To be honest, I don’t remember where or how I discovered The Holstee Manifesto. What I do remember is the way it opened my eyes, awakening me from a mid-life slumber. A simple declaration scattered with life altering statements: Do what you love. Travel Often. Share your passion. Stop overanalyzing. Life is short.
Crafted on the steps of Union Square, brothers Mike and Dave Radparvar along with friend Fabian Pfortmüller wrote their definition of success. The three partners express it wasn’t a business plan, more so a life plan, but it’s metamorphosed into all of those things and more. Its organic success mirrors the principles that makeup Holstee’s environment and community. It’s obvious the moment you step through their doors. From employee bike credits to staff prepared healthy lunches, Holstee practices what it preaches—Lifestyle design with a conscience. I sat down with co-founder Mike Radparvar at the Holstee office in Dumbo, and we chatted about all things Holstee, the message, the growth, and the future.
Life of Riley: Shared more than 500,000 times, and viewed online 60 million times, and counting, The Holstee Manifesto resonates with so many. Why do you think people connect with it?
Mike Radparvar: We were really surprised to see how well it resonated. When we wrote the Manifesto it was for ourselves. We said let’s write down something that can be a definition of a successful life. Let’s write our own definition. There are so many different ways that everyone is telling you what you need to be successful or you’re not successful until you have this.
We thought, we’re starting a new company and a kind of lifestyle and a framework to play in. And so we needed our own definition of success. So we sat down in Union Square, and we all decided to write down different elements that were important to us. The things that came out of that mini brainstorm were reminders that we’re not financially driven: Be open to new ideas, travel, share what’s important, always being open about what your passionate about and pursuing that.
We recently had quit our jobs, and I think that because it came from a deep place inside of us, it was very human emotions we were thinking about. It was not specific to a certain organization or a demographic. This was just like in life, what things are important. And those things hold true no matter where you come from in life, no matter what language you speak, no matter what age you are.
Riley: Was The Manifesto’s success unexpected?
Radparvar: If anyone would have told us when we wrote it what would happen, we could never have guessed it. It’s taken on a life of its own. We’ve been totally blown away by that.
Riley: That was 2009. Do the founders still live by those original words?
Radparvar: That is something we’re trying to make a point of every day. It is the basis of how we are building our company. It’s the basis of what we’re doing, the products we’re designing, and it’s the common thread between our products and the lifestyle they encourage.
Riley: Explain more about that idea of products encouraging a lifestyle.
Radparvar: If you were to look at our shop, there are no specific product categories on our site. It looks like a mash up of a lot of different products—we have a water bottle, a bag, a belt, a tee shirt, a poster. After someone relates to those products a little more you begin to see the thread of not so much what those products are but the type of lifestyle they encourage.
Anytime you buy anything you’re voting with your dollar and you’re sending a signal to someone somewhere all the way up the supply chain saying do more. I totally approve of this, and this is how I’m showing it. That is a very powerful way to drive change—people understanding what is the impact of how they’re spending money.
Riley: Holstee has been experiencing amazing growth. As you bring new people on board, can you tell readers how you select the ideal employee?
Radparvar: Every new hire is a big deal to us. We take it very seriously. It’s like bringing someone into your family. We want to build something long term with our employees. Every single person on the team can change the dynamic. We look for someone who is not afraid to do anything. Open-minded. Interested in creating positive impact through good design.
Riley: Speaking of family. I noticed your mom’s comment on a recent blog post, which I thought was pretty cool. Has your family been supportive in this venture?
Radparvar: At first our parents were a little cautious of our quitting our jobs.
The recession was getting worse. The company I worked for was laying off people. My mom was really happy I didn’t get laid off and the next week I was telling her I was planning on going in and quitting. But I think we flew under the radar because my sister was getting married in a couple of weeks. So all the attention was on her.
There was a little bit of ‘are you sure this is a good idea?’ We just explained how this was important to us. We had been setting aside money. And we told her this is what we’re going to do now for the next few months. When you really think about it and say what’s the worst thing that can happen to me in the next 2 to 3 months, all of a sudden you’re free to take some risks. When you’re in a position to take a calculated risk like that, a smart risk, you almost have a responsibility to do so.
Now our parents are our biggest supporters. Anytime we post anything on Facebook our mom’s the first one to like it. Her Facebook profile has been the Manifesto for the past two years.
Riley: Your site is uniquely diverse. Do you keep that in mind when you create or promote products? Or does it organically happen?
Radparvar: It kind of organically happens, now that there are so many great companies with a kick ass purpose.
Riley: I know from our last interview that you’ve been working on the product story. What exactly does that mean? And how will it impact the end user?
Radparvar: Looking forward we want to do something that helps build the story of the products you buy. The yarn came from this place and the button came from this place . . . Building a platform.
A lot of the products we have probably traveled more than most people have traveled in their lives. And they come from more places and have been touched by more hands. There’s such an incredible story of how they got to where they are. If we really knew the story, from raw material to its current state we’d have more respect for that plastic bottle.
Riley: What can we expect in the near future for Holstee?
Radparvar: We’re looking into milling our own paper. We are letter pressing a lot of posters and cards. We’re cautious about the types of paper we’re using. We’ve built a very strong relationship with those we’re sourcing them from. If we do our own milling, then the options really open up—Paper made from tee shirt scraps, jeans. People could send in their jeans, or we could work with a large company that makes jeans and take their dead stock.
Riley: Okay, I’m just gonna ask: How does it feel to be so cool?
Radparvar: It’s kind of surreal. So many people know the Manifesto.
People come over to our place for dinner, and we have the manifesto in a frame when you first walk in. And they say, oh the Manifesto, you’ve got that too.
And we say actually wrote it. And they’re amazed. If we’d ever tried to create something with the intention of it going crazy it never would have. It’s because we wrote it for ourselves, and it came from a very real place—people connect with it. You have to just do it and do what feels right.