Where Style Meets Substance

Hollywood fashion expert, VIP personal shopper and commentator Joseph "Joe" Katz brings you interviews with celebrities and influencers about their style and personal experiences. He also shares the best beauty & lifestyle tips and tricks to help you look and feel your best.

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Aaron Marino- Creating Alpha M and His Media Empire

Aaron Marino- Creating Alpha M and His Media Empire

You know him as Alpha M… it’s lifestyle expert and YouTube super star Aaron Marino! With over 6 million subscribers on YouTube, and over five companies that he has created, you will want to learn how he built his business into a mini empire. Aaron gives his honest advice on business, style, and life.

Follow Aaron on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.






The Katz Walk is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thank you to Executive Producer Gerardo Orlando, Producer Leah Longbrake and Audio Engineer Dave Douglas.

Joe Katz:
Hey, you guys. I am not in my bow tie. I am in Iowa, visiting my mom. So, you're getting me in my natural form. I am so excited today, because I have got a guest who you might know as Alpha M. He is YouTube superstar, Aaron Marino. Aaron started his YouTube channel that grew into a mini empire. He's on the show today, talking all about style, how he built his business and true answers really about his life. Stay tuned. This is Aaron Marino. Aaron Marino is here on the Katz Walk. Welcome, Aaron.

Aaron Marino:
Joe, thank you so much for having me. Thank you for dealing with me. This is like the second time we've tried to do this. And I was so looking forward to talking to you. I've watched and listened to a lot of your other podcasts, and I'm just really pleased to be here, and just so thankful that you would not dismiss me after my momentary flake out last time.

Joe Katz:
Oh, no. I mean, we have too much talk about. I want to understand this whole world that Aaron Marino lives in. I mean, you've built a little mini empire that I want to learn all about. And it's just fascinating. I've watched your videos and I look at all the things, and sometimes I look at it and I go, well, you're so honest. And so it's like, if I were to call a friend and be like, "Hey, can I just tell you what's going on right now?" That's what you do in front of the camera with your audience.

Aaron Marino:
Yeah. Yeah. It's funny because that's really, when I first started YouTube, it was back in 2008. And so, this was a long time ago, it was before really anybody had any clue that you could make a living at this or that was, I didn't even know really what it was. I got kicked off a reality show called Glam God with Vivica Fox, off a VH1. You want to talk about a train wreck? VH1 shows are pretty bad. This one was bad for VH1. I was kicked off first from this reality show. And I remember like it was yesterday sitting at the airport thinking, "All right, my wife gave me a video camera. It's at home. I haven't opened the box in literally a year. And I'm going to make videos and put it on YouTube." Not knowing really what YouTube was.

Aaron Marino:
And so, when I started posting videos, I posted a few videos like, "Hi, I'm Aaron Marino." I was all dressed up. I thought I needed to look like an image consultant. So, I had these, I went to JCPenney and bought a bunch of jackets that were too big. I was like, "Hey, I know how to tie a double Windsor." Or no, there is no such thing as a Windsor knot. And so, I was like, I look like an image consultant.

Aaron Marino:
And so, I started posting videos. And I didn't really know what I was doing at all. And this was early days. And so, I was looking at other people that were popular on the platform and everybody was really rude and crude. And it was like the Wild West back then. And so, I thought that's what I needed to do. And so, I started actually, trying to be a little bit outrageous.

Aaron Marino:
And what I came to realize is when I just dropped the act and got authentic, and just honest, that's when everything felt right to me doing it. And my audience also, I guess, seemed to respond to that. And so, yeah, honesty has been my thing.

Joe Katz:
Wow.

Aaron Marino:
So, that's a long way for me to say, "Yes, you're right." I am honest in these videos.

Joe Katz:
Yeah. No, I find it so intriguing. But when you said VH1 and Vivica Fox, so what was your role in the show?

Aaron Marino:
Okay. So, it was a styling show. Basically, they cast all these stylists to come on and compete for the title of Glam God. And so, what happened was I was an image consultant working with men at the time. I had a fitness center that failed. But I was always really into style. And so, it was like, "Okay. So, I'm bankrupt. What do I do now? What can I do with very little money?" And so, I started an image consulting firm. And so, I was always looking for opportunities like, "Okay. How can I get on TV?" Because I figured, okay, that's going to be the reason or how I'm going to make it big in this world.

Aaron Marino:
And so, I saw a Craigslist ad for a reality show casting, and it was for people with that, like style or something to that effect. And so, once I realized that it was for a show that was going to focus on women, I actually started teaching myself makeup and all sorts of things to try to learn and act. And I lied my way onto that show saying, "Oh yeah, I work with all sorts of women."

Joe Katz:
Did you do makeup and stuff?

Aaron Marino:
I didn't get to that point because I got kicked off too early, but I was definitely out of my element on that show. But yeah, it was still fun for the day that I was there before I got ex-communicated from VH1. I was definitely not the Glam God, not that season. So yeah.

Joe Katz:
So, then you got on that show, which it's a big deal. I mean, you got on a VH1 show. And so, then after that, then you decided you were going to just start videotaping yourself.

Aaron Marino:
Yeah. Yeah. I had a video camera. I'm an only child with a big mouth. So, what do you do? You need to figure out a way to film yourself and put yourself on YouTube. And that's what I did without any expectation or without any really knowing what I was doing, or what I was getting involved in. And the rest is history.

Aaron Marino:
I remember posting my first video and it was just introducing myself. I was standing in my little office and I introduced myself, "Hi, I'm Aaron. I'm an image consultant from Alpha M Image Consulting. And I want to be here to answer any of your style questions." Well, I got a question from a guy who was like, "Hey, I'm a bigger dude, what do I wear?" And it was like that moment that I was hooked. It's like, okay. I think for my life, I was really searching for that outlet and a feeling of worth and validation. And when I got that first question, it was like, okay, people actually care about what I'm saying. And so, that was it for me. And I've been going strong ever since.

Joe Katz:
And this was in 2008, you started?

Aaron Marino:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yep.

Joe Katz:
And then from there you just started posting videos, but were you working another gig or were doing-

Aaron Marino:
Oh, yeah.

Joe Katz:
Yeah.

Aaron Marino:
Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I was personal training. That was how I was making really my money. I was also doing some image consulting on the side. This was back in 2006 and '7, when you could advertise on Google for a relatively affordable price per click or acquisition, $8 you bid on men's style consultant or men's image consulting. I was bidding $3, $5, and actually getting clients from around the country that would fly in for the day. And I would take them shopping.

Joe Katz:
Really?

Aaron Marino:
Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Joe Katz:
And they would pay you for a day?

Aaron Marino:
Yeah.

Joe Katz:
And they would fly to Atlanta?

Aaron Marino:
They would fly to Atlanta. And I would take them shopping. I would take them to get their haircut. And a lot of them were recently single guys that wanted to help with their dating profile pictures. And so, that's kind of the niche I found myself, and it was right around the time when Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was taking off. And at the time there really wasn't much in terms of men's style on the internet other than GQ and Esquire. And so, I started posting things I didn't know a whole lot, but I faked it enough to convince people that I did. And so, I learned along the way, and you fake it till you make it kind of thing.

Joe Katz:
And so, what did you do? Did you just set up a camera? And that was before phones that were really high tech, right?

Aaron Marino:
Oh no, no, it wasn't a phone yet. It was a really low resolution video camera that had a little card in it. And I didn't know how to edit. And so, I would just record, and if I messed up, I'd have to start all over again. And so, my videos would be like two minutes or three minutes. And yeah, it was a lot of fun. And so, that's how it all started.

Joe Katz:
And so, you would get a lot of clients from Google, from putting clicks out there and then, so that in training is how you-

Aaron Marino:
Yeah. Yeah. Personal training. And that was really the majority of what I would do Monday through Friday. And then on weekends, I would typically have a client, a few weekends a month. And it was amazing because I was charging $1,200 for the day. And this was more money than I had ever made for the most part. And it was amazing. I'm like, somebody is going to pay me $1,200 to take them shopping for the day. It totally just blew my mind. And so yeah, it was great while I did it.

Aaron Marino:
And then I tried doing a few information products, knowing that, "Okay. Now, I've got this audience on YouTube. A lot of guys can't afford to fly in or spend the day with me, how can I help them? And how can I make a business out of that?" And so, I started trying to do the virtual training, virtual style consultant, but I really didn't enjoy that very much. And it was very difficult for me. I'm not, as you can tell, a tech savvy individual. And so, it was a little bit challenging for me.

Joe Katz:
So, today, can somebody fly into Atlanta and book a time with you?

Aaron Marino:
No.

Joe Katz:
No.

Aaron Marino:
No, unfortunately.

Joe Katz:
Not today.

Aaron Marino:
Yeah, not anymore. I had to give that up, and even though I love doing that. So, what I do in lieu of that is something called the Alpha M Project where I actually will put out an audition for my audience to submit audition videos, "Hey, give me a one minute video, why you need a make-over." And I will basically go to my sponsors and say, "Hey, I need X number of dollars." And I'm going to do this project where we'll do five episodes, have five guys fly in, all expense paid. I'll take them shopping. They'll get a $2,500 wardrobe budget. We go shopping. We do a little makeover. I take them to the hair salon, get their hair done, and film it. And so, it's one of the things that I love doing, but with COVID that put a damper on things.

Joe Katz:
But I'm surprised because I mean, if you make $1,200, $1,500 a pop, but you've got so much going on with your online, that it's prohibitive for your time then.

Aaron Marino:
Yeah. So, with YouTube, and all my videos now are sponsored, so I will have a sponsor for the videos. And so, in terms of what you make per sponsorship and how long it takes, and versus spending all day with somebody, taking up your whole day, not to mention, I have some internet businesses. And the internet will warp your perception of a dollar. And if you figure out a way to actually convert a sale by you just advertising online. And the internet is a good thing, but it's also a bad thing.

Joe Katz:
You mean you get spoiled with the amount of money that you can make.

Aaron Marino:
It's not spoiled. Yeah. I mean, you can. It just changes your perspective of how hard it is to actually make a dollar. I remember for me when I was personal training, to make $1,200, I would have to train like 20 or 30 sessions in order to make that, right? 30 hours for $1,200 or whatever it meant was, or maybe it was like $960. I'm trying to remember. And so, then the style consulting that changed my perception. And then once you figure out, if you have an audience online, that changes things again.

Joe Katz:
Can I ask, and you don't have to answer, but I'm just curious because I think a lot of people are, but I've watched your videos and I know you say, "Oh, I get uncomfortable about money and talking about some of that stuff."

Aaron Marino:
Totally. Definitely, yeah.

Joe Katz:
But here it goes. So, but when you say, if you say $1,200 for one day of styling, let's say before the days of the Aaron Marino, today with 6 million followers, let's say the days of a million followers, what are we talking about? If we did one day, if I add something like that, sponsored.

Aaron Marino:
Is it sponsorship?

Joe Katz:
Yeah.

Aaron Marino:
It's anywhere between just around $20,000.

Joe Katz:
Okay.

Aaron Marino:
So, the difference between $20,000 for a sponsorship, it's big, it's a lot of money, right? And so obviously, that's what it could be. I mean, and depending on your audience, depending on your conversion rate, depending on a lot of different factors, it can go up, it can go down. I mean, it's not really necessarily about how many subscribers you have. It's more about how effective you are at talking about a product and then driving people to landing page or link in order to get them excited enough to go check it out, and actually check out the products.

Joe Katz:
I just noticed when I asked you and you said $20,000, does it make you feel a little awkward or uncomfortable, or no?

Aaron Marino:
Yeah, totally. It makes me uncomfortable talking about it, I guess, just because it's something that, I come from a poor Italian family that has so much guilt around everything we do. Right? I feel weird.

Joe Katz:
I come from a very Jewish... Yeah.

Aaron Marino:
Jewish and Italian-

Joe Katz:
Is very similar.

Aaron Marino:
So, Mike, that works with me, Pete and Pedro, he's Jewish. My two best friends, Terry and Brian from high school brothers, Jewish. So, the Jews and Italians are super similar in terms of the neuroses and also this feeling of guilt, right?

Joe Katz:
It's like you're saying, "I can get $20,000 a month. Who are you?"

Aaron Marino:
No, no, no, no. No, not like that. Not at all. No, it's a guilt where it's so hard to really... I don't know. It's just that it's just money is one of those things where I've always shied away from discussing it. It was one of those weird. I did an interview with Kevin O'Leary. And Kevin O'Leary, dove right into money. And it's just a topic that... I don't know. I know that it's sexy. Right? I know that a lot of people online, especially in the entrepreneurial world, they are very excited to tell you about how much money they make. Right? And that's their thing. There are a lot of people that will lead with that in order to sell their product or their service, or whatever it is, to teach you how to do what I'm doing, when the truth is, they've never done anything other than create a course in order to convince you that they can teach you how to do what they do.

Joe Katz:
Right.

Aaron Marino:
Yeah. And so, it's one of those things where I've just always been uncomfortable talking about money.

Joe Katz:
So, when you say you come from a poor Italian family, so when you say $20,000, what does that make you feel?

Aaron Marino:
It makes me feel-

Joe Katz:
We're getting up close and personal, Aaron Marino. We want know.

Aaron Marino:
What are we doing? Am I sweating?

Joe Katz:
No, you're fine.

Aaron Marino:
No. It makes me feel very, very, very, very fortunate. I know that there are a lot of people out there that work much harder than I do. And it's just one of those things where I feel very fortunate that I found something that I really love doing, that I can support myself. I can support a lot of people that work for me. I'm just fortunate.

Aaron Marino:
And the other thing is, I don't know how long this will last. I mean, 13 years ago, I was driving a beer cart at a country club to put gas in my car because I was filing bankruptcy, because my dream had just collapsed around me, and I didn't have a plan B. And so, I am ultra aware of the fact that I am in a very fortunate position. And every day I get up and say the same thing to myself and that's, "Don't fuck it up today."

Aaron Marino:
And so far, 13 years later, I've been doing my best. Some days I come close. And I've got a lot of people around me that are my barometers of, "Don't say that." Because in this world, I mean, this cancel culture, you say one thing, or make one wrong move, or piss the wrong person off, it's like, people really like to see successful people fall and fail, and which is weird. Right? And it's sad.

Joe Katz:
That is weird.

Aaron Marino:
It is.

Joe Katz:
I would want to see somebody so successful that you go, "Oh my God, I'd love to have what he has." But I guess if I'm a jealous person and feel like I can't do it, then I want to see you fall, I guess, maybe psychologically. I don't know.

Aaron Marino:
I'm not sure, Joe, but it's one of those things that I am ultra aware of and who knows how long this ride will last. I'm just going to do the best job I can until it's time to get off the wave. And hopefully, I'll be a self-aware enough to know that it's time to take a bow.

Joe Katz:
So, is there a plan B right now?

Aaron Marino:
No.

Joe Katz:
Nothing.

Aaron Marino:
I'm not good at plan Bs. I'm not that smart either. And so, I'm not getting.

Joe Katz:
Well, you seem to be doing pretty good. I mean, I think you're being honest.

Aaron Marino:
I'm an opportunist. And once you fail as bad as I've failed with my fitness center, the idea that you're going to try something, and it just doesn't work out, it doesn't scare you as much as it used to. So, I think that everybody needs to get that failure out of the way, honestly. And when you do it, it allows you to be more brave in actions that you take and thoughts that you have, and almost like a belief in yourself like, "Okay, I'm still here. I'm fine." It sucks, because failing sucks regardless of when it happens or how big it happens. But when it happens, as long as you keep going and try something else, it's hopefully going to figure itself out and get better.

Joe Katz:
Yeah. And so, what would you say to somebody that is like, "I want to get into this. I want to do what Aaron Marino is doing. And look at how successful he is. I know it took him a long time. I want to do something like that. There's so many people out there, there's so many things, how can I separate myself? How could I be an Aaron Marino two?" What would you say to them?

Aaron Marino:
What I would say is, is it Wayne Gretzky, who said something to the effect of, you miss a hundred percent of the shots you don't take? So, what I would say is, yes, there there's a lot, right? It's very noisy out there. When I started, one of the reasons why I'm successful and why I became fairly popular is because I was literally the first person. And it's not that I was great at it. It was that I was the first person to start talking about this. And so, what I've seen is a lot of these people that are just starting really explode because they're offering their unique perspective.

Aaron Marino:
The people that don't succeed are people that try to emulate or copy a style or a format. But if you're just you and you bring a unique perspective, you will find your audience, or I should say, your audience will find you. And it's something where you can't force it, but you just need to be true to yourself, and your message and give it a try. I mean, what's the worst thing? I don't fear failure as much as I do regret. And so, give it a shot. If it works, it works. But give it time because that's the other thing. A lot of people expect immediate results. And it took me seven years to get my... Seven or eight years. No, it took me nine years to get my first million subscribers.

Joe Katz:
Oh, to get to one million.

Aaron Marino:
Yeah. It took me nine years.

Joe Katz:
Nine years.

Aaron Marino:
And then I got the next million in six months. And so, it was one of those things where, and for the first five years, I didn't make really any money off of YouTube. I didn't have any sponsorships. I was just putting out content because I enjoyed doing it. I had a passion to help people. And so, I think that's one of the other things that really has changed the industry a little bit. Now, everybody knows, oh, well, if you're popular, you can make money at YouTube or whatever the platform is, being "influencer."

Aaron Marino:
And I think that when you go at it with that mentality of, "I'm going to make money and I'm going to make this a business." It's a little bit trickier, just because people can really tell, I think. They're so used to seeing the sales pitch. They're used to seeing the people that trying to sell them stuff. But what will never go out of style is just an authenticity that you are there just to share your perspective and opinion, and whatever happens, happens.

Aaron Marino:
And so, I think that if you're going to go into something like this, start there, start with, "I'm just going to see if I enjoy it, and if people like what I have to say." And then go from there. You'll figure out a way how to monetize it, once you figure out your message and just the consistency of putting out content.

Joe Katz:
It's interesting, as I was just reading on CNN today, a guy on TikTok, I think he's 20, something has 30 million followers and now has a partnership with Louis Vuitton. And he did it in a year and a half. I'm like, that's incredible. It's like there's no formula, it feels like, for the success.

Aaron Marino:
No. And TikTok is a different animal. I mean, all of the different platforms have their pros and their cons. But yeah, TikTok is one of the ones where it's a little bit not easier, but it's easier to grow, I think, on that platform as opposed to a YouTube. But YouTube is facilitating newer creators and really trying to facilitate and help them grow.

Aaron Marino:
And a little hack, I'll tell you, everybody always asks, "Well, what's a tip for somebody starting a YouTube channel in order to grow?" So, what I would do is if you have a niche or you've got a genre that you're going into, look at the other people that are in your space or your genre, if there are, most of the time there is somebody in your space at this stage of the game and look at what their most popular three videos are. You can sort and filter videos for people by most popular. Do your version of those topics, not necessarily copy them per se, but you know that people are searching or have been interested in those. And so, that's a way to like hack the system a little bit, because YouTube will show your content typically a little bit... If it's a newer video, they like new videos, they like new creators. And so, that's a way to grow a little bit faster than I did.

Joe Katz:
Oh, that's interesting. So, go in and find the most popular in that category that you want to focus in on. And then would you say, so is your primary focus, who is your demographic? Who do you speak to? I know it's primarily men, right?

Aaron Marino:
Yeah. It's changed over the years, but it's men. 98% of my audience are men between the ages of 18 and 40.

Joe Katz:
Okay. And what do they come to you for, primarily? Is it style? Is it personal? Because I see you talk about dating, you talk about your fitness, you talk about your life. What do they primarily come for?

Aaron Marino:
I'm not sure. I'm trying to figure that out, Joe. I don't know. I'm not sure. When I started it was just style, and then it went into grooming. And then it was dating and relationships. And really, I can talk about anything, I call men's lifestyle. And so, it opens me up to just talk about anything that maybe I'm curious about, or I think that my guys might be interested in.

Joe Katz:
What are your top three most popular videos?

Aaron Marino:
How to cut your own hair. I filmed that last year when COVID hit, that just exploded.

Joe Katz:
Blew up.

Aaron Marino:
Yeah, yeah. That one, because I grew up and I cut my own hair for so long, that is one of the unique skills that I have.

Joe Katz:
You really cut your own hair now?

Aaron Marino:
I don't now, because I own a hair salon.

Joe Katz:
Oh, you own a hair salon? Aaron Marino, we got to get to all this. Okay.

Aaron Marino:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Joe Katz:
But you taught them how to cut your own hair?

Aaron Marino:
Yeah. That was one of my earliest videos on YouTube that really got popular. And so, when COVID hit, I'm like, "You know what? Let me do another one. Let me update this, and see if I still got the skills." And that one was popular. Tattoo don'ts was another popular one. How to flirt without being creepy is another one that was pretty popular.

Joe Katz:
And are these things, tattoo don'ts, this is Aaron Marino's feeling, totally your opinion?

Aaron Marino:
Totally, my opinion.

Joe Katz:
It's not a universal, this is just Aaron Marino's opinion.

Aaron Marino:
This is my very opinionated opinion. Yes.

Joe Katz:
And people like your very opinionated opinion.

Aaron Marino:
And they don't as well. So, there's two edges of that sword, for sure.

Joe Katz:
Because I see in a lot of social that people will come in with comments that are negative or things like that. How do you deal with that?

Aaron Marino:
I'm not sure. You try to turn it out. I haven't figured out, 14 years in, how to not allow it to bother me. It still bothers me to this day. I try not to.

Joe Katz:
It does?

Aaron Marino:
Yeah. I mean, absolutely. Because I joke with people or I say, on the internet, it is pretty brutal. You could literally be teaching blind kittens to read and somebody would have a problem with it or something to say about it. And so, for me, it's just never been... I was always a pretty secure guy, but YouTube and putting yourself out there, I have insecurities now that I never had before, because people have pointed them out so many times it was like, "Oh, I didn't even realize I should be insecure about that. Apparently, I should be." And so, you deal with it. It doesn't come without its negatives. And that's something else that you should be aware of. If you are going to go into this line of work, just be aware that it's not all roses and sponsorships, there is definitely a level of just horrible people out there. There are some horrible people out there that just live to try to hurt your feelings or tear you down, regardless of how pure or honest your intentions are.

Joe Katz:
What are some of the things you feel insecure about?

Aaron Marino:
What am I insecure about now?

Joe Katz:
That they pointed out that you're like, "Oh God, I didn't realize that."

Aaron Marino:
I have a birthmark in my eye.

Joe Katz:
Oh, that's a birthmark. And people talk about that.

Aaron Marino:
Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah. So, now I make a joke about it, but I'm not really insecure about that. But I'm just saying, it's-

Joe Katz:
It's just stuff.

Aaron Marino:
So, the name of my channel is Alpha M, right? So, when you think about an alpha male, I am definitely not him.

Joe Katz:
You don't think so?

Aaron Marino:
No, no, no, no. Well, I don't know, Joe.

Joe Katz:
See, now looking at you, I go, yeah, you come out as like, "Hey, guys, here's what we're going to do. We're going to do it like this." And that's what I think of like an alpha, but you tell me.

Aaron Marino:
Yeah. No, no, no, no, no, no.

Joe Katz:
Okay. [inaudible 00:27:22].

Aaron Marino:
I'm definitely not. I'm a smaller guy. I'm five foot, six and a half. I got a high voice. I got pointy ears. I pluck my eyebrows. I wear earrings. I'm not what society would deem an alpha male. And so, but the reason why my channel was called Alpha M was because I had an image consulting firm that was called Alpha M Image Consulting. And so, when at the time I was trying to create a name for that, it was, "Okay, I want a name that says like male, but not like King of the Jungle Consulting." And so I was like, "Instead of Alpha Male, let's do a little more stylized, Alpha M." Now, with everything that's going on, an alpha male is definitely something that is not loved by everybody. And so, it's good though. I don't care.

Joe Katz:
Yeah. No, I mean, isn't it interesting because different perspectives see you in a different way? So, somebody might say no to Alpha M for you, but when I look at you, I go, "Oh yeah, I can see that." So, there you go.

Aaron Marino:
Oh thanks, Joe.

Joe Katz:
Yeah. I'm just saying.

Aaron Marino:
I feel better now.

Joe Katz:
So, you talked about growing up poor. Can you tell us just a little bit like, I think it's always good for people to understand a perspective of where you came from, what was it like growing up for you and was it a struggle?

Aaron Marino:
In terms of emotionally, yeah.

Joe Katz:
Financial.

Aaron Marino:
Financially, yeah. In terms of, okay, so how financially strapped were we, well, my earliest childhood memory is I got robbed. I remember I was like two years old. It's my earliest childhood memory, waking up and looking in the living room and seeing somebody stealing my TV. That's my earliest childhood memory. We were living in Center City, Philadelphia. My dad was going to school. My parents were literally 19 and 20. So, it was a struggle. And so, food stamps and all of that. And I just never had much money.

Aaron Marino:
I remember when I was 12 years old asking my mom for a $1.25 to go get a piece of pizza with my buddy. And we didn't have an extra dollar and 25 cents to spare that I could go get a piece of pizza.

Aaron Marino:
And so, things were not amazing in terms of financially, but it was okay. In terms of emotionally, I had a few abusive stepfathers, and so they did a number on me. And that's why at 12 years old, I asked for a gym membership because I watched the movie, Rocky, I think it was like Rocky IV. And I was like, "Oh, I want to lift weights." And so, I asked my mom for a gym membership for Christmas. And then that was when I found myself, my confidence and my passion, what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Aaron Marino:
But when you grow up and you have emotionally abusive people in your life, especially as a little kid, it really does a number on you, and in terms of your self-esteem and your ability to speak up. And so, for me I lost my ability to stand up for myself. And so, when I was, I think it was like 24, 25, I knew that I needed to fix this. And so, I sought counseling and therapy, and worked through some of my issues that I was having. And so, how was it growing up? That's how.

Joe Katz:
Wow. And so, you make it sound so easy. You just went to therapy and you're fixed.

Aaron Marino:
That's it. Fixed.

Joe Katz:
That's it.

Aaron Marino:
That's it.

Joe Katz:
Come on here, Marino, really?

Aaron Marino:
Oh yeah. That's how therapy works.

Joe Katz:
Yeah. I mean, that does a number on you to be able to go, "Okay. How do I proceed in my life?" And it doesn't seem like you lost your voice. I mean, you have a voice and you have an opinion. And that's awesome. Yeah.

Aaron Marino:
But the problem was I had to change everything about, in order for me to get out of that feeling of not being able to stand up for myself, there are people in my life that I needed to basically remove and change my... because I would have never been able to stand up for myself if I had stayed in some of the relationships, if I continued to work at the place that I was, because there was this weird power dynamic. And so for me, it was about really shifting, not only my mindset, but my actual life. I needed to change in order to press the hard reset.

Joe Katz:
Yeah. What advice would you give to somebody that goes, "You know what? I've been through similar stuff, how do I get my voice or how do I be able to have the confidence to keep going?"

Aaron Marino:
Yeah. It's something where I don't know who said it, but it's, therapy is a gift you give yourself. And I would definitely seek it out. And the beautiful thing is that there are amazing resources out there, like there never happened before. The internet has made a lot of things great. Right? And so, therapy is one of those things. There's a resource that I love called Better Help, that you can basically go on and fill out the questionnaire, talk about your issues and they will connect you with a counselor, and there's even financial aid available.

Aaron Marino:
So, literally if you want help, it's out there, you just need to seek it. And then work through it. Finding a good therapist, it's like dating, right? You got to date a few different people in order to find somebody that's right for you. And therapy is one of those things that you've just need to trust the system, but you've got to work it. It's not going to just come to you. You've got to be willing to put in the time and the legwork in order to make it beneficial, and for you to realize, "Hey, I want to be happy."

Aaron Marino:
And that's really the thing that you need to decide, Joe, is you've just got to decide that you want to be happy. And if that's it, if that is the ultimate goal, then you need to do whatever's in your power in order to make that happen.

Aaron Marino:
And a lot of times, you've got to deal with the issues. It doesn't mean that you're ever going to get over it. It doesn't mean that you're going to... I say that, oftentimes unfortunately we are collateral damage in other people's shit, right? So, it's not that other people are purposely hurting you or being mean to you, it's them dealing with life, the way that they're dealing with it. And you're just collateral damage. And so, understanding that and being able to decide that you want to forgive, nobody else can do the work for you. And when you decide that and make the decision, "All right, I'm going to be happy. What do I need in order to do that? And who do I need to basically forgive and allow to be human?" Because people do the best job they can oftentimes. And unfortunately, sometimes we are, like I said, the by-product or the damage that comes out of other people trying to work through their shit.

Joe Katz:
Did you have a certain kind of therapy that helped you?

Aaron Marino:
Just talking.

Joe Katz:
Just talk therapy.

Aaron Marino:
Just talk therapy is really all it was. I was talking to a buddy of mine who is also an influencer, and he's getting into the hallucinogenic therapy. They're starting to do some really deep stuff. A lot of times we have these walls. I have literally blocked out five years of my life, I don't remember. And I have no memory from living with my second stepfather, like zero memory.

Joe Katz:
How old were you?

Aaron Marino:
Probably, I guess I was around, I don't know, like six to around 11. I don't have any memory of that point in my life.

Joe Katz:
I mean, do you want to try to remember?

Aaron Marino:
Nope, I have no desire.

Joe Katz:
You're good.

Aaron Marino:
Your mind is amazing and what it can block out. And so, I figured-

Joe Katz:
But sometimes I think if you do block it out, we hold things in our... I was interviewing Fran Drescher, actually The Nanny.

Aaron Marino:
I saw it.

Joe Katz:
And she was talking about how she went through trauma in her life and she feels like it stayed in her body until she dealt with it. So, that's why I was just curious when you say that, from six to 11, but maybe you don't need to, maybe that's-

Aaron Marino:
I'm good. I'm good with that. But the person that I was talking about, he started using some of the hallucinogenics combined with a therapist, somebody who knows what they're doing and how to handle that. And he uncovered all sorts of things that he had totally repressed, like being molested and some real serious things that all of a sudden, it's like, "Okay. Now it's making sense." So, you really just need to figure out what's going to work for you and figure out how you need to go about doing that. But there are a lot of different resources out there and different therapies for different people. And it's about just deciding that you want to be happy, and then exploring and going to the end of the world or the end of the earth in order to figure out how to make that happen.

Joe Katz:
I like that though, really, it could be boiled down to being that simple, that you you just want to be happy, basically. The goal of just really trying and wanting, and that type of thing.

Joe Katz:
I do want to ask you about your businesses, because I find that so interesting and how they came about, because you have Pete and Pedro. You were on Shark Tank about that. You have Envy eyeglasses.

Aaron Marino:
Enemy.

Joe Katz:
Enemy, Enemy, not Envy, Enemy. Hello. Enemy sunglasses. Yes. There's so many different things. So, how did these all start out? And Pete and Pedro, how did that come about?

Aaron Marino:
Yeah. So, just the run of my businesses. So, I have the YouTube channel. I've got Pete and Pedro, which is my men's grooming hair care company that I was on Shark Tank for that. I have Enemy Sunglass Company. I've got a skincare company called Tiege Hanley, an advertising agency called MENfluential Media. And then recently started a business with some friends to invest in other small businesses called Area 627 to facilitate and invest in small bootstrap businesses.

Aaron Marino:
And so, like I said, I'm a creature of opportunity. And so, all my businesses happened by accident or just out of curiosity to see if I could do something. And so, I was on Shark Tank twice. The first time I was on it was for what is called the Alpha M Style System. I developed a method of teaching guys how to dress, that was formula-based and picture-based. It's like Garanimals for adults.

Aaron Marino:
And so, I went on to Shark Tank and they hated the idea. They hated the fact that it was DVDs that I was doing. They hated the fact that it was $297 and information product. And so, when I left, I was bummed up, but I was like, "Oh, I'm going to sell a gazillion of them. I'm going to be super rich by the time Shark Tank airs." And the night Shark Tank aired, I literally sold one Style System, and I was gutted. But it's like, "All right. Well, this wasn't right, what's next?"

Aaron Marino:
And so, I'd always really been into haircare products and styling products. And so, I was frustrated that a lot of the lines would have like one or two good products, but they wouldn't have like the complete line of great products. And so, I went to a stylist that I was really good friends with. I said, "Hey, do you have any connections to any labs that make hair products?" And he gave me a few phone numbers and I ended up sourcing some five or six hairstyling products, and creating the line Pete and Pedro, which has expanded to not only hair now, but body products, shave products tools, things of that nature.

Aaron Marino:
And then about four years ago, actually four years ago, I met some guys that were wanting to do a skincare company. Skincare is always something that I've also been very interested in. And we came together and formed the company Tiege Hanley, which is a monthly men's subscription skincare system company.

Aaron Marino:
And then advertising agency happened because I was tired of trying to sell my own advertising. And my buddy, my best friend from high school, Terry came to my family reunion. And he was a car salesman. He was in between jobs. He was like, not just like a car salesman, he was a great car salesman. And he was a general manager at a few different car dealership groups. And so, he was out of it, for he basically left and he was trying to recalibrate, figure out what he wanted to do. The car industry is a brutal industry for salespeople, and it just beats you down.

Aaron Marino:
And so I said, well, I said, "How would you think about maybe trying to sell advertising for me?" And he's like, "Okay. Well, yeah, let's try it." I said, "Okay. Well, how much money do you need in order to sort of make all your ends meet a month?" He goes, "Well, probably around $5,000." I'm like, "All right. So, here's what we'll do. Let's try this for three months. I will commit to $15,000. And if it doesn't work, if it's not working, it's not working. And we just got to make sure that we maintain our friendship."

Aaron Marino:
And it was so successful right out of the gate that my other friend, who was another lifestyle YouTuber, I was like, "Yeah, he's selling the crap out of these ads for me." And he's like, "Hey, would you sell them for me?" I'm like, "Yeah." And so, then we came together and started an agency to help our other friends manage and navigate the world of influencer paid advertising. And so, we rep now about 40 guys that are similar to me.

Joe Katz:
That are doing exactly similar stuff.

Aaron Marino:
Similar, yeah. We got car guys. We've got lifestyle guys. We got vloggers. We've got beard guys. We've got a few different genres, but they all have a very similar demographic, men between the ages of 18 and 45.

Joe Katz:
Wow. Interesting. Can I ask you, I mean, what is the volume you do on Pete and Pedro?

Aaron Marino:
Volume?

Joe Katz:
Like sales volume? Because I know sales, I know you talk about the sales, doesn't always mean that's what you earn.

Aaron Marino:
That's not, not at all. Yeah. We're talking about money.

Joe Katz:
There we go again.

Aaron Marino:
Yeah. Between Pete and Pedro and my skincare company, over 20 million.

Joe Katz:
In sales?

Aaron Marino:
Yeah.

Joe Katz:
Wow. And what about the sunglasses?

Aaron Marino:
Not that much.

Joe Katz:
Oh, not that much.

Aaron Marino:
It's a newer startup. Yeah. We're right at around like 80,000 to 90,000 a month.

Joe Katz:
That's very still good.

Aaron Marino:
Yeah. Who said it wasn't good, Joe?

Joe Katz:
No, I'm sorry, but just the way you said it's like 80 to 90.

Aaron Marino:
No, no, no. Well, because it's harder. And so, something that I'm still trying to figure out. And so, the skincare company is the largest in terms of gross revenue.

Joe Katz:
Oh, it is.

Aaron Marino:
Well, gross revenue, that is the largest. Pete and Pedro though is my most profitable, other than advertising, because I run it differently than the Tiege Hanley. Tiege Hanley is a fast growth business. Pete and Pedro is more of a lifestyle business that I really pay attention to my profit margins and run it differently than I do Tiege Hanley.

Joe Katz:
And Tiege Hanley, is that only men's skincare or do you have women's?

Aaron Marino:
Nope, it's only men's skincare. Yeah.

Joe Katz:
And I can't buy just one product, I have to buy a monthly subscription.

Aaron Marino:
No, you can go to Amazon. We started really doubling down, and people really wanted to buy things on Amazon. And the way that it works, we give you a month's worth. So, like our exfoliating scrub is 0.75 ounces, and we give you an instruction card that shows you exactly when and how much to use, what product in what order. And so, we've taken a lot of the guesswork out of it. We've got three different levels. But now we've started to roll out additional products in that line. And so, now you can add different products, like a bodywash or an exfoliating scrub bar to your box. And so, it's getting more customizable as opposed to a rigid structured system like it used to be.

Joe Katz:
Where else can people buy it, just on your website?

Aaron Marino:
Website and Amazon. Yeah.

Joe Katz:
That's it?

Aaron Marino:
Yep.

Joe Katz:
Not in retail stores?

Aaron Marino:
Mm-hmm (negative).

Joe Katz:
Would you ever do retail?

Aaron Marino:
Yeah, we would. We had a call with Target for Tiege Hanley. They passed on us because they didn't think that their audience or customers would pay $35 for a system of skincare. And so, they feel like their customers are more price sensitive than... because we pitched them a complete system like, "This is what you get. And it's $35, $45." And they're like, "That's..." So, they passed on us.

Aaron Marino:
Now, we are considering going into retail, but it would change our business substantially. Going on, Amazon changed our business. And we're still working through growing pains. This past year for companies like mine in terms of logistics and packaging, and shipping, it's gotten really weird and expensive.

Joe Katz:
Oh right, because of COVID, you mean?

Aaron Marino:
Oh, yeah. Shipping is such like that is the biggest headache that you're going to have to try and figure out, if you're somebody that wants to offer a product that you're going to ship places. It's a nightmare. And so, it's something that's constantly, you're trying to figure it out.

Joe Katz:
But the best margins is direct to consumer, what you're doing.

Aaron Marino:
Absolutely.

Joe Katz:
Yeah.

Aaron Marino:
It depends though. That's a very general blanket statement. It can be, but it's not all the time, depending on how you're growing in your customer acquisition cost. Yeah. Your margins are better because you're able to offer a higher quality product at a better price. But if your customer acquisition costs, and like I said, depending on the way and the manner in which you're trying to grow and scale that business, it changes.

Aaron Marino:
But retail is amazing. I have friends that are in retail and they'll do one purchase order of $2 million. But when you go that route, you also lose a lot of control. You also are at the mercy of some of these big box retailers, and they can kick you out at any time they want or make you sell through your inventory. And then it's like, okay, well, what now?

Joe Katz:
Yeah. Or they might have chargebacks for things they want to return, or all of that type of thing, which is then can put a... So, I guess it depends on, I just feel like my audience might be interested in your entrepreneurial spirit.

Aaron Marino:
That is the one thing I love talking about business and entrepreneurship much more than my abusive stepfather.

Joe Katz:
Well, it's all part of who you are.

Aaron Marino:
It's all part of the story, Joe. I get it. I get it.

Joe Katz:
Yeah. Maybe that strengthened you today and who you are.

Aaron Marino:
A hundred percent.

Joe Katz:
But I think how honest you are with your audience and how truthful you are about this stuff. Because I knew about that with your stepfather from the research I did, is that you're honest about it. You're not hiding it. That's a different culture than I was raised, where we didn't have as much of that. So, you didn't know about people as much. So, I think that's interesting.

Aaron Marino:
And I think that honestly, in today's world of a lot of style over substance, I think that being honest and being vulnerable, and allowing people to see past the shiny facade of things, I think is needed just to, I think people need to connect, and that's something. And that's the reason why, honestly, whatever degree successful I am is because people connect with me for whatever reason and decided to invest in the products that I talk about and promote.

Joe Katz:
That's great. Any other products that you want to share about with Pete and Pedro that are your top sellers? What is your number one?

Aaron Marino:
Number one seller is our Pete and Pedro putty. It is a high hold mat product. Incredible. And then our second best seller is the sea salt spray, just to add extra texture and volume. It's amazing. Something recently that I launched was the Stubble Buddy, a new product.

Joe Katz:
What's that?

Aaron Marino:
Okay. So, you don't have a beard. Well, guys with beards like mine, when we trim our beard, the stubble gets everywhere on our sink. And as a guy, I will say making a sweeping generalization, we're not amazing at cleaning up a hundred percent of the time. And so, this is a little facial hair stubble vacuum that basically vacuums up all of your trimmings.

Joe Katz:
Oh my God.

Aaron Marino:
Yeah. And so, it's pretty cool. So, we launched that a few months or actually a month ago, and a new product.

Joe Katz:
And it's done well.

Aaron Marino:
Yeah, it's done well. Well is relative.

Joe Katz:
Yeah. Right. Right.

Aaron Marino:
I mean, well is relative, trying to figure out. Once again, the overnight success or the launch of something and it just blowing up, those stories happen, I'm sure, but they haven't happened to me. And everything that I've had to do is just been a grind. You've got to come up with a great product, put it out there in the market, try to figure out a sales mechanism, and then listen to your feedback and the customers, because they're going to tell. And that's one of the big mistakes that a lot of entrepreneurs that don't make it make, is that they are very rigid in what they believe their customers want. And when they get the feedback, they don't listen.

Aaron Marino:
You've got to be able to be nimble enough in your entrepreneurial journey and the products that you're selling to listen to feedback and adjust. You're not going to get it right the first time in most cases, but you've got to be open enough to be able to adjust and modify. And that's how successful entrepreneurs will be successful, is that they'll listen to the feedback, and then adjust to make the product better for the individual.

Aaron Marino:
And the other last entrepreneurial tip I will give is, if you don't believe in something, do not sell it. If you won't use it, if you don't stand behind it, don't sell it. Because in the world of reviews, that is what we live and die by, right? The peer review. And there's no getting around those these days. And so, if you don't believe in something, if it's not right, change it, fix it or sell something you do believe in.

Joe Katz:
Yeah. Yeah. That's great. You have beautiful hair. So, a lot of people are not as fortunate as you. Do you do anything for guys that have thinner hair?

Aaron Marino:
Yeah, of course.

Joe Katz:
Is that the sea salt spray?

Aaron Marino:
Sea salt spray, and then a lighter product like the clay that we sell is a very light clay that adds a little bit of root texture and volume.

Joe Katz:
Oh and thickness.

Aaron Marino:
We also sell a volumizing shampoo. That's amazing for guys that have fine or thin hair. It's packed with biotin and rice protein that goes in and adds weightless volume to the hair shaft and the hair strands. And so yeah, it's all about not using a product that's too heavy-

Joe Katz:
Heavy, right.

Aaron Marino:
... or oily, like a pomade. A lot of times, guys with thin hair will use something with a high oil content or something that's just too heavy. And when you clump the hairs together, it makes your hair look thinner. And so, you want something that's light, that's going to add volume without actually weighting it down or clumping the hairs together.

Joe Katz:
Your mom must be proud of you.

Aaron Marino:
Yeah, of course. My mom and dad. My dad, I have an amazing relationship with my dad.

Joe Katz:
Your stepdad.

Aaron Marino:
No, no, no, my dad.

Joe Katz:
Oh, your dad.

Aaron Marino:
Yeah, yeah, he's always been in my life. And so, no, my dad is my rock. He's one of my heroes.

Joe Katz:
Oh, that's awesome.

Aaron Marino:
Yeah. My mom and my dad, they're both proud of me.

Joe Katz:
Oh, that's awesome. I would think, my God, I was just thinking as you were talking, I'm sitting back here as a Jewish mother going, "You've done well, Aaron Marino."

Aaron Marino:
I've done something.

Joe Katz:
My last question is, what do you think is the next big thing in social media or media? Because we look at TikTok, YouTube, all of these things, what's next?

Aaron Marino:
That is the million dollar question, literally, Joe, and I'm not sure. Things that aren't going away, Facebook isn't going away. It's changed a lot. The value of having a Facebook page is like nil compared to what it used to be. YouTube is still, I think it's a machine. And that's not going anywhere because that is where most people go for information. And it's not technically classified as a search engine, but to next Google, that is where people go to search the most. And so, that's going to still be there.

Aaron Marino:
TikTok is just exploding. I think TikTok is going to morph and change. Over the years, I think it's going to be a little bit more friendly for selling and advertising. I think that is going to be something that they're going to figure out sooner or they're probably already working on. The Twitters, I think the mechanisms that we have, or the platforms that we have now that have stood the test of time are still going to be there. But what's next? I don't know. Some 12 year old is developing it in his parents' kitchen right now. And we'll know in two weeks.

Joe Katz:
Right. Right.

Aaron Marino:
That's the beautiful thing.

Joe Katz:
Yeah. One last question. I promise, this is really the last question. What is one thing you would tell somebody that you haven't told anybody? Okay. Because I know you share a lot. You share a lot. Something you haven't told anybody that you think could help somebody else out in their life.

Aaron Marino:
That success doesn't always look like what you hope it will. And what I mean by that is just, a lot of times we think that this is the path that we're going to go on, and this is the only thing that is going to make us happy and fulfilled. Sometimes the universe has different plans for you. Don't be so blinded by your pursuit of that thing that you think is going to mean happiness for you. Because sometimes the thing that's going to ultimately change your life and make you the most fulfilled, confident, happy person you've ever imagined yourself to be, is actually something that you never dreamed possible, ever considered doing. So, just be open to the possibility that success might not knock on your door and deliver you a pizza.

Joe Katz:
I like it. That's very good. And that could apply to all parts of your life. It could be applied to your personal life, your love life, your business life, your everything.

Aaron Marino:
Everything.

Joe Katz:
Anything. Yeah. That's great. Aaron Marino, you have been so generous with your time. Everybody should go to Alpha M, which is on YouTube. There, there's links to all the product pages that we talked to. So, there's so much to buy and listen to, and watch, and learn, and blood is all there. So, thank you so much for coming on the show. And it was so great talking to you.

Aaron Marino:
Thank you so much, Joe. It was a pleasure.

Joe Katz:
Thanks for listening to the Katz Walk. Make sure to subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app. This has been a production of Evergreen Podcast. A special thank you to executive producer, Gerardo Orlando, producer, Leah Longbrake, and audio engineer, Dave Douglas.

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