Startup Backstory is a new series asking some of our most diverse clients pressing questions about their startup’s journey. Each interview is unique and represents the various ways in which the entrepreneur’s path is their own. Read more on their story of how they made their idea come to life, feel free to follow, share, and connect with them!
1) How would you describe the uniqueness of your business in a couple sentences?
My businesses are unique as they aim to shift paradigms and challenge conventional wisdom. I am not merely selling products or services. I am selling (a) state(s) of mind.
2) What made you decide to start this business?
A desire to challenge the status quo. I think of entrepreneurship first and foremost as a way to solve problems. And generally speaking if you manage to solve a problem financial reward will likely follow. In the case of Eben, I was appalled by the practice of skin bleaching that was pervasive in my country and I needed to chart another path for the consumer. In the case of Flashstay, it occurred to me that travelers could benefit from the type of predictability offered by hotels while getting the coziness and personality of a home. As far as Congo Clothing Company is concerned I figured I could raise money and create awareness to support and help rehabilitate survivors of sexual violence by using fashion as a vehicle to direct the attention of millennials and gen Zs towards the issue.
3) What keeps you motivated?
Imagining a world where my solutions contribute to improving the living conditions of entire communities is what keeps me going.
4) Who are your inspirations?
Nelson Mandela and my father. To me they embody resilience, which is in my opinion the most important trait an entrepreneur can have.
5) What type of impact are you trying to have with your business?
I am trying to make young people in my country (the Democratic Republic of Congo) in particular realize that there are truly no limit but those that one artificially set in his/her mind. I want people to dare to challenge the status quo and create positive ripple effects in their communities.
6) What was the most valuable piece of advice you received while starting your business?
The most valuable piece of advice I received came from a book by Eric Ries called ‘The lean startup’ and it is to go to market as soon as possible with a minimum viable product and iterate along the way as opposed to spending tons of resources and waiting until you think you have the perfect product. It’s always better to fail early.
7) Has it been a smooth road?
Life is like a bumpy zigzag. You’ve just got to keep moving forward.
8) What are some things you wish you knew before starting this business?
I wish I knew that graphic design was so important! I would have definitely taken a photoshop/illustrator course at UM.
9) Anything else you want to share?
Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s part of the process. What’s important is your ability to get back up when you fall.
For more, checkout this video interview featuring Milain with a New York based podcast, “From The Founder”