Mia Munteanu (Marks,The Nature Project & Yoga City): Nature can be both a way of life and the place we all started from

Business, Creativity, People

Even she is client service director at the advertising agency Marks and working on one of the most demanding fields of activity in Romania, Mia Munteanu still finds time to cultivate her passions and transform them in real-life examples and future businesses. She talked with AdHugger about two of her side projects: The Nature Project and Yoga City, her inspiration and drive.

While Yoga City is the first platform in Romania dedicated to yoga culture, The Nature Project is Mia’s personal project where she supports the local community, in order to build a healthier city. From cooking to local farmers, food styling, food photography or social media media content, she is interested in starting a journey that will show her readers a new perspective in living a simple life.

AdH: When did you first discover you passion for nature?

Nature is the Black Sea, the beach and a less crowded Vama Veche, like it used to be in my teenage years. My grandparents are another link to a more rural nature. My passion for the nature, the way I see it today, is more about realizing the impact I have on the surrounding environment. I’m an urban woman, technology keeps me connected to the present. Nature can be both a way of life and the place we all started from. We have to be careful though not to turn into a junkyard with the plastic bottles we drink our organic juices from. A desire or a need in order to be instantly gratified can have some unwanted consequences for our environment. And this is not a problem “others” can solve, it’s something each one of us has to deal with. It means thinking about the ecosystem you are part of.

AdH: What about the passion for healthy eating and carefully choosing the ingredients?

I think the idea of healthy food is too broad. A lot of the food that creates health problems is bit necessarily bad for you, but it becomes bad because it is eaten wrong, too often etc. If you know what you eat and you understand the relationship between the amount of effort you put in and the amount of energy you receive and also if you understand how much of what you eat is “food” and how much of it is “taste”, you will realize that much if our nutritional culture is actually against our current lifestyle.

I’m also passionate about cooking and recipes thanks to my mom whom I used to help in the kitchen when I was a child. But now I’ve surpassed her, I’m the better cook. The most important thing when you cook is to try to be autonomous and know that you’ve touched and chosen each ingredient yourself.

AdH: Who was your inspiration and how is guiding you?

My friends are my most important source of inspiration on which I always rely on. They’re not only a source of inspiration but also an important resource. I’ve always received their support and I’ve always involved them in this game of mine. Business partners, clients, co-workers, all of them can become a source of inspiration that challenges you to go further. You just have to know how to listen.

What guides me? Imagination, a need for discovery and self-discovery and last but not least a need to play and interact with the world. Books are also good guides, some authors have had a significant impact on me, but I try not to get fixed on an idea or a certain doctrine. Instead I select and keep only what I like and what I feel represents me.

AdH: When did you launch the Nature Project and what is its purpose?

Lately, my yoga practice, the work I do with the Yoga City communication practice and my passion for nutrition have produced quite a large quantity of content (photos, recipes, formulas, references) which I thought it would be best to organize into a new project, The Nature Project.

For now, the purpose of the project is to test, explore and keep in touch with others who are just as curious. At the same time, it’s useful for documenting recipes, selecting good ingredients and reliable brands or suppliers. I’m beginning to build a community by think less about this and more about how to set the light, how to frame the plates, how long or short to write the article, who has a better story or new initiatives to explore.

Right now, the project manages to document our relationship with nature. It’s a digital collection of recommendations, from simple ideas for home cooking to suggestions regarding good producers, our weekly food basket, design objects, food styling and food photography.

I intend to carefully monitor how the project develops but I don’t want to force it to grow or transform it into something it cannot be. It remains to be seen if passion turns to business.

AdH: What is your goal for the project in 2018?

I want to gather a team around some online and offline initiatives. Also, to improve the content, find new presentation ideas, new recipes, new suppliers and brands that have something to say. And, of course, organizations or companies which understand that responsibility is in close connection to our daily lives and our habits.

AdH: Do you think about turning it into a small business or it remains just a passion?

I’m more interested in the journey than in the destination. I like to test, experiment and play with new possibilities. I’ve always explored the resources available to me and never set goals that are too overwhelming. Let’s consider a sushi master. In order to become good at what he does, he starts with learning how to prepare the rice. And he spends two years perfecting different techniques in order to understand this ingredient. Only when he’s ready, he moves on the next step.

The Nature Project is developing organically and I don’t intend to accelerate the pace. I would like for the project to develop naturally into a food styling and food photography boutique, which is already happening because I’ve developed a series of partnerships with some Romanian brands.

AdH:  What is your competition on the Romanian blogosphere and why?

I don’t consider myself a blogger. The blog is only the right medium on which I choose to promote a series of actions. It’s an intermediate stage. Just like my Facebook page which is another medium that helps me promote all the projects I am involved with. At the same time, my Instagram profile documents a different type of content: it’s dedicated to my food styling and food photography passion. I try to use different mediums in order to reach new audiences.

AdH: What do you offer differently?

A big part of my activity in the last two years has focused around those entrepreneurs that launched start-up in the food industry and around those brands that promote a responsible lifestyle.

Whether it’s environmentally friendly packaging, fashion collections that use natural materials or organic cosmetics, my involvement comes from the communication industry because I help them build a visual universe and a positioning strategy that can help them reach their audiences.

The Nature Project is one of the many initiatives I’ve started at the beginning of the year. It’s a place where my followers can find niche content.

AdH: What has been your financial investment in it so far?

The investment for The Nature Project is about EUR 2000 which I used for the website development, photography props, such as design objects, tableware and decor. And of course, a camera that helps me turn words into images.

AdH: Recently the project went in offline with an event you are organizing once a month: dinner stories. How did you come up with the idea and what is your goal with it?

It was the beginning of January and my birthday was coming up. I’ve never managed to synchronize all my friends’ schedules, so I’ve never really succeeded in bringing them all to the same table. I knew that if I invited them to my birthday they couldn’t refuse. They are all passionate about design and beautiful things because they work in creative industries just like me. They never get bored by Calea Victories, Cișmigiu Park or Grădina Icoanei. They’ve befriended Bucharest just the way it is.

I like being a tourist in my own city, I always discover something new. There are all kinds of journeys, you don’t have to travel thousands of kilometres to look at the world from a different perspective. I opened the AirBnb app and looked for a journey, just as I would have done if I travelled over lands and seas.

The ideas of renting an Airbnb apartment just for one evening turned into a real experience for us. We gathered a lot of stories around that dinner table, we could finally unwind and relearned a lesson we already knew: the fact that we love the simple things. I asked them if they thought it was a good idea to organise these sort of experiences or culinary travels as I call them for a larger audience. In other words, to open the doors of a new apartment each month and host a different type of dinner for those that are curious or passionate about a healthy lifestyle. They encouraged me and even got excited about the idea.

Through a happy coincidence I bumped into Camelia, an old friend. To my surprise, the apartment I rented was managed by her team. That’s how I discovered the fact that the AirInvest team turns simple apartments into genuine contemporary design projects which can become part of the city circuit again. So I discovered a different side of Bucharest. Now the Dinner Stories experiences that are help in Airbnb apartments are part of an initiative through which I try to encourage simple, but surprising home cooking.

The third edition will be in April and we are already planning to expand the concept in other cities and for different types of groups. Friends, friends of friends, co-workers, business partners or people who are passionate about new experiences.

AdH: Who is your target and how do you reach it?

Enjoying a home cooked dinner nowadays has become a luxury. We just swipe right whenever we want something and it magically appears at our doorstep without any effort from our part. We can access anything from anywhere, we are surrounded by so many options and we forget how to enjoy the things that are truly important. But we still want simple things, like the smell of freshly baked bread or of cinnamon and honey apples.

We’re always “on the go”, but we look for simple and healthy solution. I wanted to help people make friends with nature again, but I didn’t invite them to a restaurant, but into an apartment. In order to teach them how to replicate at home what they see here. We are looking for curious people that want to get accustomed to a healthier lifestyle and don’t know where to begin.

Alongside a few friends that are passionate about the simple life, I’ll teach you how to choose your ingredients, how to put together a shopping list, who are the local suppliers we get our products from. In other words, we can help you bring the healthiest colours into your everyday plates. You’ll learn the recipes as you try them and, more importantly, you’ll meet new people and their stories, in an apartment you probably won’t get a chance to see otherwise.

AdH: How is advertising co-habituating with those passions and extra activities?

My professional training has a very solid foundation. I’ve had the opportunity to be surrounded by people that share the same visions. The Marks DNA is made up of entrepreneurs that have had the courage to take their ideas further. It’s in our nature to get involved in projects in which we see potential, so we’re constantly encouraging one another to invest time and energy into our passions. I bring my passions to work, I don’t hide them into a drawer. And my co-workers encourage me.

AdH: What have you learned in your experience in the advertising world that is helping you the most in those projects?

There is no such thing as zero. Always explore the resources that are at hand.

AdH: Where do you find the time for them?

In those moments when others choose to scroll on Facebook or get caught up into Instagram notifications without even noticing. No dummy activities, no binging, no chat apps or late scrolling. And although I also coordinate social media teams, I spend most of my time offline and that gives me an advantage over those that have developed somewhat of an addiction to their smartphone.

AdH: Have you considered leaving advertising and following your passions seven more?

I’ve been navigating the intersection between pitches, short deadlines, meeting requests and all sorts of initiative for almost 10 years now. It’s really important to work in an environment that encourages you to grown and doesn’t teach you to postpone your passions for the weekend. I’ve learned to efficiently coordinate the projects I’m involved with and I want to continue growing on this path.

What I love most about what I do is the fact that I have the freedom to bring together different people from different fields, from production to design. Collaboration is what opens new paths. I’m certainly not planning to exist the industry, but I don’t really consider myself exclusively bound to it.

AdH: What motivates you each morning?

Sometimes it’s a beautiful spring, other times it’s the ideas around me or the initiatives I’m involved with. I look at every day as if it is a beautiful white canvas. Many times I look at this canvas at the end of the day. What does it look like? Am I illustrating the universe of possibilities that lies before me?

Or am I navigating absently into the chain of daily events and interactions? Each of my mornings begins with an intention, just like each evening is spent in silence, away from technology. The evenings are the moments I spend reflecting on the drawing board I started working on in the morning. Does it represent me? Is it what I want to show to the world? If the answer is “yes”, I move forward. If it’s “no”, then I have a new opportunity to start a fresh canvas the next day.

AdH: You are also manager and partner of Yoga City. What can you tell us about the project?

Yoga City is the first platform in Romania dedicated to the communication and promotion of yoga practice and culture. Online, on our Facebook and Instagram accounts you can find recommendations that can help you answer three questions: what is yoga, how can I practice and where can I do it?

Together with Laura Calin, the founder of V for Vintage, another project I became involved with, I launched a start-up that focuses on connecting the yoga practice with the real world, the readers, the people behind the screens.

AdH: How is the project extending in offline? What are your plans for this year?

Offline, we organise events that manage to bring different experiences under the same umbrella. From learning seminaries, cooking workshops, nutrition seminaries to yoga workshops, we are present and active in the most unconventional spaces in Bucharest.

Yoga Day, City Meditation, Take 20′ and Open Sky are just a few of our offline projects. At the same time, we want to develop a series of events dedicated exclusively for companies. We’re currently in the testing and developing stage.