Success requires no explanations; failure permits no alibis. – Napoleon Hill
Meeting Michael Dadashi is an experience. Fresh-faced and energetic, he is the embodiment of the proverbial boy-next-door – but underneath that fresh face is an entrepreneurial dynamo. With business savvy beyond his years, this 30-year-old is the CEO of MHD Enterprises, a multi-million dollar electronics recycling and resale business in Austin, Texas. According to Inc. magazine, MHD was the 28th fastest growing private company in the US in 2012 and the 61st in 2013.
But it wasn’t always like this for Dadashi – he’s also a recovered heroin addict.
He really did start out as an enterprising boy-next-door in a quiet, kid-friendly Austin neighborhood. “There were kids on skateboards and bikes everywhere,” he remembered. As a ten-year-old, Dadashi would have an adult buy candy from Costco; then he would recruit a sales force of younger kids to sell the candy door-to-door. His crew would ask whoever answered the door if they would like a discounted candy/carwash bundle. Who could resist those innocent faces? The answer was almost always “yes.” His older friends would wash the cars for a nominal fee; and he’d pay the six- and seven-year-olds in candy, which left Dadashi with a tidy profit and happy friends.
In sixth grade, Dadashi graduated to tobacco sales, reselling Swisher Sweets cigars purchased by an older high school friend. Once Dadashi was in high school, he found alcohol, “The first time I drank, I blacked out. I was 15, and I was an alcoholic from that day on.” And something new and more profitable to sell appeared – drugs. “It made me feel powerful,” he recalled.
It wasn’t long before his good grades were out the window, and he was skipping school. A few months later he began using heroin. “I fell into that black hole of drugs, smoking marijuana and doing prescription pills. I barely graduated high school.”
After graduation and unable to keep a job, Dadashi bounced around. He had a serious addiction problem by that time – even his mom would no longer allow him to live with her. Friends and family feared he would not live. At one point, a combination of drinking, heroin and pills put him in the hospital for two months. Though shaken, it wasn’t enough to stop his downward spiral.
With the drive and talents not unusual in addicts and alcoholics, Dadashi’s flair for sales was already setting him apart from the crowd. While living in Southern California, he was hired as a salesman for an e-waste recycling business. “I would cold call all day, but I’d be high on cocaine and prescription pills,” he says. “I would just pick up the phone and start calling people, and I was closing six-figure deals.”
Unfortunately, Dadashi couldn’t show up for work on a regular basis. He was fired, rehired and finally fired for good.
Out of work and going through cash fast, he moved back to Austin and set up MHD Enterprises in his mother’s garage — his own electronics recycling and wholesale redistribution company. His plan was to support his heroin addiction without being under the watchful eyes of employers – and this worked as long as he worked. “Unfortunately,” says Dadashi, “I’d relapse and just disappear.”
In 2006 at the age of 23, Dadashi decided he needed to get clean and sober. He threw himself into work. “I was a workaholic.” He was attending meetings; but as he put it, “I was a poser. I thought I was better and more important than anyone in the rooms.” Yet nothing he did filled the void he felt inside.
He had put together six months of clean time in 2008 when, “The screw popped,” says Dadashi. “I relapsed and went on a month-long spree doing IV cocaine. Nothing crazy happened, but this time I hit rock bottom.” After an overdose on July 20, 2009, he had a spiritual awakening that changed his life. He’s been clean and sober ever since.
My Wharton, my Harvard Business School turned out to be a rehab facility in Texas. When you are an addict, you are nowhere; and time is a stunted clock that runs between high and next high. I began to climb out, thanks to local successful guys who also knew the geography of addiction.
I knew [sobriety] would lead me to a better place. My only hope was that I would stay sober. I couldn’t have fathomed or even dreamed that I would be where I am today. I have since exchanged my mother’s garage for a 25,000-square-foot office in Austin, new warehouse facilities in Australia and more than 25 employees.
This would make a great ending for a “hometown-boy-makes-good” story. But for Michael Dadashi, it was just the beginning of his story.
From early sobriety, Dadashi’s sponsor, Chad, encouraged him to do service work. He began working with other alcoholics and addicts in his Twelve Step meetings and at a local rehab facility, and doing other community service. “I was taught that the solution is service. It’s what brings us together. I knew I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for my recovery.”
Defying just about every possible convention on who to hire and how to grow a business, Dadashi began hiring friends in recovery, as well as family members. “People are my passion; MHD is the tool. I focus on why I am doing what I am doing, not what I am doing,” says Dadashi. “My businesses are driven by extraordinary people who share the same definition of what it means to be successful – to live life with complete purpose and passion for all you do personally and professionally.”
In 2013, Dadashi opened Infinite Recovery, an intensive outpatient clinic, and several high-accountability sober living residences. Infinite Recovery, a spacious and comfortable facility in an Austin strip mall next door to a local Twelve Step meeting hall, offers the recovering alcoholic and addict safe, ongoing care while providing the tools and support necessary for a successful second chance at life. “Recovery and redemption are possible no matter how far down you have gone,” says Dadashi. “No matter what the outcome, we planted the seed; we make a difference in people’s lives. The hardest parts are knowing that not every client will stay sober and then witnessing the suffering and devastation experienced by families.”
So what does the future hold for this talented young entrepreneur? Dadashi’s irrepressible nature, compassion and positive outlook promise more good things to come. MHD Enterprises is poised to expand worldwide and is broadening its market share every day. After hiring a new CEO out of Newport Beach, California, this year Dadashi will be moving to the position of chairman of the board. “I want to do [MHD] on a large scale, and I need to be open-minded. Right now I am putting 120 percent into both businesses.”
He clearly defines his mission in recovery. “I believe we have a responsibility to speak up about recovery. People need to know there is a solution,” says Dadashi. “Anonymity is sometimes misinterpreted by people in Twelve Step programs. The most powerful testaments to recovery are the recovered addicts themselves.” He went on to say, “[Twelve Step programs] are not just about sobriety; they are 99 percent about service.” Dadashi is a man who walks his talk. The Austin recovery community benefits daily from his commitment to service.
In a 2013 interview for Fast Company magazine by Tony Castle, co-founder and lead producer for BFD Productions, Dadashi shared the motivation behind his beliefs. “I’ve been given a second chance over a hundred times,” he says. “People have really believed in me. I’ve let them down. They believed in me again, and I let them down again. It paid off because in 2009 I finally got sober . . . what talks to my heart is giving people a second chance.”
My brief meeting with Dadashi left an indelible impression on me; his enthusiasm was infectious. Over dinner, he shared more about his spiritual life; his eyes glowed as he talked of the amazing “coincidences” he has experienced in sobriety. “The best thing about recovery is that I am awake, free and have an answer to all my problems.”
Dadashi offered a few closing words for his fellow recovered addicts and alcoholics – “Dream big! Keep desire and persistence at the top of your vocabulary. Say positive I am statements daily. Surround yourself with winners in life and in recovery. There is no ceiling to success.”