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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Why Expose Our Children to GMO’s?

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Photo courtesy of Facebook.

On Sunday October 31, 2016 at around 1:15 am, I happened to make an (un)routine stop to pick up a late night/early morning snack at my local 7-Eleven. As I conducted my routine analysis of product labels, I was surprised to notice a “Produced with Genetic Engineering” label that appeared on the back of a carton of “Zesty Salsa” Pringles. In an effort to make sure that I was indeed seeing things correctly, I was then compelled to check the back of a nearby package of Cheez-It crackers. Low and behold, the same exact label was there again, “Produced with Genetic Engineering.” I began to notice a pattern. More importantly, I drew an instant connection to my observation of what our children are consuming on a daily basis in our schools, especially within our inner-city communities.

What Have I Observed?

I am currently an educator who works in the public school system. In my five years working for various school districts, I have payed particularly close attention to the food being served to our student population of young children and adolescents.

Here in the State of New Jersey, we have a “School Breakfast Program.” According to the State of New Jersey Department of Agriculture, “This program is aimed at providing a nutritious and well-balanced breakfast in order to promote sound eating habits and foster good health and academic achievement in school age children.” Although I am quite thankful for an initiative aimed at providing food to our children who are most in need, I am also quite concerned about the companies who provide this food. Many of these companies such as Kellogg and General Mills own brands including Cheerios, Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes, and Rice Krispies. Although these brands only represent a small portion of the Kellogg and General Mills portfolio, they certainly represent a much larger portion of the food being served to our children in schools for breakfast across the country.

For many reasons, I never agreed with the consumption of the ingredients in certain foods and snacks in our schools (ex: high-fructose corn syrup in ketchup). However, until now…it was never quite “apparent” that the food being offered to our children would blatantly contain ingredients produced with Genetic Engineering.

G.M.O. Labeling

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Photo courtesy of Food Business News.

After conducting some additional research, I have come to learn that on July 29, 2016, President Barack Obama signed a G.M.O. labeling bill (S. 764). “This bill directs the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national mandatory bioengineered food disclosure standard” as mentioned by Jeff Gelski of Food Business News. Mark Bittman of The New York Times also disclosed that, “The new law mandates that the Department of Agriculture define what constitutes a genetically modified food ingredient and then requires food manufacturers to label products that contain them.

At this point in time, there still seems to be a lot of controversy and disappointment behind the underlining elements of this bill for a number of reasons according to Carey Wedler of theantimedia.org.

Here are a few:

  1. Food companies are not necessarily required to label genetically modified products in “text” form.
  2. Food derived from an animal is not to be considered bioengineered.
  3. Eggs will also not be subject to GM labels.

Okay, although there may be quite a bit of controversy and disappointment, I personally believe that the G.M.O. labeling bill is indeed a step forward. Can it be improved? Yes. Can the language be more clear and concise? Yes. However, what are some actions we can take as citizens, communities, and consumers to become more informed and enlightened in regards to what we decide to put on our plates?

How Can We Avoid G.M.O.’s?

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Photo courtesy of Boston Organics.

1. Pay Attention

As consumers, we are often driven by habit. We subscribe to and support “legacy” brands such as Cheerios, Froot Loops, M&M’s, and Pop-Tarts on a daily basis without question. For much of our lives, we express no concern about the ingredients these products may often contain. It is second nature for us to load our shopping carts with these items because we are so conditioned within our cultural and dietary traditions to do so. I truly believe that now is the time to begin paying very close attention to everything that we decide to put into our bodies in an effort to discover better solutions and sustainable options.

2. Research

I come across many “eco-friendly” and “sustainable” food, health, and household products on a regular basis. Every time I peruse through the aisles of stores such as Wegmans, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s, I stumble upon something new. Surprisingly, some of these products have actually been around for longer than we may think. For example, my family has been using Dr. Bronner’s since I was a very young child. This dates back to when Dr. Bronner’s was primarily sold at local neighborhood health food stores. Funny enough, I happened to catch Dr. Bronner’s being stocked at Food Town just the other day. A lot has changed in 25 years.

3. Support

Once we come across items that we deem to be suitable and sustainable for our health and wellness needs, it’s important that we begin to support companies with our pockets (until proven otherwise). Yes, healthier options are often more costly, but…”What is the cost of our health?” Why shouldn’t our grocery store aisles stock more of the food that is actually healthy for us? Why shouldn’t we deserve to live longer?

In closing, “What can we do as a community to protect the health and well-being of our children? More importantly, what can we do to provide healthy and sustainable food for those who live in our communities of much needed assistance?”

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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.

Products We LOVE: “L.D.C.” Thermos

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Looking for a cool new glass container for your favorite beverage this spring? This is for those who are interested in escaping the plastic and saving the planet. We were introduced to “What Lola Wants”, a Women’s Fitness Shop based in France thanks to L&A (@ECWild) on Instagram and her splendid “Love. Dream. Create” Thermos pictured above.

Be sure to check out their full line of products at their shop right HERE! We’re not sure if they ship to the U.S. yet. However, we’re definitely looking into that for you…We’ll keep you posted!

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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.

Empowered: The Story of MankoFit

Earlier today, I was talking to a friend of mine about fitness, health, and wellness. She asked me if I knew of someone by the name of Massiel “MankoFit” Arias. Although the name sounded slightly familiar, it still didn’t quite ring a bell. A few seconds later, I asked to see her Instagram. After a few quick glances, I knew that I had seen her somewhere before. I sent out a quick text to one of my close childhood friends, Thomas Johnson. I wanted to see if he was familiar with her. 5 minutes later…he replied, “Yes, I am.”

Thomas is a Health and Fitness Coach and also the CEO of GetUpNGetFit. GetUpNGetFit is a health & fitness company that helps clients learn how to implement healthy and safe lifestyle habits that will allow them to live an optimum lifestyle. This past weekend, Thomas, my brother, and I all went out to celebrate my brothers birthday and the release of one of my other friends mobile app. When we returned from the city, Thomas shared with me some insight on MankoFit. He told me how she is very well known within the world of fitness and how she is doing a great job at making a positive name for herself.

Hearing about someone once might gain my acknowledgement. Hearing about someone twice definitely gains my attention. It was finally time to hit that search button. As expected, I did all of my preliminary searching via Google. I also checked out her Twitter, Youtube, and website. I liked what I had seen. I could tell that she is very passionate about her work. She has the drive of someone who is out here fighting to prove something. The ambition of someone fighting for a specific cause. What really caught my attention however is her mini-documentary above. ‘Empowered – The Story of MankoFit’, does a great job at portraying how Massy utilized fitness as a medium to overcome her depression.

We all know that life is full of obstacles, hardships, and setbacks. How we choose to overcome the challenges that stand in our way is ultimately what helps to build our character and craft our own unique story. Ask yourself, what are you doing today to make your journey more fulfilling tomorrow?

This video (which is very well shot), was directed by Eliu Cornielle of EC Media Studio. It’s super empowering, inspiring, and motivating…Enjoy!

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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.

What is Behind The Hustle?

To answer this question, “Behind The Hustle” is an awesome initiative that I am super happy to have come across earlier today. It is a project designed by Creative Contraband and I actually came across it thanks to the likes of another creatively driven and forward thinking movement, Broccoli City.

All of these companies represent the culture and lifestyle that I am so proud to be apart of when it comes to art, education, entertainment, fashion, health, music, social issues, and empowering the youth.

If you’re like me, you will definitely appreciate this video!!!

– Aquaus Kelley

Calling All…People Who Aspire To Achieve!!!

::: #AspireToAchieve // #ALOVERSAmbition ::: Now it’s your turn. Upload a video and share with us your thoughts on these questions: What drives you? What do you aspire to achieve? What are you passionate about? What are you willing to … Continue reading