“If at first, you don’t succeed, Try, try, try again,” wrote Thomas H. Palmer in his “Teacher’s Manual” 1840 publication. For many young aspiring entrepreneurs like Aaron Marino, this proverb rings true.
Marino first began his entrepreneurial career by opening workout gyms and advertising fitness services. But after experiencing an overwhelming lack of success, Marino was forced to close the gyms and became bankrupt for a significant period.
Then, Marino took his next shot at entrepreneurship by starting an image consulting business. Though he was making little money, Marino was called upon to advertise his idea on Shark Tank. Unfortunately, the investors didn’t love Marino’s idea, and his second business venture ultimately failed.
Though the road to recovery was certainly challenging, Marino knew he still possessed an entrepreneurial spirit. Before long, he picked himself back up and founded Pete & Pedro — a men’s grooming company that has now reached multi-million dollar status.
While Marino had every reason to quit, he kept going, using his entrepreneurial eagerness as the driving force. Today, he refers to his experience as a modern “rags to riches story.” So, here’s how the young business entrepreneur went from bankruptcy and two failed business ventures to establishing a successful, well-constructed, and profitable company.
Starting a Business Not Once, Not Twice, But THREE Times
From a young age, Marino’s passion has remained relatively the same: fitness and entrepreneurship. He sought to combine the two with his first business venture, but it was ultimately unsuccessful.
So, Marino turned his attention toward a completely different industry: marketing. He attempted to establish an image consulting business advertising a specialized style system and even made it onto Shark Tank to promote the idea. However, the Sharks saw no reason in investing in Marino’s company, and he was forced to move on.
Next came Marino’s third and final business idea.
In an effort to help grow and advertise his image business, Marino’s wife gifted him a video camera for his birthday. For almost a year, the video camera remained hidden in Marino’s closet until he finally decided to pull it out and give it a go.
“I made my first video and put it on Youtube. I had ZERO ideas what would happen from there, but I loved it,” comments Marino in a recent post on Starter Story.
Even though he had virtually no money to start another business, Marino continued making YouTube videos on a whole slew of men’s topics from grooming to lifestyle to fitness. Six years later, gained his first 100,000 subscribers.
As Marino began partnering up with sponsors, he saw a more sudden growth with his YouTube channel, expanding from 100K to one million subscribers in just six months.
Third Time’s a Charm
“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,” says Marino.
He already possessed the entrepreneurial drive; now he just needed an idea.
Unhappy with his current collection of hair styling products, Marino saw a business opportunity. After talking with his hair-stylist friend about starting a haircare line, Marino began designing and testing products. A year later, in 2015, he officially launched Pete & Pedro.
In 2016, Marino appeared for the second time on Shark Tank to pitch his business in hopes of obtaining a $100,000 investment deal in exchange for 10 percent equity. While this time he was a success — securing the deal with Barbara Corcoran — Marino ultimately decided to turn the offer down, choosing to grow his business organically on his own.
While the Sharks were impressed with Pete & Pedro, Corcoran sought 10 percent of Marino’s YouTube channel, Alpha M — not Pete & Pedro. Marino later turned down the offer, telling his YouTube followers “it didn’t feel right.”
Designing, Prepping and Prototyping His Business
Luckily, it seems as though Marino didn’t need additional funding to grow the company.
On his experience starting the company, Marino says, “Everything takes time to test and make sure it’s right and fits your specifications.” Marino had to work to educate himself on the science of hair products and starting new labs and batches took months at a time.
In preparation for the launch, Marino started with just five key hair products and obtained 24 units of each product to advertise. When it came to marketing tactics, Marino already had a well-established stance on YouTube.
In fact, without his channel, Marino predicts that Pete & Pedro would have never scaled to the level of success it did. “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.”
For Marino, the hard part was learning how to grow and expand his audience.
How Pete & Pedro Promoted Their Products
Initially, business was slow, but the number of sales gradually increased as Marino continued to advertise his products on his channel. “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.”
At the time, YouTube was still a fairly new and fresh platform. People weren’t used to buying products from an online retailer, so Marino decided to emphasize establishing trust between his brand and his viewership. “Trust is a huge factor, and even more so online,” says Marino.
Fiver years later, Marino looked to take Pete & Pedro (often called P&P) to the next level by expanding the team. He hired a marketing professional and the company’s official website was launched, which only added to the increasing number of sales that were coming from YouTube.
Additionally, Marino worked to increase the conversion rate by constantly improving the company’s marketing tactics. From simplifying website navigation, using better copy and images, and encouraging reviews, P&P saw a sudden surge in growth.
The website has even added handy tools to help customers better understand the products. Now, whenever newcomers ask, “Which hair product type should I use?” they can simply take P&P’s Hair-Styling Aid Recommendation Tool (H.A.R.T) quiz. After obtaining their quiz results, customers can then customize and build their own haircare kit according to their specific hair needs.
Moving Forward With Pete & Pedro
Today, combined with their innovative design, quality products, and personalized approach, Pete & Pedro has nearly doubled their average order value (AOV) and reached $6 million annual recurring revenue.
Starting with just five haircare products, P&P now features an extensive men’s grooming line which includes shampoos, conditioners, body washes, shaving creams, fragrances, and additional styling aids.
While the company today is undoubtedly a success, the road to get there was certainly rocky. On the subject of advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs, Marino comments, “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.”