How She Got There: Madison Maxey, CEO and Co-Founder of Madison Maxey

Name: Madison Maxey
Age: 19
Job Title and Description: CEO and Co-founder of Madison Maxey
College/Major: Parsons The New School for Design/ Fashion Design
Twitter Handle: @madisonmaxey

What does your current job entail?
Madison Maxey: I normally try to wake up around 7:30am and answer e-mails. I keep my computer next to my bed and work in bed until 8:30am. From there, it can be a variety of errands, meetings or projects. I'm currently interning with an education program in the city, so I’m often running to coffee shops or to my PR office in Brooklyn for quick meetings. I just started to skateboard, so it's been helping me get around faster! I also think it's important to self-educate, so I study Chinese and play the saxophone when I can grab a minute or two. As far as my blazers go, every spare moment goes towards building the business. I do the designs, but mostly I work on outreach and organize everything with Tessa, my business partner and our intern, Dani. It's a lot more logistics than designing and I've learned to be prepared for absolutely anything! On a fun day, I'll be able to work on more creative graphic design projects and build our recycled fabric stash, but the most exciting thing is always getting in a new shipment of blazers and seeing how all the color combinations turned out! 

Why did you decide to create your own clothing line?
MM: I’ve been interning in the fashion industry since I was 16 years old – I’ve worked with everyone from French wedding dress designers to Tommy Hilfiger. I felt like it was the right time to finally make my dreams come true, so I took a year off of school and took the plunge!

What’s the design process like?
MM:  I would imagine that everyone’s design process is a bit different, but mine comes from a place of practicality more than anything. Because our customers have so much freedom with creating their garments, my end of the design process needs to create a platform for customers to work off of. It’s important to keep the blazer silhouettes simple as well as flattering so that the colorful collars can really shine.

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?
MM: I wish I knew just how difficult it is to get appointment with buyers. I was under the impression that with enough determination, my team and I would be able to get in the doors of every New York boutique. In reality, a showroom is essential for making those wholesale sales.

Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?
MM: Donna Ricco, who I interned for over the summer before freshman year, encouraged me to continue designing. She gave me confidence to go for the gold and often supplies fabric for our recycled collars. It was wonderful to work under her and hear about how she created her business. Donna specializes in dresses, which I think is a fantastic business model, so I decided to specialize in blazers to get off on the right foot.

What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?
MM: I absolutely love reading big books on business and motivation, so naturally I have to choose Seth Godin’s quote, “If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.” It reminds me to always make my own decisions instead of letting fear make them for me. I also had the pleasure of meeting Iris Apfel in person and she said to me, “Always keep your eyes open.” She also re-quoted Rosalind Russell by saying, “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death." I take these words to heart and I make a strong effort to keep my eyes and heart open to every possible opportunity. In combination with challenging my fears, I think that these two (technically three) words of wisdom inspire me each day!

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?
MM: I learned pretty quickly that it’s important to take yourself seriously or else no one will. At first, I was a bit shy about my clothing line. I never disclosed the fact that I was working on a startup to others and would always just tell them about my cafe day job instead. Naturally, no one was enthusiastic about working with me. If you present your projects with passion and confidence, people are usually excited to help you. With help, you can accomplish wonderful things!

Where do you see your line in 10 years?
MM: In ten years, I hope to have expanded to menswear and corporate uniforms – all based off of our original blazer, of course! Our ultimate goal is to get the blazers in Anthropologie, so we hope to see that happen in 10 years!

What do you look for when considering hiring someone?
MM: When hiring someone, I look for a self-starter. I truly respect and love working with people who can assess a situation, see what’s unsatisfactory and orchestrate a change.

What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?
MM: I would tell them that it takes more time than you’d think, costs more money than you have and requires more work that you’ve probably ever done. But if you still want it, then you should absolutely do it. If things don’t work out, you’ll win through the lessons you learn. If it does work out, then you’ll have something of your very own to be proud of.

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