Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi - I'm Aaron Marino, the founder of Pete & Pedro - a premium men's grooming brand. I have one of the biggest men's lifestyle channels on YouTube with 6M+ fans and also have a few other businesses as well including Tiege Hanley, Enemy, Menfluential Advertising Agency.
Pete & Pedro - my baby as I like to call it - is a Shark Tank featured brand. We target men in the 18-35 range (but it is much wider) looking to help guys boost their confidence by helping them look their best.
I've actually been on Shark Tank two times... one of the few! Pete & Pedro is focused on the men's grooming market and our core products are our hairstyling/haircare/fragrance products led by Putty, Salt, and REBEL.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I've always been into fitness and entrepreneurship. That's what I wanted to do my entire life. I first opened some gyms and they did not succeed. I actually went into bankruptcy and for a while was driving a beer cart to make means. It really is a rag to riches story for me.
Do something that you can really commit to. Like, don’t say you will do 3 videos a week to start. That’s not happening. Do 1, and then when you got 1 down, go to 2. Start slow, but be consistent!
For a while, I was doing an image consulting business, but it wasn't really making much money. I created a style system and somehow got onto Shark Tank with the idea. They crushed it, but they loved me! They were right, the idea sucked.
The big break for me came when my wife one day gave me a video camera for my birthday to help with my image business. I put it in the closet for almost a year though! A year later, I made my first video and put it on Youtube. I had ZERO ideas what would happen from there but I loved it. So, I started to make more videos, but there was no money in it at the time. I was just doing it to help guys for my small business.
But my audience started to grow slowly but surely, and before long I had a few sponsors reach out to me to see if they could sponsor my video. I knew I was onto something then, but everything happens slowly. For example, it took me 6 years to get to 100,000 subscribers, but it took me 6 months to go from 100K to 1M! It was truly a tipping point and YouTube was getting super popular and I was one of the few games in town.
Long story short here, when my first Shark Tank idea got crushed, I knew I had to get into something more tangible that I knew a lot about and could promote because it was in that lifestyle/image space. Hair products seemed like the perfect fit and I connected with a friend of mine who ran a salon - Salon Posta - to start up Pete & Pedro. A year later we were live but I had zero expectations for it as a viable or big business.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Once I knew I wanted to start a hair/grooming line, my partner gave me a few leads from manufacturers. This wasn’t brain surgery, I knew a good hair product from a bad one. After testing and trying out a variety of products, I started with like 5 hair products.
It took about a year to go live. It didn’t just happen overnight. Everything takes time to test and make sure it is right and fits your specifications. Labs/batches can take a month just to get a new one so you just have to be patient.
Do all the marketing build-up while you are getting ready to launch. My total investment was less than $5,000 and I didn’t even know if I would sell any. I basically got like 24 units of each product to see what would happen. Designing the artwork was all relatively simple and the best thing for me was that I already had my channel to actively reach my customers. Pete & Pedro essentially already had a monster audience to reach that most brands would only dream of having ever. So, the hard part was growing the channel, the easy part was selling the product because it was good and I had a “free” captive audience.
Describe the process of launching the business.
As mentioned, the starting of Pete & Pedro really began the day I started my YouTube channel. I don’t think it would have succeeded without it, or if it did, not nearly to this level. It had a huge audience to get it out of the gates. I would work the products into my videos or do a P&P-focused video on hair and I would get surges of orders. I started with high price points to start and couponed heavily to get guys excited to try the brand. So, I had huge spikes of sales on days I did videos and on the other days, sales were pretty small.
I learned from these videos that you’ve got to “marketing touch” someone like 8x before they will purchase something. It really is a process and a funnel. You just don’t get people across the finish line very easily unless you are a big well-known brand. I was on Youtube which was sorta new/random so I really had to keep pushing the products a few times before anyone would bite – trust is a huge factor even more so online - that’s why reviews can be huge - which was why I went hard with the coupons early. But, as sales increased, I realized I needed a backbone Marketing guy to manage and build a real marketing website while I did the front-end marketing on YouTube. After a few years, my goal was to see if I can make Pete & Pedro grow without me having to push it all the time…which I can say we’re finally there!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
After like 5 years, I knew for me to take P&P to the next level I needed to hire someone to help make it happen. That was a huge thing for me, as I was paying a marketing employee a huge salary and it was risky to me like I was handing over the keys running the show. But, it turned out to be the best thing because P&P needed to grow up. We went from it being my own baby, to a full-fledged real company on all fronts. Sure, I’m still the face of the company and make the key strategic decisions, but now I have someone else doing all the business work. I just want to be in front of the camera and get out of the way!
I think some key thing we did was focus on Conversion. When Mike, our Marketing Director, took over our conversion was at 3% which was still very solid. But, very quickly he got that up to a solid 5% over a year. We just made the entire site better with easy navigation, pounded the reviews, related items, better copy/images, and everything one can do now to increase conversion. We are lucky that we get a lot of traffic via my videos ecosystem – so our goal was to convert it better versus spending on ads to acquire new customers. That is one thing that makes us different than most. We also now have a variety of tools like a Hair Quiz (which really works! Have one) and a Build Kit Feature that has increased our AOV nearly double on those orders.
Since we were so huge on YouTube the other goal was to diversify our business. Now we have marketing channels with our blog/organic paid on google, a solid social content plan with IG/FB (which we had little to none), Pete & Pedro’s own YouTube Channel with pointers, paid ads, some PR (which generally I’m not a big fan of) and other opportunities as they are pop-up. We are so much more diversified now that if we do ever take a hit in one area, we should be okay.
Of course, when starting I tell entrepreneurs to go hard in one or two things only. You don’t have time to dabble in 6 channels – and you will spread yourself too thin. I think that is a key tip early on when your resources and time are limited.
We have like 15% of our business on Amazon, we actually don’t use Amazon Prime which is always a debate. Amazon is its own animal and for many it is huge, but for us, we tend to like to have control, and with Amazon, you can be king one day and gone the next. We like having a strong brand. Companies that sell all their stuff on Amazon could do well, but they don’t have a brand – which I think is worth more. Also, we charge shipping on Amazon and our site at a pretty high level so that most pay for shipping. We of course offer it as bigger orders should be rewarded, but the real costs to success for internet retailers are cogs margin and shipping. Shipping alone can be 10% of your costs! If you don’t get that in order, you don’t have a chance sometimes. That’s why Bezos “your margin is my opportunity” statement is so spot on.
Time is super precious, be okay with saying “no” (but do it nicely!).
I’m all about profit! I don’t care about revenues as much because I have a variety of income sources with my channel business. I want to see my bottom number and if I don’t hit my targets I’m upset. I think that is something for entrepreneurs to think about as they grow. What profit number are you looking for? What are your margins and will there be room to make a profit? What costs are fixed and variable? For beauty products the margins can be big that is why it is so great directly online (and super competitive). Think about whether you have enough margin to run some ads and shrink your profit but gain customers? And, if you’re gaining customers – are they coming back, and what is their LTV? These are all things to think about as you start and grow, well always!
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?.
Pete & Pedro is doing very well right now. We’ve grown around 25-50% each of the last 3 years and we’re on a solid trajectory this year too. We’ve been profitable from day 1 essentially. I like to see our net profit in the 20-30% range. Our paid ads typically get in the 3X range but you really need to make sure that they are moving the needle and not fluff per se. I’ve seen a “great” month on paid ads and the scales don’t reflect it, so you need to be a bit careful there.
Our operation is lean, our entire team including our warehouse is less than 10 people. Our marketing team is only about half that which is crazy when you think about how we do in sales. Now we outsource in a bunch of areas like graphic design and tech and our paid ad agency, but still, the core is small and tight. I like to work with people I trust – that is a big deal to me so I like my circle small - P&P is a family-type of business.
Pete & Pedro doesn’t have any brick and mortar plans, we like keeping most of our control on our site and some on Amazon. Things I’m sure can change though, you always need to be ready to adjust – things move fast! Right now I’m happy with the way the business is headed and our main channels on YouTube to reach out/acquire customers are going strong. We’ve really focused on content more than most brands in this space. We’re able to pump it out consistently and that helps us grow.
It’s never been easier and less risky to start a business. Start small though, it’s also easy to test things out before going all-in on something and realizing that there is nothing there.
Should be a fun year ahead.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I’ve learned a lot in my time and as I’ve succeeded more you learn different things. Time is super precious, be okay with saying “no” (but do it nicely!). The return on any business/opportunity you have to think about which I realize more now than ever. There’s some cool stuff out there, but if it isn’t going to move the needle for me financially I have to pass as it is not worth my time. Everyone has a different level of course.
Know your strengths and weaknesses. Power ahead with your strengths and fill the gaps with staff or vendors with your weaknesses. I want to create things, I don’t want to run the day-to-day per se (even if I’m very involved) so I delegate a lot of things now and I don’t like to even do that - it’s not easy!
I’ve learned business is hard. It’s a grind. There’s no magic formula for most to all. Very few companies go viral, for most, it is a daily grind, and those that work hardest succeed. I do not want to be outworked ever. I think consistency is also key, especially when starting. Do something that you can really commit to. Like, don’t say you will do 3 videos a week to start. That’s not happening. Do 1, and then when you get 1 down, go to 2. Start slow, but be consistent!
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
I’m a big fan of Shopify. It’s a great platform, easy to use, and easy to start. I really think they are the future platform for new businesses/entrepreneurs. They basically have an app store of tools to make your site super robust – your job is just to choose which ones make the most sense for your business. We use a ton of apps on Pete & Pedro – these are some of the most critical.
- Klaviyo – Email
- Attentive – Text Messaging
- Yotpo – Reviews
- Gorgias – Customer service
- Loyalty Lion - Rewards
- Later – Social Media Management
- Privy – Pop-ups for Signups
- Recharge – Subscription
- Refersion – Affiliate/ambassadors
- SEMRrush – Seo/Traffic
- Dropbox – File Management
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I get asked this a lot and I hate saying it but I’m just not a big reader. I’m just much more of a doer/take action. I know this about myself though so I’m not afraid to say others know more than me. My books I like to say are the past experiences I’ve learned over time and I tell those stories on my channel.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
My tip is pretty simple. Do it. It’s never been easier and less risky to start a business. Start small though, it’s also easy to test things out before going all-in on something and realizing that there is nothing there. Between Ali Baba and Amazon you can get whatever you need really and reach a market like never before. Networking is key as you grow as that can be critical to your success. Try to connect with people that can add value/learn from and grab lunch or coffee with them. People want to help people if they are genuine.
Don’t have six channels when you start. If you love IG but don’t use FB, then just focus your energy on IG. Obviously, YouTube is a monster and really just getting started, so if you’re okay with being in front of a screen start now. Starting something is easy, but when the grind hits – and it will hit quickly – will you keep going? That’s when business gets hard, it is also where the payoff tends to be… so don’t give up!
Also, build an email list and build momentum before you even go live as much as you can. When you officially go live you’ll have a huge head start. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family to help plug your business early on social – that’s why networking is so big.
If you want to work for a brand, follow them on social media. And, do something for them of value. Like if you’re a photographer, do some free work for the – next thing you know it will lead to an opportunity with them or even another brand. Build the portfolio. Most of our marketing team got started that way or from networking.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Right now Pete & Pedro is set for the most part, but it is possible we need some writers for our blog for those into men’s style, fashion, grooming, etc.
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