Fashion mogul Steve Madden came to Howard University to talk to students about the challenges and rewards of owning a successful business. Madden participated in an informal Q&A interview with Arian Simone, co-founder of Fearless Fund, and Howard’s students. The event took place on the fourth floor of the Louis Stokes Health Sciences Library on November 4.
Madden is the Founder and CEO of Steve Madden Ltd., a company that designs and produces footwear, jewelry, handbags and outerwear. At the event, many spectators wore Steve Madden boots and sneakers and Steve Madden handbags. Some members of the public even carried Steve Madden gift bags, which were free tokens from an old pop-up store that Madden had hosted on campus.
About half of the audience were students at the School of Business, and some of their first questions were about Madden’s youth.
Prior to becoming a world famous fashion designer, Madden worked in retail. He gained experience in the shoe business as a teenager when he sold shoes for a retail store. To that end, Madden stressed the importance of getting involved in the practical side of the shoe business.
âA lot of people say ‘well, I designed this sneaker, I’m going to go into my own business,’ but you have to learn the craft,â Madden said. âGive yourself at least a year or twoâ¦ Work in the field first. If you want to learn clothes, go and work at Zara.
However, while working in the field as a teenager, Madden faced personal obstacles that seemed overwhelming.
âAs a child, I had ADHD,â he says. âI couldn’t stand still, I couldn’t keep a thought in my head. I was everywhere. So I self-medicated with alcohol and drugs when I was in my twenties. I was almost non-functional. It was really bad.
In addition to having a drug addiction, Madden also faced jail time for fraudulent stock market actions, including money laundering and stocks. handling.
He explains these difficulties early in life in his novel “The Shoemaker”, which he included in the free gift bags he distributed to students in his pop-up shop. In the book, he details his journey from delinquency to sobriety, and explains how he took charge of his life.
When Madden was able to focus on his dream of building a successful fashion empire, he had to find people he could trust and help him broaden his vision. He stressed the importance of being able to rely on a team.
âThe big idea is that you build your team so that you, as a founder, as an entrepreneur, can think big. It’s very difficult to do everything yourself, âhe said.
Madden then gave an example where the presence of a team is crucial to the sustainability of his business. When the sale of the product doesn’t go as planned, Madden explained, he and his team get together to discuss how to do things differently in the future.
âYou learn as you go. You learn from your mistakes. We have a meeting – “What have we done wrong?” “”
Interviewer Arian Simone, who is also an entrepreneur, added: âHaving certain people on your team is going to be a game changerâ¦ You want to get great talent and people who match your company’s culture. ”
âSo what is it that motivates you in the company today? Simone asked.
Laughing to himself, Madden replied, âI’m very motivated by money. It’s kind of like a scoreboard, you know, but I wanna win – I really wanna win. I want everyone to wear my shoes. This is, for me, the big payoff. I have a fantasy: all the shoe companies go bankrupt, I’m the only one left.
Some of the students who attended the event learned important lessons from Madden’s words. Kayla Scott, a junior accounting student at Howard, expressed her appreciation for Madden’s lessons.
âI was really inspired by his drive to win and be successful in his business,â Scott said.
Another audience member expressed his entrepreneurial goals to Madden and explained how he wanted to follow a career path similar to Madden’s.
He said: “I really want to break into the fashion industry and my goal is to be my own boss.”
Asked about possible future collaborations with Howard, Madden was straightforward.
âListen,â he said, âI don’t have time to coat this – we’re looking to hire more black people into our business.â
Copy edited by: N’dia Webb