We had the good fortune of connecting with Laura Max McDonald and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Laura Max, how do you think about risk?
Well. I’ve always been a do-first-figure-out-later kind of person. The fact that it’s led to a successful life has been due to a combination of great timing, great connections, a bit of privilege, and sheer, dumb luck. Sometimes I look back at the decisions I’ve made and I’m like, how. did. I. do. that. WHY. did. I, do. that. But my life has been a really great adventure. I’ve traveled around the world, moved across the country, started businesses, and made out with an Olympic swimmer while holding Alec Baldwin’s hand on 30 Rock. My life has been a crazy series of risks with a whole lot of reward.
I was at the top of my class at Colgate University in upstate NY with absolutely zero clue how I wanted to spend my post-college life until I told a career services associate that I wanted to try being an actor. I called my parents and told them. Stayed up for nights on end doing research, and then I actually booked multiple paid acting roles in New York City before I even graduated from school.
I declared my college major after two classes, I paid for a semester of acting school before I finished the first week of summer session, I bought my Barbie dream car (a turquoise jeep wrangler) and started a car rental business so I could afford to pay for it. And I made a website for my current company Rad Max Vintage before I had any inventory. Do first, ask questions later.
I am (obviously) not the person to follow for professional business advice. But I am the person you listen to about diving head first into your dreams. When I take these risks, I seem to be filled with enough insanity to believe they will happen. And then they do. I don’t know how, but it’s been fun.
What should our readers know about your business?
I sell vintage sports apparel! It’s very specific and it happened by accident and I love it so much. What is vintage sports apparel, you ask? It’s a collection of vintage NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, college, and ski apparel from the 1980s & 1990s. Mainly Starter jackets, satin bomber jackets, crewnecks, and tshirts from teams with a few mixed-in jerseys, sweatpants, and snapback hats.
It all happened by accident. I had always collected these because I loved vintage sweatshirts, but I wasn’t wearing the random teams I had (because I am a diehard NY Giants fan and couldn’t be seen rocking a Denver Broncos sweatshirt!). So I brought a sweatshirt to a bar thinking I would give it to someone for a bit of money, but then someone bought it for $100! And I was like – “I have more of these.” So I just kept going to bars and trying to sell sweatshirts off my body (which is an insane thing to do if you’re a normal human being). So I made an instagram with photos of my items, and a website, and then I realized I could actually make it a business by doing pop ups in LA!. See – do first, ask questions later. I just kept jumping to the next lily pad and one day I looked back and I had gotten pretty far across the pond.
It’s been a true adventure ever since – especially surviving quarantine after just having opened a storefront. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. This brand is such an absolute joy and sports are such an emotional part of people’s stories. I have had the pleasure of meeting so many incredible people through this business because of how important the pieces are to these customers. Rad Max Vintage is all nostalgia: hot dogs at the ball park, your first little league base hit, seeing your crush across the middle school cafeteria, the way your dad smelled after a beer at a football game. It is Kelly Kapowski & Zach Morris love meets Big League Chew.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I am a west side girl through and through. I rarely let visitors leave Venice / the PCH, BUT here’s my advice: If you must leave the west side: Have one full afternoon dining and shopping at Grand Central Market in downtown LA. Go with an empty stomach and try to get one dish from every shop to taste. Walk off your food baby up with a sunset hike around the Griffith Observatory.
Then head back to Venice and never leave. You could: spend a day walking up and down Abbot Kinney window shopping and stopping for drinks or snacks at all the bars and restaurants.
Rent a bike in Venice and bike the beach boardwalk bike path all the way down to Hermosa Beach or all the way north past Santa Monica.
Hit up the Pacific Palisades for wine and music at Rosenthal Wines or get in a hike at Paseo Miramar trailhead.
Rent paddleboards and paddle around the Marina in Marina del Rey.
Do a tour de beach bar – start at Big Dean’s, stop at the Waterfront, Venice Ale House, Hotel Erwin, and the Whaler.
My tour is mostly about taking breaks from fitness to eat food drink wine and I stand by that.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have run my business for the past 2.5 years by myself, but I would be NOWHERE without my tribe. Let’s start with my parents, Jeff & Jude, who are the most incredibly supportive and loving human beings on this planet. No matter what insane idea I’ve told them in all of my years of life, they’ve been there to support and help in any way they can. It’s mind blowing. They believe in me so much. It’s maybe honestly given me a superhero complex that I will never live down? Unconditional love, man, it’s the best. Thank you, family.
And then my friends. By gosh, my friends! My friends have designed logos and websites, done my business’s professional photography, modeled my clothing, helped me set up and break down and work all-day pop ups, driven with me for hours to various ski resorts for ski pop ups. They promote the business, they support the business, and mostly they show up to laugh or cry to listen when running a business alone is too much. I have the most generous, thoughtful, fun, and funny friends on the planet. Thank you, friends.
And last – my vendor family. Selling with my regular vendors gives me a sense of community that I would never get from running a business alone. A crew to laugh and cry with at the markets, to exchange business advice, our accountant’s contact info, and to spend all the money I make on their beautiful products. My vendor family is the reason I am able to show up and sell with joy and laughter each week.
Photos by Tristan Onfroy. His preferred contact and credit is his instragram: @tristan.vision