Gastón Frydlewski and Mariquel Waingarten – Founders of HICKIES

[quote style=”boxed”]Put your personality into everything you do. You have to connect and make your project something that reflects you. So be honest with yourself.[/quote]

Gastón Frydlewski created HICKIES. He designed the product, researched the materials and production process, and patented the concept. He worked at JPMorgan Chase from 2006 to 2011 in the Latin America M&A team, working from the Buenos Aires and New York offices. Prior to joining JPMorgan Chase, he worked at Telefónica in its strategic planning and innovation groups.

He obtained his undergraduate degree in business administration from Universidad de San Andrés in Buenos Aires, and a master’s degree in finance from the same institution. Gastón’s experience includes M&A, JVs and capital markets transactions (IPOs and corporate bonds) in the U.S., Latin America and Asia, for a total transaction value of more than US$7bn.

Mariquel Waingarten is co-founder of HICKIES, and is a seasoned entrepreneur. Prior to HICKIES, at the age of 24 years old, she founded and built the #1 boutique hotel in Argentina, Tailor Made Hotel (TMH), which was the top ranked hotel on for Argentina for four years. TMH was a unique hotel with ground-breaking innovations in customer experience and viral marketing. Mariquel sold TMH in 2010 and has been interviewed by major marketing and hotel publications.

Prior to founding TMH, she acted as a real estate consultant and implemented the first condo hotel operations in Argentina. Mariquel obtained her undergraduate degree in business administration and economics from Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires and her master’s degree from Universidad de San Andres.

What are you working on right now?

We are now working on HICKIES, which is a ground-breaking lacing system that replaces traditional shoelaces and lets you easily slip in and out of your shoes while keeping them snug and secure. Never tie or untie your shoes again! You can get rid of the bows and customize your footwear.

Where did the idea for HICKIES come from?

We hated tying our shoes, and we never liked the shoelace bows in our kicks. They break up the silhouette and lines of the footwear, and they look funny. Have you noticed that all sneaker advertisements show shoes without the bows (even in the stores)? It’s because shoelace bows are not attractive.

Laces are also every parent’s nightmare and every athlete’s hassle. How many times have you found yourself trying to get your family out the door to go somewhere, only to have your kids fumbling with their shoelaces for so long that you give up and tell them to just put on sandals? How many times have you gone for a run and had your laces come untied?

We felt that there had to be a better, more interesting solution. That is why we came up with HICKIES: to free you from bows and knots, and to let you customize and redesign your footwear.

What does your typical day look like?

We wake up and have breakfast. Mariquel goes to her dance class early in the morning, and then heads to the office before noon. I read the newspaper, clean the house a little bit, and then head to the office on my skate board. We both work as long as we have to in order to fulfill our day’s agenda. At night we walk home together through the beautiful Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, and then we prepare dinner and talk about anything but work!

How do you bring ideas to life?

If you think about it, to create is to transform, and in order to transform you have to question the way things already are. Once the idea is in this world, it’s out there for everyone to see, and it changes everything. That is how powerful an idea can be. This is why we are in a constant state of change. To bring an idea to life, you have to be persistent, never give up, believe in it more than anyone in the world, and be passionate about it.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

We are excited about digital media marketing and crowdfunding. These trends are all about people getting closer to companies and directly helping them “Kickstarter” new ideas and improve old ones. We are also excited about the trend of building good companies that will construct a new kind of society focused on leaving a positive impact on the world. Entrepreneurs now are more focused, more creative, and more tuned in with a new and more emotional society–and we want to be part of that.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Neither of us had a “worst” job. I enjoyed all of my previous work, and always learned from jobs and made good friends along the way. If you don’t like a job, quit. There’s no need to suffer, especially in hard, demanding jobs like the one I had at JPMorgan Chase when I was doing investment banking. The important thing is your attitude towards your job. You should always be there for the adventure.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Mariquel: Every time I did not follow my gut, I was mistaken. Now, I always listen carefully and follow my instincts.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Put your personality into everything you do. You have to connect and make your project something that reflects you. So be honest with yourself.

What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Gastón: I had the idea of HICKIES when I was 23 years old. I started to look for investors to raise money, but they said I was too young, the idea was too crazy, and I had no experience. They were right! So I asked them, “How can I gain experience and become trustworthy to you?” They said, “Get a job in either consulting or investment banking.” So that is what I did. I got a job at JPMorgan Chase and became an investment banker for five years, to gain experience with the only purpose of being able to create HICKIES. So my advice would be to never lose your passion for your idea or the trust in yourself to make it happen. Go with the flow, turn any rejection into something that will make you grow, and try to make every step one that gets you closer to accomplishing your idea.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Gastón: I always wanted to make a helium sofa. For small spaces/apartments this product would be ideal because it could hang in the air when you do not need it. Then when you have guests over or need to use the sofa, you could bring it down with a rope/string and use it.

Mariquel: I really think Williamsburg needs a boutique hotel–a small, charming and exclusive hotel that has a warm and personalized service (like the hotel I used to have in Argentina).

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

Mariquel: I would redesign cities in terms of the way they are structured and conceived. I don’t like to be so apart from nature and nature’s design for us. I would like to make the roads available only for Segways, bikes, roller blades, and any other kind of small and clean-energy transportation vehicle. In the middle of every road there should be vegetation–more trees and nature. I would like every building and every house to have a green wall and rooftop garden. Every building or community should have its own organic garden to grow fresh vegetables. I envision cities in the future to be more aligned with nature; they will nurture us and our quality of life.

Gastón: I would love to see spiritual–not religious–education be a part of every school curriculum. Schools should be more focused on teaching kids to deal with their emotions. Schools should also encourage creativity more using music, painting, sports and all sorts of creative actions. Those are the seeds we should plant for our future.

Tell us a secret.

Mariquel: Water fountains make me very nervous.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

  1. Google Maps. We are so lost without it.
  2. Dropbox: It enables us to take all our information and documents everywhere we go, plus we can use our iPads with it.
    Skype: We just love it.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

We recommend Siddartha by Herman Hesse. We also recommend the movie The Peaceful Warrior.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

We suck at Twitter! We actually need recommendations ourselves.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

Mariquel: Yesterday when we went to a craft afternoon at headquarters in New York, and I realized I knit the same way my grandmother used to do it, placing the needles under my armpit. I looked really funny.

Gastón: I laugh at Mariquel so much!

Who is your hero?

Mariquel: My husband.

What do you like doing?

Mariquel: Dancing, taking pictures, and being with my husband.
Gastón: Making love to my wife!


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