Speed is everything. Speed makes deals and speed kills deals. When you consider and value the importance of the overall customer experience for your brand, you’ll understand how crucial it is to deliver every single time in a timely manner. It is also important to be persistent. A lot of people give up when they’re told no. Those that want to win will find a way to win and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carlos Gil and Reggie Williams, II, Co-founders of Outlaw Masks.
Carlos Gil is an entrepreneur, brand marketing executive, start-up founder and public speaker with more than 10 years of experience leading social media marketing and strategy for global brands. Carlos’ work has been featured by and seen in CNNMoney, Mashable, Inc. Magazine, and Social Media Examiner. He is a recurring speaker at top industry events such as SXSW and Social Media Marketing World and the author of the best-selling book The End of Marketing. Carlos is the co-founder of Outlaw Masks.
Reggie Williams II is a former professional baseball player for the Minnesota Twins and current financial advisor. Recipient of the 2011 Harmon Killebrew Award for Community Service, Reggie is passionate about bringing people closer to God, not just through his words, but through his actions. Reggie is the co-founder of Outlaw Masks.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/0f89425858632c2b77f059b9f79c1eb8
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Reggie: I grew up in Bellflower, California, with my mom, dad and younger sister. As a kid, I loved being outdoors. My dad was a stickler for education, so every day when my sister and I came home from school, we had to finish our homework before we went outside. Always thinking ahead, I would finish all of my homework in advance on Monday, sacrificing that one day so the rest of the week I could play outside. You could say my love of the outdoors and sports shaped my future as it eventually led me to professional baseball, where I played for five seasons until 2012 with the Minnesota Twins.
Carlos: I am a first-generation Cuban American, born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Both my parents immigrated from Cuba to South Florida in search of the American dream. As an only child of Cuban immigrants and serial entrepreneurs, I grew up seeing my parent’s determination and strong work ethic as they operated and grew many businesses. We moved around quite a bit. In my late teens, we moved from Florida to Montana and from Montana to Utah. I attended three different high schools within a span of three years and decided to drop out of high school after my junior year. I remember working throughout my formative high school years. Whether I was working at my dad’s restaurant, selling shoes or at blockbuster video — I always worked. Several corporate jobs later, I realize now more than ever, especially as an entrepreneur, that my parent’s dedication and laser-focused work ethic cemented in me the value of hard work. If you want to achieve success in your life, you need to work hard for it.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Carlos: “The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.” Vince Lombardi
I started playing youth sports in 6th grade. I wasn’t good and I wanted to quit because I was bullied and made fun of. I’ll never forget when my mom got me a ceramic football statue and it had this quote etched on it, “The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.” That quote has always resonated with me through everything because I truly believe the more work and passion you put into a business, relationship, marriage or hobby; it is much harder to just walk away without seeing it through. I find that many people quit when they first get started simply because they find that it’s more difficult than they expected, instead of just powering through the many ups and downs. Consider entrepreneurship, for example. The first 30 days of any new venture are the hardest. As you navigate the first few weeks, people may not take you seriously and the financial return in terms of dollars and cents is not always there. You have to dig deep and keep pushing in order to yield the result you’re seeking. This core belief has carried me throughout my career — particularly during these uncertain times.
Reggie: “The road to success is lonely.” — Reggie Williams, my dad
When I was a kid, my dad and I did many workouts together, but on this specific day, we were working out on the football field at my high school. We were the only ones on the field, and he told me to stop and take a moment to just look around. As I stood there taking it all in, he said, “I want you to notice that there is no one else here — just you.” He carried on, “because the road to success is lonely. Nobody is going to be around when you put in the hard work. Nobody is going to be around when the game is done. You have to play this game because you love this game. It has nothing to do with anybody being around. It has nothing to do with how much praise you get. You always have to remember that you’ve got to work hard because when you work hard, you know that you left everything on the table, and you can look at yourself in the mirror every single day and know that you tried your best.” That life lesson has stuck with me.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Carlos: “The Pursuit of Happiness” starring Will Smith. I saw this movie when I was much younger and at a point in my life where things weren’t going so well for me in my career. It was during the last recession. I had started a business, and financially, I wasn’t seeing a return, even though I was gaining crucial experience by operating my own business. Because I wasn’t making any money, the scene where Will Smith’s character and his son are sleeping in a subway bathroom — homeless, jobless and broke — really resonated with me. In my experience, personally, as a father and husband, we carry the burden of providing for our families. When our finances were hemorrhaging and money was not coming in, it was a terrifying position to be in. To be frank, seeing that movie shook me to my core. I never wanted to find myself in that position with my family. I believe once you know what it’s like to lose everything, you never want to be there again, driving you that much harder to ensure that your family has everything they need, as basic as that may be.
Reggie: The book that has made the most impact in my life is the Bible. My favorite quote in the Bible is Matthew 17:21. In this particular verse, Jesus is telling the disciples that all things can be done through prayer and fasting. I can attest to fasting and praying. I believe in both of them and they have impacted my life tremendously.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
Reggie: I was drafted by the Minnesota Twins at 18 years of age, where I played professional baseball until 2012. After my release, I moved to Texas to play for another independent baseball team. Immediately after that, I shifted my career focus to the car industry. Prior to the pandemic, I was a manager at the Jacksonville Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram. I have spent the last eight years managing and working with a team of passionate leaders that led with heart, excellence and superior customer service. These last eight years taught me a lot about selfless leadership, the importance of doing the right thing, being kind to others and service above self.
Carlos: Prior to the pandemic, I was very fortunate to establish a successful career for myself as a corporate marketer, heading up the social media strategies for several companies including Winn-Dixie, LinkedIn and BMC software. As CEO of Gil Media, a full-service marketing agency, my team and I worked with well-known brands like DocuSign, Hertz, and Western Union, providing everything from social media management and digital consulting to employee advocacy programs. I’ve also done a lot of work as an influencer myself as a brand spokesperson for Nationwide Insurance. I’m currently working on a campaign for Facebook. I also have a best-selling book called The End of Marketing. I would say the best way to define what I was doing before the pandemic is overall marketing strategist, author, and speaker, all of which was put on pause on March 12, 2020.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
Carlos: I had to accept the loss of revenue from national speaking engagements and cancelled client contracts and make very hard business decisions in order to move forward quickly. Part of that decision was for our families to go into what we looked at as a safe house in the mountains of North Carolina. We decided as a family to rent a cabin in Banner Elk and hunker down. We physically removed ourselves from our day-to-day environments, no longer living in our homes or having day jobs to go to. Reggie and I spent our days brainstorming, reflecting, spending quality time with our families and working on whatever we needed to keep us sane. It was during this time of isolation that Reggie and I came up with the idea of starting a fashion mask company and Outlaw Masks was born.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
Carlos: Reggie and I walked into a Walmart in Boone, North Carolina and noticed they were selling gaiters. It was right around this time that stay-at-home mandates were starting to become the norm around the United States and mandates regarding mask wearing at public facilities had already gone into effect in other countries. So that for us with the “Aha” moment. We were still in the very beginning of the pandemic, so individuals did not have masks readily available. We thought if masks were going to become a requirement, then the next evolution of masks is going to be the desire for fashionable, stylish masks — because, let’s face it, no one wants to wear disposable paper on their mouth. At that moment, we were like, we could probably become the Nike or Under Armour of masks if we create a really dope, high-quality premium product.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Reggie: We are amazed by the response that we’ve received for Outlaw Masks. While it wasn’t easy in the beginning, about three months after our launch, we sent Outlaw Masks to every NBA player within the bubble at Disney and they were really receptive to the product. We also started posting on Tic-Tok and our brand took off. To date, things are moving very fast and we’re very thankful for the opportunity.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Carlos: First and foremost, we are grateful for a lot of people that have just come out and shown love and support. During these times, turning to your network is everything. It’s critical for us to know that we have folks in our network that believe in us, know what we’re about and want to work with us. One particular person is Julian Duncan. Julian is the CMO for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He has a product marketing and brand management background, having worked with brands like Nike and Under Armour. Prior to being the CMO of the Jaguars, he was LeBron James’ brand manager at Nike for 10 years. Initially when we reached out to Julian, we were looking to do a collaboration with the Jaguars; however, based on the NFL’s policies surrounding the types of masks that players are allowed to wear in the stadium, Julian recommended we look at our brand no different than the way Nike looks at LeBron James or any one of their product releases. Nike always has three different levels of their sneakers: they have the sneaker that the athlete wears, which is the premium product; a sneaker at a mid-level price point and an entry level product. So, he said to us early on, you guys really should look at your brand in that same way and create different product options with varying price points. I’d say that one conversation Reggie and I had with Julian was a pivotal moment for us and for that I’m definitely grateful.
Reggie: I’m thankful for the NBA players who wore our masks. They helped us take our brand to the next level. The act of putting on a mask is simple, but what they did to support us, and our small business was huge.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
Carlos: I would say for us it’s not so much a story, but more of a pivot in our strategy. Early on, like any new business, we were excited to share the news about our brand and product, but quickly realized that not everyone was supportive of wearing face masks. Face masks themselves have become highly politicized, especially in an election year and even more so leading up to the election. So, for us, a turning point in our business, our lives and how we go to market is simply that we actually don’t talk about the product whatsoever. We market and promote our story, what we’re doing to give to others in the community and the people who wear our masks. From athletes to everyday people, those are the heroes of our brand. This approach has completely transformed our business and made a positive impact in our lives.
Reggie: Two months ago, I walked into an Apple Store, and while I stood in line, I felt like someone was staring at me. I turned around and a girl, who was about 18 or 19 years old, was standing there with her mom. She was in fact staring at me, and, while I initially believed she was intrigued by the cool design, she actually asked me if I was the guy from Tik-Tok. I was blown away. At that moment, it hit me. You just don’t know who’s watching your videos or following you on social media, nor what impact it’s having on them. This is one of the many reasons why Carlos and I are committed to using our social media platforms for good and to spread positivity.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Starting a business really isn’t that hard — all you have to do is commit and actually get started. We’ve found that new business owners tend to get so overwhelmed by the logistics. There’s a misconception that you need to have venture capital in order to develop a new product or service, but with the right idea and a social media account, the reality is you don’t.
- Speed is everything. Speed makes deals and speed kills deals. When you consider and value the importance of the overall customer experience for your brand, you’ll understand how crucial it is to deliver every single time in a timely manner. It is also important to be persistent. A lot of people give up when they’re told no. Those that want to win will find a way to win and overcome any obstacle that comes their way.
- Positivity and passion are a must when starting a business. Business in general has many ups and downs and having the right attitude will help get you through the peaks and valleys. Now, you can’t be positive 100% of the time, but as an entrepreneur, you should strive to be positive at least 90% of the time. Coupled with a strong work ethic and a good attitude, your passion behind your idea or brand are paramount. Let’s face it, if you sucked as an employee at a 9 to 5 job, we guarantee you will suck as an entrepreneur and you will fail. Are you willing to put in the hours other people aren’t willing to put it in? Are you willing to work through the night to meet a deadline? Are you willing to wake up early because you know that the earlier you wake up you have more time in the day to devote to your business and your clients? You have to keep pushing to yield the results you want.
- The power of marketing is amazing. Marketing is going to get your business to that next level. When you’re starting a new business, getting the name out there and gaining brand recognition is one of the hardest things you’ll face. Patience is everything. You have to put in the work. You have to knock on a lot of doors and bounce back when you’re told no. If you stay in the game long enough, you will succeed. Things aren’t going to happen for you in the manner that you want them to happen to you — in fact — it might take years for your business to take off, but you have to hang in there and you have to be patient. And believe me, things will happen for you in the manner and the time in which they’re supposed to happen for you.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of wellness, both mental and physical. We believe in the power of meditation, prayer, fasting and physical exercise to navigate life as an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, there’s not one day that’s the same, so you have to make sure you are sharp. Managing people is not easy and it’s nothing like managing people at a job. In fact, when you hire and manage employees that you’re paying for your own business versus managing an employee for a company that you work for, it’s even more difficult because your expectations of them are significantly higher.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
Carlos: It’s simple: limit your consumption of the 24-hour news cycle and stay off social media if you’re finding it to be too toxic for your psyche. When it comes to utilizing specific social media platforms for your brand, decide ahead of time what you are going to post and when and do not waste your time looking around to see what other people are saying if it is not relevant to your business. Ask yourself: is it beneficial to your brand? Is it beneficial to your mental health? Chances are it is not. Being cognizant of your consumption can be very effective and help keep your head in the game, mentally speaking.
Reggie: Carlos hit the nail on the head — the inundation of non-stop news and the vacuum that is social media absolutely take a toll on people. While it is important to remain informed, when things get overwhelming, I head outside. There is nothing like being outdoors to center your mind and body. Also, I believe in the power of prayer and fasting, as well as keeping my mind at peace through exercise.
You are both people of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Carlos: I love what we’re doing with our random acts of kindness days. I would love for us to influence more people to spread positivity and love. The world doesn’t need more content creators or influencers per say, the world needs more kindness right now. For us, it’s all about living the Outlaw Way of life, which focuses on bringing more kindness, peace, love and joy into the world.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Reggie: LeBron James. While I value his abilities on the court, I would love to sit down with him and talk about how he is able to balance his professional life and business ventures with his family life. It is clear that they are very involved in all his does and that is admirable.
Carlos: It would be incredible to have lunch with Jay-Z. I love that he is an artist and entertainer, but more than that, he’s a businessman. Having the chance to just sit back and listen to him talk about what motivates him and pushes him would be the opportunity of a lifetime.
How can our readers follow you online?
Folks can follow us on Instagram: @carlosgil83 @realwealthreggie @outlawmasks and Twitter: @carlosgil83 @Reggiewill88 @outlawmasks
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!