Community//

Living Out Loud

How This Entrepreneur Used Adversity to Fuel Innovation

Ronnie Madra, Co-Founder of 1 OAK; Founder of EAROS

At eight years old, a young Ronnie Madra moved to New York City having no idea he would experience a world far greater than his own. Born in the South American country of Guyana to West Indian parents, Bibi and Ronald, he recalls the pivotal moments of being a part of a large family because they fostered a part of his identity which he lives out every single day, that 1 Of A Kind hospitality.

In the West-Indian culture, dating back to the 6th century BC, one is taught Atithi Devo Bhava which prescribes a reverent, hospitable relationship between the host and its guest. Having this ingrained into his childhood, the characteristics of being a connector, a host and a communicator developed naturally for him and, after barely graduating high-school, he had the itch to experience the cultures of the world and be a nomadic soul.

Unsure of how he would make a living, who he would meet along the way or how it would turn out, he left his home at the age of seventeen.

“Being a curious teenager, discovery, trial and error were all I knew. I was trying to find my way before the Internet and smartphones existed. Every journey had many surprises but I always learned a lesson at the end of it.” – Ronnie Madra

He spent his twenties traveling, working and wearing many hats as a DJ, a set designer and a promoter. One Monday night, he found himself at Amy Sacco’s legendary late-night hangout, Bungalow 8, where he met Richie Akiva and a dynamic business partnership was born. 

The two rolled the dice with every venture by creating culture-altering trends which changed the trajectory of New York City nightlife. Dubbed as the pioneers of pop-ups; the duo can walk into an existing event like the Cannes Film Festival, Art Basel, Coachella, or Paris Fashion Week and design a party that makes you wonder how you ever lived without it in the first place. Now, the Butter Group holds a multi-million-dollar portfolio of hotel and dining destinations which include A-list hotspots like Up & Down and, the mecca of nightclubs that opened ten years ago on 17thStreet, 1OAK.

“I’ve had so many failures that I’ve lost count, but I think persistence and resilience is so important in this business because what happens is that you fail on an epic scale. To be able to succeed after going through all of that is a high like no other.” – Ronnie Madra

Accustomed to living out loud every single night at concerts, dinners, nightlife entertainment and parties, life made a house call for Ronnie Madra. 

“There I was in Madison Square Garden, at a Linkin Park concert thinking that guy could sing his ass off; he was crushing it. Then, all of a sudden, I heard what sounded like white noise. It happened again at 1OAK and several times after that.” After visiting an audiologist, Ronnie was diagnosed with Tinnitus. “When you’re young, you think that you’re invincible and when you’ve realized you’re not, it’s too late,” he says. “I wish I had had some foresight as well as some role models to give me advice about hearing protection.” Tinnitus affects about one in every five people and is a symptom of an underlying condition such as hearing loss or ear injury. I thought if I’m experiencing this, then others may be experiencing it as well. I needed to find a way to help those people. I visited audiologists, explored protective ear products and realized that the products available were not effective, they were overpriced and difficult to find.

“Empathy is at the core of innovation.” – Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO

When faced with a challenge, Madra did what he does best. He took the hands-on entrepreneurial approach and created what the market lacked, a beautifully designed listening system.

EAROS: In-Ear Protection Solution for Music Enthusiasts is neither an ear plug that reduces all sounds nor an ear bud. EAROS is a sound filter which means you can go to a concert, put the product in your ear, and hear the most crisp, clear, amazing sound at a safe decibel level. It is engineered and designed for the hospitality and music industries to eliminate the “Acoustical Hangover™” while protecting your hearing. 

“At first, I shared my idea with those I trust the most because I knew they would be honest with me and tell me whether or not my idea was a good one. A friend of mine said, “Ronnie, the difference between a good idea and a bad idea is how you execute it.” And that is all I thought about from that point on. I started pulling in people, learning and acquiring data. I wanted EAROS to be affordable, easy to find, well designed and I wanted it to epitomize what I needed from a product. It’s truly remarkable how it evolved into what it is today. There have been failures and frustrations along the way but I persevered. I had people who believed in my passion and invested in my concept. 

“I want people to know that you don’t necessarily need an ivy league education to be successful. If you have passion for something and the will to work hard, you can achieve anything. We also have to be aware of the progress we make because, sometimes, progress can be dangerous. It is important to maintain some level of responsibility through it all. We get so caught up in growth and the bottom line that we forget what’s really important which is our health and our humanity.”

“I don’t want to leave this world without giving back something that will continue to help people long after I’m gone. For me, music is a way of life and I want everyone to experience and enjoy music the way I do but without the potential for hearing damage. Now, EAROS makes that possible.” – Ronnie Madra

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