What Are You Doing From 7pm to 2am? How A Founder Started His Sunglasses Startup While Working Full Time (Interview)

…and getting his Master’s Degree… by Brendan O’Connor
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I’ve been meeting with Mike Malloy, the CEO of one of my favorite local, social ventures Waveborn, for the past three months. As founder of a social venture, Raise Your City, myself, I constantly seek to improve my management and leadership skills. Mike has been a mentor in those areas. I interviewed him to share with you the lessons he’s shared with me…

Mike Malloy is a pro frisbee player who travels the world selling sunglasses and helping people. He is the CEO at Waveborn, a social good sunglasses company that gives the gift of sight for every pair of Italian shades they sell. Malloy is also a Partner at PunchRock, a collaborative community for social innovation in Adams Morgan that keeps him active in DC’s rapidly growing entrepreneurial ecosystem.

TANR: You, like most in this town at some point, were a 10-hour a day desk-ridden consultant at Deloitte. For those who want to make that jump to the entrepreneurial lifestyle, as you have with your start-up company Waveborn, what is your best advice?

What do you do from 7pm to 2am every day? THAT is when you build your next project. I didn’t quit my job on Friday and start Waveborn on Monday. I spent a year working on Waveborn in my “free time” while still working full time at Deloitte, finishing my masters at Georgetown, and traveling to ultimate frisbee tournaments most weekends.

Of the 16 hours I’m awake every day, I’m hustling for at least 14 of them, either working on building the business, leading a new project, playing ultimate, or improving some aspect of my life. It really comes down to your mindset. If you want to commit to the entrepreneurial lifestyle, you have to work incredibly hard. I know I’m going to succeed because I push myself to work harder than everyone else.

And stop watching TV.

TANR: You found yourself in the CEO role of a rapidly growing company in a fairly short time after leaving your consulting gig. What were the biggest challenges you faced in adapting your skill set to transition from a highly rigid to a flexible structure?

There were a few things. Organization and time management were huge. I went from using Outlook to organize my life for pretty much everything, but when I joined Waveborn full-time I slowly transitioned to Google calendar. Learning to create and manage your own schedule is a challenge. Now, I never schedule meetings before noon. In the morning, I read, write, and take notes on the story of my life for my personal development. I focus on the projects that are most important to me, not just handling the last fire that needs to be put out.

Also, I’ve had to learn that the best leaders don’t make more followers. The best leaders develop others leaders.  Give others the autonomy to develop their own personal skills, and they will flourish, both personally and for the company.

Lastly, learning to praise publicly and reprimand privately. I can’t overstate how important this is to team building.

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TANR: What are three personal investment tools that you can’t live without?

One, I would say http://malloy.youcanbook.me. Using this tool I’m not spending any of my time and energy setting up calls and meetings. If you want to meet, you can see my schedule and book time with me, for as little as 15 minutes up to 2 hours.

The second would be Podio. That’s our project management software we use for Waveborn. It has changed everything. We’ve taken the company off of email, which can be extremely scattered and ineffective, and moved to Podio. We’re able to track projects, add people to workspaces, keep our files there, and run all aspects of the business through this platform. It’s a one-stop-shop for business processes.

And the third, I sleep 8 hours per day, or at least try to. I stay much healthier, in a better mood, and more productive when I get my 8 hours. Sometimes I may only be able to sleep 6 at night but then I’ll make sure to take a 2 hour nap. My mind is sharper, I’m more composed and I’m more prepared to handle all the random shit that goes wrong every day.

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TANR: What are some of your favorite books and blogs that helped you develop the skills you desired to become an effective leader?

I read A LOT as part of my lifelong commitment to personal development. I’d say pretty much everything ever written by Seth Godin and a bunch of other stuff. Here are some of my favorites:


TANR: You’re a Tim Ferriss follower. I know this because I’ve worked along side of you and have observed your work habits. What’s the most useful practice you have learned from him?

Delegate and automate. Create repeatable business processes as frequently as possible and then train other people or computer systems to do them for you. Breevy for PC and TextExpander for Mac have made my communication and typing so much more efficient.

I also have a business coach I meet with every month. One of my biggest takeaways from these meetings is a quote I often hear him say, “Systems beat genius every time.”

TANR: You effectively utilize nearly 100 individuals who want to help the Waveborn brand grow and succeed, all without a payroll. How do you excite and incentivize people to work towards something you believe in?

Watch this: RSA Animate – Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

Once you take money completely out of the equation, there are a lot of different ways to motivate people. Since we’re a social good startup with no money, it’s a lot like volunteering for a non-profit or church group or rec sports team. You do it because it’s fun and you are helping people and you like the people involved who you get to spend time with.

I want to make this something people WANT to be a part of. Do this by giving them an assignment. Something that needs to get done and that will take no more than one hour of their time. I’ll never hear from 20% of these people again. That’s fine. They save my time and theirs. 60% will get it done. These are the people that may help a few times here and there, but I probably won’t rely on them. The top 20% add their own creative element to the assignment, putting in a ton of work to something that could have taken them 5 minutes. These top 20% are the people I want to work for Waveborn forever, and as the business continues to grow will receive full-time job offers.

TANR: I once heard from a wise barber that all successes and accomplishments are due to one thing: preparation. You successfully raised $21,000 by way of a crowd funding campaign. I, more than most, know how difficult this can be. How much of that success can be attributed to preparation?

90%. I don’t rely on luck for success. As Randy Pausch said, “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.”

TANR: As a man of many interests, how do you find balance in life?

I find satisfaction with the accomplishments I’ve made in the day instead of worrying about tomorrow. Our lives are comprised of the stories we tell ourselves. Tell yourself a positive story about the great things you’ve done that day, the friends you’ve made, the things you’ve learned, and you’re probably living a much happier life.

TANR: What are your next steps for Waveborn?

After attending Vision Expo West, our focus has shifted to fulfilling wholesale orders. We want to be moving as many units as possible by getting into as many retail stores and optometry offices as possible. Along with that, we now have the capability to do custom polarized and prescription sunglasses.

Thanks to Mike for the interview. Now go get your “shades that give sight” at Waveborn! Use the code “TANR25” for $25 off your next purchase.

Like Social Startups? Then Check Out This Interview: Rock A Pocket, Empower A Kid: The Warby Parker/Tom’s Shoe’s Model In The Apparel World (Interview) 

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