Mattie Mead, Founder, and CEO of Hempitecture is an adventure-seeking entrepreneur who swears by the use of sustainable, healthy building materials in the construction industry and others domains. As a leader, he focuses on sustainability and is deeply concerned not only about the environment but also about its profound impact on society. Mattie dreams of a world where the unhealthy conventional toxic building materials are replaced by bio-based building materials thereby making the world truly a better place to live.
It all started when Mattie was studying architecture, environmental sciences, and entrepreneurship at Hobart & William Smith Colleges. During his time there, Mattie became fascinated with environmental issues such as landfilling, as the largest mega landfill in the northeast was located not far away from HWS Colleges. He was stunned when he got to know that approximately 25% of the contents of the landfill came from the construction & demolition waste alone and would never biodegrade. He decided to do something about it and went on to launch Hempitecture, a brand that aims to create more sustainable building materials that would not only have a cradle-to-cradle end of life model but also, could help drastically reduce energy consumption and carbon footprints in the built environment. In his pursuit of developing sustainable, healthy building materials he went across the country, where he built the first commercial hemp building in Idaho, United States. Since then, Hempitecture has built and delivered hundreds of hemp-based projects in the United States. A Public Benefit Corporation with its mission deeply embedded in its corporate structure, today, Hempitecture stands for benefitting people & the planet and believes that their business makes healthier homes, happier people, and a more sustainable planet.
Below Mattie explains why he believes the best leaders are constant learners and why you should never underestimate the power of building relationships.
“My greatest fear is spending my life to build something, a company such as Hempitecture, and have it been rejected. I feel though that we are on the right track, and what we are doing won’t be for everyone, so there will always be naysayers.”
Aspioneer (A): Were you a born leader or did you have to learn to become one?
Mattie (M): “Leadership is something that is learned and developed over time. While certainly there may be born leaders, the best leaders are those that nurture their leadership potential by continually learning, fostering emotional intelligence, and learning from those around them. I feel that I am continually learning to be a leader and that I am far from the leader I one day hope to be.”
(A): Who inspired you while growing up?
(M): “My inspiration growing up was primarily my family, as I was the youngest child in my family, and was an only child. I did not have brothers or sisters to look up to, so I looked up to my cousins who on average were approximately 10 years older than me. Additionally, I would look up to coaches, mentors, and teachers.”
(A): Whom do you admire now?
(M): “I admire people that are working to make a difference that betters our environment and people. This could be local volunteers who are volunteering for causes like Habitat for Humanity or people that work for local food banks.”
(A): Describe yourself in 3 words?
(M): “Persistent, determined, and friendly.”
(A): What’s your favorite metaphor for describing leadership?
(M): “A leader is someone is like a chef; they oversee complex operations with an understanding of how all the parts work together to make a whole.”
(A): How do you define success?
(M): “Success can only be measured on an individual basis and success means different things to different people. To me, success is being healthy, happy, and family.”
(A): What has been your proudest work accomplishment?
(M): “My proudest work accomplishment was working on a building project designed by a world-famous architect. This project challenged me and our team in so many ways, yet the end result was beautiful and is a building that will be adored for years to come.”
(A): What’s the advice you’re glad you ignored?
(M): “Early on in founding Hempitecture, I was told that I was wrong, that my idea was stupid, and that I should move on. I am glad I did not take that advice because I would not be where I am today.”
(A): What’s the greatest risk you’ve taken?
(M): “The greatest risk I have taken was committing to Hempitecture after I graduated college. I had nearly $100,000 in student loans and was encouraged by my family to pursue a more stable, consistent career. I took a major chance and am thankful for that.”
(A): How do you handle uncertainty?
(M): “Uncertainty is a daily feeling when you are an entrepreneur. If you are not comfortable with uncertainty, you should not be an entrepreneur. I think I have gotten more comfortable with uncertainty over time.”
(A): How do you motivate yourself through challenges?
(M): “Motivation can be maintained by appreciating the small things, while also remaining focused on the bigger picture.”
(A): What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear in general?
(M): “My greatest fear is spending my life to build something, a company such as Hempitecture, and have it been rejected. I feel though that we are on the right track, and what we are doing won’t be for everyone, so there will always be naysayers.”
(A): Share an instance when you failed and the lesson you learned from it?
(M): “Being an entrepreneur means you fail often. The most important thing is that you learn from your mistakes and failure. A lesson I learned from an early project is that managing and working with people can be difficult, and I underestimated the importance of building relationships. I learned that it is important to nurture relationships and build trust.”
(A): To anyone looking to start a new business or transition into a new leadership role, what advice would you give them?
(M): “Be persistent, yet don’t be afraid to pivot. Pivoting, when necessary, means that you can move to a new, fresh idea, and keep your business alive or grow your business. Hempitecture pivoted to a different concept from what we started with, and the pivot was essential for our success today.”