churchill
- The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway by Ernest Hemingway
- Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
- From a Logical Point of View: Nine Logico-Philosophical Essays by Willard Van Orman Quine
- The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama