Ideas need to be malleable, otherwise, it becomes outdated and obsolete.
After creating and selling one of the first proprietary online shopping carts, Ali began his venture in web development, design, and programming within the entertainment & media industries. While working with ESPN, Clear Channel, Maverick Records, Warner Brothers Records, Gold Inc., he conceptualized, designed, and created websites for widely known artists & brands such as Madonna, The Deftones, E40, My Chemical Romance, Lenny Kravitz, and much more. He’s the Founder of Go Merch and 8-bit Inc and has designed, strategized, and developed technical initiatives for over 350 clients which include Tiesto, Pink Floyd, and Breaking Bad (Sony). Currently, he’s the Co-Founder, President, and Chief Technical Officer of Trendy Butler.
Where did the idea for Trendy Butler come from?
I’ve been involved in the tech & clothing industry for 20 years now. I always wanted to make the online shopping experience easier. The idea is to create the easiest way to deliver merchandise. I used to joke about handling products to someone through their monitor. I started looking at other business models, and they always lacked the peer to peer sensibility. When you look into someone’s Netflix account, you can see what each individual enjoys. I want this for the fashion industry, and for it to be affordable.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
A typical schedule is packed with the management of the in-house staff and developers. If I have any free time, I set up meetings with each of the departments and the vendors we’re working with. The last thing I want to do is micromanage, but a sense of unity does maximize output. It’s easy to get tunnel vision, hence, I always listen to different perspectives to gain new insight.
How do you bring ideas to life?
You know when you have a great idea, and you don’t do anything to make it happen? Someone else always comes along and makes your idea happen. I dislike that. Everyone has great ideas, but it’s a matter of execution. I do everything to make sure that every day I reach a goal in order to make it to the next step. As days go by, I’m able to see my project becoming more and more viable. It takes nine months for a child to develop, then another, however, many years for that child to turn into a successful adult. It takes baby steps until you can finally get your foot in the door. Eventually with enough time and accomplishments, an idea becomes a tangible product.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I grew up in an extremely healthy conscious household; I am a major foodie. Speculoos Cookie Butter from Trader Joe’s is still one of the greatest things to ever happen.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Utilizing my down time. There’s this new myth where people are convinced that you have to be “on” all the time. Truthfully, everyone is different. I only sleep roughly 5 hours a night. Generally, I read the news and experiment with tech. Whenever I see innovation, it always inspires me. There’s also, of course, the occasional videos for laughs.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The job started at 4:00 P.M. (after school) and I had to build 40 computers in an hour. I learned that even if you have a poor work ethic, your marketable skill set is meaningless. Jobs that demand a specific skill set will always exist. More importantly, being able to use your skills to its fullest capacity is how you excel your professional life. I’m great with computers, but I did not want to be building computers as a career. So, I learned that working smart beats working hard.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Never ever stop learning. I cannot reiterate this enough. I see too many young people where they are too scared to fail. Learn from other people’s failures as well as your own, otherwise, you’ll never learn how to succeed.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how. –
You need to invest your money in people rather than ideas. I think too many people nowadays always want to be surrounded by “yes” people. One of the best people to always have around you is to tell you, “no”. Ideas need to be malleable, otherwise, it becomes outdated and obsolete. I understand the right idea has a strong foundation, but it takes time to be grounded.
I’m a programmer. I build code endlessly throughout the day. I dream code. It’s obsessive, I know. I need someone who isn’t me to look over my work. They can’t be terrified of criticizing me. Can you imagine if no one ever told me I was wrong? I would’ve never been as successful as I am today. You always need someone who is willing to deconstruct your idea and break down your efforts. This will make you more efficient in the long run. I don’t need compliments, I need to be better since there’s always room for improvement.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it? –
I tend to think of all my failures, rather than a single failure.
My communication has never been my forte, and I’ve been easily wheedled into failed projects. It took time for me to learn how to approach different people. While being critical can be confrontational, I realized being able to disarm someone’s ego is important to make a steady process flow. After a certain breaking point in my career, I created a stringent schedule. Eventually, I began to live by a high set of standards and I believe time is more valuable than any commodity.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Monthly subscription for girl scout cookies. I’ll buy thin mints for the rest of my life.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought speakers to play music at the office. I know a lot of older people would disagree with my purchase, but I believe it’s important to make the work environment comfortable. Right now, successful tech companies implement Dan Pink’s motivational atmosphere in a workplace. I want to do my best to mimic success and create a setting that caters towards opportunities.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Recently, I’ve been using X.AI. It schedules my meetings every day. People confuse it for a real person. It’s definitely onto something if it’s already making people believe a real person is handling my calendar.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Everyone should read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. This quote helped me understand people’s behavior. “We’re friends with the people we do things with, as much as we are with the people we resemble. We don’t seek out friends, in other words. We associate with the people who occupy the same small, physical spaces that we do.” I always try to expand on this idea in order to make me think on a larger scale than just myself.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Nikola Tesla and his counterpart, Thomas Edison, have greatly influenced me. Edison was a phenomenal politician, and he played a necessary evil to be successful at business. Even though Thomas Edison had numerous amounts of patents as a way to discourage other engineers, Tesla still managed to produce his own revolutionary invention. This historic rivalry shows how competition and limitations create the opportunity for further innovation. In my opinion, nothing is ever done alone. We’re influenced by others around us in order to create a better situation for ourselves.
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