TRENT MAYOL, 23

SHANE WEBSTERM, 25

SmartDeco Furniture, a

company that makes recyclable cardboard furniture, Venice

EMPLOYEES: Contract workers.

What led you to start your own company?

Mayol: It was the first idea I was truly passionate about; also because I had the help of the USC Lloyd Greif Entrepreneurship program.

Websterm: Studying entrepreneurship at USC was the ultimate inspiration. My first venture, an ergonomic office-chair product, failed. After that I needed to get a job and make some money, I did a painful year of consulting before I was lucky enough to join SmartDeco.

Where did you get the startup money?

Websterm: We launched a Kickstarter campaign that raised $15,000, and won a small-business contest for $10,000. The rest came from me, my partner Trent, friends and family.

What was the biggest challenge? 

Websterm: The biggest challenge today is selling units. That’s the ultimate goal. That’s how we scale up and grow, which is what every start up is aimed at. We need some big anchor accounts, Costco, Home Depot, for example. Beyond increased sales, an account like that would bolster our credibility and visibility.

What was the most important lesson you learned?

Websterm: Engage in as many conversations as possible and do that everywhere you go. I have met people in random places like the checkout line at the market who have ended up contributing to SmartDeco in some way.

How many hours a day do you put in?

Mayol: Some days are 24-hour days and others are six-hour days. But I definitely love the 24-hour days the most as I’m happiest and do my best work when I’m busiest. At the same time I’ve also learned to take breaks when I have the time.

Will you start another company?

Mayol: I’d like to.

Websterm: Yes.

Could you ever work for someone else?

Mayol: Of course. I’m extremely thankful to be in the position that I am in, and if the situation were to arise where I needed to work for someone else, I would do so.

Websterm: Like many people, my preference would always be to be my own boss, but yes, definitely.

What do you do to relax?

Mayol: Outside of work I live to ski, golf and hunt.

Websterm: In the office, when things get stressful, I go for walks, or Trent and I go outside and throw the football. Things can be tense in any business and having those relaxing times are just as important to our productivity as the work itself. I do my best work when I’m relaxed.

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