Who Is Alex McArthur?
Alex McArthur has turned into somewhat of a legend in the marketing space. After learning amazing things at Orange Soda and jumping from startup to startup, he found himself a partner at Purple. Back then, Purple had to be very very resourceful with their limited budget as they tried to create a name in the marketplace with legends like Casper, etc. But through Alex’s vision, they created some of the most viral campaigns to date, and Purple has now become a household name in the world of mattresses.
Alex definitely credits much of the success to the incredible team of people he got to work with. After spending years there, he has jumped on to becoming the CMO of HandsFree Labs, a shoe company with an incredibly unique piece of technology. Partnering with Nike, they are set to the rule the world, one foot at a time. Enjoy!
A career of accolades and accomplishments
Over the course of his career, Alex has been recognized for his many accomplishments in the form of various awards and features. Just a few of his notable highlights include:
- Being named Utah Business CXO of the Year – Chief Marketing Officer
- Running a Top 50 Kickstarter campaign out of 400,000+
- Being a Webby Award Winner for The Most Boring Films Ever (Purple + Facebook Creative Shop Collab)
- Having led marketing/sales efforts for multiple high growth orgs, including start to 9 figure run-rate in a single year
- Winning a Stevie Award
- Being featured on Forbes, Inc, Techcrunch, Nasdaq and in Google/Youtube case studies
From humble beginnings at the dawn of the dot com era
Though Alex McArthur has risen to the heights of C-Suite success, he began from humble professional origins and accumulated a vast wealth of hands-on practical marketing experience and know-how along the way. His first eCommerce role saw him working as an early web marketer for the small computer manufacturer ISquared, in 1998. It was here that Alex first grappled head-on with the need for an innovative, pioneering, and effective approach to marketing – as a way of maneuvering around the competition and utilizing the strength of dynamic new technologies and approaches.
Marketing creativity is crucial. Clarity of communication also matters a lot, and so does an ability to put yourself in the shoes of the people you are trying to reach, in order to create rapport and to accurately and compellingly express the highlights of what it is you are offering. For a long time now, the public has been increasingly craving authenticity in advertising. For this reason, the art of marketing should never be treated just as a purely technical exercise – but should first and foremost be seen as an earnest showcasing of the genuine positive traits of your company.
Since the early days of the democratized information and marketing ecosystem provided by the internet, Alex McArthur has been spearheading authenticity and innovation in advertising.
Sought after by industry giants for his sophisticated marketing knowledge
Whether you are in the mattress industry (as with Purple), are working on an innovative new shoe design in partnership with a major global industry leader, or are running your first start-up in an unrelated field, one of the perennial requirements for success in any field is earnest and effective marketing. Though marketing effectively will always entail a great degree of specific insight, and industry and company-specific approaches, the overarching fact of the matter is both quite simple, and remarkably consistent across all industries.
Alex McArthur’s vast wealth of marketing know-how was not earned in a single role, with a single company, or within the confines of a single industry, but was accumulated over the span of his 20-plus-year career, during which he held positions such as:
- VP of SEO.com
- Chief Marketing Officer for Purple Innovation
- VP of Internet Marketing for TechMediaNetwork
And much more.
When all is said and done, no company thrives unless they are able to attract a great deal of attention to the product or service they are offering, while simultaneously being able to highlight the benefits of that product or service, so as to make it appealing to would-be customers and clients. Good marketing, therefore, can be thought of as the act of helping prospective clients to resolve an issue they might be facing, by introducing them to your business and its offering, and detailing the ways in which you can be of assistance.
Alex thrives partly due to his masterful ability to distill down marketing fundamentals, and to apply them to a wide range of businesses, irrespective of industry. It’s for this reason that he held a long-standing role as a sought after independent marketing consultant for 12 years from 2004–2016, before settling into senior board roles and applying his insights to a new series of professional frontiers.
Alex McArthur Podcast Transcription
Charan: Hey guys, this is Charan Prabhakar with the Lemonade Stand podcast. I’m here with Alex MacArthur and this is going to be a very exciting podcast because I’ve heard legends about Alex MacArthur. I’ve actually done advertisements for the shoe company that he is currently a part of. So love it. So we’re going to talk all about that. Alex, so I can give the audience a little bit of a an introduction. Alex is the king of marketing, I feel. I think that’s a pretty good, that’s a pretty…
Alex: Way overdone.
Charan: I don’t think [crosstalk 00:01:59].
Alex: Right here.
Charan: No. It’s good. You were in OrangeSoda for a while, right? After your college days, you were at OrangeSoda for a little bit. Then I heard of your name in the Purple world and the Purple Mattress market and like that market just exploded. I’d never thought that mattresses could ever be sold online and make a profit and you proved them wrong, so that was amazing. I know you did a handful of other startups and then landed up at KIZIKs. Correct?
Charan: But welcome, man, thanks for-
Alex: Thank you.
Charan: … thanks for coming on. This is great.
Alex: Yeah. I’m excited to be here with you. You’ve always been a fun guy. We’ve been around each other a lot. I just like to hang out with you, so that’s why I’m here more than anything.
Charan: Dude. If this going to roll and record, fine so be it. Right. But no, I appreciate that, man. It’s good and likewise, it’s funny whenever I hear your name being dropped, it’s always like, “Oh, Alex did this or Alex did that.” I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to hang out with him more.” Even if I could just understand how you rock your silver hair, so great because I [crosstalk 00:03:03].
Alex: We’re brothers in this.
Charan: I’m getting there, but I was just like, “I just need someone that understands this world.” Well, you do, so that’s great.
Alex: Yeah, no, no. First off, way more praise than I deserve. It’s funny, people keep saying, “Your name comes up in marketing conversations in Utah.” I’m like, “I’m sitting at home with my kids, nothing too exciting, live a pretty normal life.” In terms of the gray hair, I don’t know how it happened, but my mom and my dad both had gray hair, early onset, super young age. Of course, they found each other, doomed me and my brother and sister and so it started at a young age. It’s a part of my lifestyle. It’s part of who I am. The sad thing is I’m losing my hair now. I feel like my identity is going to be gone. So that’s the most devastating thing for me right now, losing my gray hair.
Charan: Actually I’ve heard a thing called Toppik. I don’t know, it adds hair kind of.
Alex: I can’t do it.
Charan: You can’t do it?
Charan: I don’t do it. I’ve got hair still, but no, it is interesting because my grandma also had gray hair in her 20s and I was fine with it because I started getting gray towards the end of my 20s and into 30s. I was fine and the only person that wasn’t fine with it was my mom who was just like, “Charan, I think you need to start dyeing.” And I’m like, “Wait, what?” She’s like “Charan, please start dyeing.” So I’m like, “Okay.” So I was dyeing my hair and for acting was great. I was still getting these younger roles, but honestly as I’ve let it go gray, I’ve been getting more roles.
Alex: No way.
Charan: So yeah, it’s the craziest thing.
Alex: [crosstalk 00:04:38] unique.
Charan: It’s unique. It’s distinguished. It’s now I’m playing more doctors and medical professionals, which is what my dad wanted me to be to begin with. So I’m like, all right, well, I’m helping fulfill his dream.
Alex: You’re living both dreams. [crosstalk 00:04:51].
Alex McArthur Talks About Deciding to Be an Entrepreneur
Charan: I’m living both dreams. Yeah, I’m fulfilling your dream and my dream so it’s great. Well, thanks, man, I really appreciate you being here. But the Lemonade Stand podcast is all about just the beginnings of your career into business. For young kids, it could be owning a lemonade stand. So let’s talk a little bit about the beginning of your entrepreneurship. When did you decide “I want to be an entrepreneur”?
Alex: You know what? It was a really… I hear a lot of stories about how people were just called to it. It felt natural. It was a painful process for me.
Alex: My parents are the most conservative, follow-the-book, process. My mom grew up on a farm in the South and my dad went into the military. Funny enough, they met at a event called the Poultry Princess Award. She was a Poultry Princess in her county in North Carolina. So anyway-
Charan: My goodness.
Alex: … that’s where they met.
Charan: I kind of feel like I just need to attend that.
Alex: So yeah, I grew up thinking, “Hey, I’m going to play it safe, just do the obvious things.” And then I went to school… so I went to BYU and was kind of drawn into computer programming. So I started out in CS at BYU and just realized I can’t sit behind a screen. I like people. I want to engage with people and I switched to communications, which was a little too far on the other end of the spectrum. Only talking to people and I’m kind of a weird mix in between.
Alex: So right after that, really soon after I met one of the executives here at Lemonade Stand, Derek Miner, and he was starting a company called OrangeSoda and I ended up just being drawn into that, it just felt so natural.
Alex: So on the side in college, I had been doing SEO stuff and I met the founder of OrangeSoda, Jay Bean, through just my own consulting. I think he did a Craigslist listing for, like, “I need help with SEO.”
Alex: So I met him, I met Derek and then I just got sucked in. And then ever since then, I’ve just been taking chances and doing startups. A couple of times I’ve been pulled back into normal jobs, and if I look back at my childhood, it was there in a weird way. I was the kid that drew mazes and tried to sell them for a nickel or a quarter or whatever. I know that’s not an original thing, but it was just something that I did.
Charan: Dude, that’s so funny because I drew mazes.
Alex: No way.
Charan: Yeah. As a kid.
Alex: We should draw a maze.
Charan: We should draw a maze. Yeah, for sure. I actually did. I never thought about selling it, but I just thought it was so fun to be like, “I want to draw maze.” I remember drawing one maze that was four pages long and the dedication it took draw a maze was amazing. So that’s a nice pun. You guys get that amazing.
Alex: So great.
Charan: Yeah. So good. Anyway, so you’re in college and also funny enough, I was a comms major. I was a comms major enough for me to realize this is not what I want to do in life, but I’m glad I went down that path. So let’s talk about when you got into doing SEO to begin with, what drew you to doing that?
Alex: The internet was just so intriguing, right? Like so I’m 43, a lot of people in digital marketing now grew up with the Internet. It formed while I was growing up.
Charan: Totally. I remember that.
Alex: Yeah. So really quickly, WordPress isn’t as popular as it used to be, but I got drawn into WordPress and was always setting up different instances, exploring little websites. And so that’s something I did at a young age. I think that’s where it started for me, creating little websites and being in the WordPress community. And then yeah, just creating sites and through that, I met so many unique people and came across business ideas I never would have thought of. So in reality, as I look back, that’s probably what pushed me into digital marketing more than anything.
Alex: So I’d give the credit back to WordPress and just that community and the meeting people, you never would’ve met otherwise. I grew up in the South, we moved around a lot, North Carolina, Tennessee, California, Maryland, but in the South it was slower and great and a lot of positive things about it, but I loved that connection that I had through that WordPress community.
Charan: Well, it’s interesting because I also remember growing up in the 90s, I graduated high school in 1998. So I remember when the Internet was first coming out, it was the first coming… I think, honestly I didn’t have the vision to see what the purpose of it was at the time. I also remember thinking once it’s becoming more and more popular, I’m like, “Oh my gosh.” The entire world just expanded and connected because before it was always my friends and connections that I knew just consisted of who I went to school with or who I had in classes with.
Charan: And now all of a sudden it’s like, “Oh wow, I can connect to other people, all across the globe.” Now you’re making a business that can connect to every single person on the planet. It’s unbelievable. So that’s great. So then you got into OrangeSoda and did you just fall in love with it immediately? Or what was that feeling over there?
Alex: Yeah. It just felt, again, I’ve been dabbling in [crosstalk 00:10:20] marketing and Jay and Derek and Chris, the original founders, had proposed, “Hey, we’re going to do this small business digital marketing thing.” And I’ve always loved the idea of helping other business owners and I didn’t have a lot of expertise to help them at the time.
Alex: I knew SEO a little bit. So yeah, it just felt magic and that’s one of the things that I believe in is there’s all kinds of businesses with different people that some have great ideas, but the excellence that happens with a great team is unique, and that team just felt really special. So more than anything, it was the team that brought me in. And then I loved the digital marketing stuff, loved the SEO piece.
Charan: What a cool education as well, I’m sure.
Alex: Yeah, on the job. Those guys treated me so well. I came in, I was leading one part of the business, got a promotion every three, four months. And next thing I know I’m VP of Search at this company that has 300 employees and I’m a young guy. So that really is what I felt like gave me a launching pad for my career and just gave me a lot of experience. It’s kind of funny in the digital marketing world, you don’t necessarily have to have degrees, but you have to have the experience. It’s funny to look back and think I was creating that experience on the job and now a lucky situation.
Charan: Well, in the same sense when I decided I wanted to get into film and act, I didn’t study acting in college or anything like that, it was really on the job. And there’s just something I would say magical about learning on the job. I love the experience. I love engaging and interacting because it’s like using all the senses. You’re not just reading a book and then cramming for a test and then going, and I can imagine the same thing being with learning all about SEO and things. It’s an experiment, right? You’re just testing things out over and over and what works and what doesn’t.
Alex: Yeah. As a kid, I was just totally drawn to strategy games, Risk, Stratego. There was no career more that way than marketing and competing against other people, trying to beat other companies, just drew me in, sucked me in. I’ve been stuck, can’t get out now.
Alex McArthur Talks About Navigating Change
Charan: No, you can’t. The interesting thing is the digital marketing space, I feel like is always changing. Algorithms are changing and things that used to work strategy that used to work in the past aren’t working anymore. So how have you been able to navigate through some of those changes?
Alex: So at a younger age, I stressed out about knowing all the skills, always trying to get educated. Now the older I get, the more I realize you can’t stay on top of all these things, you have to associate yourself with experts. So for me, it’s like trying to keep my schedule open so that I can always meet with people.
Alex: I try to have breakfast or lunch with somebody different every day. It’s been hard through COVID of course, through the pandemic. So for me, I’d say it’s keeping that network open. I’m kind of weird about, I get a lot of inbound stuff since Purple had a little bit of success and I respond to everybody. I have Zoom calls with people that just say, “Hey, I want to run an idea by you.” So I just always respond and try to keep that learning going, I guess, would be the key.
Charan: Well, you just mentioned Purple. So at a point you left OrangeSoda and you went to Purple.
Alex: So there were a couple of things in between. I don’t know if you want to hear those or not-
Charan: [crosstalk 00:14:01]. Yeah.
Alex: … but we’ll make it super quick.
Charan: No worries.
Alex: Yeah, OrangeSoda, after that, I have a friend named Wayne Morehead, followed him around to a couple of companies. He’s been a mentor of mine.
Alex: And then joined a company called Perch out of Ogden, Utah. It’s not one that’s on people’s radar a lot, but they owned 15 of the top 1000 high-traffic websites on the web. So I ran marketing for those guys and that was a great experience. All kinds of sites you’ve heard of—HomeAdvisor, Business.com—they owned all those properties. And then went into a consulting mode and was working on a couple of different projects and ended up meeting the founders of Purple through a good friend of mine, Chris Knutson, who was part of Purple early on as well. So we were talking about ideas and…
Charan: Now, at the time weren’t they just like a mattress company that sold to retail, is that what they were doing?
Alex: So Tony and Terry Pierce had another business where they licensed out their Purple material and they had done other sleep-related products. But they always knew there was this room, and Casper and Tuft & Needle were having all this success. But if you looked at the marketplace, like everything was the same, it’s literally one of the most boring categories.
Charan: It’s bedding, man. How do you make it interesting, right?
Alex: Yeah. So we wanted to throw a personality into it. There was a Kickstarter early on that had some success. And then one of the keys to Purple success was a guy named Scott Dastrup. He did a lot of videos for them.
Charan: Of course, I love Scott.
Alex: You know Scott?
Charan: Of course, he’s a good buddy [crosstalk 00:15:45].
Alex: I love Scott.
Charan: He’s so great. In fact, I’ve actually done several commercials with Scott and every time I do, I’m like, “Dude, we got to make a movie or something.” Because he is the best. I love Scott.
Alex: He just has such a unique personality and talent-
Charan: He does.
Alex: … deserves a lot more credit-
Charan: Yeah, absolutely.
Alex: … for Purple than often is associated there. He’s awesome. So yeah, we did 10 videos after that Kickstarter and those started to perform well. And then the big one happened with the Harmon Brothers.
Charan: With the Harmon Brothers.
Alex: They’ve crushed it more than once and they’re fantastic and [crosstalk 00:16:20] have multiple members of their team here on this podcast. And the “Goldilocks” piece was just amazing and iconic ad in its category. And then from there on it’s, what mattered to me is if we’re going to take this to the next level and not just be a viral win, it’s building the right team. That’s what I’m super passionate about now is, again, I like to network, I like to get to know lots of people. I feel like from that networking, I can build a specially talented teams.
Charan: Well, it’s interesting because I’ve done several Purple commercials and it’s, a couple of them were with Scott, and others after Scott left, is with my buddy Jason. But Scott, I remember just his style. I was like, “Dude, I would love to do every commercial with you.” Seriously, he just has a great way of doing things. And it’s just really fun. It’s really relaxed.
Alex: No-stress shoots.
Charan: No stress.
Alex: [crosstalk 00:17:19] shoots, you’re like, “Oh my goodness. I can’t wait to get home the day’s over.” His shoots are just so fun.
Charan: No they’re so fun. I totally agree. It’s when the right team is in place, you’re able to create something really special I think and promote stuff out there. So yeah. Anyway, I remember never really hearing about Purple to everyone knowing about Purple. So that was amazing.
Alex: So [crosstalk 00:17:46] a really short time. So within about from launch in October of 2016 or ’15. Man, I’m getting old, I’m forgetting. Anyway, whenever it launched to about three years later, it became the most searched-for mattress in the world-
Charan: That’s crazy.
Alex: … multi-billion dollar category and the team continues to crush it. There’s so many people that deserve a ton of credit, great marketing team, great product team. A lot of people did fantastic work and the team that’s there now is doing a fantastic job, and it just continues to grow and they’re opening up stores, and it’s cool to have… Utah doesn’t have a lot of consumer product brands. There’s a lot of great SAS companies, but you got Trager and a couple others and it was great to have Purple and other one jump up there. And from my understanding, it’s the fastest growing consumer brand in the state ever.
Charan: Is it?
Alex: And we’re all really proud of that. A lot of fun.
Charan: No, that’s awesome. I’ve done several things were Purple and even my buddy, Jason, who’s there now, he’s their creative director now. He’s been a great friend of mine for a long time. So I’m currently working on a project hopefully with them.
Charan: So it’s just great to see how much of an impact that some of your efforts in the beginning have started. It’s got to be feeling kind of cool to be like, wow, to see the initial stages and to see, I don’t know where this is all going to go, but this is going to hopefully go somewhere positive and it has, and it’s been amazing.
Alex: Yeah. Most days it was a blast, other days there was a lot of stress because others in the space raised $70 million, $250 million. Purple didn’t raise anything and so it was a roller coaster for sure but a blast.
Alex McArthur Talks About Overcoming Struggles
Charan: Let’s talk a little bit about the rollercoaster because right now we’re painting a picture of like, “Oh my gosh. Yeah. Entrepreneurship it was great. Everything worked smoothly.” But the truth is everything has got their struggles and on a situation like Purple where you didn’t raise a lot of money up front or maybe whatever was raised was just through Kickstarter or whatnot. How did that grow? Can you describe some of the pains you felt?
Alex: Yeah. From early on, it was seeing a couple brands having a lot of success and us knowing, “Hey, we don’t have these resources, we’re going to have to be scrappy.” So again, going back to the team, having people that were going to rally and do whatever it took. I mean, if you look on Purple’s YouTube channel, if it’s all still there and we made what, 300 videos in three year-ish.
Charan: That’s insane.
Alex: A lot of those were cut pieces. There are other spots, but just the effort and the creating a positive environment where people wanted to put in the extra effort. So that’s one thing that comes to mind, other parts of the rollercoaster on towards the end, within those three years Purple went public. So from not raising any money, going really big, and going public at the end. Right before that, I had days… I can share this now, the things I haven’t shared publicly, there were days when we’re creating the forecast and trying to go public where I’m in the bathroom throwing up because there’s just so much pressure and stress. Everybody’s thinking, “You guys are killing it. It’s so much fun. We want to join the Purple team.” And I’m like, “All right, yeah, you want to see what I’m dealing with today?”
Alex: So there were moments that where the stress just got so intense. So it was helpful for me because I love early stage. I love building things. And then as it got to that point, went public and got bigger. I’m like, “This isn’t where I want to be.” So that’s the point where I’m like, “I’m going to go to the next startup, do something and build something great again.”
Charan: Yeah. That’s so interesting because I guess every company has its stages. There are certain stages that some people are more comfortable with than others. I can imagine it being so stressful and so much pressure when you’re dealing with bigger things.
Alex: Well, normally that’s done over 15 or 20 years, but we [crosstalk 00:22:04] three years and…
Charan: That’s just too much, man, too much growth in such a short amount of time. It requires a lot of stretching. I think about that too, because I’ve worked on different films, some are a really, really bigger-budget, some very small-budget. And sometimes I got to say even though the smaller budgets are super limited and super scrappy. Man, the fun that you have when you’re with your friends and creating it, it seems a lot more joyous than these really, really big things when you’re like, “Oh my gosh, this is all a headache. Everything’s a headache right now.”
Alex: Yeah. You see these companies that raise a ton of money and they got all the attention and press for a while. And then to see the one that didn’t kind of win in the end, it’s even more exciting. I think that’s one thing that helped motivate the team. Just watching that process and seeing, “Hey, we’re gaining ground. We’re getting attention.”
Charan: Yeah, well, to become a household name from…. you have the giants and then to have become a household name like them when you had nothing to begin with, is a really cool, cool story. That’s awesome.
Alex: Then you’re only as good as the next one. Can you do it again?
Charan: Yeah. That’s the next question, next challenge.
Alex McArthur Talks About HandsFree Labs
Charan: So you left Purple and you’re currently at KIZIKs. Right?
Alex: So the company is officially called HandsFree Labs.
Charan: Oh, I’m sorry.
Alex: You’re fine. No, no, no big deal.
Charan: Geez [crosstalk 00:23:32]-
Alex: No big deal.
Charan: … this is offensive.
Alex: You’ve done an ad for them, come on.
Charan: I did.
Alex: So HandsFree Labs is, I don’t know if the camera can see this, but we have shoes that you can step into. So I don’t know if you can see this from here.
Charan: Not from there, but from there [crosstalk 00:23:48]. Yeah.
Alex: Maybe we’ll, we’ll have them go to the website.
Charan: Yeah. We’ll have to go to the website.
Alex: So HandsFree Labs is a company that makes hands-free shoes. Shoes you can just step into. So one side of the coin you have normal shoes that you bend over to tie the laces and the other side, you have flip flops and unsupportive shoes. So we’ve created something new, that’s super convenient.
Charan: It’s a hands-free shoe with a titanium rebounding heel that makes them pop on easily.
Alex: You’ve done this man.
Charan: I’ve done this before once or twice. Yeah.
Alex: So, again did a little Kickstarter, got some attention and some big companies saw what we were doing, and now Handsfree Labs is partially funded by Nike, and they’re also a licensee of our technology. And then we’re also doing our own brands.
Charan: So you’re doing your own brands, because I remember that there was a partnership with Nike in the works. So I guess it’s kind of official now, which is amazing because when it was just KIZIK, I remember thinking like, “Wow, what a cool technology and what a cool piece of equipment?” I remember when we did the first ad that I was in, that it was just coming out, but it was very, very exciting and it was a cool patented thing. But then to see it grow from what it was to now you’re partnered with Nike and-
Alex: It’s crazy.
Charan: … doing some huge things with them, which is crazy is awesome to hear.
Alex: It’s fun. And again, Utah needs more of these businesses. There’s a lot of smaller consumer brands here. I think in the future this’ll be the next cool place to work.
Charan: Yeah, absolutely.
Alex: We’re feeling that momentum and it’s hard to push something that people aren’t looking for yet. With Purple, everybody knows, they needed a mattress. We come in with the differentiated angle, but with hands-free shoes, people don’t know that that solution exists. So there’s a level of education that happens and your ad and your video did a fantastic job of doing that, but still pushing those boundaries and creating a category is different than disrupting a category.
Charan: Completely because you came and looked into our VR office once and I feel like some of the same problems. It’s like, “Hey, we’re creating this thing, but now we also have to kind of create a market for that thing.” That’s a whole different thing than, oh, the market exists already, but there’s some problems with it. We’re coming up with a solution and there are challenges. There are challenges to kind of create a market for something like that a hands-free shoe type of thing. So how have you been able to tackle that?
Alex: So it’s in progress, but we’re seeing lots of promising things. So, number one, we’re seeing shoe company after shoe companies show interest.
Charan: Cool. So are you basically licensing the technology to them?
Alex: So we’re licensing some types of shoes, some types of technology to some categories of shoemakers, and then we’re also making our own shoes and the [athleteisure 00:49:57] category, which is your everyday casual shoe. The thing that we’re learning is we had assumptions in the beginning, but we’re learning really quickly.
Alex: There’s a lot of people that need hands-free shoes, people that have, they can’t bend over, they’re overweight. They have a medical need. A lot of seniors struggle with putting on their shoes, but then there’s this whole other side of everyday convenience. It’s funny because we’ve had people initially, “Hey, how lazy can Americans get? What do we have to keep inventing to simplify your life?”
Alex: And then they try it and they’re like, “I’m never going back.” So that’s what we’re seeing really fast is that word start to spread. It creates more time. It’s convenient. It’s every time I go walk the dog, every time I get the mail. Just every day, I have a whole shelf in my garage where I decide what shoes I’m going to wear. And I always just flopped down the KIZIKs because it’s just so much quicker [crosstalk 00:27:55].
Charan: Oh man, they’re great. I was telling Spencer, who also happens to be a part of KIZIK and I’m like, “Dude, I got to get my next pair of KIZIK.” Because the first one I have, I don’t even think you guys sell those anymore or they were a beta version or something like that.
Alex: It was the Cali. I think that’s what you had.
Charan: It was a light brown version, something like that, forever ago it was [crosstalk 00:28:14].
Alex: We’ve gone through quite a few.
Charan: Yeah. All I know is it was the ones I wore in the ad. And they’re like, “Yeah, hold on to them.” I’m like, “Yes, this is amazing.” But yeah, they’re great shoes and they’re really comfortable. I remember thinking like, “Wow, this is such a cool thing.” What was difficult for me was after I was wearing KIZIK, it was so difficult for me to go back to other shoes, I’m like, “Dang it.” Now, I got to bend down and pull the heel up and all that stuff. No, it’s good. In fact, I don’t know if you remember this or I don’t even know if you were a part of this, but a friend of mine had a dunk camp, a basketball dunk camp. Do you remember that?
Alex: I had to sign up for that [crosstalk 00:28:56].
Charan: You signed up for that? Oh, that’s perfect. Yeah. So Andy Nicholson and he’s like, “Dude, do you think KIZIK would be down to like support this?” I’m like, “Let’s give them a shot.” So he was really, really stoked about that. I think his camp went really well, so thank you.
Alex: I wasn’t [crosstalk 00:29:13] able to attend but I wish I had. Spencer was there.
Charan: Oh, was he there? Yeah. He thought it was a really cool thing. So you got the partnership with Nike and you’re also doing licensing and you’re creating your own brand of shoes. What does the future of Handsfree Labs look like?
Alex: So one thing we’re really excited about, in just a few weeks, you’ll see another great campaign with the Harmon Brothers that we’re excited about, building on what you’ve already done. Just adding another campaign to create that level of awareness.
Charan: I auditioned for that one.
Alex: Did you really? I didn’t know that.
Charan: Oh, you didn’t know that? I was like, “Man, come on, guys.” Was it the one where it’s the spoiled kid, the spoiled [crosstalk 00:29:55]?
Alex: Yeah, don’t give way too much [inaudible 00:29:56].
Charan: It wasn’t the… What am I saying? What am I saying? [crosstalk 00:29:59] auditioned.
Alex: Yeah. But that’ll be out in a couple of weeks and if I had known, I didn’t get to see your tape.
Charan: Oh man. I sent in a great tape too, but no, it was all good. It’s all good. It was a funny commercial because the version of the commercial I got, I auditioned for all the fights. I’m like, “You know what, who cares?”
Alex: I could see you in a couple of them [crosstalk 00:30:21].
Charan: Yeah, I know, it was fun. It was fun. But the thing was, I remember thinking like, “This is cool that they’re continuing to make more and more stuff coming out.”
Alex: Yeah. There’s a reason I’m joining this team. We want to leverage some of the things that we did at Purple. Obviously the Harmon Brothers are a massive part of that. We want to create that whole environment and team again.
Alex: I personally believe, and maybe this is a mistake to say it on tape, but I believe this could be and should be bigger than Purple, because it’s the Purple selling in the US right now, and so hands-free shoes in Asia and India where people take off their shoes when they go into certain places.
Alex: We’re really excited about the potential and we’re seeing that response from the small amount of people that understand what they are, they’re all in. I’ve never had this high of a return customer rate in any of the… I’ve consulted for a lot of brands and I’ve never seen anything like this. When people try it and they’re in, they love it. I don’t want to be a salesman and keep going on it.
Charan: No, you can, I did. Yeah. Well, here’s the thing I was doing that without even getting promoted for it. I just really liked the shoes a lot. I remember thinking either comfortable, they’re easy to get on. Sometimes I love the simplest inventions that can solve some of the biggest problems. I’m a big believer in that.
Alex: Yeah, you got the back to the future shoe where people have thought you had to do all this stuff, but it’s so simple. So Mike Pratt, the founder, is just total genius, invented so many things, has tons of patents and just the best guy to work with [crosstalk 00:32:00].
Alex McArthur Talks About What Keeps Him Going Through Tough Times
Charan: That’s awesome, man. So you’re doing that and it’s great. So let’s talk a little bit. We’re going to shift topics just a little bit here. What are some philosophies that you’ve learned from mentors and whatnot that have kept you going especially during tough times?
Alex: Yeah. Tough times, referring to now for example, which is…?
Charan: Yeah, exactly.
Alex: I’ll be honest for me it’s… I imagine for most people, it’s been a roller coaster. I’ve had times where I’m like, “This is kind of a reset on life.” And ended up spending a lot more time with my family, which has been amazing and created new bonds. I have an 18-year-old, 15-year-old and 11-year-old, and I’m married to my wife. And our family together, it’s been really cool to go through this together challenging time and it’s made us stronger, which has been awesome because I’ve seen some families struggle.
Alex: So I’m grateful that it’s been a positive thing for us, but what kind of moves me through these times is relationships with people for sure, constantly setting a new challenge for yourself and working towards something.
Alex: Life feels so short now that I’m 43, 20 years ago, I’m like, “Man, this is going by so slow.” I wanted to accomplish all these things and it’s taking forever. Now I’m like, “Man, my time, I got to get stuff done. I want to do things. I want to improve the world. I want to meet more people and talk to more people.” So for me, it’s about relationships and again, that goes back to building Purple, building other teams. I want to be a part of great people and kind of excellence rather than just mediocrity and that’s kind of what drives me.
Charan: That’s awesome. Well, it’s interesting because with all of this stuff, I think it all kind of goes back to where’s your mindset at? I think to your point I love talking to people and I think that the key for me during these tough times where I can’t stop talking to people, I can’t stop connecting with people. I think if you don’t, you kind of get stuck in your head and the media does a great job spreading negativity, everywhere you look, there’s just so much negativity. And the more and more I feel that stuff gets in your head, the worse things will feel for you.
Alex: Yeah. That brings up, you referenced mentors and I mentioned my friend Wayne again, when we’ve had a lot of discussions and one thing he’s referenced is the idea of “and” people think, and I know that’s just a simple word that we all use all the time, but people get so pushed to one side or the other and their opinions get moved.
Alex: We’re all individuals. We’re so unique. Our thoughts should be unique, I personally can’t watch politics because I just see the divisiveness of it and it causes me a lot of anxiety. In the end, I’ll watch the debates, I’ll read their stances.
Alex: Then I’ll decide on what I want to or who I want to vote for. But yeah, I wish people could find a way to be themselves, find joy, express themselves in their own way and not get so labeled and be… I feel it’s creating a lot of unhappiness right now. Unfortunately, I mean, we discussed this before we started, I’ve had three friends commit suicide through this journey and it’s so overwhelming. And even though I’ve had some positives through that, each time that happens, it’s crushing.
Alex: I don’t know. I just hope we can all love each other more and separate ourselves less. It’s sounds so simple, but I just hope we can all try to think that way and think of each other’s feelings before proving them wrong.
Charan: It’s interesting because I’ve been on a big, personal journey for myself. You and I both discussed, we have our similar spiritual beliefs and whatnot. But one of the things that I’ve been really learning from myself is I haven’t lived a completely authentic life. I say that because a lot of times there have been so many narrative placed in my head that I just assume is my own, but then it’s like, “Oh no, that was something, that was a story that somebody else told that I started believing was what I believed.”
Charan: But that really wasn’t what I thought. So I’ve been kind of going back to what is authentic to me and kind of what you’re saying, every individual is different. Their experience with life is different.
Charan: And you can’t say, “Oh, because this experience is valid and great for me, this is exactly what you’re supposed to feel as well.” You feel what you’re supposed to feel. So I’ve been on this journey and one of the things that speaks to me is just having fun and joy. I never knew how important that was to me but I remember back in sixth grade, I had a teacher who I still keep in touch to this day and I keep in touch with him because he made such a profound impact on me because of how much fun he was.
Charan: I loved going to his class every single day. He just made learning so much fun and he was such a nice guy, never got upset. He just had a way of communicating and teaching messages and stuff that just made it so enjoyable, so much so that I don’t even know how many years later I’m 39 now, I still wish him happy birthday every year. And he’s still does the same for me-
Alex: That’s awesome.
Charan: … and we keep texting each other. So I’m like, that is important. Fun and joy are important for me.
Alex: Yeah. And that brings me back to one-
Charan: Yeah, please.
Alex: … Purple thing that, so our tagline, when I was there, was “Feel better,” and it meant two things to us: one, obviously sleep, you want people to feel better, sleep better and get rest. But if you saw any of Purple’s ads or any of our video or content or anything, we put on social, we want people to feel joy and feel better.
Alex: So we used humor and that was all done intentionally because we all appreciated humor, and we wanted others to share with us in that and create an emotional bond between the brand. So I don’t mean to take it back to business, but I try to bring my personality and what makes me happy into my work environment and not let it just be this stodgy, stiff place.
Charan: Well, I truly believe that if you can create a positive experience for someone and if it’s associated with a brand, I want to be a part of that brand just because I like the way I feel when I’m around that brand. I think it’s super important because like you said, things are very crazy and the fact that you’ve had three people close to you, take their lives.
Charan: What’s interesting is I’ve seen so many people or I keep hearing of more and more friends that are getting divorced and who knows what their situation is, but it’s like, wow, it’s interesting to think that everyone’s relationships and their identity and everything is being questioned right now. And they’re feeling nervous and they’re feeling uncertain about what to go and what to believe.
Charan: So I don’t know. I feel more than ever what we got to do what fills us with joy and then share that joy with other people.
Alex: Sometimes that gets forgotten because we’re all lost in figuring ourselves out, just like you said.
Alex: You’re to be authentic to yourself, but we’re constantly on that journey. You’re never fully authentic to yourself because we’re figuring it out. But then along the way, if we’re not sharing our thoughts, if we’re not communicating with others, there’s a missing piece there and then you get stuck back in that cycle.
Charan: Yeah. So have you found authenticity for yourself?
Alex: Oh man. That’s a tough question for me right now, because again, this time has been so unique.
Charan: It’s tough.
Alex: Yeah. I’m still figuring that out to be honest. I don’t want to over-congratulate myself, because I don’t think I’ve fully figured that out. I’m still… There’s big changes I’d like to make. Luckily I’ve been a part of good teams and we’ve had successes and a little bit of financial success comes with that. And then you realize that didn’t change anything. I was so worried about getting a part of that for so much of my life. Now that I have a little bit and it’s like nothing has changed, I [crosstalk 00:41:00] hard to find all these connections, I still and searching for more.
Alex: My wife, if she listens to this will laugh. I’m getting really interested in the minimalism movement and the simplicity of that and freeing your mind just to have more thoughts, because you’re less focused on stuff.
Alex: So I am not somebody to ask for advice on how to be saying you figured it out, but I’m in the process and I’m always trying. And again, that’s one thing I value with just constantly trying to get to know more people is you learn so much of what works for others.
Charan: Well, it’s interesting because there is this quote I remember hearing from my Jim Carey, who said, “I hope everyone in the world gets everything that they’ve ever wanted, just so they realize that whatever they want never will satisfy them.” It’s very true. I think the mistake that lot of times we make is we’re all looking to feel kind of more whole, more complete, more fulfilled. A lot of times we think, well the answer to that more wholeness and more completeness and everything is outside of us.
Charan: Is we need to achieve some level of success or we need to achieve some level of this or this or that. Look, I went to LA and I became a successful actor, but I wasn’t a celebrity or anything, but man, I was working on TV shows. I was doing all those things and it was great. I was doing some fun stuff.
Alex: Some of my favorite shows.
Charan: Yeah, done some really fun shows. Great opportunity, great experience, but is that what made me feel fulfilled? No, I would have to say no. It was a great fun experience and I really enjoyed it and I got to be a part of a show that would make people laugh and that really made me feel good, but I can honestly say some of those shows weren’t really the things that completely fulfilled me.
Alex: So yeah, that’s the same thing with your career, my career people bring up, they always want to ask about the Purple journey. I’m like, “It was the people that made it so fun. It wasn’t…” The money allowed for, the revenue success that the company saw allowed for us to build the bigger team and do more things and do more memorable things and that was all fun. But it was the team effort that we went through that was so unifying.
Alex: So yeah, it’s the same thing that everybody is constantly struggling with how to create positive connections with others through difficult times. And who would have predicted all the stuff that happened in 2020-
Charan: No, no one could have.
Alex: … and most people were already struggling and now multiplying all this on top of that. We just got to be out there and find ways to love each other and have each other’s back. People you don’t know.
Alex: There’s always the analogies of the person that has a flat tire take those advantages now more than ever stop and help somebody, make a difference in somebody’s life.
Charan: One of the things I’ve learned more and more as time has gone on, it’s just not about you. It’s just not about you. It’s like we’re a collective human family and we need to take care of each other. And this is the time to show true compassion. It was interesting, our mutual friend Scott was telling me that… there was a company I did a commercial for and when COVID hit and everything, my first gig back after acting started picking up again was with Scott.
Charan: He was telling me that commercial that we did for that company, they’re totally out of business. I’m like, “That’s unbelievable.” That, this company that was thriving and doing some really cool things, he’s like, “Yeah, unfortunately they had to shut their doors.” It times like this that you just realize like, “Yeah, I did not see 2020 coming. I did not see what was going to unfold.” But now is a time I really think that we can show what compassion feels and extend that love to each other because you just never know.
Charan: You also never know who’s struggling. Sometimes people look really positive and are happy, but it’s good that we have conversations like this so that we can say, “Oh wait, are you kind of going through some heavy times? Because I know I am and I’d love to hear your thoughts.” One of the things I’ve personally been doing to find joy is I love tennis. So I play tennis every day, but one of the reasons why I like to play tennis every day is it’s not just about playing tennis. It’s about connecting with my buddy and having conversations.
Charan: We don’t actually play a match, we just sit and talk a lot of times. I just about [crosstalk 00:45:51] wear shorts [crosstalk 00:45:52].
Alex: Wearing shorts or [crosstalk 00:45:53].
Charan: I’m like, Man, where are my KIZIKs at?” But yeah, we love to play tennis and we love to talk. During those conversations, I just realized like, wow, we are all kind of in this same thing together. So why struggle alone?
Alex: Yeah. I’m with you 100% and nobody’s going to figure out all the answers so that’s why we just have to have each other’s backs.
Alex McArthur’s Advice to His Younger Self
Charan: That’s exactly it. So last question, what would you do tell your younger self? The guy that’s just coming out of high school is familiar with the internet, has just barely started learning about WordPress. What would you tell that guy?
Alex: I have great parents, had a lot of opportunities to meet people all over the country from moving back and forth between the coasts, had a lot of great things going for me. But man, I stressed out a lot about a lot of stupid things at a young age.
Alex: My mom still makes fun of me to this day that, she’s like, “When you were a teenager, you were stressing about retirement.” Enjoy the journey, the same thing that a lot of smarter people than me have figured out much earlier is enjoy the journey, be present. I wish I had figured those things out earlier and I’m still figuring them out, but I’m in a much better place than I was when I was younger.
Charan: I think that’s a really good advice and it’s not cliché. I don’t think that that’s cliché at all, because the truth is life is experienced right now. The future hasn’t happened yet, so it’s all just in our head. It’s just an idea. And we have no idea what’s going to transpire. 2020 has proved that point. We have no idea what’s going to actually transpire. In the past are great lessons we can learn from, but right now is when we can experience life. So if you’re not centered on right now, then you’re not really living life. I’d be shocked if something else crazy didn’t happen.
Alex: And the rest of the 2020, normally, it’s easy to say, “Oh, nothing’s going to happen for the next couple of months.” I’d be shocked if [crosstalk 00:48:08] let’s be ready. Let’s have each other’s back.
Charan: We had murder hornets. We had natural disasters and locusts in India. I remember my grandparents are over there. They’re just saying they’re just destroying crops and stuff left and right. And I’m like, “It’s Biblical, man, it really is…” I keep thinking about it. I’m like, “No one could write this because if someone wrote this script for this year, they’d be like, “Oh, that’s not believable. No one can buy it.” And yet we’re going through it.
Alex: [crosstalk 00:48:38] totally exaggerated.
Charan: Totally exaggerated. I’m like, “We get it guys. All right. You guys want to make it the worst disaster movie of all time.” And yet here we are living it. But you know what? I think that the way we live it and the way we go through it is definitely together and that we can extend compassion and be more present. So yeah, I really appreciate the words that you’ve shared. Any other last words, Alex?
Alex: Oh man. I didn’t prepare anything. So off the cuff. Be good to each other. Look for the next “Bill and Ted’s,” be ready for that movie. “Be good to each other, be…” I forgot the line. What is it?
Charan: Oh man, I forgot.
Alex: “Be excellent to each other.”
Charan: “Be excellent.” Yeah. That’s beautiful. Awesome. Well, thank you, man. I really appreciate you taking the time and joining me on this podcast.
Alex: All right. Thank you.
Charan: All right. Take care.
Charan: Thanks so much for listening to Lemonade Stand podcast and we hope you enjoyed this episode. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you use to be alerted when we release new episodes. We’d also love to hear your feedback and reviews and if you or someone you know has an awesome Lemonade Stand Story, please reach out to us on social media and let us know. Thanks so much and have a great day.