The road to becoming iconic is paved as much with setbacks as it is with wins. An icon’s status depends on their ability to use each as a stepping stone toward goals they never lose sight of. Vagaro CEO, Fred Helou, illustrated all this poignantly during his keynote speech at the inaugural iconic.22 conference.     

Helou shared details of his own life, including growing up in Lebanon during the country’s civil war, a bloody conflict in which he’d lost several relatives. An underachiever in school, Helou had low expectations placed upon him by peers and family members. Despite this, he was determined to make it in life—his way.    

“If there was an award for the least likely to succeed, I would have won it every year,” Helou said. “But it put a chip on my shoulder.”   

Like so many dreamers across the world, Helou decided to make a name for himself in the United States. He emigrated after graduating from high school in 1988—and had all his money stolen enroute.     

Helou didn’t share these details with his iconic.22 audience to brag, but made a crucial point: They will encounter such forks along the road in their lives, moments that will determine whether they’ll arrive at the life they want, or somewhere else.    

“We all have things that happen that can lead us in a negative or a positive direction,” he said. “At key moments it was important for me to see opportunities to take them in the positive direction.”    

Helou became resilient, frugal, and a skilled salesman. His first boss saw his potential and taught Helou electronics, computer programming and how to make mechanical drawings. These skills laid the foundation for his career as a software engineer and the company he eventually founded.    

“It occurred to me that this was the opportunity to dig in and prove that I was not the kid who was least likely to succeed,” he said.    

Helou described the idea he had in 1999 that eventually sprouted into the Vagaro booking and scheduling software. He sat on this idea until The Great Recession of 2008 cost him his job. Once again, he found himself at a fork in the road.    

“I decided that I was going to be my own boss,” he said. “I was the only one who got to be in charge of my future.”    

The timing was right, and Helou took the plunge. He immersed himself in the industry he would serve, absorbing the perspectives of numerous hairdressers and salon owners. He endeavored to make affordable software that everyone could use. He accomplished that, expanding its use to the wellness and fitness industries.    

“From day one, the Vagaro software was made to work for both the individual service provider and the business that employs multiple people,” Helou said.    

Helou’s keynote speech proved how being iconic isn’t all flash and glitz. It’s about patience and resilience, and the superpower of reaping positive outcomes from negative circumstances.     

If you want to hear more of Fred’s inspiring speech, keep an eye on the blog and check your email to sign up for Vagaro’s iconic On Demand feature, which gives you access to the many other moments that made the iconic.22 conference an amazing experience. Missed out? Then be sure to join us next year for iconic.23 in sunny Southern California! Follow along HERE for updates!