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5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO: Mehdi Raad founder of Maceoo

"Surround yourself with smarter people – Steve Jobs always said the best invention was the iTeam! "

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mehdi Raad, outspoken
entrepreneur, engineering geek, and founder of the  
menswear label, Maceoo.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your
“backstory”?

I was born in France and raised in Lebanon in a village where
you can see the horizon in any direction. I graduated from
McGill/MIT with a degree in engineering. Even though I have an
ivy league degree, I believe that my understanding of life and
my ability to connect people came from growing upon the streets
of my hometown. Horizons makes you see the big picture. The
streets teach you the art of negotiation, persuasion, language,
and perseverance.

After my graduation, I joined tech companies Ericsson and Apple,
during which I had the chance to tour the world (32
countries) and discover cultures, religions, preferences, styles
and colors. There were cities that marked my journey. Among them
Rome, Johannesburg, and Delhi. The minute I landed in those
cities, I was able to unleash my creative side. The
architecture of Rome, the wildlife of South Africa and the
colors of India fueled my passion to create Maceoo.

During my journeys abroad, I exposed myself to the science of
colors, fabrics, and sampling. I approached fashion from an
engineering angle and created my first prototype based on
calculations.The idea was to develop an engineering process to
build a consistently great garment, guided by an efficient
algorithm to determine the best fit. Comfort, fit and style –
these are the challenges that I was looking to solve. The
meeting of fashion and science!

When people saw the first prototype, the feedback was
overwhelming. For the first time I started to believe that I
could create my own line, but the timing was not right due to my
frequent mobility.

It became right the minute I landed in San Diego – the finest
city in America. It was an instantaneous love with the city and
the San Diegans. I was there for a two week project for my Tech
company and after meeting a factory owner at the restaurant of
the ANDAZ hotel (previously called IVY) I decided to create our
fashion house in room 642. To date it is still the home of
Maceoo.

Our inspiration comes from General Maceo who led Cuba to
Independence against the Spaniards. Maceo was known as the Great
Titan Lion because of his exceptional physical strength.
Moreover, in several of his battles, tales spoke about a
resistance to bullet and blade wounds.

This felt approproate because starting Maceoo, it felt like I
was going to war every day. I worked two jobs for five years to
pay the bills while developing and launching Maceoo. We finally
reached 365 Point of Sale and had a full team of talented
individuals to grow the brand. It was not easy. A lot of tears
were shed a long the way. But I kept believing and refused to
stop. I can finally say that when you work through struggles and
reach your goals, the rewards are indescribable.


Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that
happened to you since you started your company

I generally leap before I look. Even more so when I was younger,
so there are many mishaps that I faced along the way.In the
moment those struggles were not the least but looking back now,
I can connect the dots and appreciate the humor in my journey.

If I have to pick one story…once I met a gentleman who told me
that “sales cure all”. The idea being that when you sell
enough you can afford the luxury of outsourcing things, but
until then you have to get your hands dirty. I say this because
I can vividly remember the small Maceoo team and myself in a
hotel room, trying to count thousands of garments. When I said
earlier that we worked out of a hotel room, I meant it
literally. The shower was used as our mini warehouse.

And my solution for staying fresh was to use the shower at the
gym every day.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you
share a story?

The direct translation of Maceoo means “a gift from the
Gods” and the three parallel, horizontal bars in MACEOO are
inspired by the mathematical symbol of “not identical to.”I
see the brand as a mix between inspiration and innovation.

I view Maceoo as a tech company that happens to be selling a
fashion product. You can never go wrong when you apply math and
science to a problem you are trying to solve. Our technology and
our algorithm are what gives us the edge; off the rack clothing
that feels fitted and gives guys a new confidence in their
appearance. Maceoo is the first fashion house to mathematically
engineer precise design, fit, and comfort!

We are currently carried in all the better stores in USA and
dress many celebrities and athletes including John Travolta,
Lady Gaga, and many more.

 None of us are able to achieve success without some help
along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful
towards who helped get you to where you are?

I wouldn’t be able to limit it to one person. You need to
surround yourself by great people with a positive attitude.
Building a business is an emotional journey of ups and downs.
Along the way you learn and borrowfrom everyone you meet. You
have to be a sponge. Even the bad experiences teach us
something. It’s the accumulation of all my experiences that
gave me the tools to succeed.

On a personal level, on the hardest days, I have to thank God
for keeping me going. You go to bed thinking “I’m done. I
can’t go on.” You literally want to give up every day
especially when you start a bootstrap business without any
investment, all self-funded!

Funded by passion, obsession, the fear of failure, striving
forgreatness and knowing that we are doing something great –
these things give me the strength to get out of bed the next day
and carry on. This is the reason why we called this company
Maceoo for its meaning “a gift from the Gods,” it takes a
Godly effort to bootstrap and keep it going!

 How have you used your success to goodness to the world?
 

After six years of producing engineered garments we received a
lot of feedback from our clientele. Maceoo products correct your
posture and the way you carry yourself. Confidence and attitude
brings positivity around you. Opportunities comes your way when
you dressed to embrace it. There is a factor of ambition and
success that comes into place when you wear the right armor. I
have received so many letters from customers expressing
gratitude. That strangers now compliment them and they have a
new-found confidence in themselves. There is no greater gift
than to hear these personal stories.

Our demographic is between 30 to 55 years old and mainly consist
of tech people, engineers, sales people, or entrepreneurs.
Usually those people have a superior intellect and need to stand
out in their professions. Maceoo, with our unique style, allows
them to do so.

On the other hand, every employee or partner in the company has
remained the same. We are a very close group and we are trying
to build a legacy that will help others. We fight for equality.
In America the health system is not offered to its people for
free as in Europe. So we are deeply involved in a cause against
cancer. We created a line called #fuckcancer by Maceoo where all
profits go to children who have been diagnosed with cancer. A
friend of mine is the owner of curematch that creates adaptive
medication based on DNA to cure cancer and we work with them on
a daily basis. We would love to help everyone in the world but
we have a lot to do here in USA and we are so glad and we feel
rewarded when we can give back!

 What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I
launched my Start-Up” and why. 

There are pros and cons to knowing the future. Sometimes not
knowing the future could be an asset. If every entrepreneur knew
the amount of work and the learning curve of every aspect of
their business I guarantee you that over half of them would quit
before they even start. The day we launched Maceoo, my CPA
offered me a mug that said “Enjoy the Journey.” At that time
I thought it was cute, looking back I now feel every single
minute of that journey and understand the significance of that
sentence.

Here are some of the tips that I really advise every
entrepreneur to read and comprehend:

1. Always be Innovative – Companies die when they are too
comfortable. The world evolves fast and doesn’t wait for
anybody. You always need to be several steps ahead. Thinking
differently and disruptively is key. I was listening to a
conference given by Alibaba’s CEO and he mentioned something
really interesting. He said to have better chance at succeeding
you don’t need to be the best – you just need to be first!
That means not lot of people could compete with LeBron James’
physical gifts, but you could be the first at inventing a
valuable service like Uber.

2. Be mindful and patient – Don’t rush the process, enjoy the
journey. Try to take the time to understand the way things work
and look at the big picture. Life goes fast and emotional
thinking can lead to bad decisions. So try and ground yourself
and focus on the task in front of you.

3. Study your industry – Knowledge is power. Be a sponge but also
be flexible. You have to be willing to change your mind and
direction once new (better) information is made available.
Don’t hesitate to adjust your strategy every single month if
needed.

4. Work to a process – The keys to success in any business are to
follow up with your clientele constantly. It takes on average 5
emails/calls to convert a lead into an account and this is done
with constant follow ups to build that relationship. In order to
grow your sales and be able to manage that growth you need to
have patterns and clear processes in place. Make sure they are
set and your staff follow them as they grow. Don’t cut
corners!

5. Surround yourself with smarter people – Steve Jobs always said
the best invention was the iTeam! My dad is a surgeon and as you
can imagine it is a one man show. I always thought you can do
everything on your own. It is possible if you want to limit the
growth of your company but impossible if you are looking to take
your organization to the next level. If you know what needs to
be done, then hire people and train them. If you don’t have
knowledge in the position you are hiring for your company, make
sure to hire experts. A gentleman once told me “If you think a
professional is costly, try to hire an amateur!”

 Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding,
Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in
the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private
breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I strongly believe we are meant to be on earth to share our
passion. Many personalities and celebrities made me feel
powerful emotions of happiness, sadness, and compassion. As an
entrepreneur I look up to those role models becaused they helped
define who I am today.

If I had to identify myself today I feel connected to :

1- The Great Gatsby played by DiCaprio
2- Lebron James in 2016 Game 7 in SF
3- Batman played by Christian Bale
4- Zinedine Zidane in the 1998 World Cup
5- Will Smith In the Pursuit of Happiness
6- Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society
7- Steve Jobs releasing the iPhone
8- Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans

I relate to those people and characters. Every day I am
passionate, dramatic, obsessed by perfection and a workaholic.
Imagine having those people around one table for breakfast. It
would be a dream come true. But in case one of you guys read
this article, give me a call. Breakfast is on me!

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