“Most times, you should multiply the effort you think it will take by a minimum of 5x.” Lessons on Hard Work & More from Double CEO Malcolm Fontier
“We’re just getting started, but I’d like to think that a business-minded approach has the potential to accelerate efforts to fight this urgent problem.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing double CEO, Malcolm Fontier. He currently leads both Pakt and SeaHive–two seemingly very different companies that are surprisingly symbiotic. Malcolm’s diverse background has seen him at the helm of a design consulting group, a fashion brand, and a tech startup. Now he’s added an environmental venture alongside a successful return to product development.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
It’s my pleasure, thank you! My parents are back-to-the-land hippies. I grew up on a rural farm in a house that they literally built by hand. My mother referenced a book and then mixed the cement and laid the blocks of the foundation. I didn’t realize it at the time, but growing up with that type of “dive in and figure it” out mentality definitely affected the way I look at venturing into the unknown.
Being a DIY type that can’t sit still, I should have known entrepreneurship was the only logical path for me.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
It’s probably the story that actually lead to the start of my company, Pakt. Until 2012, I ran a brand that produced a line of travel accessories. I moved on to a new company and never thought I’d return to product development. Then, in 2016, one of the bags we had produced appeared in a documentary by The Minimalists. Suddenly I had a rush of people sending inquiries via my personal website asking where they could buy one. There weren’t any more, and I was already fully committed to a new environmental venture I was working on, so I didn’t think much of the requests. However, there quickly became too many to ignore, so back in February I reached out to Josh and Ryan of The Minimalists to introduce myself and ask if they might be interested in collaborating to relaunch the bag.
Josh replied with something like “…we love and we hate that damn bag! It’s by far the best bag we’ve ever used but thousands of people have asked where they can get it, and we don’t have a good answer for them.” Just over a year later I now run Pakt (www.paktbags.com) and together with Josh and Ryan we just re-launched the sought after bag on Indiegogo. We’ve raised $1.4 million and counting from passionate supporters.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
It may sound fluffy, but I can confidently say that the fact that we care makes us stand out. When I say we care, I’m talking about our customers, but it also applies to our operations and the smallest details of our products. My team and I do what we do because we love it, and also because we like the challenge of doing better than the status quo. I wrote an essay for our site on the topic of leading by example.
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 credit my friend and and mentor Bob Berkow for some of the most valuable advice over the years. Most recently he was pivotal in helping me see that it was time to cut my losses on a project that wasn’t working out. Doing so was absolutely the right move and it allowed me to get into more fulfilling work that much sooner.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My other company, SeaHive, combines my years of design, development, and management experience into a focused effort to fight the problem of plastic waste in our oceans. We’re just getting started, but I’d like to think that a business-minded approach has the potential to accelerate efforts to fight this urgent problem.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my Start-Up” and why.
- Most times, you should multiply the effort you think it will take by a minimum of 5x. Nothing is easy, especially when you’re breaking new ground or doing something for the first time. Had I planned more realistically, I would have avoided running out of runway on some past projects.
- Finding good people is hard.There are plenty of great people for your team out there–finding them is the hard part. So, when you do find them, let them know how much you appreciate them and make sure your company is a place they want to stay.
- Research is cheap. I start projects and businesses the only way I know how: full throttle. There have been times though that I’ve gotten down the road a ways only to realize there’s a critical flaw in the plan or model. I try not to make make that mistake anymore by pouring that initial drive into research and planning before mistakes get expensive.
- It’s not about the money. I have jumped into projects because of a financial opportunity. Looking back though, the most successful ones have always been the ones that had more of personal connection and didn’t necessarily appear to be that lucrative.
- Work on your business, not in it.This is something I learned from Derek Sivers’s book, Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur. As a DIY type, I’m way too eager to grab any little task that needs to be tackled. That’s not the way to ensure a healthy company that has the potential to outlive you, though. I have to constantly remind myself to take a step back and implement new processes or improve the team’s flow rather than helping on the never ending cycle of cleaning up.
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?
Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. To me, he epitomizes “leading by example.” I’d love to brainstorm with him on ways the opposing worlds of product development and environmentalism can better coexist in the future.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
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