Curt Cuscino, Tracy Brinkmann

Tracy Brinkmann  00:00

How do you avoid becoming a victim of the changing times? Stay tuned to find out. Okay, here’s the question. How are we dark horses? You know, the ones everyone is betting against the ones they don’t expect to win place or even show on the track. And they’ll even laugh on us when we talk about trying. How do we show the world our greatness and triumph? Come on? Well, that’s the question, and this podcast will give you the answers. This is the Dark Horse entrepreneur. My name is Tracy Brinkmann. What is that? What the hell is up my dark horse, friends and family. Welcome back to your weekly dose of powerfully differentiated entrepreneurship. Learning. That was a mouthful. I’m your Darkhorse host Tracy Brinkmann and you As you already know, that is infinitely more important you are driven entrepreneur, or one in the making. Either way, you’re here because you’re ready to start restart kickstart I just start loving out with some great marketing personal or business tips and results in order to build that beautiful business of yours into the Empire. It absolutely deserves to be in man got another big episode for you today. Today Kirk casino shares how and why you must evolve yourself and your business now, as well as how you are communicating that message to your tribe, and how often you should refresh that message plus galet you in a next week’s interview episode Guess who was and still is the guitarist for the Steve Miller ban, and it’s also stepped into the entrepreneurship ring. As per usual, the Dark Horse corrals are chock full of personal business and marketing g o LD spilling from every corner of the Dark Horse entrepreneur HQ. So let’s get to the starting gates and go hide in my dark horse friends and family. Today’s guest Curt casino now Kurt’s the founder of hype life brands, which is a progressive, brand development and marketing agency, helping B to C lifestyle startups and consumer focused brands, powerfully engaged in millennial generation. Kurt’s agency is now headquartered in Southern California in the coastal sound of Oceanside. Now, Kurt’s company specializes in building launching and growing b2c and DTC lifestyle brands and startups. And they’re finely tuned for that ever elusive millennial generation. He’s got some of the things going on. But I want to steal all the story. So let’s get right to it, shall we? Let’s get to the starting gates. And go already, Kurt, welcome to the Dark Horse entrepreneur, man. Thank you, I appreciate you having me on. And I’m glad to have you I know we were just chatting a little bit about where you live at and in Southern California and all the beauty then and surfing, be it sidewalk surfing or real surfing, that comes with it. But I do like I just said, I want to step back from the mic and let you tell your story. the good, the bad, the ugly, the road traveled, that so many entrepreneurs can can learn from and then we’ll just go from there.

Curt Cuscino  03:06

Sure, sure. Um, so my story is probably, I would say 20 to think 25 years or so in the making my journey. And it’s been a, it’s been a really exciting one. You know, not always easy, but always, you know, always interesting. And, you know, there’s definitely a sense of satisfaction from, you know, creating where I am today. Basically, my idea and my vision for what things could look like maybe or something like that. So, I am a I’m an only child born in the Midwest, born in Kansas City, Missouri, though chiefs, Royals, cetera. So a couple things checked off my bucket list there. And finally, um, so I grew up in the Midwest, I’m the only child and so I had a lot of free time on my hands, I think at a young age, and I come from a long line of engineers and so but also had to always have this really creative side to me, as well. So I’m definitely a left and right brain and whole brain thinker, systems thinker type of guy. And so from the earliest age I had like this, these entrepreneurial desires and so I started little businesses when I was little, like I was making crappy greeting cards on a you know, those old printers with like the butterfly things on the sides and designing them on a monochrome monitor and printing them out and selling them to like my grandma and my family and stuff like that. And then I started a mowing business later and got a bunch of clients in my neighborhood customers and I was doing that before I could drive I was probably 14, you know, doing flyering getting, you know, scheduling, getting the job done and getting paid. You know, that sort of thing. And then I was really heavy into music. So then I started an independent record label. And I kind of took that all the way into college. So initially started with my own bands. I was involved in an electronic act that I was involved in And basically started to evolve that and I thought, Man, you know, because I’m so into design and European design and the creative side of this and, and taking something that’s just like an idea and packaging it visually and just what it’s what it’s called how its presented to the world, I was one of those, those kids who like opened up the CD packaging and like ripped the whole thing apart, I would look under the jewel case for like a, an Easter egg, you know, and right. Even if the jewel case was black, I would still pull it out open. And sometimes I’d find something I love that stuff. And I and I still do to this day. Thankfully, vinyls having a resurgence, I’ve always been a vinyl collector. So I’ve got a

Tracy Brinkmann  05:39

bunch I was gonna make mention it, I see there are the back there behind you. Yeah,


you can’t see the collection, but it’s kind of scattered all over the office here. And anyways, so that sort of thing. I love that and just bringing that presentation around something that is almost like an intangible idea. So I took the I took the record label, and then went into college, I went to and graduated from University of Missouri, Columbia, Zoo tigers, if you’re into that sort of stuff, sports or whatever. So I did that. And then I kept evolving, even before I got the college thinking man, it would be so cool, like, just have a whole production outfit that, you know, since I’m so heavy on this, like tech and this creative side that could basically handle the design, the branding, the visuals, the marketing, all the production, you know, printing or whatever it is we’re doing for the artists, and then the artists could be on the label and do their thing. And then it’s like this self feeding system. So I did that for a while, it worked pretty well. But then at some point, I think in college, I started to realize what a and I still love music to this day, and one of our biggest and best clients is in the music space. But I learned that the record label thing was a bit of a money pit time sink, and the design and web and all these things I was getting into starting to get, you know, contracts, part time jobs on the college campus doing it. And it was just like evolving. So I grew up on that curve. I mean, I feel like To this day, I’m still on the curve, but like the very beginning of tact of the Internet of AOL geo cities. I my dad had compuserve and was like playing around with it. You know, he was a Tinker or he is a thinker. And he was always getting that sort of stuff. So I got to play with all that stuff in the earliest days. I mean, one summer, my dad threw a programming book at me and said, Why don’t you do this? You know, it was like basic or something like how to program and bass. Naturally, I was like, okay, whatever, I’d never seen a programming book. But that’s kind of got me into doing, eventually doing HTML, and then getting into building databases, and then doing more dynamic coding and, and eventually, you know, today I have a team of people that do all these things that I’ve managed, but there’s a lot of programming and coding and software engineering between the story and today that I’ve done, or I’ve managed. So, um, so anyways, I split the two off. And then in 2001, what is today called hype life brands was born. So I spun off, I took the record label, split it out, took the design side, basically launched it at the time, it was more of a design firm. But we did focus on web and branding and creative and tech. And then today at that time, there was no social media, things like that. Today, of course, that has evolved. And we have evolved. And so that journey has taken me from, you know, Kansas City, Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, then back to Kansas City, Missouri, where I started my agency and then eventually, about 10 years in, as I mentioned, before we started, I opened up a second office in Los Angeles, I moved to the west coast, eventually shut down the KC office, have a couple people from there that still work as a part of our team to this day. And then eventually I met my wife in Los Angeles had a little boy now I have to, and we moved down to Oceanside, California, which is for those who don’t know, within spitting distance of Los Angeles, and almost the same to San Diego, and here and, you know, coastal and we’re doing lots of exciting things. And you know, 2020 was an interesting year, but we moved a lot of mountains during COVID. So yeah,

Tracy Brinkmann  09:20

you never really journey you’re still you’re still around and still chatting with us with us. It was a bit of a smile on your face. So obviously you move some mountains. I agree that 2021 was less challenging for everyone. I think 2020 is still following a lot of that rhythm but people have bounced back for lack of a better for Yeah,


right. Yeah, they’re getting there. It’s like a you know, in our world. It’s there’s a whole rhythm To the year. Yeah, save that for another chat. But right now rhythm To the year that’s still not, it’s not locked in. It’s like the wheels are spinning. So I’m just I’m just waiting for the wheels to catch and then it’s like, we’re off. It’s like when you were in California too. So you know how our rules here. I mean, we Just came out of a, like no eating inside quarantine lockout type of thing. Probably like a month ago.

Tracy Brinkmann  10:07

Yeah, you guys are like home imprisonment.


So, yeah, I’m just yeah, I’m thankful. Everything we have set up here for some I never envisioned that happening. But, you know, we’re all designed to work remotely, so it wasn’t a big deal. You know, and I live five minutes from my office. So, you know, I was able to sneak in here because I was the only person here working so nice, you know.

Tracy Brinkmann  10:32

So yeah, in your story, what I one of the things I did hear is your you have that entrepreneurial gene, let’s call it because you were doing things like a number of the folks I’ve been lucky enough to have on the show that they’re like, Yeah, when I was a kid, I was doing this. I know, I was a hustler. When I was a kid. I was selling pencils in elementary school and drawings later on painting cars. You know, you mentioned your mowing business. And I made myself a little note here. I had to ask a question. You started off doing the mowing the yards. As you got more clients, did you start hiring other kids to mow the yards for you?


I didn’t go I did not go that far. Okay. You know, I’m always a quality control stickler so I can see, you know, I didn’t want to didn’t want to delegate at that point. You had a lot. You had

Tracy Brinkmann  11:21

lots of free time back then. Anyway, so yeah, good.


Yeah. So it’s funny cuz I had terrible I had terrible hay fever. And in this in Southern California, I really haven’t had almost any issues whatsoever. One of the reasons when I visited when I was younger that I was like, I’m coming moving in here someday. Now back in Kansas City. It’s terrible. So like, if I’m mowing the lawn, I mean, I would just have like a almost like a full body rash. And my dad would always say that I say like, Oh, you don’t have any allergies? You’re fine. Oh, no. Yeah, just suck. Thanks. Yeah, I remember. Yeah, I remember being like laid out on my bed after mowing sessions and stuff, just like waiting for this to go away. So it’s funny, but anyways, yeah, brutal. I finally moved

Tracy Brinkmann  12:02

on to us. So later on you, you kicked off that independent record label, right, which I think is cool as hell, right? I’m a big music guy, played guitar and dabbled with the drums in the teenage years was in the, you know, you’re in the garage band. And you know, I’m gonna be a rock star. But you went to different paths and took that to create another avenue for the bands that you were that you were interested in? Or a part of, I guess my question becomes what makes you think at that early age, I can start a record label.


I think it was really the, at that point, I already had two for me at the time pretty, you know, serious businesses. And so for me, this was just a natural progression, because I was already learning to play guitar I was doing, actually, I like to leave a little gem on different podcasts I’m on. So the first instrument I learned to play is your gym. Well, one of them. Okay. The first instrument I learned to play was actually the clarinet. And I was the first chair. And of course, I played the clarinet because my mom had a clarinet. And she played the clarinet, and of course, as a kid, and I’m seeing my children crawling through everything that you know, we own right, I would naturally was like, Hey, what’s this? And she said, Oh, it’s a clarinet. Here’s how it works. And I was like, I said, cool. I want to do that. Now, I had discovered my dad’s guitar guitars, which were tucked right elsewhere. Yeah. So I did that. And then I realized, you know, it would be cooler to play the guitar. And then I found my dad’s guitar, and I started to play it when I was little. I remember my fingers bled because I didn’t have calluses and his guitar strings are probably hadn’t been changed in 15 years site anyways, but I learned to play. I learned to play classically. So I that was a choice. I made all my friends didn’t like Junior High era, we’re taking rock lessons. And I always thought, well, that’s stupid. I mean, what so you can play a Nirvana riff? I don’t need to take a lesson. It’s a play Nirvana riff? What are you gonna do with that? I wanted to learn to write and create and actually play. So I remember that very vividly. The decision for me was, do I do classical? Or do I do jazz? The two hardest forms? And the only reason I chose classical is because you use finger picking. So I thought, what a weapon I’ll be I’ll have five picks instead of one. Yeah. So so that’s how I ended up doing that. And I worked with a great teacher. And he obviously had a rock background too. So he could we could like play around at the end of the lesson and stuff. Yeah, I started writing. I started writing and recording music and performing live and recording albums and demos and all this stuff. Like before I could drive a car.

Tracy Brinkmann  14:37

So that’s, that’s freaking awesome.


guitar. Yeah. And then I got an electronic music at a very early age, because I was already studying all this European design. And just like everything from Europe was always so much cooler than what we had in the US and might still be I’m not sure.

Tracy Brinkmann  14:55

Very still out on that one. Right, right.


So you know, and I’ve always kept the foot in music. So I don’t know if you caught anything on my bio, but I actually have a radio show to this day focused on electronic music, and bass music, which is kind of like some of my passions. And so I built that up for over three years. And now I have a whole bunch of affiliate stations that play in air, the show heard in 100 countries, that sort of thing. So I’m still in music, that is all music. In my in my spare time.

Tracy Brinkmann  15:24

I’m a huge music fan, obviously. Well, not obviously, behind me, you can’t see it is I have my little drum set. Over the years, I put down my guitar and found that I really resonated with the drums, no pun intended. But he and I really started picking it up more seriously in the past couple of years. And here’s the cool story, then we’ll get back to you, my wife and I, we love going to you know, garage sales, you know, these little events that were people, they all go to get get together. Well, there’s one here for the local animal shelter. And it happens once a year and they’ll get a big space and everyone donates things and all the money goes to help the animals. Awesome. So we’re at this one we’re walking through, and it’s like at a convention center down the road here. And we’re walking through and here sits this beautiful Alesis electronic drum set. And you know, I’ve quickly I get onto eBay, and I’m looking up the price of this thing. And it’s like a 12 $100 drum set. And I wanted, I didn’t want it 300 bucks for it. And I’m like, sold. Yeah. And I’m like, Okay, well now I have this beautiful piece of equipment. Let’s learn how to really use it. You know, I know he’s played, you know, rock band, and then you toy with the drums when you’re playing in the garage bands, but to really learn it. And it has been such a blast. There was a time ago recently I was I was mad. I was just pissed off from some events that happen. I came up here sat down on the drums for a little while, like an hour. And I walked out here and a big smile on my face. All the anger was gone. And like this is awesome.


Oh, yeah, it’s cheap therapy. Yeah, I can resonate with that the i’d sold it. I because it was replaceable. But yeah, I would do the same sometimes of my Marshall, half stack. And my TSL 1000. That was scream. So yeah, and I’m not Les Paul. I’m a Les Paul guy just sounder

Tracy Brinkmann  17:21

just right there.


I was playing the band. I was playing a band together guy that I played with in two different bands. And he’s a really great player and songwriter and singer. He was always a Fender guy. So I was like, okay, you do your fender thing. The tones together work really well. Yeah. So it was just nice to have that variety. And I was like, that’s awesome. I’m Gibson all day long. So nice. That’s awesome.

Tracy Brinkmann  17:44

So here’s a question. And as I was going through some of the the content you did share with me for your bio. There were there were two, there was a phrase in there and I want to ask you about it. You called your your company, which was hype brand, right? You call it hype, like hype, hype, hype life brands. All right, thank you for correcting me there. You called it a lifestyle startup. What does that mean?


Yes. So it’s not a lifestyle startup. But we build lifestyle startup. So we where we go large, we work a lot with startup founders, entrepreneurs, I think I have a natural chemistry with leaders, CEOs, entrepreneurs, founders, those sorts of people that I understand what they’re going through, and I’m still leading, I’m still leading a business too. And also, I feel like that entrepreneurial spirit is something that is baked into you born in you or something and you you carry that all through life, you know, you see things differently, you see better ways to do things, you see more efficient ways, you see the status quo, and you think, what’s over here with the piano, and I think that’s part of what always has driven me was like, I never wanted to be the guy that had the nine to five job where I have to answer to, you know, my manager, and, you know, hope that I get a raise for 3% in a year and, or a nice, you know, I that’s all it’s just not for me, you know, I’m sure and I I did it out of college for about a year and three quarters, but just as a stopgap to get my agency going, and I accomplish that. So yeah, I think I think that’s the big thing is really building those new we build new brands, lifestyle, focus, consumer focus type of brands, I don’t like to use the term consumer, I like to say humans, so not b2b, but the to C or B to A coining that term, or direct to human as sellers a lot of people doing that now independent brands so so we know how to guide them through that journey. And whether it’s a an existing company entity that’s spinning off a new brand, there’s or that’s just an entrepreneur with a big idea, enough capital, you know, to get us going so we can start working coming together and building a strategy and look and feel and go to market plan and handle it, we handle all the tech and and then we flip into marketing mode, when we’re ready to launch to market, then we start growing that thing, because that’s what it takes. Even if you do or do not want to raise capital, venture capital, whatever, like you have to show that customer attraction, you’re not going to get funding almost 99.8% of the time off of having a great idea, and a great vision and not $1 of skin in the game. You know, it just doesn’t work like that one of the biggest startup forces out there for sure. So, so we work with the few there. And then, you know, CEOs VPS of marketing at you know, more established companies that they want to spin off a new brand, or they also have, you know, challenging marketing and brand challenges, issues, things they want to tackle. Those are, those are the types of stuff we like the hard nuts to crack, so to speak. So what we

Tracy Brinkmann  20:55

like to do, he’s looking for challenges, you also want to stick around. So when he drops where to where to connect with them, you can reach out someone’s does, because you know someone’s listening going, Yeah, well, I haven’t you can try and crack because I tell you what, bring it on. Right. And one of the things you called out there that is that you target millennials right to let me rephrase to your you’re out there to try and gauge the millennial generation, right? Primarily, yes. Is there a particular reason why you’re targeting that in which I’m all about niching? down? Right, get down to your your expertise? Is there a particular reason why you targeted that particular group of folks? Yeah, there


is a couple of reasons. So as we evolved from 2001, to about 2000, the first half of the journey, I like to say, of high five brands, we were always naturally working on things that were very cool, in most cases, very cool, very progressive, we were attracting a lot of coastal client, even though we were base coastal clients, even though we were based in the Midwest and Kansas City at that time. And I think just the type of people that I bring onto the team and definitely myself, you know, everyone at their own level and at their own angle, or kind of like culture sponges. So pop culture in down underground culture above ground depends on you know, who and what their perspective is. But most of the key team, you know, senior team have some sort of vantage point on culture. So and then basically everybody was a, what is a millennial, almost everybody, Hunter accountant. And so and I’m, I’m an elder millennial, so anybody born in the 80s, and on up till, obviously, Gen Z starting point. So it was just kind of a natural evolution. And as I worked through repositioning the agency, kind of at the midpoint, I was working with a mentor, as well, that was really helpful in my entrepreneurial journey, like game changing. That was some of the stuff that was kind of brought up, I was like, what, you know, I just wanted to do work that we were self problems that I and my team are passionate about. And I think we’re passionate about, you know, disruption towards positive change as the kind of the idea, and who better to disrupt than the biggest people group on the planet right now. And a driving force in literally every category, which is was seven years ago, and even more, so every year that goes by his millennial generation, you know, 80 plus million strong. So that’s where we wanted, I wanted to focus our work. And I know that brands big and small, and startups and, you know, companies that are 1000s, and 1000s of employees have called us to discuss this issue, because they don’t know how to do it, because it’s very hard, because, you know, Millennials are so much different. And a lot of the old tricks of the old guard don’t work, you know, in the from the old world that worked on baby boomers, or Gen X doesn’t work on millennials, because they’ve grown up on that trajectory I talked about just like I have, at some point they can in some of them, literally born with a phone in their hand. Others of them the older side, closer to Gen X. like myself, we didn’t get born with a phone or a hand. But there was kind of computers around. Yeah, very early and what they are today and what they were then is like mind blowing. So do

Tracy Brinkmann  24:26

you now listen to the Dark Horse entrepreneur podcast.


So yeah, that’s, that’s how we landed on that. And we’ve just always dug into that specialization of helping any size brand or a startup, you know, position themselves to be able to harness that generation in an authentic way That’s powerful. And as long as you know, enables them to disrupt in the way that they want to or connect in the way

Tracy Brinkmann  24:51

they want to, because we know how that is to be done. Nice. is funny as as you listen to you Your answers like Well, yeah, obviously baby boomers are different than millennials. But so often I see you’ve probably see it way more than I do, folks out there marketing to a millennial, the way they would to a baby boomer or even older, you know, like, you know, that’s not going to work, right? They don’t respond to that. It’s just, it’s a different group it I use a, I usually when I’m chatting with someone, I’ll use the example of my two daughters. So I have a daughter who was, was born in 1990. And I have a daughter who was born in 1995. And those two alone, it’s only five years difference, ladies, gentlemen, but they are so night and day different. And not just their personalities, but their buying habits and their shopping patterns in their the way they use their phone or don’t use their phone. Completely different because they were in a different era of new tech and everything. The younger run it all the time, right? Yeah. Everything Right, right. Do I know? Do I know? Probably doesn’t probably doesn’t call you or answer the phone call? In 10 seconds, right? Yeah. Yeah, I pick up the phone and call his Dad, why don’t you just text me? Yeah, cuz I’m not a millennial. That’s why. Exactly, exactly. So if for any of the folks any my dark horse entrepreneurs that are listening, and they’re sitting there thinking, Hmm, I probably do need to shift my marketing or even just my messaging, right? Maybe it’s just a marketing thing from the baby boomer style or pre baby boomer style, to a more millennial feel, what kind of couple of tips could you drop for them?


Um, I would take a step back and really think about, you know, and I not to be self serving, but, you know, you really gotta have an outside set of eyes. It’s just a conversation, you know, we don’t I have initial conversations with people and discovery sessions, right? You know, it’s about is it? Is it gonna make sense long term for you and for us to be working together? Initially, I can look at something and say, Well, here’s what I see, based on the questions you’re asking yourself. So one of those things, I think, would be just kind of taking a step back and thinking with what I know not not me, but the you the listener, right with what I know about these millennials. That did I did that I have this brand developed, whether it was I did it myself, because I’m a bootstrapping, entrepreneur, or I’m at some big company, err, we’re, you know, small, midsize, big, large company. And this was just born a long time ago, because right, everything has to evolve. So it’s not to say what you did isn’t positioned, well, you know, or wasn’t positioned, well, then. But things do change, and things have to evolve. And so some of these very large corporations that you would recognize all of them that have at least called us to discuss these issues are going Holy crap, you know, Millennials are going to be taking over XYZ thing, and that’s gonna affect this part of our business. And we got to figure out how to evolve and how to reposition our brand. You know, so it’s not just about branding, your colors, and what is your mark, you know, your logo look like and right, even your website, those are all important. But there’s, we look at brand as the start, which is the biggest sort of umbrella. And that’s both tangible and intangible. And it’s kind of like I dumb it down to say, it’s what people say about your company, or your offering, when you’re not in the room? How would they describe it? Sure, if they see it, and then they go, yeah, so tell me about that. This is what they say what comes out of their mouth is really what your brand is kind of how it’s perceived. Sure. So there’s a lot of things that you can do, but I would start there. And I would kind of revisit the idea of starting with y, which is a big pillar of our brand development philosophy and has been for over a decade. Of course, you’re probably familiar with Simon Sinek. We didn’t come up with the idea, but we’re kind of heading in that direction. And then I actually my mentor introduced me to that book and one of our very first session, then I just, I fell in love with it, because I was like, This is exactly this makes complete and total sense to me. Sure. And, and it really is the difference between I think, what powerful differentiated brands put out there in the world, and how they evolve and once that just stay in the same place. And 2020 has kind of sped that up. So we can now see all these brands that are going by the wayside or going bankrupt, none of them are many of them did not evolve at all, you know, like you could look at him now go back 10 years and it’s the same day. Same. Yeah, you know, and I think that’s one of the big keys. You know, you have to evolve. It’s natural, the website that you’ve made or hired a company to make 10 years ago is irrelevant. And it’s time to bring it up to speed. And there’s lots of reasons, both technical and marketing. And brand wise, you know that you can’t keep milking that thing. Really, it should be revamped at least every two or three years.


And then where I think another thing to think about if you’re at that place is better, you know, trying to define what your why is, and then start to rethink how you’re communicating that why. And we would boil that down as the core of your messaging, you know, not not what you do. But But why, you know, we’re like, Hi, fi friends, we’re dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and leaders create powerful lifestyle style startups and new brands that are tuned for the Millennial Generation Y millennials, because they are already having that huge impact on the world. And they’re going to be at a continuously larger and larger part of our shared story. And I would like to see in my team, I believe we’d like to see it better tomorrow, as we all and so having an impact there gives us something that’s much more interesting, then a lot of the services and things that we do offer as a part of getting there. But you can just go to our website and read the bullet point version of under our services at high France calm, but that’s more what and how, right and starting with Why is what brands like Nike and Apple have done always done really, really, really well. And empowering people. And you know, just think of Nikes tagline. A what tagline would be, we make athletic shoes. Their tagline is about is a command to you got to go and just do it do it doesn’t matter what it is. Yeah, doesn’t even have to be sports. Like I still said, Just do it.

Tracy Brinkmann  31:48

And then they’re not even saying buy my shoes. They’re just saying just do it. Yeah. That’s cool, too.


But you know, go do it. Right. Right. So I hope that that summarize as well. But definitely looking at your why. And you can go watch the Simon Sinek did a TED talk. I always recommend people go watch, it’s on YouTube. It basically summarizes the whole book in 17 minutes, if you don’t have time to read the book, just go while you’re eating your morning, cereal or whatever avocado to in your,

Tracy Brinkmann  32:17

you know, in your morning, walk on the treadmill, whatever.


Yeah, it’s a great watch. And it’ll really get you thinking about starting with y is about making an emotional connection with people. And I think that that’s where, you know, you’re able to take a brand and how you do marketing and what things you put out in the world as much as possible. That’s how you can make it you know, Tripoli, Tripoli, more powerful than, you know, just doing the same old thing that maybe worked when you were marketing a message, whether it’s your company now or your experience was marketing to baby boomers and, you know, even Gen X is there’s a lot of differences there. So

Tracy Brinkmann  32:56

it’s funny you say it like that. And I don’t mean funny Haha, I think it’s kind of cool. Funny, is that, as you were, you know, kind of dropping that knowledge. And then when you got to your brand, right, I pipe brands, and you didn’t you just it was just rolling off your tongue. The y was like, Okay, I felt that, right. It’s like you, you You’re, you’re totally vibing with what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. So the energy just kind of comes out to you as a result of that. And I think brands and and businesses, right? may not call yourself a bring it kind of are that they’re able to do that where they can just roll it right off their tongue in make somebody feel Oh, I get it. I don’t need that service, man. But I totally get it right. are on the right path. Does that make sense? Yeah, definitely. Alright, so one thing i want i want to loop back to is you, you pause to the middle of your explanation. You’ve mentioned it twice now that having a mentor was game changing? So do I want to dig a little deeper on that? So you’re cruising along, then you decide to get a mentor? Or someone says Do you need a coach? Yeah, I don’t know. I guess it’s a kind of a two part thing. What what caused you to go get a mentor or a coach? And then why was it so? earth shattering game changing?


Yeah, that’s a great question. So I think for, you know, a lot of entrepreneurs or people who just want to think about what’s the next 10 years of my life gonna look like my mentors are a great resource and asset. So for me the way that it happened, and again, it’s kind of a part of my journey. I feel like so I have been following. I kind of been following this guy named Pele top. He was in LA and he ran an agency and he was doing work in the music industry. And then back in the early the first half of my agency’s history, I had a, you know, I’ve been doing I was doing music before and then I and then later my team that I started out on we were doing album covers and you know, shooting photoshoots and doing so That like creative work, and then building websites and you know, eventually doing different kinds of marketing and advertising. So it was just a big passion of mine. But I saw from a business standpoint, I thought, you know, getting into like the major label world, I kept kind of poking in there. And I knew people and a little bit because I was in the Midwest at that time, I was a little bit more insulated, but I was watching pay leg and his a his agency, his firm, was doing pretty, really amazing, like design work specifically for that industry. So later on, I was just kind of following him. And then I went to a conference, I think it might have been the how magazine how business conference? Okay, might have been the first one. So he was doing a roundtable. So I had a chance to get on that roundtable because I just wanted to like, soak up everything this guy had to say, Yeah, um, and it was a great, phenomenal Roundtable, then after natural, I always go, you know, try to chat with somebody if I’m curious about what they said. And we just struck up a conversation and had a lot of just the chatter. Everything was great, you know, so I was like, yeah, let’s keep in touch. And that it? And I got to kind of ask him my million dollar question of, you know, yeah, but is it basically a predatory? Not a place to be focusing agency energy on getting into for this in this reason? I think I already know, and you said something to the effect of, you’re absolutely right. Just don’t, you know, like, right, and find a better way. He said, we’re, we’re moving into the nonprofit space. It’s been great. I’ve gotten to do what I wanted to do, you know, he did, they did work for the Grammys at one point is like, I’ve done it, and I’m, I’m ready to move on. Like, it’s not, it’s not worth your trouble. And so I took that to heart. And then I went to another conference. And I think I had another chance to be in some sort of round table or something with him. And we had just kept in touch. And then later after that, he hit I we traded emails and stuff. And he checked out what we were doing, I checked out stuff he’d send me or traded music sometimes. And then at some point, he said, he emailed me and said, he had basically sold his agency to has given it to his employees, and that he was done. And he was going to start working alongside creative and marketing agency leaders. And helping that that’s what he wanted to do for the next period of his his life, you know, sure, and help them so he’s, he got, you know, sent me an email said, hey, I’ve got a slot open. I didn’t know if you something you’d be interested in. And I said, you know, absolutely, you know, and I was at this place, trying to figure out how to evolve my own agency, my own business and kind of like, I felt like we needed to make a big turn. We’re working on a rebranding big effort. And I just was trying to find that, that groove with all these pieces, I kind of I was like, right in the middle of all these pieces just swirling around me, right. And he just helped me bring order to that without actually telling me to do anything. It was funny. He’s like, my, he was my, my sensei. My Mr. Miyagi. That’s awesome. You know, everything I’d asked like, should I do this? Or should I do that? He would always answer it with like a question that would lead me to the answer on my own, which is, you know, it’s like your marketing Yoda. Yeah, exactly. And so I got to work with him and do a mastermind group with a bunch of other agency owners and friend, none now friends of mine, over half of them actually have transitioned out of running an agency. So I think there’s two of us left still doing that. But you know, some of these people, I’m still going, I’m still in touch with to this day. So that’s phenomenal. Cool. Part of the that’s a cool story

Tracy Brinkmann  38:43

of how that came to be your mentor. Right? It’s just kind of happened over time when it was a party. Yeah. And then party, your journey. They just happened to mess together. You’re like, Oh, yeah, this is a perfect time. And just think if you hadn’t gone to that Roundtable, yeah, it probably would have never happened. It just been some guy that I thought there’d been some guy that you’ve been watching, right. And you probably wouldn’t, and sadly, during all that chaos, it would have taken you longer, probably you I think you still would have got to where you are, but it just you would have taken a different road.


Right. Right. Exactly. Yeah, a lot more. Probably a lot more pain and time burn and maybe Miss mistakes. But, you know, that’s, that’s something we try to bring to it with our clients is like, Look, you know, we can save you all of that pain and suffering. Because we know the way you know, and I yeah, it was it was definitely a invaluable part of my journey. And I even say, honestly, if I had never connected with him in that way, I probably wouldn’t be in Southern California. I wouldn’t have expanded my business out to Los Angeles and moved out there. Because there was a lot of forces kind of against that, you know, friend most My friends stay where we grew up, you know, in Kansas City. And so it was like a big deal. Like, I went to LA, and my best friend moves to Brooklyn, and it’s still there to this day after high school. We’re like, I don’t want to say we’re the only two. But we’re the very small handful from my class that dispersed and went for bigger thing. So nice. Nice. That’s cool, awesome story. Okay, so I appreciate your time. And I want to be mindful of it here.

Tracy Brinkmann  40:28

I want to ask an entrepreneurial question. Alright. So we have we have our folks out there starting restarting kick starting their business, some of them are already cashing checks. And, you know, they’re just listening to folks like you drop in knowledge, what tip would you want to give them and it can be a tip in any arena of entrepreneurship, that you know, that you’ve learned through your entrepreneurial Road Rash, do this, but don’t forget, or, or anything, and just leave it wide open for you.


Okay, um, I think one good one that I feel like comes up all the time. For me, it’s just you have to be a constant student. Expect it really, if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re hopefully hearing me say that going? Well. Yeah. Obviously, but I think it’s something I put out there to just encourage you, because, you know, the world of brand and marketing and advertising and all these things is constantly changing, you know, we call the brand and marketing universe for a reason. Because basically, it’s constantly expanding, like, you know, and so I think you have to really do your best to pay attention. I mean, I read stuff, I read stuff, I think I already know, just to make sure that there’s something I’m not missing in there, right, so that we can be even more valuable to our clients then help them because I know they don’t all have time to do that, even if they are an entrepreneur or startup founder. And so just helping them navigate that, you know, I want to make sure that, you know, I, at the most here have as much knowledge as I can from studying that sort of stuff. So I think same thing. I mean, medium comm is a treasure trove of fantastic information. I feel like it’s more raw and real than the crap people put on like LinkedIn bout I love them then but medium.com you get more of the like, here’s how I failed, you know, here’s the $10 million failure, or here’s how I failed to raise venture capital or here’s why my startup failed, like those stories of corner turning and it’s not all failure. There’s lots of great success too. But I think really watching for those corner turns to me and to anybody who’s a savvy business or entrepreneur person is like some of the most interesting things, you know, like to learn like, yeah, you raised you know, three rounds. That’s you probably knew somebody and that might transpire, but like, where, like, what’s that thing? Like? What’s that wave? You asked me about surfing? Before we started? Which, by the way, I’m planning on getting into bodyboarding It’s my way in. I die like almost drowned when I was five on a family vacation. It’s I have like a very godly fear of the ocean. Yes, but I respect it. And I it gives me like grounding, so but I want my you know, I want to learn so I’m gonna that’s my next. That’s a bucket list. I

Tracy Brinkmann  43:23

can I can tell you that when you get off of a surfboard. It’s a lot easier than ditching off a skateboard. Yeah,


put that out there.


I’ve heard I have heard Yes. Yeah. So I think I think being that student I think is really important. And, and a student also looks for leaders. And so I just would encourage anybody, you know, even if you’re like, I don’t even get what you guys do, or I get what you do. And I can’t afford a branding or marketing agency. Even if you are first start whatever, like just reach out and email me you can chat with us on the site, you most likely will connect with me directly because that’s something special that I do that I just kind of like to do. So get a question about any of this stuff. Like ask ask a leader as somebody you respect whether that’s me or you know, anybody but ask those questions, you know, no is free. That’s a great quote. Right? Think about it. No is free or I’m busy, is free. But at least you ask and I’ve asked people that I respect I’ve been to sessions with like music composers for film that I really respect like I was at a I got to talk with like Clint min Zell, which I believe is uh, he always works with Darren Aronofsky saw him speak and I just like, found him at the end and I got a question in there nice, like in the hallway, just like I did with pay leg. You know, that led to a conversation that lead to you know, something more so like, those types of things. If you can get a chance to get that jewel or that diamond of knowledge or you never know where it could lead you know, and it’s coming Like, I feel like entrepreneurship and running a business is also moreso entrepreneurship, it’s like kind of like a treasure hunt, you know, like, got to get to the next thing and you don’t really necessarily know what that is until you get there. And then you get that clue. And then you get to the next thing and you know, you’re kind of working your way on a path. Yeah. But there’s a lot to find along the way. So and that’s also I think we find evolution in that process of continuing to go,

Tracy Brinkmann  45:26

you know, 100% Alright, so if folks want help with their treasure hunt, and they want to reach out to you, and then want to reach out to Kurt and his team, overhype life brands, where are we going to send them to


a you can do a few things number one, my direct email is Kurt cu r t, at hype life brands calm which is h YPE. l i f e brands calm you can also visit our website at hype life brands.com of course. And you can also find me on LinkedIn you can connect with me there and then you feel free to message me there as well. Just type in like curtsy RT hype life You should find me. Like I mentioned earlier, if you chat with us on the website, more than likely I will actually be the one that will answer that because I like to connect directly and you know, if there’s a question I try to answer it just, you know, no, no intentions, but just like, here’s how we do it or Hey, maybe we should have a conversation on the phone, you know, cuz we can get a lot done in an hour and kind of explore this and you know, I can tell you how we would work with you and or what we how we might solve this problem of starting a new business or addressing some of the challenges in your current one from a marketing and brand advertising, whatever standpoint So, so those are big places, you know, LinkedIn, hi fi friends comm or just email me direct Kurt at hiplife brands.com.

Tracy Brinkmann  46:53

We’ll be sure to get those links in the show notes. So folks could just click right over and check out Kurt and all his goodness. Any final words? Ah, keep charging ahead. It’s a new year. I can.


I know 2020 has while be thankful, be thankful that you know you’re still standing and you’re hopefully you’re healthy and doing well. And hopefully we never go through it again. But keep those eyes looking forward. And you know, don’t stop pursuing your passions at all ever.

Tracy Brinkmann  47:23

Keep going for it, y’all. I’m Kurt, thanks so much for your time and I definitely appreciate it. Thank you Tracy. Alrighty, there you have it my dark horse friends and family Curt casino dropping millennial, Southern California bombs on us what ideas resonated with you, I got a few I want to share with you thought number one, start and start now. Kurt shared how he started early in his entrepreneurial journey, selling cars that he made on the computer to his friends and family. Later he started a mowing business and even started an independent record company. I believe that alone gave him a leg up. But why? Well, because it gave him the experience with the starts and stops that come with the journey and entrepreneurship, and the mindset and the self management that comes with all of that something I think so many neglect to consider when they step into the entrepreneurial ring. So Wednesday, I want to dive a bit more into this episode tool five, how to avoid the starting the stopping of your business with some ideas and tactics to help you with this entrepreneurial mindset. Tackling and shift thought number two, find your passion. You see if you remember after Kurt started his independent record label, he started to see his passion for the creative and the branding side of the business. He remembered always being that kid tearing apart the CD jewel case and break it down, you know investigating the packaging and finding the gems inside. He began fostering his passion for bringing a unique and creative presentation to what could be called an intangible idea. So what are your passions? What drives you? What pushes you What keeps you curious and moving towards everything you desire? Do you even know what that is? Or that it exists? So there are many questions here and on Friday, I want to hit you with Episode 206 questions to ask to find your passion, in life. And in business. Thought number three, dump the money pit. Everything has to evolve. We’ve all heard the lesson of focusing on the revenue generating tasks. I think Kurt took this up a level when he found that the record level portion of his business was becoming a bit of a money pit. So like I mentioned last week in Episode 203 lessons every entrepreneur entrepreneur must learn he adapted we have to adapt, he adapted and spun off the creative revenue positive piece of his business and thus, hype life brands was born. What are you stuck in? Right? What money pit? Are you stuck in right now? Where do you need to evolve? Go back and check out Episode 203. And, and see if maybe it’s inside one of those lessons that you as an entrepreneur must learn thought number four, no, not just who you’re targeting. But why Kurt knows not only what key in his business are targeting, which is millennials, but he knows why they’re targeting him. See, it’s one thing to be targeting a given group of people for your product or service just because you know, they’ll buy it. But if you can dig a level deeper, and know why you’re targeting, then my friend, you can dig in and differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack, you can break out in lead the pack you can come in when placed your show, go past just where they live, and what their ages etc. Dig into the next level, where their values, their hobbies, their buying added to their buying habits, their attitudes on relevant topics, their motivators. And of course, you’re going to want to know the competition. What economic shifts are they seeing that are relevant to you, and your product and your service? Now, with all these bits of information, you can come up with these unique hooks, you can come up with a number of folks that get their attention, you can come at them with a fresh and relevant new angles that the competition isn’t even thinking of, but your potential customer? Yeah, they certainly are. Alright, my dark horse, friends and family. What inspiring tips and thoughts resonated with you? Think about it for a quick second. Yeah, whatever they were, take some time today and write them down, then get out there and put them in action. Get out there, run your race, get your results. And then come Let me hear about them. You can email me at Tracy at Dark Horse schooling, share the tips or ideas that you came away with how you put them in action, and what results you gain from them. I probably even bring you on the show so you can share your story. And we even play your business with you at the same time. Now, next week’s interview episode guests is Kenny Lee Lewis. Now many of you may know him as the bass guitarist, producer and songwriter. He’s been with the Steve Miller band since 1982, where he wrote such classics as abracadabra fly like an eagle, jet airliner and so many more. He’s also an author, and he stepped into the entrepreneurial business with his own online business. Now, I don’t want you to miss this chat. You’re not gonna want to miss miss this chat with this American icon. Now I know you want to keep getting all these valuable tips in the awesome stories from the amazing guests. I’m lucky enough to bring on this podcast. So please, I know you’re getting value, right? Please go on down there. Hit that subscribe button while you’re there. Yeah, go ahead. Leave us a five star rating, you know, drop in a few kind words in the reviews. Hey, ask a question. I read every one of these reviews, I definitely will make sure that answer those questions on future episodes, and maybe even some suggestions for who you’d like to have appear on the show. And of course, do not keep all this entrepreneurial, g o LD all to yourself. Share the podcast with entrepreneurs and business owners that you know will get value from it. And with that, I’m gonna leave you as I always do, think successfully and take action. Thank you for listening to the Dark Horse entrepreneur podcast. Thanks for tuning in. Check us out at www dot Dark Horse schooling.com All right. My name is Tracy Brinkmann.

EP 204 Curt Cuscino In Entrepreneurship Everything Has To Evolve
How Do You Avoid Becoming A Victim Of The Changing Times?

  • Start And Start Now – Curt shared how he started early in his entrepreneurial journey selling cards he made on the computer to friends and family. Later he started a mowing business and even started an independent record label. I believe that alone gave him a leg up.  Why? Because it gave him the experience with the starts and stops that come with the journey in entrepreneurship and all the mindset and self management that comes with it.  Something I think so many neglect to consider when they step into the entrepreneurial ring.  Wed I will dive a bit more into this in EP 205 How To Avoid The Starting And Stopping Of Your Business with some ideas and tactics to help with this entrepreneurial mindset shift.
  • Find Your Passion – After Curt started his independent record label, he started to see his passion for the creative and branding side of the business.  He remembered always being that kid tearing apart the jew case to break down the packaging and find the gems. I began fostering his passion for bringing a unique and creative presentation to what could be called an intangible idea.  What are your passions?  What drives you, pushes you, keeps you curious and moving towards that which you desire?  Do you even know what that is or that it exists? So many questions here so on Friday i want to  hit you with EP 206 Questions To Ask To Find Your Passion In Life And Business
  • Dump The Money Pit Everything Has to Evolve – We have all heard the lesson of focusing on the revenue generating tasks.  Curt took that to a level when he found that the record label portion of the business was becoming a bit of a money pit.  So like I mentioned last week in EP 203 Lessons Every Entrepreneur Must Learn, he adapted and spun off the creative revenue positive piece of the business and thus HypeLife Brands was born.
  • Know Not Just Who You’re Targeting But Why – Curt knows not only that he and his company are targeting Millennials but he knows why he is targeting them.  It is one thing to be targeting a given group of people for your product or service.  But if you can dig a level deeper and know WHY you are targeting them… then my friend you can really dig in and differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack.  Go past where they live, and their age etc; dig into the next level! What are their values, their hobbies, their buying habits, attitudes on relevant topics, their motivators and of course the competition.  What economic shifts are they seeing that are relevant to you and your product and your service? NOW you can come up with any number of hooks that get their attention.  You can come at them with relevant fresh new angles that the competition is not even thinking of.. But your potential customer certainly is.

Curt Cuscino’s links






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