Making Something From Nothing: Mike Lastrina & Myran Mahroo of Modern Gents On How To Go From Idea To Launch
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Don’t be afraid to take risks — It’s a skill and you definitely have to weigh out the pros and cons, but for the most part, you’ll always land on your feet.
As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Lastrina & Myran Mahroo.
Based in Costa Mesa, CA, Mike Lastrina & Myran Mahroo, are the Owners & Co-Founders of Modern Gents, the high-quality, conflict-free jewelry brand disrupting the diamond industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
Hello, my name is Myran Mahroo and I was born and raised in Whittier, California. From an early age, I have always had the drive to be an entrepreneur, whether it was selling comic books or candy, I was always side-hustling and doing what I could to make a profit. I was raised by two immigrant parents and I inherited a hard work ethic from watching my father work long hours to provide for our family. When I was in high school, I was enrolled in a dual enrollment program, which allowed me to get my associate’s degree before I received my high school diploma. After graduating, I attended Cal Poly Pomona and was the first in my family to graduate from college. To this day, my parents have inspired me to always strive to do more and never settle for the status quo.
Hi, my name is Mike Lastrina, and similar to Myran’s story, my father was also an immigrant who constantly worked hard to build a life for our family. I grew up in Long Beach, California and from an early age, I have always had a desire to be an entrepreneur and start my own business so that I could be financially independent and push myself to do more than my parents and grandparents were able to.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Mike — One of my favorite quotes that I live by says, “you can measure a man’s worth by how he loves.” This quote has always resonated with me because it’s a constant reminder to stay humble and it matters most about how you treat and love others.
Myran — Nike’s “just do it” slogan has always resonated with me in every facet of my life. Although brief, this tagline is a reminder to accomplish your goals and do whatever it takes to achieve them, even if it seems daunting.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Myran — When Mike and I started our business, Gary Vaynerchuk’s online content was very influential and transformed the way that we conduct our business. Gary’s no-excuse mentality, stood out to both of us and has always influenced our decisions and approaches as entrepreneurs.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?
Myran — Taking an idea and turning it into a business can be very overwhelming and discouraging to young entrepreneurs. Without passion, a great idea can only take you so far. I believe that one of the most important aspects of business is knowing when to pivot when ideas no longer work. Having a good idea and a market evaluation is good enough to see if the market wants or needs your service to begin with.
Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?
Myran — It would all depend on the type of market that your product would fall under. If you’re entering an overly saturated market, it would be easier to instead identify the gaps and holes where other brands have missed the mark. We would recommend researching brands within a saturated market to identify what these brands could be doing better and pinpoint what your differentiating factor would be. Research can allow you to know the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and create messaging and branding that appeals to your target audience.
For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.
Myran: Each business is different but we live in the era of information having Google and Youtube. Essentially, any informational website can give you a ton of useful information depending on what you are doing. There are so many resources and how-to guides available that didn’t even exist a few years ago. These guides are extremely specific to the type of business you are going for, but they do require your time and research. You skip a lot of steps by having this information out there and readily available, so, these resources are major. I recommend starting with Alibaba or any other supplier search engine for manufacturing purposes. As for patents, the process can be quite lengthy so I suggest using a platform or service like PatentsKart so they can head that up for you.
Mike: Shopify is a great retailer not only to get you started but in the long run too. It’s direct to consumer and a trusted retailer amongst many businesses so that’d be my recommendation for distribution.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?
- Avoid seeking/using any investment money — A lot of people think fundraising is a crucial step but I advise you to use your own capital and bootstrap. Investors will take ownership but if you use your own means it shows you are dedicated to your business and that you yourself believe in it.
- Look at the bigger picture — Some entrepreneurs have become too narrow in how they view what the business should look like. I suggest focusing on the bigger picture including what the business can become and looking at how to scale and infrastructure the brand so it’s set up for success in the long run.
- Reinvest all of the money back into the business — Avoid spending all the money and profit earned on personal items but rather invest all that money back into the business! Also, if you go the investor route, at all costs do not use any of the investment funds for personal use.
- Try to think about what would be a recession-proof, pandemic-proof business — This advice will take you far. As recession-proof business owners, we’ve seen how true this advice has rung over the last three years.
- Don’t be afraid to take risks — It’s a skill and you definitely have to weigh out the pros and cons, but for the most part, you’ll always land on your feet.
- Don’t focus too much on perfection during the beginning days — At first, a lot of brands spend tons of money on tiny details like branding concepts, logos, etc., and then they eventually launch, and their product unfortunately flops. Instead, utilize the resources that you have available and select an MVP (minimum viable product) to get your feet wet and worry about the more challenging tasks later.
Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
Myran: Do market research to figure out if your product is something that’s brand new or already out there. If it’s brand new, get a patent as soon as possible. If it’s already out there, figure out a way to position your product where it has a really strong competitor edge. Then, you can go on to produce small quantities of the product, even having friends and family test it out so you can hear their feedback. Next, if the feedback is positive, conduct a manufacturing round and crowdfund for the first few rounds of financing. Then, if all works out, you should develop your product fully and scale from there.
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
Myran: From an invention standpoint, maybe? It all depends on the risk-to-reward ratio. I wouldn’t suggest pouring all of your funding into a consultant but if you are confident in your idea and are fairly confident that a consultant will help get it off the ground then I say go for it.
What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?
Myran: Bootstrap 100%. I think VC is for those who are only focused on growing quickly. If you bootstrap, not only is there less risk involved but you are putting your own skin into the game. What you are putting into the company is truly what you will get out of it.
Mike: You’ve got to bootstrap all the way. This is your concept and your idea, you have to stand by it and own that.
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Myran: We would love to give back even more, but recently we threw a dream wedding for a disabled Marine Corp Veteran. We heard his touching story and had him and his wife come into the Modern Gents office so we could hear it from him firsthand. In the end, we were able to surprise both him and his wife by letting them know that we would be taking care of their entire wedding. We had a few local vendors hop in and support as well so it was a team effort. The least we could do to give back to the brave Veterans of this country. Looking ahead to 2023, we want to do more initiatives like this.
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Mike: At Modern Gents, we sell love, attainable love. Engagement rings are a symbol of love that is typically expensive and helping others affordably unlock that next threshold of love is pure magic. Giving people the realistic opportunity to take this next step is like our version of giving back to the world.
Myran: It’d be awesome if we could have a product that’s cause-focused. Definitely, something we will be working towards in 2023.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Mryan + Mike: Gary Vaynerchuk — I want to let him know he helped inspire us to start Modern Gents and gave us the confidence and tools to help us see it through to its successful state now. Honestly, I don’t need a full lunch, I’d settle for a quick coffee with him.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Making Something From Nothing: Mike Lastrina & Myran Mahroo of Modern Gents On How To Go From Idea… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.