…My recommendation would be to find a support network, a group of other founders to have confidential conversations that can help guide you through problems. Also take personal time for yourself. We all want to grow as fast as possible, however if you are not in the right state of mind, you will fail.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Aaron Mottern. Aaron is the founder and CEO of AGOGIE, a wearable resistance apparel company. Aaron is no stranger to the entrepreneur lifestyle, after spending the last 18 years as a founder or co-founder of multiple companies. He has been named 40 Under 40 of Saint Louis Professionals, and recipient of leadership award for his efforts for not-for-profit volunteering. He is an avid fisherman and loves birds. Aaron can be reached at [email protected]
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started my entrepreneur career when I was in 7th grade by selling candy in the hallways of my school between periods and at lunch. This lit my entrepreneur spirit which led me to owning multiple small businesses and founding a few startups. The direct startup that led to the creation of AGOGIE was an app that enabled consumers access to professional athlete workout regimens, think P90X on your phone with a professional athlete. Unfortunately, the app failed and I was thinking about the next move and thought rubber bands in pants would be a great way for athletes to increase their workout.
Can you share your story of Grit and Success?
I graduated high school in 1997 at 17yrs old and homeless, living in a tent with his parents. Even though my parents both worked and were able to buy a house, they couldn’t afford the transition from when their lease ended and the overdue construction on their 1st new house was completed. My parents had a hard choice and I respect their decision. This was the most humbling event in my life, which taught me many valuable lessons. Living in a tent did something internally to me and my drive. This event forever changed my mind set, drastically. Knowing what the bottom looked like, I only had one way direction to go. To get there I knew there was only one way to get there, with one foot in front of the other at all times. If I find an obstacle in my way, I find a way to progress past it.
Fast forward to 2001, my best friend at the time convinced me to leave my current job as a manager of a jewelry store to start a technology repair company. This company turned into a full software development company with an advertising agency. Our first customer was an orthodontist, which we supported her network and computers. Eventually the company grew into an international operation with offices in Bulgaria and Brazil. In 2008, when the economy collapsed, our two largest customers claim bankruptcy, leaving the company with hundreds of thousands of dollars in receivables that we needed to continue operations.
After this company ceased operations, I went on to raise $5 million to create a digital signage network. Part of the requirements for this capital was to bring on other individuals that would become partners, making us a team of 5 co-founders. This believes was a giant mistake, because there were too many voices trying to get attention. Due to all the internal conflicted, I had the other partners buy me out and I left the company.
Facing what to do next, I went back to my comfort zone, advertising. I started doing consulting as a digital media strategy. This turned into a small agency with 2 other partners, however I felt unfulfilled doing service based business, so I started to search for a product. This led to the development of a remote physical therapy web application in 2010. This later turned into a performance training platform in 2014, which ultimately folded.
AGOGIE was born out of my experience with NFL athletes and I have used all the lessons learned from my 18yr entrepreneur experience to build AGOGIE.
First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
AGOGIE has faced hard times throughout it’s early life. I was fortunate enough to find a solid team early on, great mentors, heavy industry advisors and access to social influencers. Capital has been the hardest issue for the company. As a direct-to-consumer product company, there are many moving parts, inventory being one of them. Inventory is capital intensive and finding the right manufacturing partner is laborsome. In order to not burn precious capital, you had to find a manufacturer that would run small productions to ensure you didn’t have thousands of products that were unsellable.
I was able to find a supply chain provider that debt financed our early inventory for AGOGIE. Interestingly, AGOGIE operates our production much like a software company by doing small improvements from customers feedback. We are on our 17th design of our first product.
Ultimately, the lack of early capital was a blessing. This enabled me to dig deep in finding other ways to finance the journey, while developing the best product for our consumers. AGOGIE has also been able to dive deep into who is our consumer and why they are buying their products. If we had raised large capital early, we would have spent too much on unusable product and marketing.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
One of our investors states it best, “Aaron doesn’t know any other way, it’s just daily life, he just moves forward”
This is what I do. If things go sideways, I find ways through the situation and move on. I have internal grit and drive to just move, however my secret weapon is my wife Jamie. Without her daily support, it would be difficult to always just move forward. I feel lucky that regardless of what is going on with AGOGIE, I able to go home and have a great time with no real worries.
Many entrepreneurs struggle with internal and external conflict that enables doubt in their abilities, every entrepreneur needs a support person or a network that they can learn on. Being a founder is hard. It toys with every emotion you have and it can crush you at times.
So, how are things going today? How did Grit lead to your eventual success?
AGOGIE is much like my personality, marching forward with one foot in front of the other. We are experiencing monthly double digit growth percentages, received national exposure after being on Rachael Ray and working on an additional capital influx to scale faster.
The grit and perseverance of team AGOGIE is the reason that we are scaling.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funnest things that I have done as a startup founder was the time I and Alex Kliman, another AGOGIAN was visiting Mamba Sports Academy, co-owned by Kobe Bryant in LA. We started to play basketball between meeting with coaches and I couldn’t make a shot to save my life. As we are “playing” basketball, Alex and I noticed that the coach and athletes we were waiting on were there and watching us play. Alex couldn’t quit laughing as he nailed his shots and mine bounced all over the place. Now in every meeting that basketball comes up, Alex will bring up this story to whomever is listening.
The lesson to learn from this experience, is even though you are making a fool of yourself in front of your client, try your best, even if it’s the worst in the crowd. We are all great at different things.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
AGOGIE stands out because our products make a difference in individual lives. We had a high school sprinter that reduce her time by 1 second, this enabled her to garner multiple D1 scholarship offers, including one from the school she really wanted to attend.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
My recommendation would be to find a support network, a group of other founders to have confidential conversations that can help guide you through problems and/or take personal time for yourself. We all want to grow as fast as possible, however if you are not in the right state of mind, you will fail.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Everyone needs help or guidance and it is hard to ask for these things. I didn’t understand the importance until I was in my thirties. There are so many individuals that have helped me to reach my current level. There are two things that stick with me that I have been told; “Words Choice Matters” and “If you are not willing to do something, don’t ask another person to do it.”
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I consistently give back to the world. Through the Miss America organization, I work with the Miss River City preliminary pageant to help guide and mentor young women to become their best self. I attend many charity event each year to help raise needed capital for their cause.I’ve find individuals in need and purchased items to help them get to the next level.
One of my favorite stories is about a young man named Bryce. He was an intern at the company next door to my office. His internship was ending and he was able to land a full time position at Mastercard. Being raised by a single mother and growing up in the low economic area of Saint Louis, he did not have the funds to purchase professional clothing for his new job. My wife and I asked him to hangout with us on a Saturday, when he arrived, we told him we were taking him shopping for clothing and to learn about professional grooming habits. I’ve been able to watch his success throughout the years and it makes my heart warm.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would start a movement around helping individuals solve roadblocks in their lives. For example, a car repair can knock a family on the ground and make it hard to recover. Any major expenses like these can start a snowball effect that ultimately ends poorly.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Instagram — @agogielife
Facebook — agogie
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!