After an unsuccessful attempt at getting a deal on ABC's hit show Shark Tank in Season 4, Aaron Marino had the opportunity to return and pitch another product on the show's Season 7 finale.
"For an entrepreneur, Shark Tank is like the Super Bowl of promotion. It was really the catalyst to my new business. When I was on there the first time, it was such a devastating experience overall in terms of result. It was heartbreaking," said Marino.
However, he learned from his mistake. "So, as a result, it spurred the idea I needed a lower-price-points product, something that every guy could use, that was consumable, and that is how the business actually came about."
That insight soon gave birth to his new company, Pete and Pedro, which produces hairstyling products designed for men. "I was styling my hair one day, and I thought, man, I am really sick of the products that are out there. So I thought, what if I could do it better?" he explained. "Then I called my good friend, who is a hairstylist, and asked him if he knew of any labs. He did. I said, 'Let me have the numbers,' and started developing the formulas."
Marino said the process for developing the formulas varies. "You can [do it] with a private label, but I wanted a little bit more -- something that is actually my own and unique -- so it took about six months to develop the line in total.
"The target market is men with hair who use hairstyling product. I know that sounds broad, but really, most men who care about their image and are taking care of themselves are into grooming and are using some type of hair product."
With more than 1.4 YouTube subscribers, Marino grew a massive following on his YouTube channel, AlphaM, which he started in 2008. "I felt like I could grow it to the point that it was expandable outside of just an audience," Marino said.
Despite this huge following, his success did not come from a one-hit wonder. According to Marino, he never even had viral video success.
"I never had where I gain hundred thousand subscribers in a day. It's been a really slow process. It's a glide, and just so happens if you stick with it, if you have a message that people are interested in, it will find its audience."
Marino says he tested many different content styles in order to hone his message and voice. Because of this, his videos have changed a lot over the years. "It's just something where there is no quick magic bullet ... It's just a grind, but the people that are successful are the people that keep posting. You just have to keep posting," Marino said.
Gaining success on YouTube requires adherence to a system. He posts three videos a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, at noon Eastern. "There is nothing by accident on YouTube," Marino notes. "I post an additional two videos on Tuesdays and Thursdays on my website iamalpham, so I am creating and publishing a total of five videos a week."
Seeing the potential, real-estate guru and Shark Tank investor Barbara Corcoran offered Marino $100,000 for 10 percent of his social media business. Marino accepted the offer on the show, but later had reservations about his decision.
"I was really interested at first with that deal because I wanted to do a deal. But the main reason I went out to Shark Tank was because I needed help with Pete and Pedro, and I really didn't see... the partnership with Barbara was going to be really beneficial," he said.
His refusal to focus on the money is another key to his success. For every product he agrees to promote, he turns down twelve. "At the end of the day, as a YouTuber, I ended up maintaining one thing: credibility," he said. "If I would have taken that deal or if someone has an invested interest in me doing the deal, I would lose my ability to be authentic. And that at the end of the day is the number-one thing that I try to maintain."
"Once you have this large audience, you are contacted by everybody who is selling a slim watch, or wallet, or underwear. It's just insane," Marino said.
He says these requests are akin to a betting process. Products are sent to him. He has to like it, and if he does, he connects them to a representative at his advertising agency, MENfluential. They field all of his deals, brand partnerships and immigrations, along with all of the 17 influencers they represent. "There are relationships with the content creators to actually expand another business," he said.
The hype has just started, however. Only two days after airing on Shark Tank, sales have exploded. Marino sold around $25,000 worth of Pete and Pedro products in those two days, the equivalent of two weeks of normal sales.
"We've been working overtime. I have people who help me with shipping, packaging and handling in my office, but I've had to step in, and we basically have packing parties," Marino said.