Michael D. Smith is the founder and CEO of MDS Media Inc. – an award-winning media that is recognized worldwide and continues to push the limits of digital media, and disruptive strategy.
With over 20 years of experience as a creative, Michael is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of MDS Media Inc. An internationally awarded creative media that has been recognised worldwide and continues to grow as MDS Media pushes the boundaries on disruptive strategy and content production.
Michael’s accolades in media have been awarded alongside brands and agencies such as Apple, Netflix, Disney, Google, Warner Brothers, FOX, Audi, Ford, Dell, Toyota, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Jaguar, Bank of America, Deloitte, and many others.
As a Forbes published contributor and Agency Council Member, Michael leverages his experience and expertise on a wide range of topics for the Forbes platform. Additionally, he is continually featured on numerous expert panel discussions where he shares his expertise and insights on disruptive strategy, marketing, media, and agency-specific issues. StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Michael to talk about his entrepreneurial journey and his new venture (Neon Cake) here’s what went down:
Tell us your full name and something about yourself.
My name is Michael D. Smith, CEO & Founder of MDS Media, and Founder of Neon Cake. I have been a creative practically my entire life. In one way or another, I was always drawn to creating something of my own. Always asking myself “Why isn’t someone doing THIS or THAT.” Eventually, you get to the point where you just end up doing it yourself. Sometimes you end up failing miserably on your face in a very ugly way.; sometimes not. Either way, you learn and you push forward.
My creative drive took me in a lot of different directions over the years. Looking back, the one thing that was common amongst all of them was the pursuit of expressive storytelling. I was later able to translate that skill set into brand development and MDS Media was born.
How did you get into the fashion business?
It has always been a passion of mine and a key part of your own personal story. There is no better feeling than putting on clothes that you feel are made for you. When I realized that, I decided I couldn’t simply sit on the consumer side of fashion. I had to make it a part of my story and I had to be the one to tell it.
What do you like most about being a fashion designer?
There is something about seeing someone’s reaction when they put on your line – it’s an amazing feeling. If you haven’t put together a line before I will be the first to tell you that it is not easy by any means. So many things can go wrong – and they all seem to at times.
At that moment where it all comes together – that moment makes it all worthwhile.
The downside to being a fashion designer?
Closet space – definitely an issue. Sometimes I have to stop myself from creating new lines and pieces – I put them in the ‘bank’ as they say.
Can you tell us more about your EDM inspired streetwear brand Neon Cake?
I have always been inspired by the Cyberpunk genre and the unique futuresque, neon pallet. It shares a lot of aesthetic with the EDM scene which I was also heavily drawn to. I wanted to take those two cultures and combine them into something unique that focused on pattern, print, comfort, and pallet.
But that wasn’t enough. If I have learned anything from my time in developing a multitude of brands over the years, culture and community is everything. These two niches have a huge underlying culture that simply couldn’t be ignored if I wanted the brand and clothing to resonate with people.
The brand is defined by “Expression and Confidence through movement. Unity by Uniqueness.”
I believe that the things that make us different are the things that make us the same; bringing us together by our own unique qualities and differences. We celebrate and express those differences through various types of movement – dance, fashion, art, music – amongst many others. Our strive to be creative individuals is our common ground. To support the uniqueness narrative, drive community, and give people a sense that they are truly making it their own, I created #CutYourPiece within Neon Cake.
We provide social tutorials that teach the audience how to cut and customize their clothing; “Cutting their Cake” so-to-speak. I am very interested to see what the community comes up with!
What makes it stand out from other streetwear brands?
I believe our pallet and involvement of the community will separate us from the noise in the streetwear scene. We offer a pallet and direct involvement in the community that simply hasn’t been done in this way before.
I am also going to make sure that we give back – we will be aiding community creative programs with proceeds and helping creative entrepreneurs through a variety of ways. Neon Cake provides us with the ability to do that and develop a healthy community of creative entrepreneurs.
What has been the most memorable experience of your career as a designer so far?
Coming back to those moments I was speaking about earlier – my first run of Neon Cake prototypes. It was a scary moment for me; now it was real. The years I had spent going through designs, patterns, looks, textiles. I was holding an iteration of that in my hand about to shoot the initial phase on content. I will never forget that moment.
Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?
I have been very fortunate throughout my journey as an entrepreneur. I have met numerous inspirational people that have taught me lessons I couldn’t have learned elsewhere. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t know where I would be in my career or in life without them.
One of the most interesting people I have had the pleasure of learning under is Clayton Christensen, the pioneer behind what we call “disruptive innovation”. His perspective and lens on problem-solving has been absolutely invaluable to me as a creative and as a designer.
We’re guessing you’ve been in the fashion industry for a few years now, what has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned. This can be about the industry or about yourself. Or both!
There has to be an end to the ideation process where you simply pull the trigger on it and go. Even if you fail, you have to go. You will always have new ideas on how to make something “better”. You need to stop your mind from cycling and get it in the hands of the market to decide what they will accept and what needs to be improved. If I can offer any piece of advice to anyone in any industry that is sitting on an idea, just go… make it happen and make it work.
Is your family supportive of your career?
Being an Entrepreneur at any level is challenging and stressful for the family. A lot of people think that it’s only the start-up grind, consistent innovation, the exit negotiations, etc. but the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t change. Part of that process requires family support that has been crucial to where I am today. They are not only supportive of the challenges I face as an Entrepreneur and Business Owner, but they’ve also lifted me to where I am and I couldn’t have done it any other way. I am grateful for them beyond words.
What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.
I will be aggressively pursuing my place within the niche I feel I am carving out and continue to create brands that serve and further the creative community.
the ‘LIGHTNING FAST’ Round:
1. Last good movie I’ve seen: Not a movie – but the first thing to come to mind is Netflix’s The Witcher
2. What do you consider beautiful and why? Humour – a clear indication of someone’s perspective.. and particular optics on the world is a beautiful thing.
3. What haven’t you done yet that you wish you could? Travel more – so much to see.
4. Complete this sentence: “If I had no fear, I’d be…” Careless
5. What is the one “flaw” you wouldn’t change about yourself? I hold myself to a standard that some have even called “self-destructive”; that’s the standard and work ethic I would never change.