[quote style=”boxed”]Be present, observe keenly, absorb all that you can, and move to a new opportunity quickly when you think the time is right.[/quote]
Margot Malin is in the creative reinvention phase of her career. After receiving her MBA from The Wharton School, she joined a major New York City investment management firm as a managing director and equity portfolio manager. She enjoyed analyzing companies and industries, investing, and earning competitive returns for her clients for almost twenty years. The formation of Lots To Live For was the culmination of a perfect storm: the internet was just becoming popular; founding the company allowed her to give back to people in need by helping them through a difficult time in their lives; and a flexible business model allowed her to be available for her children while they were young.
What are you working on right now?
I am currently working on an update to our website. We have a number of great new products to add to our product selection. We are expanding our presence on Pinterest. We are also developing relationships with industry participants and inviting guest bloggers to write for our blog. I envision an expansion of the company’s mission to become more of a community. We have learned about many new resources for cancer patients and look forward to sharing them. I look forward to connecting individuals who can help, educate and inspire one another.
Where did the idea for Lots To Live For, Inc. come from?
The genesis and inspiration for the company came from watching both my mother and grandmother fight courageous battles against cancer while simultaneously trying to maintain normal lifestyles. Lots To Live For, Inc. offers one-stop shopping and solutions for cancer patients, by selling products and offering tips to alleviate, reduce and relieve unpleasant and uncomfortable side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
Side effects from cancer treatments can be debilitating. During my mother’s and grandmother’s treatments, we found some really helpful products after exhaustive searching. It occurred to me that consolidating these items in a single place would be extremely helpful to others who are going through treatment. Our business slogan is: We recognize that you have lots to live for, and we offer solutions so that you can improve the quality of your life.
What does your typical day look like?
The great thing about having an internet business is that I have a lot of control over the flow of my day. There are some things I do every day, but my schedule is usually quite flexible. Each day I process orders, check inventory, and reach out to others who are helping cancer patients to see if we can collaborate or work synergistically in some way. I also evaluate our product assortment, communicate with customers and suppliers, and work on our social media presence. I always try to squeeze in some time for exercise because I am passionate about fitness.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I like to give new ideas some time to germinate. I spend a lot of time searching online and reading articles and reviews that might be related to any new idea. Analysis is a process that is very natural to me after having spent almost 20 years evaluating the investment merits of public companies. I also reach out to personal and professional contacts to get their opinions and input. Through this process, the ideas grow and morph. Once I decide that an idea is a “go,” I implement it quickly.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The barriers to entry for starting a business have come way down. This means that smart, hard-working and enthusiastic people can make an impact at a young age, even if they have limited capital. This is true for both social enterprises and for profit businesses. Crowdfunding and incubators will help accelerate this trend even further. Motivated individuals have so many options!
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I am lucky. I’ve had a series of very different but amazing jobs since I was 16 years old; I started as a sales person in a craft store, and then was a counselor at a sleep away camp, a lifeguard and swim instructor, a market researcher, an industrial salesperson, an academic researcher, a co-author of a book (published in 1984) and then an equity researcher and investment manager. I learned something new and exciting at every job. Some things I have learned are: be present, observe keenly, absorb all that you can, and move to a new opportunity quickly when you think the time is right.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I started college at one university, which ended up not being a very good fit for me, and after two years, I transferred to another university, which I loved. Some might think that they would make a different choice if given the opportunity to start over. I have thought about it a lot and decided that the difficult experience gave me exposure to people, customs and concepts that I would have never encountered if I had not gone outside of my comfort zone. In addition, those two years helped steer me into engineering, which was an ideal fit for me at the time. I think that things happen for a reason, and it is up to the individual to figure it all out and move forward with enhanced knowledge. So I don’t think I would have chosen a different path, even though it might have made me happier for a short while.
As an entrepreneur what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Keep your eyes and ears open. Treat customers and suppliers with respect. Read a lot. Try to think outside of the box. Look for disruptive technologies and try to jump on the wave. Never fall into the OPM (other people’s money) mentality. Treat equity investors’ money as if it were your own. Don’t spend frivolously.
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Visibility–getting discovered in the tangle of the web! We have great products, and there are so many people who can benefit from using the collections of products that we have assembled. The challenge is being found on the web–and we are still working on it! I’m open to ideas and suggestions.
What is one business idea that you are willing to give away to our readers?
In general, seek ideas with high returns on investment, and as a corollary, avoid capital-intensive businesses. Two fields with huge change ahead–which are wide open with opportunity–are healthcare and education.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I would love to see the delivery of education improved. I wish everyone could find their passions and pursue them, and therefore take ownership of their individual futures! Online learning opportunities have great potential for elementary education through university-level courses and beyond. I believe that knowledge is the best way to empower an individual.
Tell us a secret.
Here’s one: I was president of Tau Beta Pi (the engineering honor society) in college. Here’s another: I have competed in more than 15 sprint triathlons over the past five years. Sometimes I even place in my age group and get a medal!
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
- Google gives you the world at your fingertips. For those of us who remember microfiche, Google is practically a miracle.
- Crowdfunding has huge potential for helping to launch businesses in the future, and offers huge opportunities for individuals in developing countries to improve their standards of living.
- Skype is lowering the cost of communications across long distances for everyone, and even more incredibly, is giving emerging nations with previously underdeveloped infrastructure access to high-quality communication.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I love the inspirational messages in The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch (with Jeffrey Zaslow). You can also view Randy Pausch delivering his “Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” on YouTube. His delivery is especially poignant because less than a year after the lecture was recorded, he passed away from complications of pancreatic cancer at age 47. He created the lecture as part of his legacy.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
I am relatively new to Twitter, so I don’t have any great suggestions just yet. Stay tuned!
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Sometimes I do really uncoordinated things. Recently when I was leaning over, I fell into a rosebush and got all scratched up. I had to laugh. How did that even happen? Little things like that remind me not to take myself too seriously.
Who is your hero?
My mother’s mother, who was one of the inspirations for Lots To Live For, Inc., is my hero. She was way ahead of her time. She was brilliant and very independent. She rebelled against some prevalent cultural norms in her day. She was a person of integrity, she was highly principled and dignified, and she was brave. She encouraged and inspired me, and since she was an elementary school teacher for 32 years, she inspired many others as well. Due to her unconditional love and confidence, my grandmother instilled a sense of possibility in me, along with the courage to try new things.
Can you offer some words of advice for our readers’ professional lives?
- Always act with integrity.
- Remain humble.
- Dream big.
- Work hard.
- Think outside of the box.
- The rules apply to you; don’t think you are above them.
Can you offer some words of advice for our readers’ personal lives?
- Always act with integrity.
- Accept personal responsibility.
- Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Take time to have fun and reflect. Smell the roses.
- Believe in yourself.
- Dare to be different.
- Be careful of the footprints you leave. Unfortunately, your indiscretions or social media gaffes can haunt you.
Margot Malin on Linkedin:
Lots To Live For on Twitter: @LotsToLive4
Lots To Live For on Facebook page: www.facebook.com/LotsToLiveFor
Lots To Live For on Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/LotsToLiveFor
Lots To Live For’s website: www.LotsToLiveFor.com
Margot Malin’s email: [email protected]