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Women in Business: Q&A with Moj Mahdara, Co-Founder and CEO of Made With Elastic

08/27/2014 05:39 am ET | Updated Oct 27, 2014

Moj Mahdara is the Co-Founder & CEO of Made With Elastic (MWE), a strategic consulting agency that works with some of the nation's top technology, lifestyle and fashion brands. Prior to forming MWE, Ms. Mahdara served as the CEO of two leading digital and experiential agencies, MMA Group and Exopolis.

In her role at MWE, Ms. Mahdara oversees a team that develops and executes creative influencer and entertainment strategies and programs, strategic brand-partnerships and branding integrations, as well as produces sophisticated event activations, both large-scale and intimate affairs. Furthermore, MWE also has a specialty working with digital startups including, BOX.com and Doodle.ly, helping these businesses be poised for growth through an array of business strategy services.

A noted serial entrepreneur, in addition to her MWE duties, Ms. Mahdara serves as a business advisor to help start-up brands secure capital, develop marketing and branding strategies, and leverage business opportunities across a wide-variety of verticals, such as new technologies, digital incubators and developing applications.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I left home at a really early age, and had to learn quickly how to make things happen on my own. One tends to figure out the politics of currency fast when you don't have anything. That said, I don't think of myself as a leader - I think of myself as a fan. I'm obsessed with our social media culture and the whole digital entertainment space. There is not an army to lead any more - the situation is so much bigger than that. Businesses are no longer defined by who is on top - it's the faces all around them that are compelling and who tell the story. It's all the people who make up a company that really make the brand - they've all been creating voices and personas for themselves within said company, and that is what's leading this space. I have a strong point of view about what I do, and I trust my instincts, and people seem to gravitate to that. My office will tell you that I'm familial in you culture, while my clients will tell you I'm always coming at them with an intense reality. I don't know if those are qualities of a leader, but that's who I am.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Made with Elastic?
Made With Elastic is the third company I've created - I sold the last two, MMA and Exopolis. I've had a lot of failures - especially running a company through the recession. For a while, I took a break from the space because of those failures. But after a very short amount of time, I just couldn't stay away. I love the digital and entertainment space too much, and I am fascinated by how this whole subculture of content creation in Los Angeles and across the nation. I've learned to use my failures as blueprints and move forward.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Made with Elastic?
The metrics of entertainment and the digital world are one of the toughest things we're trying to figure out how to quantify, but at the same time it's also what makes this all so much fun. Everything in the social media and digital space is so new and always changing, and because of it you have to create your own metrics to keep up with it all. That conversation would have made no sense 12 months ago because the idea that you would hire a celebrity based on how many followers they have on their pinterest boards seemed unbelievable. I was ranting about this 18 months ago, but I sounded like a crazy person. Having to advocate the space early is also a challenge.

Tell us about some of the clients you represent and how social media is putting them in the spotlight.
LEVIS - A brand without a lifestyle is retail suicide. Consumers have to believe in the product, understand the roots and feel like they are doing something powerful with their purchase. Levi's understood that the generation buying Levi's needed the denim company to embrace technology and its future. By bringing in a lifestyle approach to the brand, garnering social involvement with digital influences, digitally-launched campaigns and a metamorphous of their digital platforms, Levi's became the "new" again which I find should be the footprint of all retail companies. One of the only fashion brands able to translate their demographic into real-time metrics.

HTC - We were able to take a tech company unfamiliar with the merger of fashion and music with technology - garnering one of the largest social impression face in the space - 400+ million to date by seeding in the highest traffic areas of the space: NYFW, Pitchfork, Art Basel, Frieze Art London and PFW. Celebrities and digital influencers alike were exposed to HTC as the tech company became one of the first of tech to sponsor such large-scale events.

LACOSTE - Producing the LACOSTE/LACOSTE L!VE Campaign for the past five years has provided us opportunity to expand production beyond just the events space. This year, we produced a massive digital activation, unfamiliar to the traditional lifestyle brand. The digital storytelling provided the brand over 100+ million impressions, sharing the new wave of LACOSTE as it stands. Having a high-end fashion brand turn itself into a lifestyle brand has been one of the most exciting to work with - translating a very traditional perspective into the new generation of content has been the most rewarding of all.

What advice can you offer women who want to follow a similar career path?
No one's going to just give you an opportunity; nothing is going to come easy. You have to go get it. You have to always be on point. Get there by surrounding yourself with people who are better than you, who you can learn from and grow towards. To make it in this environment, you need to be the best - so smart, so overqualified they have no choice but to pay attention to you!

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I don't. It's not always balanced and that's ok. It's a myth you can have it perfect all the time. I just pay attention to myself and the work that I love; I never want to put it down. When I need to rest I take it- otherwise, I'm going for it.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think there are many issues. I think women hold themselves back from advancing to senior roles as well as others in the workplace. There are so many options for men in the workplace but unfortunately, women have so many more difficult decisions and roadblocks.

What are your hopes for the future of Made with Elastic?
What Made With Elastic does isn't a sales pitch - marketing used to be that way - but if you want to know what 14 year old girls want today, you have to know it in real-time, or its useless information. There's no book on it, you can't take a class that will teach you about it, and any study on it is already outdated. There's no longer 15 rounds of editing; now it goes straight from creator to sharing. We've gone from an analog relationship to information in real-time. The barriers, the filters are crumbling. The the same time, there's also a lot of fake and false information getting around.

If you're going to survive in that space, you have to pair up with someone with crazy instincts. That is what we have at Made With Elastic because we are obsessed with taking the pulse of every single social media platform and the web. It's all there, but you have to learn how to make sense of it. My hopes are that Made With Elastic can continue to live on this bleeding edge.