Welcome back to the Gentleman’s Gazette! In today’s video, we’ll have Aaron Marino from AlphaM. He’s a YouTube celebrity; he has appeared on TV shows like Shark Tank. He has almost a million subscribers, and his videos have been watched for almost a hundred million times.
Sven Raphael Schneider: Aaron, Welcome!
Aaron Marino: Raphael, it’s wonderful to be here, to be on your show. I’m telling you, I’ve done a lot of interviews but for some reason, I got so nervous coming to talk you, and the bar is set high, and so hopefully, I do an okay job, but it’s always great to see you and talk to you!
SRS: No, I love your energy, and you’ll be just fine. So just to start off, you originally came from the fitness world, and you transitioned into men’s style consulting. Today, you’re a very successful YouTube entrepreneur. Just walk us through on how you made it from the fitness world to where you are today.
AM: It actually started with a nutrition store. I get out of college, and I move to Atlanta, and I start working as a personal trainer at a fitness center. I met a guy, and he said “Hey, I want to start a nutrition store” and I said “That sounds great! Count me in, let’s go do this” and so I did that for a little while. About 2 years, we expanded to 3 locations, and I realized that I didn’t want to be in the nutrition industry. Specifically, with that, one was my business partner was selling drugs out at the back of the store, and so our ethics were definitely not in line, and I knew that prison was not a place where I would flourish. I’d be popular, but I definitely would not do well. I left the nutrition store, and I met a woman, and we decided to open up a personal training studio. Ever since the age of about 12, my only dream was to own a fitness center, that was it. That was ultimately success in my mind. I met this woman; it should have been an omen because we signed the lease to our facility on September 11th, as in the September 11th and so that was a bad day but you know, the future was bright, did that for a little while, and I was miserable. I was miserable almost immediately, my overhead was incredibly high, everybody made more money other than me. I developed a bleeding ulcer; it was just incredibly stressful, but while I was there, an interesting thing happened. A gentleman actually came up to me, one of my clients and said “Hey, I’ve got a hot date, I don’t know what to wear” and so I said “Okay, no problem. Let me come over to your place, we’ll check out and see what you have, and we’ll go get your haircut, trim your nose hairs because they’re ridiculous.”
SRS: (laughs) And you did that because you were a nice guy.
AM: And because I’ve always been interested in style, I’ve always been interested in grooming, and so he asked me to take him shopping, I do, it’s amazing, and he goes to work the next day, and a female coworker says “Hey, you look great. What did you do?” and he said “Well there’s this guy” and so she said, “Well, can I have his phone number because I want him to take my husband shopping.”
SRS: Traditional word of mouth advertising, right?
AM: That was it! And so when I got that call, I was like “Okay, yeah! I’ll be happy to.” and then she said those magical little words, “What do you charge?” and that’s when I realized that there may be a larger market, there may be an audience for this. I didn’t even know what to call it. I ultimately found out that it was image consulting and so when I had the opportunity to get rid of my fitness center, ultimately I did some google search, I don’t even know if Google was out yet, but I did some internet searching, this was back in 2007, and I started looking to see what resources were out there for everyday regular guys like me, like my dad, like my friends, just to get simple, basic style advice and I found that there really wasn’t anything. I wanted to help my buddies, and so, I realized that there really wasn’t anything out there except at the time, like GQ and Esquire but that wasn’t my reality. I didn’t understand that level of dress; I didn’t understand high fashion and so I decided to create a resource and a solution, and that’s how my image consulting business got started.
SRS: What would you say are the lessons you learned along the way?
AM: Failing (laughs). There are many lessons I learned Raphael.
SRS: The three most important like you would say “If I were to do it all over again, this is what I would do.”
AM: Alright, Do background checks and understand who you’re getting into business with. The other tip I would give people is keep your overhead as low as possible.
SRS: When you start out, grow organically. The cost can always go up but bringing it down is much more difficult.
AM: Absolutely! And so many people get fixated on wanting a nice office, driving a nice car to meet clients. When I started my image consulting business, I always would park a block away before I met a client because I didn’t want them to see that I was a driving a beat up Toyota Rav 4. And a third tip, Just do what you absolutely love, if you can figure out a way to monetize your passion, there is absolutely nothing better. But here, I’m going to give you a bonus tip Raphael, understand that success does not always look like what you expect it will. When I was 12 up until the age of 30, success to me was one dimensional, it was a fitness center. If I didn’t own a chain of 27 fitness centers, I was not successful. Well, my view of success actually was and is has changed along the way. So you just have to be open to the possibility of changing.
SRS: Absolutely. So, you started your YouTube channel in 2008 which is roughly when you started the image consulting so, why did you do that? YouTube was very new at the time. What kind of draw you to it?
AM: I got kicked off a reality show. (laughs) I got kicked off of a really bad VH1 reality show, and it was funny because a year before, my wife gave me a video camera for Christmas and a year after she gave it to me, I actually opened the box, and it was when I got home from this reality show and I was like “You know, I think I can make videos, I think there’s a message, I think that there’s an audience out there, and I’m going to see if there is.” I made my first one, it was like 2 minutes long, the resolution was like 180 p and the rest is history.
SRS: You said you made over 3000 videos which is a lot in itself, but you also don’t shy away from like sensitive topics such as to get rid of butt hair or shave testicles. How do you come up with these topics? Most people laugh or like “OMG, you can’t do that!” but your viewership numbers tell you this is exactly what people want.
AM: It’s funny! I have always been incredibly comfortable in my own skin and okay with talking about taboo subjects and taboo topics and so the way that I see it, if I’ve got a question about it or If I’m doing it, I should probably talk about it. That’s sort of how I approached my channel, it’s honesty and trying to give people the questions that they don’t feel comfortable asking their cousin or their uncle, Stan.
SRS: You know for these videos, I mean, do you research them for a lot of time or do you just go out and look? How does it come together?
AM: Usually, I will just think of something. I am constantly thinking about what would make a good video, and so I have a journal that I keep with me pretty much all the time that I write my video scripts in and I would jot down an idea that I would think would be an interesting video, and then I start doing research. Just like anything else, I do Google searches, Wikipedia is amazing and wiki how is also great but yeah, just research and put my own spin on most things and you know, it’s not all that difficult to come up with answers to some of these things.
SRS: You have a very broad bandwidth, you cover flirting, men’s style, appearances, hair, and grooming but ultimately, when I look at it as a whole, one can say it boils down to one thing which is confidence.
AM: If there is a word that you could boil my confident down into, it is that big C word. I’m a firm believer that when you’re confident, everything in your life is better. When I started this, I was trying to help people through style, through clothing. When you know that you look good, you start to feel good, it’s almost helping somebody develop their confidence from the outside in and if you do that enough times, it does something to your brain, and you start to associate yourself with this confident person that everybody, hopefully, discovers at some point. And so, everything I do and every video I write and I film is geared towards helping somebody feel better about themselves, and that’s a very broad topic, but since I have a background in fitness, nutrition, relationships, I feel like I can pretty much talk about anything.
SRS: How would you define style?
AM: Style is your personal packaging. Everything has a brand; everything has packaging, and so style is wearing clothing that really lets the world know what you’re all about in an instant, at a glance. People are forming opinions about you on the first three seconds of meeting you, it’s not a conscious decision, it’s sub-conscious, and they are forming opinions. If they don’t like the way you’re dressed, you’re going to have to work harder to convince them to give you the job, go out on a date with you, you selling them something and just taking the little bit of time to put together a package that is consistent with the way that you want to be received by others is the best time you can ever spend.
SRS: That’s good. that being said, what are your pet peeves? Things that really are so wrong that every man should know about them.
AM: It’s all about fit, you know that. By now, every style blogger from here to Taiwan, talks about the importance of fit but still, it blows my mind when I see somebody, and they’re wearing pants that are too big or they’re wearing a shirt that is too big. They associate large and roomy with comfort and so for me, the biggest pet peeve is not wearing clothing that fits you properly.
SRS: Okay, any others?
AM: Yeah, I don’t personally like short sleeve dress shirts.
SRS: I’m a hundred percent with you. Obviously, you like to work out, and you’re a more muscular guy so in your experience, what tips do you have for muscular guys if they have troubles finding things that fit?
AM: Great question! The best tool that you can have as a muscular or this doesn’t have to be just muscular but if you’re a hard to fit body type, find a tailor. Somebody that can alter clothing well. The money you spend on having something altered just to customize it to your body is a hundred times worth the expense of the alteration. So finding a good tailor, going in stores and sort of just playing around and trying different brands on because all different brands, all the brands fit and cut clothing differently. So I would say, find a tailor and try experiment with different brands to see if there’s anybody who actually makes a cut that’s more flattering to your muscular body.
SRS: What would you think would your viewers/listeners/readers be surprised to learn about you?
AM: That I like antiquing. I love art. There’s nothing that’s more relaxing to me than putting on my headphones, putting on Pandora and walking through antique markets. I love antiquing. (laughs) I’m like a little old lady.
SRS: I wouldn’t have thought! We like antiquing; there are great flee markets in Boston. Do you have anything that you travel to particularly or do you go to Paris just for the antiquing?
AM: No, my antiquing stays local. I’ve got enough big antique markets and fairs to actually go to. I’ also am a big fan of folk art, I love folk art. I’ll go to a lot of art shows, and anytime I can get my hands on something that really just appeals to me; I will buy and invest in art.
SRS: So you know, the other day, I watched one of your videos, and I read the description underneath where you list all the businesses you’re involved in, and I was like “That’s quite a bit!”, tell us more about what you’re working on right now and what’s going to happen in 2016?
AM: I am a serial entrepreneur. The biggest fear I have is thinking of an opportunity and not going after it and seeing if it can work. Now, one of the downsides to being an entrepreneur is that you can spread yourself too thin and sort of, right now I am maxed. I am tapped out with businesses. Ultimately, the number 1 most important thing that I need to do in the day is create content because without content; nothing else works, but because I’ve built this audience, this following, I have basically just created all these different vertical businesses as a result.
SRS: If we look at it you know, on the one hand, you have your YouTube channel, do you still do the consulting?
AM: I don’t. That’s the thing that I have given up, I don’t do one on one consulting anymore. The time is just not worth the commitment or the time commitment was just not worth the money, so I’ve given that up.
SRS: You started Pete and Pedro hair products, right?
AM: Yeah, I have a hair product company. I’m getting ready to launch a skin care company, Tiege Hanley and I’m working with 2 amazing partners and an incredible chemist, and that’s probably the biggest business that I ever embarked on, but that’s amazing because the first time I really felt like I got incredible people around me that get *** done.
SRS: Hopefully, you did a background check on them.
AM: (laughs) We’ll talk about that later, but there are things in the legal documents that will take care of anything if anybody gets out of line or has done anything in their past that would come back to haunt us but yes, we’re good.
SRS: So when is this brand going to launch?
AM: Probably around May, spring of 2016. There’s a whole lot of logistics around it, the concept is different than just a skin care company that sells products, we’ve got a unique value proposition, and so I’m real excited about that, we’re still sort of in the hush-hush phase of it.
SRS: That’s good to know, and it may take longer and cost more, but eventually it will come to but before then, in March you have men’s style con.
AM: Style Con baby! That is the even that I look forward to all year! It was mind blowing to me. Here’s the thing, as an entrepreneur, as a content creator, Raphael, you know this better than anybody, it’s a lonely road and there aren’t people, like when I go to a party, when you go to a party, you meet people, they’re very nice people but you have zero in common with them, at least, I do, and when I say things in common, there’s a different level, and there’s a different persona of somebody who is an entrepreneur that is a creative type person and so going to Style con, it was like I found my people. All these incredible guys that just get it and it was a wonderful experience, regardless of when you’re into style or fashion, it’s about community, about being better and being around people that will nurture that goal.
SRS: No and I can agree, you meet people, working with people and you say there’s this great brand and then you meet them in person, and it’s just a very different experience that provides a great return for both parties, and so it’s a win-win for everybody. I know that last year, you put a lot of time into this event, with all you side businesses and stuff, will you have the same amount of time to dedicate to it this year?
AM: It’s not about will, it’s about making time. Yeah, last year, because it was bigger than the first year that we had kind of in the backroom of a bar, there was a lot of things that I needed to figure out that Antonio and I needed to figure out. So last year was very, very labor intensive. This year, a lot of the things we needed to figure out, we figured out last year.
SRS: You have some experience, and it makes it easier.
AM: Yes but it’s still not easy and thus absolutely takes a lot of time.
SRS: If you have such a crammed schedule, time management is important. What does a regular day in the life of Aaron Marino look like?
AM: I wake up at 5 am, everyday. I’m at Starbucks by 5:30, I work until about 7:30 then I go to the gym, exercise. Usually, I do my cardio in the morning, come home, eat. Get to the office around 10-10:30, start filming videos or video, I film one video everyday, and then I work all day until about 7:00 and then sometime I go to the gym again and just do a little bit of something, go home, eat dinner and then I’m pretty much working until about 9:00 – 9:30 when I shut it down and go to bed. Weekends, I take a little bit of time for myself and my wife.
SRS: Very good! So what do you do on the weekends?
AM: Netflix! We’re, big homebodies, we go out to eat, we like dining out, but my wife is a fantastic cook, and so usually, we’ll go out to eat once a weekend, and sometimes we’ll go see a movie or go to the park or go hike the mountain but something active usually is a mandatory must have for the weekend but then there’s a lot of vegging out time where we’re just watching Netflix in the media room and just not talking. I talk so much it’s really nice when I just don’t have to talk.
SRS: I see that but you know if you have Starbucks everyday, maybe there’s a potential collaboration down the road.
AM: I wish! If you can figure out that mechanism Raphael, we need to do it, that’s a new business all on its own.
SRS: Probably! Now, with all your businesses and experience, with your ups and down in life, what would you say was the best piece of advice that has ever been given to you?
AM: It’s actually from a Ted talk that totally changed my view on business. It’s by a gentleman named Simon Sinek, and he’s a big leadership expert and the Ted talk, it was Start with Why. Basically, showing the difference in why certain brands are successful, certain companies are more successful than others and when you, I don’t want to ruin the video but I would just say that If you’re listening or watching this, watch the video. It is incredibly important to let the audience know, and the customer know, why you’re doing something as opposed to what you’re doing and if they believe you, if they trust you, if they know that you intentions are honest and true, you will be successful beyond your wildest dreams. It’s when you make money the goal, money the key and you tell people what you do as opposed to why you do it, if they can see and feel that passion, they’ll follow you to the end of the earth.
SRS: It shines through and you know it makes sense cos you’re happy, you exude that positive energy and it’s not just making a quick buck selling cellphone cases on Amazon or whatever it is.
AM: Not that there’s anything wrong with cellphone cases on Amazon but it’s about that passion.
SRS: What would you say is your goal for the next 5 years?
AM: The only goal that I have for myself in terms of something that needs to happen is that I need to be as happy as I am right now. If I can maintain this level of fulfillment, if I can maintain this level of passion and excitement, everyday I jump out of bed, and I’m excited to get to work creating content. If I can be here in 5 years, I will be absolutely thrilled. Now, will some of the things change along the way? Yes but it’s okay, and so I just need to stay focused, stay passionate, and hopefully, I’m in a very happy, emotionally healthy, fulfilled place five years from now.
SRS: Those are good goals! Thank you very much, Aaron and if you want to check out his YouTube Channel…
AM: Wait a second, you’re not getting out of here with me asking you a question. What’s your goal in 5 years?
SRS: Well, I’d like to have grown a nice business that is small enough to be reactive and actionable and active but at the same time, being able to truly just do what I want to do. For example, when we started, my wife and I, we’re both a team, and when we started, she believed in me and said you know, you’re good with this, do this. I’m going to go and get a regular job so we can pay the bills, and now, she’s on our team so we can do stuff together. Just last week we went to Pitti Uomo trade show in Florence for a week, and now we’re going to go skiing, we like to travel, antiquing and so my goal is that we can do even more of that, be really independent, be with friends, with people that we really appreciate and of course for the website, grow consistently, have a great YouTube channel and so we can kind of you know, help men across the globe but not have something like GQ or Esquire, when you read it, and you’re like ” I don’t like that or agree with that” So I hope that, we’ll be in a position where we’ve more influence on the people than we have today.
AM: Did anybody recognize you in Florence?
SRS: Oh, yes actually. It’s funny cos you’ve never met those people, and you’re just on the street, and people come up to you and talk to you, and some others were bloggers for example, and that was at the conference but then on Friday, we just walk through the city, went through little stores looking for items and so there was a beautiful little glove store and we sell gloves, but it doesn’t mean we can’t go in there and look. So we walked in there, and there was the guy from Portugal, and he said “Oh! you’re from Gentleman’s Gazette!” It’s great, it’s wonderful.
AM: Well the interesting thing and I’ve said this to you when I met you in Style con, it was actually a year ago. I said, when you started making videos, that’s when everything changed for me, for you and your site. You all of sudden, instead of having just a bunch of great content, all of a sudden, we got to know who Raphael was and who Raphael is, an amazingly charming and engaging and happy person and so that totally changed, like with your logo even, it’s very polished, professional and it added a level of warmth and depth to your content that was amazing, and so you did something very, very smart of letting people into your life and letting them know who you are.
SRS: You already did that eight years ago, and I think the video gives people the opportunity to see you as you are. It’s less filtered, it’s more yourself and in the beginning, if you look at videos of you and of me, it was weird because we weren’t like ourselves in a way, you know it’s new, you look into the camera and stuff like that but once you get used to it, people can really see who that person is rather than just reading the words which can be very ambiguous.
AM: Absolutely! Kudos to you sir, kudos to you!
SRS: Kudos to you and I look forward to seeing you in person at Men’s Style con.
AM: Absolutely! Thank you so much, Raphael!