ABOUT TODAY’S GUEST | MARK MASTRANDREA
Mark Mastrandrea (AKA Mark Brazil) is the Co-Founder and CEO of the well-known digital art company, Ikonick. Mark sold Cutco in the Summer of 2004 while attending the University of Delaware. He started Ikonick in 2016 with his partner, Jeff Cole. Mark’s story is one of grit, determination, persistence, self-growth, focused effort, and now massive success. In reality, Ikonick is not an “art company,” but instead is inspiring and motivating people through images, quotes, and stories, and the company truly reflects the DNA of its founders.
Q&A WITH MARK MASTRANDREA
Q: I have heard you say about Ikonick, we don’t sell art, we sell passion. Why don’t we start by having you unpack that?
- That’s brand 101. People do business with people; they don’t do business with products. People engage with something based on emotional connection as opposed to simply a product. For us, it has been a connection that ties in to who we are as humans and as a company.
- Jeff and I are two kinds of scrappy, under-incentivized, under-utilized employees turned entrepreneurs. We wanted to tell our story through art. That motivation and inspiration seeps through with the images and the words. I knew there would be a day we’d want to do more than just art.
- We’ve centered our media, all our content and all of our products on that identity. We once made a decision to go into other art pockets, whether it would be abstract, minimalism or pop art, but it was a mistake and didn’t necessarily have that emotional identity. It didn’t resonate. We then made a decision to keep that identity and double down on the brand and emotion. We launched more product mediums. We started with simple stuff like mugs and notebooks.
- For anybody out there building a brand, I recommend it to have the same DNA as founders. Ultimately, it’s about identifying that core persona, that person you want to attract to that tribe.
Q: Where did the idea of Iconick come from and how did you come up with the name?
- I was a CMO of a company called Melin. I was touring the US on a grand bus tour, 4 months, 42 states and 175 retailers traveling the world, sleeping in the bus in Walmart’s parking lot. We eventually raised $1 million.
- On the last tour, I met in Boston a tattoo artist. He got tons of emails that he didn’t know how to answer. I agreed to help him, and two weeks later I sold a piece of art for $1,500 and became an art dealer.
- Between 2014 and 2016, I realized most people can’t afford fine art.I said Hey! Why don’t we drop a limited time print and see how it does. We made $20,000 in two days. I believed there’s a huge hole in the affordable art market.
- Fast forward to 2016, I was living with my now business partner, Jeff Cole, who was the graphics designer at Melin. I’d known him for about 5 -6 years at the time. He’s a very talented artist. I told him about this idea … There is a huge hole in this market. He started blowing up on Instagram and saw nearly all posting motivational quotes, pop culture and photography. So, he said, I will just start drop shipping art.
- We named the company Ikonick and secured on Go Daddy and TradeMarkia.com. we use that same production from 6 years ago. It is a case of great customer service.
Q: In the early days, you kept your day job and were working nights on Ikonick?
- I was working 5am to 8am and 6 am to midnight on Ikonick while holding onto my regular job.
Q: What do you feel like were the biggest challenges you overcame in those early days?
- Finding the right people.
- Cutthroat savage competition.
Q: You guys exploded when you got into Instagram. Tell me about how your marketing process has evolved.
- It’s completely different.
- At first, we had a lot of iPhone photos, a lot of influencers, focusing on Facebook and Instagram. Usually, you can say of all industries, the creative is the independent variable that can take marketing far.
Q: I saw you talking of marketing and a content strategy that is based in who you are. Does this speak back to what we talked about earlier, how you founded Ikonick. The idea it would reflect on your own personality and things that inspired you.
- There have been opportunities we’ve had a try at. Jeff and myself thought it wasn’t made to our true authentic self. Authenticity always wins.
- If you look at other CEOs, I’m on the edgy side, I’m a bit out there, brash and I curse. That’s going to detract some people and I’m Ok that that is the way it is.
Q: Was there any particular product/SKU that really exploded Ikonick’s results?
- It was more widespread, there wasn’t any particular one. For us, when we got the NBA license that was kind of the inflection point and I’m using that to get more licenses and everything from a credibility perspective.
- When you have blue-chip partnerships with entrepreneurs, it makes it easier to talk to other entrepreneurs. Life and business are a game of leverage and you need to fight and scrap your way to get the first piece. When you get the first piece, things will be easier.
Q: What are your favorite motivational sayings or ideas?
- Keep Going. (Muhammad Ali piece)
- The only thing that’s more fun than fun is winning.
- Rest at the end, not at the middle. (Kobe Bryant quote)
Q: Let’s talk about the people who inspired you. What did you do working with Jay Abraham?
- My partner at Melin, Brian, had all this stuff of Jay Abraham zip drives and I started studying him. I met him two years later on a dinner meeting. We have stayed friends from then on.
Q: Let’s talk about Cutco summer 2004. What lessons can you remember from the experience?
- People do business with people.
- If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
- Isolating objections and then finding out where the wins are.
Q: I’ve heard you say the economy is a skills and knowledge economy, not a jobs and resume economy. You have promoted for people the importance of investing in yourself. Anything you could say to the Cutco audience about that?
- You just have to become undeniable.
- Investing in your health and fitness has a ripple effect on everything else.
- Starting with the motto at Ikonick, we don’t sell art, we sell passion. What you do reflects who you are. Ikonick reflected Mark and his partner, Jeff.
- The company reflected the DNA of the founders. That’s how they knew they’d found the right opportunity to build. He put a lot of hard work in, in the early days he referenced.
- Mark talked about the importance of getting that first win, the importance of building momentum.
- I also appreciate he was willing to share how much he studies and works on his craft constantly. Listening to podcasts, reading books, studied all of Jay Abraham’s stuff and he’s networked with and aligned with like-minded entrepreneurs.
Show Notes for this episode provided by Brian Njenga.
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