Understanding you’re the owner, you have a different role than them and cannot get frustrated that things are not always being done when or how you would execute things.
As part of our interview series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Levy.
Daniel Levy founded his company, Manhattan Home Design after he emigrated from Brazil knowing no English and with barely any funds. He started out in the US by washing dishes before investing $500 in tables which he then sold on eBay. His company now supplies furniture to businesses like Google, Yale, and some government agencies — he’s even the supplier of the furniture in Time Square and other popular spots around NYC.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
It is safe to say I started at a young age; I was seven years old. I started raising tropical fish in my bedroom and sold them to my classmates in Buenos Aires. From there, the rest is history.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
When I first moved to New York, I knew hardly any English and had little money. A friend had invited me to move to New York after finishing grad school and earning my degree in Oceanography in Brazil. Four years later, with only a five-hundred-dollar investment, I purchased tables online, and in turn, started selling them on Ebay. That was the beginning of ManhattanHomeDesign.com
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
This may be something that I mention a few times but stopping to look back at where I started and where I am at now is my main drive. I started out with next to nothing and created an entire company from the ground up with a team of other entrepreneurs who have come together to help me create what Manhattan Home Design is today.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Just like with anything, my business is continuing to evolve and grow. I learned early on that when you operate your business you are multitasking, doing most of the things on your own. I think that is one of the main challenges; really identifying where are the areas that you are doing your best and delegating the errands that somebody else should be doing. One of the main assets of my company is the networking part, the human connections that we make. Today I represent almost 100 furniture brands and I operate in three furniture verticals. As of 2016, our website has grown over 500,000 percent and was exceeding two million dollars in revenue.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I was first starting out, I had been using my studio apartment for storage. I had ten 100-pound tables I had carried up by myself. An architect friend shared that residential buildings are not meant to hold that kind of weight, so I had to move everything back down to a warehouse. What I learned from that is it’s wonderful to be a doer and have the initiative to succeed, but sometimes you have to hold your horse and triple-check the small details.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The high quality of our mid-century modern replicas and the fact that you do not have to go to our showroom to see everything we have to offer I feel makes us stand out. Even amid a pandemic, customers can search for their every need on our website where we have 24/7 customer service for any inquiries. Not every company offers this.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I recently read a book by Jinny Diztler, called “Your Best Year Yet”. It talks about the importance of rewards; you go through a cycle where you do a lot of hard work to achieve a goal. Those who feel burnt out, have to stop and acknowledge the success so you can feel encouraged to push through and continue.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
One of my proudest moments to date was being selected by Goldman Sachs to be part of the Small Business program and receiving an award certificate from Warren Buffett, Goldman Sachs CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, and Valerie Jarrett, the Senior White House Advisor to President Obama.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Throughout my time as a business owner, there have been several moments where I felt I was given back to the community. A favorite of mine was with help from a mentor from Goldman Sachs, the city of New York tapped our company to supply chairs and tables for Times Square. There is really a nice feeling to be able to go up to Times Square and sit down on one of my chairs.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Things will be harder than you anticipate, but if someone had told me that starting out, I don’t think I would’ve gotten as far as I have.
2. You must transform yourself and grow for the company to grow. The company is a reflection of the CEO, so if the business is succeeding it is because the CEO or founder is also doing the same.
3. Surround yourself with networks or peers that can become your team to give you a different perspective when you’re stuck.
4. Understanding you’re the owner, you have a different role than them and cannot get frustrated that things are not always being done when or how you would execute things.
5.Even though it is a daily emotional roller coaster, look back and realize just how far you’ve gone, if you’ve gotten this far, you can push through anything. As Steve Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder?
You have to think of it as a roller coaster, everything has highs and lows. In order to keep your focus, you need a marathon mindset; it’s a long ride, you have to accept that you may not finish everything you want within one day. You must create balance for yourself in the small everyday things you can control, otherwise looking at the big picture can become intimidating. The lows are just as much part of the ride as the highs are in the long ride to success. So enjoy every moment because when you look back, you’ll see the journey that led you to become a successful individual with an even more successful business.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂
Something that I have been passionate about is the lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the workforce of America. As an immigrant who started from the bottom, I can attest to the struggles of being a minority. I want to bring light to the situation, and I hope moving forward will bring about change. My wish is to create a more equitable and inclusive workforce, where anyone can be successful, regardless of ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. Minorities and women in our country are not being given the chances they deserve to succeed and create something for themselves, so if I can, I’d like to be a voice for those who do not have one.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
To the readers who would like to stay updated on our continuing growth, please check out the Manhattan Home Design website for new arrivals and deals.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!