The Thinking Class: K-Swiss

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Photo via Kippered.

On Tuesday July 11, 2017, I was listening to Gary Vaynerchuk’s interview with Barney Waters (President) and Patrick Buchanan (Global Marketing Director) of the globally iconic brand, K-Swiss. Throughout the course of this 43 minute interview and call-in session, a lot was discussed. In particular, I was personally intrigued with the overall conversation on entrepreneurship and sneaker culture.

With the market domination of sneaker brands such as Adidas and Nike, Barney shared his following philosophy, “If you can’t be first, be different” (10:46). Barney also went on to mention that Nike pretty much owns the athletic category while Adidas owns the cool kid celebrity category. So…what does K-Swiss plan to do? According to this interview, K-Swiss aims to cater to entrepreneurs who are creating and leading their own businesses. In fact, as I’m writing this article, I just thought of the following idea:

In addition to aiming to cater to entrepreneurs, how about we add the category of “Thought leaders” to this conversation? These “Thought leaders” are those who aspire to create their own cultural movements and shift society through advocacy, business, education, health, social impact, etc. I believe that as a collective, the future leaders of society will be as diverse and multi-faceted as we have ever seen in the past. If I had to come up with a name for this category, I would entitle it… “The Thinking Class.”

Imagine the day we live to see the President of The White House casually rocking a pair of sneakers on a daily basis. What will these sneakers look like? What will these sneakers represent? Most importantly, what brand is going to be responsible for creating these sneakers? Due to my natural curiosity and passion for wanting to bridge the gap between brands, communities, and culture, I ask myself similar questions all of the time.

If K-Swiss is to really invest in the philosophy and process of entrepreneurship and thought leadership, I do believe that they can successfully create and dominate their own lane. Will the products have to be stylish and stellar? Absolutely! However, what is it that can potentially bring K-Swiss to the next level? Supporting the culture and lifestyle which they aim to engage with. Selling products is transactional. Yet, engaging with and supporting the development and growth of the culture and lifestyle around those products is transformational.

As Gary always says, “It’s thinking marathon over sprint.” Living in accordance to creating our own legacy is determined by our daily actions. When our behavior is in alignment with what we want our legacy to be, our true greatness begins to rise to the surface. So, what might K-Swiss want to consider doing to spearhead a new revolution of emerging leaders?

Leaders Create Leaders

Photo via Gerard Adams.

1. Ask Questions – I believe that all of the right questions eventually lead toward the right answers. Communication is vital and often overlooked. When brands express an interest in actually listening to and learning from their current audience and potential consumers, gains are usually made. Consumers always want the best products. As consumers, we would usually stay with a brand that receives feedback well and improves on something that we like as opposed to spending energy to entirely taking our business somewhere else. It’s natural, we’re creatures of habit…at least for the most part!

2. Address Challenges – With all of the challenges and problems that currently exist across the globe, what brands are endorsing and supporting the thought leaders across various industries who are working to address these challenges? There’s so much great work happening. I’m sure that authors, architects, doctors, educators, engineers, etc would love to be acknowledged, appreciated, and supported for the amazing work that they do on a day to day basis.

As Gary often says, “Every business and brand should be thinking like a media company.” I often like to say, “Content creates conversation, conversation creates opportunity, and opportunity creates impact (educational, financial, social, etc). As a consumer, when I see brands that align with and support causes which address challenges bigger than the products and/or services the brand sells, I feel more inclined to trust and engage with that brand in some capacity or another.

3. Provide Tools and Resources – In order to effectively address any problem or challenge, we must always be equipped with the proper tools and resources. This may include capital, insight, relationships, etc. I believe that the brands who are helping to connect the world are also the brands who are helping to change the world. One of the reasons why I believe that content production is so important is because it adds value in ways that products do not. Content can educate, empower, entertain, inspire, and inform. Audio content is just as important as video content which is just as important as written content.

Should K-Swiss become more than a sneaker company? Should K-Swiss become a media company who just happens to sell sneakers? Should K-Swiss aim to equip and empower thought leaders with the tools and resources necessary to shift culture and change the world at large? Should K-Swiss begin to identify and partner with organizations and programs across various industries and sectors such as The Aspen Institute, Ted Talks, SXSW, and Zeitgeist? Picture K-Swiss as not only the official sneaker, but more importantly a cultural contributor and supporter to platforms such as these. How might this look? I guess we shall see…

Lastly, it’s only right that I share some of my favorite looks:

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(Uh • Kway • Us) Aquaus Kelley is a forward-thinking Brand Strategist, Cultural Curator, and Educator. As the Founder of A Lovers Ambition Lifestyle Group, he specializes in identifying talent and creating opportunities for brand development, exposure, and growth. Aquaus has worked with companies and organizations such as Behind The Hustle, Cornerstone Agency, City Year Miami, and W Hotels. He is extremely passionate about bridging the gap and building value between brands, communities, and culture. His ultimate mission is to use his influence to project positivity across the globe and invest in the collective future of society through the arts, education, entertainment, and leadership.

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Discover NOW: Brandie Freely

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Photo via Brandie Freely.

#DiscoverNOW is our curatorial series aimed at creating awareness for emerging culture, lifestyle, and talent. Today, we are excited to profile Brandie Freely. Brandie is a hope dealer, mother, writer, musician, lover, and free spirit to say the least! We came across the amazing work of Brandie when we saw the image posted above on Instagram. One of the first thoughts which came to mind were, “What does this image represent?” To us, this image represents beauty, courage, cultivation, love, motherhood, promise, trust, and unity. What does this image mean to you?

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Photo via Brandie Freely.

After checking out some of Brandie’s work on her website, brandiefreely.com, we came across one of her articles entitled, “On Mothering and Growing.” In this piece, Brandie shares her six year journey as the mother of her six year old daughter, Solona. Like many mothers, Brandie strives to be the absolute best mother she possibly can. In fact, she understands that she is a mother under construction. Here’s a question for our mothers, “What is it like to be a mother under construction?” “What does motherhood mean to you?”

We’re happy to have come across the great work of Brandie and we hope that you are too! We’re also looking forward to seeing how great of a mother-daughter combo both Brandie and Solona grow up to be. Be sure to sign-up for updates and follow Brandie’s journey by checking out her website, brandiefreely.com. Enjoy!

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A Lovers Ambition Lifestyle Group is a brand development agency that specializes in identifying talent and creating opportunities for brand development, exposure, and growth. With an emphasis on culture and lifestyle, the primary focus of A Lovers Ambition Lifestyle Group is to help companies adapt to culture and build value between brands and their consumers centered around love. Our social mission is to leverage the influence of popular culture to create social change and invest in the collective future of society through the arts, education, entertainment, and leadership. We are driven by AMBITION, fueled by PASSION, inspired by INNOVATION, and suckers for STRATEGY!

The Story Behind: #WeLOVEHubCity!

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Preface!

On July 19, 2015, I asked myself the following question, “Where can we create a global community for those who express an interest in changing the world?” As big and futuristic of an idea as this may sound, please allow me to express how we can begin to manifest our ideal thoughts into ideal actions. Here are the two magic words, “START LOCAL.”

On Saturday May 28, 2016 at 4:18 am, I recorded a voice memo detailing my ideas and thoughts on the impact and importance of starting local. This came after sending an email over to Anand Patel. Anand happens to be the co-owner of Hidden Grounds Coffee, a local business here in New Brunswick, NJ.

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In October of 2013, I interviewed Anand for behindthehustle.com. We sat down to discuss both the hardships and successes that come with opening up a new business. Since then, I have made an effort to stay informed of what’s going on at Hidden Grounds.

The email that I sent to Anand was in reference to 365 by Whole Foods, “Friends of 365” program. This is an entrepreneurial move aimed to incorporate a sense of localized, independent, and creative entrepreneurial spirit by installing third-party vendors inside of its 365 by Whole Foods stores. A few minutes after I sent this email, I had an instant epiphany…”START LOCAL.”

Why Start Local? Proximity Matters!

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On January 2, 2016, I posted a video of Bryan Stevenson’s 2015 Zeitgeist Minds talk. Here he discussed the importance of being proximate to the problems in our world. “Proximity teaches us things that we cannot learn from a distance” Stevenson says. “When we get proximate to problems, we see things and hear nuances and details that we cannot see from a distance. In order to solve problems and create breakthroughs, we must get very close and inside of the problems that we intend to solve.” Starting local enables us to foster closer and more intimate relationships in the communities which we serve.

I Thought To Myself!

“With so many local businesses, companies, organizations, and schools here in the City of New Brunswick, how can I leverage my talents in an effort to add value to my local community at large?”

Naturally, my first instinct was to go to social media. I went straight to Twitter and Instagram to search for local businesses, companies, and organizations in the New Brunswick area. For some reason, I decided to check out New Brunswick’s Hyatt Hotel on Twitter.

@HyattNewBruns (517 Followers)

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After viewing their profile, I immediately thought to myself, “Why does the Hyatt only have 517 followers?” I was then curious to see how much of a brand presence our city government and school district had on their social media profiles as well.

@CityofNewBruns (4,311 Followers)

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@nbpschools (268 followers)

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Seeing these numbers were highly intriguing! Not only did I begin to see a trend, more importantly, I began to see an opportunity. According to U.S. Census data, the City of New Brunswick’s population is roughly around 57,000 residents. If this is the case, I asked myself the following question: “How might our local businesses, government agencies, and schools do a better job in regards to engaging with our community?”

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Living In The City!

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As a graduate of Rutgers University, a resident in the City of New Brunswick, and a substitute teacher throughout New Brunswick Public Schools, I feel as though I am extremely proximate to the diverse culture and lifestyle New Brunswick has to offer. However, along with the great potential of our city will come challenges. One immediate challenge that I have observed over the years, is a lack of awareness when it comes to business, community, education, and government initiatives. In a city with roughly around 57,000 residents, how might we do a better job in regards to reaching and engaging with our community?

The Power of Social Media!

In an age where both digital and social media presence move the world, I believe that our online platforms are the single most important places for businesses, communities, schools, and government agencies to connect and meet at scale. This leads me to my BIG ESSENTIAL question:

How might we leverage digital and social media platforms to bridge the gap between business, community culture, education, and government?

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Introducing: The #WeLOVEHubCity Initiative! 

The #WeLOVEHubCity initiative is a solution to our problem. This initiative is essentially the culmination of the last 5 years of my life. Since graduating from Rutgers University in May of 2011, I have worked on numerous community service initiatives as a City Year Corps member while living in Miami, FL. While in Miami, I also spent my “free” time working as a field marketing rep for Cornerstone Agency. I owe it to Cornerstone for introducing me to the world of branding, entertainment marketing, and promotion. When I returned back to New Jersey in late 2012, I began to work for New Brunswick Public Schools as a Substitute Teacher.

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The combination of all of these unique experiences is ultimately what I feel enabled me to develop the #WeLOVEHubCity initiative. My love for culture, community, education, entertainment, and leadership are just a few things that I feel fuel me with the passion to pursue an initiative of this capacity. Through digital and social media curation, our mission is to bridge the gap between business, community culture, education, and government in the City of New Brunswick, NJ.

Where Might We Begin?

Through promoting the usage of the #WeLOVEHubCity hashtag to our businesses, community organizations, government agencies, and schools throughout the city, we are proactively encouraging digital conversation and dialogue on all social media platforms. In turn, this will help to endorse healthy engagement, the exchange of ideas, and the increase in brand awareness for the entire City of New Brunswick. When we curate content generated through the usage of the #WeLOVEHubCity hashtag, we will then share it across all of our @WeLOVEHubCity social media accounts.

Where Might This Lead Us?

Our @WeLOVEHubCity social media accounts will serve as “digital hubs” for the intersection between business, community culture, education, and government initiatives throughout the City of New Brunswick. Imagine a digital community center that serves as the hub of Hub City. Imagine a place where we are proud to share the accomplishments, best practices, and talents in business, community culture, education, and government. It’s a huge win for everyone involved. When we are able to pull together as a collective for the City of New Brunswick, we will also begin to economically thrive across all sectors. This will serve as an inspiration for other cities throughout the State of New Jersey and across the nation!

Collaboration + Partnership!

If you love what you hear, we would love for you to hop on board in some capacity. We understand that collaboration and partnership is essential to the healthy development and execution of ideas. We also know that we have a long way to go and thus will need the full support of the New Brunswick community at large. We would love to begin talks to discuss partnering with the following community leaders:

  • New Brunswick Public Schools
  • The City of New Brunswick
  • Rutgers University
  • Community organizations
  • Local businesses

Interested in saying hello? Shoot us a note at hi@welovehubcity.com. We are looking forward to hearing from you.

Oh…we almost forgot. Please, spread the word and follow us on social:

Website: welovehubcity.com
Facebook: @welovehubcity
Instagram: @welovehubcity
Twitter: @welovehubcity

Cheers!

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(Uh • Kway • Us) Aquaus Kelley is a forward-thinking Brand Strategist, Cultural Curator, and Educator. As the Founder of A Lovers Ambition Lifestyle Group, he specializes in identifying talent and creating opportunities for brand development, exposure, and growth. Aquaus has worked with companies and organizations such as Cornerstone Agency, City Year Miami, Universal Music Group, and W Hotels. He is extremely passionate about helping companies adapt to culture and building value between brands and their consumers centered around love. His ultimate mission is to use his influence to project positivity across the globe and invest in the collective future of society through the arts, education, entertainment, and leadership.

Rita Pierson: Every Kid Needs a Champion

Whether or not you may consider yourself to be an educator, we all help to educate others in one way or another. 

Women like Rita Pierson are just one of the many reasons why I chose to get involved in education. To this day, I continue to stay involved in education in various capacities.

City Year Miami

In August of 2011, I chose to serve as an AmeriCorps Member for an education focused non-profit organization entitled, City Year Miami. As a Corps Member, I worked at Miami Edison Senior High School. Our goal as Corps Members were to help decrease the drop-out rate and get “at-risk” students in “under-resourced” schools back on track to graduate.

Where Is The Love?



So, why do students drop out in the first place? Poverty, poor attendance, and negative peer influences are just a few examples. For this reason, the need for students to form empowering, purposeful, and productive relationships is paramount.

 Human emotion transcends cultural barriers. Thus, the value and importance of human connection and relationships are pivotal.

According to Dr. James P. Comer, the Maurice Falk Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine’s Child Study Center, “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.”

Be A Champion



As Sean Covey puts it, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” In order to be a good teacher, you must be a great student. Listen and learn. There are voices out here that need to be heard. There are thoughts that need to be cultivated. There are talents that need to be developed.

“Every child deserves a champion.” – Rita Pierson

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(Uh • Kway • Us) Aquaus Kelley is a forward-thinking Brand Strategist, Educator, and Music Publisher. As the Founder of A Lovers Ambition Lifestyle Group, he specializes in identifying talent and creating opportunities for brand development, exposure, and growth. Aquaus has worked with companies and organizations such as Cornerstone Agency, City Year Miami, Universal Music Group, and W Hotels. He is extremely passionate about helping companies adapt to culture and building value between brands and their consumers centered around love. His ultimate mission is to use his influence to project positivity across the globe and invest in the collective future of society through the arts, education, entertainment, and leadership.