352: Entrepreneurial Spirit, with Ryan Mason

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How do you know if you have the Entrepreneurial Spirit?

Ryan Mason, CEO of BizBuzz Digital & CEO of Luxe Brand, joins us from Atlanta for today’s episode to share his path to finding his Entrepreneurial Spirit. Ryan was recently named on the Top 12 Entrepreneurs to watch in 2020; this is an incredible achievement. Ryan believes that people, process, and platform are the key elements to building a robust business, and he’s here to share the benefits of that approach with others. We learn from his failures and advises all other entrepreneurs out there.

Ryan Mason is the savvy Founder & CEO behind Luxe Brand. America’s leading luxury shoelace provider. It is featured on Good Morning America, NFL Network, Foot Locker stores, over 30 athletes and celebrities, and BizBuzz, providing integrated marketing automation software and services for over 250 small and medium-sized businesses. In each of these roles, Ryan is known as a disruptive force with an eye for setting new standards of excellence, and he never shies away from the opportunity to tackle new and interesting challenges.

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George: It’s another edition of the Conquer Local Podcast. This one will be unlike anything you heard before. Producer Colleen has gone out and found us a very fascinating young gentleman. His name is Ryan Mason. He’s the CEO of Luxe Brand. And when I first saw this come across my desk, I had to Google it. And Luxe Brand is the leading international source for high-end shoelaces. Yeah, that’s what I said. “What?” And then I got a chance to learn more about Ryan, and he started his own digital agency to support his brand called BizBuzz Digital. And then he was recently named by Yahoo as one of the top 12 entrepreneurs to watch in 2020. This gentleman is fascinating. I can’t wait to figure out more about what makes Ryan Mason tick and learn about his entrepreneurial journey. Ryan Mason, the CEO of BizBuzz Digital and Luxe Brand, coming up next on this week’s Conquer Local Podcast. 

George: It’s another edition of the Conquer Local Podcast. Joining me on the line from Atlanta, Mr. Ryan Mason, the CEO of BizBuzz Digital and the CEO of Luxe Brand. Ryan, welcome.

Ryan: Hi George. Thank you for having me. Super excited to join you today.

George: I am pumped because you were just named one of the top 12 entrepreneurs to watch in 2020 by Yahoo. It’s a hell of a list and congratulations. That’s great brand work there.

Ryan: Thank you so much. Hey, it’s a lot of pressure now, right? But super exciting. It’s been amazing, man.

George: You have these two companies, Luxe Brand and BizBuzz Digital. I’d love to learn about Luxe Brand first, where you started in 2015 and you were the leading luxury shoelace provider. You’ve been on “Good Morning America”, NFL Network, you’re in Footlocker stores. How did you do this? I always admire entrepreneurs, but this is a great story.

Ryan: Yeah. So it’s actually a really interesting story. It was kind of a means to an end for me. So I went through this period in college where I was playing college football. I was on a full scholarship. And I just felt like it was a burden to me because I just was spending so much time and energy going to practice, working out, and struggling in school. So for me, I really felt like, “Hey, maybe it was time for me to consider focusing my energy and transition it over into something that I possibly would be doing for the rest of my life.” And at the time, I had an idea about business. So for me, honestly it got started because I needed to convince my parents that I have not lost my mind trying to leave a full scholarship in the middle of my career in football.

George: Well, great salesmanship on that, because that would be a tough conversation to have.

Ryan: It was very tough.

George: So Luxe Brand is born. And now, we’re five years later. Let’s talk about some of the trials and tribulations of your entrepreneurial journey.

Ryan: Right. I think one of the biggest things is teamwork and understanding the value of a team and also consistency. Those are the two biggest things. And I would say one more… I’ll give you one more. Understanding failure and how to digest it, reflect on it and actually use it to pretty much perform and bring the good out of it. So some of the things that I really went through first and foremost was consistency. I was in college when I first got started in business and I was juggling so many different things. And at the same time, once I transitioned and left the full scholarship, I had a lot of energy. And that actually led to me starting my second company, which was BizBuzz later on down the road. But that brought upon a lot of changes, that also brought upon a lot of consistency issues. So what I had to realize was, “Hey Ryan, Rome was not built in a day and it also was not built by one person.” So how do you actually manifest this and manage this? And it’s something simply, you just can’t do it by yourself. So that’s where I understood the value of building an actual team.

George: So in your organization now, you have a team. How big is it?

Ryan: Yeah. So we got about 10 people total that just move and do a couple of different things for us, but we also have a lot of contractors. So people who specialize in certain things. So for example, some of the things that we do is video. And obviously we have a couple of people who can come in and shoot depending on the style of video. But the biggest thing is that we all work together. We’re all on the same page and that’s how you actually drive growth.


Learning From Failures Brings on Success

George: So in those early days… And I find this in lots of entrepreneurs when we have a conversation. In those early days, understanding that there was going to be failures and learning from those, that’s probably one of the most valuable lessons, but how long did it take you to learn that lesson?

Ryan: Yeah. So my background… That’s a really good question by the way. I didn’t experience a whole lot of failure at first. I was one of those guys who were… My efforts were always more than others’. So for me, I was the guy spending extra time on the football field, extra time doing homework. I was that guy. And there were a lot of great things to come from this, but every once in a while in life, you’re thrown a curveball and you get smacked in the face sometimes. So for me, some of my early failures… Well, they weren’t really failures, but for me mentally they were. And that’s when I started to understand, “Well hey, it really matters how you use this and what you do from it.” So early on, one of the biggest things in high school, my father used to tell me… And he actually played professional football for Green Bay Packers and he told me, “Ryan, listen. As a young boy, this is all you need to do. Don’t worry about anything else. Just go out there and perform. Everything else will work itself out.” And I did that for four years. I ended up breaking some records for our state, for tackles in a season, tackles in a single game and also tackles in four years, so I did that. But from that, that led me to get the opportunities to go to the big schools and look around and perform in front of those guys. And I did that as well. And it’s so funny because I literally would go up against a guy, and I played linebacker, and he would be, oh my goodness, about 6’5″ and here I am 5’11”. And basically, for me, I actually had those bigger schools tell me, “Ryan, you’re just undersized. Even though your stats are better, even though you have proven it and you performed.” And for me mentally, this was a failure. But it allowed me to understand and fail at an early age so that I can understand basically, “Hey Ryan, what really matters is what you do from it? How are you gonna use this? How can you use this to your advantage?” And once I realized that successful people fail their way to the top, that is when I really started to grow. That is when my dreams became 10 times bigger. That is when I literally set goals that were gonna literally land me on the moon. But what happened is sometimes I would hit those and sometimes I would fall short, but I would still be well off and well successful with those.

George: Well, some great advice and learnings there from your journey as an entrepreneur. Now, let’s talk about BizBuzz Digital. You started that organization in 2015. Was it to serve the Luxe Brand in the beginning?

Ryan: Yeah, so it was. In the very beginning, I was in a small town, Florence, Alabama, and basically the demographic… It was a retirement community. And for me, I could not go down the street and get the latest and greatest shoes or sneakers to put my laces in for product photography. And eventually, I would even go to the shoe stores and buy these shoes which were not the latest and greatest, but they were something until they told me, “Hey Ryan, you can’t go buy these anymore and return them.” So basically from there, I had to be creative and I had to figure out how can I touch demographics like New York, which is one of the biggest fashion places in the US and how do I get to California and Atlanta and different places like that. So it pretty much forced me to be creative. And that is basically how I was able to start building BizBuzz. I realized that some of the things that we were doing, the local community really needed that. So that is how BizBuzz actually got started.

Business Recognition and Giving Back

George: The next question I have, Ryan, is, this top 12 entrepreneurs to watch in 2020. So you get the message from Yahoo that you’ve been selected. What was that like?

Ryan: So George, it’s actually an interesting story. So I got a message from a friend on Instagram and basically he wrote me and all he said was, “Hey, I need a headshot and a bio.” And we had done business in the past a couple of years ago. And so it was one of those days where I was just so busy so I just clicked on one of the folders that I already had made. I shot on my headshot and also bio and I left it at that. And after that, basically, he said, “It’s about to drop,” a couple of days later. And for me, I just went ahead and congratulated him because of course, I thought, he always does really nice things, really big things, very creative guy. And he says, “No, I just want you to know that anytime that I have an opportunity to talk about you and what you do, I do it. You’re the first person that comes to mind.” And I said, “Man, I’m gonna lose sleep. I’m not gonna be able to sleep at night. What is it?” So a couple of days later, it dropped, but it was an amazing feeling. It’s just proof that having faith and working really hard and having determination can really, really take you somewhere. So this was a really big thing for me. And also in a year of 2020, we know how this year has been for us. And that’s a true testimony though that great things can actually come when you actually put your head down and you work hard and you work smart.

George: Well, a great list to you got Neil Patel on there. You got Gary V on there. And Ryan Mason, that’s a great company to be held in. So congratulations on that. So Luxe Brands, we’re now in this crazy world that we live in today, the COVID world or post-COVID world.

Ryan: Right.

George: How has that impacted your business?

Ryan: So for Luxe Brand… It’s actually impacted both businesses pretty well, in a good manner. So for me, we’ve seen sales increase and I think it’s simply because people are shopping, shopping, shopping away, right? They’re on their phones, they’re on social media, and as a result, this has given us excess opportunity and also excess exposure as well.

George: Have you changed any of your approach since we had this, we call COVID internally a forcing function. So this thing happens, what have you done differently with Luxe Brands to capture what you’re saying is an opportunity that’s there?

Ryan: Right. Oh well, one of the… Obviously, the Yahoo news that has been something that I’ve been working on packaging up, but in terms of Luxe Brands exclusively, one of the big things is there’s a lot of social movement going on. There’s a lot of social causes, so for us, what we’re doing, one of the biggest things. And we’ve been working on this, I actually was on the phone with a Hall of Famer and his son. I won’t disclose who it was just yet, but basically we are working on creating laces to bring awareness to these causes. There’s a lot going on and we wanna be impactful. We wanna take some of those proceeds and donate them to different groups to help bring awareness to those different causes. For me, this is special to me. When we did go on “Good Morning America”, one of the things that we tried to do is make sure that we partnered with Easterseals, for production. And that was special to me because we were able to give equal employment opportunities to people with disabilities. It was just such an amazing feeling. And I look forward to doing things like that again, in the future.

George: Well, good for you. And it’s great to see that I… It’s interesting when we talk to high performers like you and we talk to successful organizations, this idea of giving something back and having a social voice and being conscious of things that are happening around you. It’s not all about running… It is a big chunk of running a successful business, but not all about the business. It’s about how can we help? And I know you’ve been jumping on that and thank you for that because we need more businesses that are doing that. 


Entrepreneurial Advice

George: If you were to give some advice to a young entrepreneur that’s just getting rolling, what do you think that advice might be? What would Ryan Mason’s five commandments or something like that?

Ryan: Right. So I would start with this quote. And I really live my life by this quote. “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” So if you think about that and you digest that, you wanna surround yourself by people who are positive, people who are going to motivate you, people who are going to just be there for you, and basically people who bring positive energy. What this does for you is it just creates this circle around you and it creates this motivation for you and inspires you to keep going and growing just like they are.

George: I’m a big believer in that by the way, of having a positive environment. What about where we started, where we talked about some of the challenges. It should just be expected that there’s gonna be challenges then it’s you don’t get blindsided as an entrepreneur if you expect there’s going to be… What would be some of your best advice for an entrepreneur around how to handle those challenges that you’re going to have?

Ryan: Right. So you are gonna face a lot of challenges as an entrepreneur. I think you have to understand to dream big and also start small and also be ready to pivot or change. One of the biggest things that I think successful entrepreneurs have to realize is markets change and when they change, you gotta go with it fast. So if you can pull from that, I would think out of those three little areas there, I think the biggest thing is for you to actually understand how to move and how to move effectively when that change does occur or when those challenges do occur. So another thing is it leads into people, process, and platform. You gotta have those three areas to make those changes efficiently.

George: So Luxe Brand is where I’m going to go to get my shoelaces. And tell us about your best-selling brand right now.

Ryan: Yeah. So the best-selling lace is our 24K Gold Premium Laces. So these laces are actually made from Italian lambskin, they have gold-plated tips on them and they are extremely shiny so they’re out there. So if you are looking at them, they are the laces that actually turn heads when people are walking down the street, I cannot tell you how many times I have been stopped by wearing these laces in my shoes. So that is definitely number 1.

George: So hang on a second, 24 karat gold-tipped laces. Where did you come up with that? That’s so brilliant.

Ryan: Yeah. I mean, honestly, like I said, when I got into it, it was for me to convince my parents I wasn’t crazy, but after I really started to understand like, “Hey, this really does have the potential to make a shoe sale for 100 plus dollars more. How can I continue to increase the value of a shoe?” And that’s where I was like, “Okay well. Hey well, maybe we can use exotic leathers, Italian lambskin from Italy, suede, python, different prints.” And then we got really creative. For example, we’ve had people who can dip shoelaces in paint, right? They dip the tips. And I made just so many different things. I mean, I’ve had people… It’s so funny. I’ve had people wear laces in swim trunks. I had to explain to them, “Okay yes. We’re talking about leather laces. Leather and water does not go—”

George: It’s not gonna work out.

Ryan: Yeah, it looked good, but it’s not gonna last.



George: So Ryan, when you sit down at Thanksgiving with your parents, you still get any abuse for leaving that full-ride scholarship and starting up Luxe Brands or are they like, “No, this was the right thing to do.”

Ryan: Yeah. This was definitely the right thing to do. Not at all. It took my mom a little bit to come over, but I mean, when we started really growing and she really saw the passion, oh my gosh, they were all on board. So it’s been amazing. It’s been a ride.

George: Well, congratulations for taking that. That’s a big change and there’s a lot of parents out there that they wake up every day to put the kids through college, that’s the plan. And I’m sure that that’s a hell of a sales pitch to get them to, convince them. “No, I’m gonna go over here and start a luxury shoelace brand.” And turn it into one of the biggest things on the planet. So congratulations with that. And we really appreciate your time. I love talking to entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of our economy and hearing from you the trials and tribulations and the lessons that you’ve learned, I’m sure that our audience will enjoy those and take something from it. So thanks for joining us on the Conquer Local Podcast.

Ryan: Thanks, George.

George: Fascinating listening to a young entrepreneur. Ryan Mason has drive. You can just tell as we went through that interview. And interesting that he started a digital agency with Luxe Brand in order to make those pivots that he was talking about. The fact that digital marketing is changing so dramatically, by having his own internal agency, he was able to maybe pivot a little bit faster. And you heard him speak about that as he talked about the opportunity that he has now found with more people shopping online. And we continue to hear this ongoing story around the prominence of e-commerce and how important it is. I also just love how authentic he is around the challenges and being able to embrace those challenges and figure out a way to make it work. And we also heard in there a little bit about how important networking is. Ryan Mason, the CEO of BizBuzz Digital and of Luxe Brand and just love having those entrepreneurial stories. It’s very, very motivating. I find it to be super motivating when we bring folks like that onto the podcast. And if you’d like to connect more with Mr. Ryan Mason, that’s what the Conquer Local Community is allowing us to do. We can now have our guests in a channel in the Conquer Local Community and you can ask Ryan questions yourself like what is he going to put in a shoelace next? You heard about the python. You heard about the Italian leather. You heard about the gold tip. You can speak to Ryan Mason and other Conquer Local Podcast guests by going to the community at conquerlocal.com/community. Thanks for joining us this week. My name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.