Recently, the president and CEO of Ace Specialties in Lafayette, Louisiana, was honored by the Junior Achievement’s Business Hall of Fame, but her rise from a small supply company to selling possibly the most iconic headwear of the 21st century was not always easy.
Christl Mahfouz recently gave an interview to KPEL in which she admits that when her business, which she opened in 2007, fell on hard times, she turned to God for help.
Had a great time with Bernadette Lee & Rob Kirkpatrick on @kpel965 ! I got to share my @AceSpecialties story & some words of encouragement with the “Ladies on air”. 🎙#MAGA @TeamTrump #womeninbusiness #femaleentrepreneur #lafayette #smallbusiness #entrepreneur #madeintheusa pic.twitter.com/ejAvjEjSYc
— Christl Mahfouz (@cmahfouz) April 5, 2019
Ace Specialties’ main business was creating branded uniforms and stationery for oil and gas companies, and when those companies experienced a downturn, so did hers. During that time, she probably couldn’t have dreamed that one day she would be behind a multi-million dollar merchandise empire and high-fiving Ivanka Trump (really).
“All I knew to do was turn to God, so I started praying … every day. I was like ‘God, just please show me the direction,'” Mahfouz explained to the radio station. “I want to survive. I don’t want to file bankruptcy and hurt myself, hurt my employees.”
Mahfouz didn’t know what type of guidance to expect, but when Donald Trump announced his candidacy, she had an idea. As Trump took that faithful ride down the escalator in Trump Tower in New York City as Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World” played, Mahfouz saw people wearing and holding pro-Trump T-shirts — and she was not impressed with the quality.
Mahfouz had worked with Eric Trump in 2011 when they were both raising money for St. Jude Hospital, and after she reached out to the Trump organization, she was put in contact with the campaign team. In 2015, she overnighted an order of different designs on shirts, hats and other products — including the “Make America Great Again” hat — and soon she was pitching her product to Trump’s team.
While she was setting up her presentation, Ivanka entered the room. “She turned to me and said, ‘American apparel, made in the USA,’ and gave me a high-five. At that moment, every ounce of nervousness just left,” Mahfouz said.
The merchandise got the stamp of approval from Trump’s team and when the then-presidential candidate himself gave the yes to specific products and vetoed others, he asked Mahfouz how fast she could get it all done.
“I said give me a week. I’ll have the website portion built for the store, I’ll have all of the products, and we’ll be ready to go,” Mahfouz said.
According to Business Insider, as of August 2018, more than $20 million worth of Trump merchandise has been sold since 2016. The 2020 presidential election will surely see that that number only grows.
Christl Mahfouz did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment, but you can listen to the whole interview with KPEL here.
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