Mazy Holiday is the CEO and Founder, of iStand, WhatBoxInc., and iStand Foundation located in Birmingham, Alabama
Tell us about yourself.
I was raised in Arkansas on a farm by a chemist/renaissance man who taught me the virtues of physical labor and building things. I continued my education in 3-D design and construction in college studying and building primarily installation sculpture. In my thirties I started designing products instead of sculpture, one of which is a walking cane meant to help me with my arthritis. Today, I continue to design other consumer products for my parent company WhatBox Inc., but am focused full-time on launching the first line of smart walking canes, iStand.
What do you enjoy most about your profession and why did you choose it in the first place?
I believe that my profession chose me. I was drawing artistically before I knew what drawing was, and I was stubborn and tenacious before I knew those were qualities necessary to lead as an entrepreneur. I did know early on that I always wanted to be a business owner as I could never see myself as an employee building someone else’s dreams.
What was the inspiration for your company/project?
Although I was designing inventions as a hobby before the iStand cane, I never took the next step because I didn’t know how. After seeing nearly all of my ideas end up on the market, I decided I was going to find out how to launch a product and just learn along the way. The cane was the most likely to become a MVP, so we have put all of our focus there and started building a cane as well as an entire falls prevention program around the cane to provide a more comprehensive approach to the most common problem that seniors have. The cane is just one aspect of our overall goal to provide seniors with the tools for longevity and quality of life.
Tell us about any new projects you have coming up (or recently completed).
The most exciting is our smart cane launch, and the simultaneous launch of the foundation which provides canes and fall prevention education to seniors and veterans. It’s been many years in the making and the pain and perseverance is worth it just to hold something that used to be an idea and is now a reality in your hands. Thinking about drawing a product with pencil and paper sounds so archaic now with the prevalence of digital drawing, which I do almost exclusively now. And, it’s nice to be able to show the pencil drawing to Ooohs and Ahhhs from the younger generation, I feel like I’ve just shown them a cave painting. The outward design has changed slightly from the pencil drawing but the integrity remains, and is like no other cane on the market. In addition to the modern fashionable style, its flexible shaft and solid, quality construction, the Bluetooth connection with no subscription puts the iStandPlus over the top and incomparable to any other walking cane. It’s hard to explain in words how excited and proud we are to be able to offer this cane at an amazing price, but also to provide it as to those without the means to purchase a much-needed walking aid.
What is a typical day like for you?
I wish I had exciting stories for you, and it will become more so in the coming months. For now, a typical day starts early, of course. When I was working on iStand alone before hiring employees, I would go straight from bed to the coffee pot to the computer and stay there all day every day. Now I feel I must look presentable to others, so I do a bit of hair brushing and lip gloss, then to the computer where we do mostly web meetings as opposed to in-person. When I’m not communicating with Hong Kong, or other vendors and services or applying for funding, I am reading, nay devouring, business books and periodicals as well as listening to my favorite business podcasts. I don’t go to lunch every day (or at all) like normal people, instead I take a break once a week or so to run errands, exercise, or just do something other than computer work. That freedom isn’t just a break from work, but provides a cognitive opening to let in new ideas, realizations and contemplate potential paths forward for growth.
Tell us about your community involvement – what you are passionate about outside of work and home and why/how you participate?
Aside from the iStand Foundation which provides walking canes and fall prevention education for seniors and veterans, I give to a local women’s homeless shelter. I have a special connection to the homeless in a couple of ways. I used to live in a basement apartment in Brooklyn, NY while going to grad school, and several homeless people lived outside my window and I got to know some of them. It was kind of like having noisy neighbors at times, but they were more compliant the kinder you were to them. Also, in the mid 2000’s I was homeless myself for 6 months, but unlike many homeless it was not altogether voluntary. I try to make their lives a little less stressful with small donations of food and sundries, and the shelter does the rest by providing them with opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise. I am also passionate about teaching young girls the beauty of thinking with no boundaries, and how limited thinking only serves to hold us back as a civilization; my girls group of 5th and 6th graders, Up and Out™, has not come to fruition yet but I’m working on it.
What is the biggest risk you ever took professionally and/or the biggest obstacle you have overcome?
The biggest risk was working on the walking cane for the last 6 years, but not just financially, it also took me out of the work force for 6 years. This, as women know, is a drawback to finding another job if needed. The biggest obstacle I’ve overcome is myself. Artists by nature are introspective loners. Too much of this can lead to an unhealthy outlook on your own life and life in general, but once I finally found the meaning of life (that’s right, I know the meaning of life) everything that is trivial sort of just falls away and you can put all of your focus on what’s really important. I had the qualities to build something great for others, and by that I mean tenacity, stubbornness, education, work ethic and finally human support. The latter of that list being a critical element, and another lesson loners have to learn: you can’t do it alone.
From where do you draw inspiration? Who have been your role models, mentors, etc?
My inspiration comes from the needs of people. “What do people need that I can build for them” is a question I ask myself often. I wouldn’t say I have specific role models, but I aspire to be like successful business owners who become so by sticking to their ethical beliefs and applying those values to their business practices. Some, and even successful, business people think that there are different rules than in their personal lives when it comes to honesty, values, and ethics. That may be true, but I know that personally speaking even if the trophy is in my hand I wouldn’t feel like I truly won if I didn’t win on my terms.
What do you do to keep yourself sharp? What one thing have you done in the past year that has made a significant difference in your life/your business?
I do what every successful person does. Exercise, eat small and healthy, journal, read and think about what the world looks like after I have changed it. In the past year, one thing that has made a big difference in my quest for knowledge is listening to the best business podcasts available. I get even more ideas, information and wisdom than I would just reading my favorite periodicals or business journals. Each podcast, I have to keep either pen and paper or my phone nearby to record important sites, apps, ideas or just a great quote.
What one thing would you like to learn this year? I want to continue to learn more and more about not just running a business but growing and scaling an organization that I truly believe will help people.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I expect I will have exited this company, but will continue to run the iStand Foundation and expand the tools we currently offer to seniors and veterans in need.
What do you do for fun/relaxation/entertainment?
This is kind of boring, but for most of my life I did not have cable TV, which was a good thing. It’s important to spend your early years learning and growing, and you won’t do that by watching sitcoms every night. But since the Netflix revolution, I have enjoyed relaxing at the end of the day with popcorn and a show. It’s almost like being able to go to a movie anytime you want.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Yes, a few tidbits I live by. You’ll never be sorry for any of the following: being nice, saving your money, or reading a book. And, no one can make you feel bad about yourself without your permission.
What’s the best way for the readers of WE Magazine for Women to connect with you?
I read all of the messages that come through our website, so feel free to write me through iStandToday.com.