SBJ: What has been key to your recent growth?
Aaron Matkowski: It was the perfect storm. The industry I got into when I first started was just fledgling. It’s a specialty outdoor product segment that wasn’t really a thing, and it kind of became a thing right when I got into it. We were just on the magic carpet of upward trajectory. The whole industry has grown immensely. The other thing was COVID. I had a huge bump from COVID, because everyone wanted to camp out of their car.
SBJ: Speaking of COVID-19, it seems to have made people take stock of their lives and what’s important. Travel and vacations are a part of that. Do you foresee that continuing?
Matkowski: It seems like I get more and more people who are wanting to get out. My clients are mostly middle age, mostly men, but women, too, who have disposable income. Mine are guys who build four-wheel-drives and they go camping all the time.
SBJ: Is your fast growth sustainable?
Matkowski: Yes. I think the industry’s going to plane off, even though things I’ve read [say] that it’s going to keep growing for a while. I’m making changes to sustain my growth that aren’t really industry related. I’m starting to do more after-market car accessories, like roof racks. I’m a Kuat [Racks] dealer. I’ve been in this industry long enough to see things. All the big companies now are taking notice. Now, major companies are buying [smaller industry businesses]. They’re getting sucked up into it. We’re seeing this all over the place. I think that’s going to be a trend that happens.
SBJ: Do you foresee yourself remaining independent or getting involved in a merger or acquisition?
Matkowski: I don’t know. I just started this for fun. It was a side hustle. I had a website, and the website blew up.
SBJ: As this industry has exploded, what have been your issues when it comes to managing growth?
Matkowski: Funding has been probably the top issue, and I’ve figured that out. One of the big things that COVID brought is you couldn’t get anything. But if you could get it or you figured out what people were going to buy and you bought a lot of it, you’d be the only one who had it. I used to just order things as I needed it. Now, I have a lot of inventory because if you had it, then you would be the only one who had it.
SBJ: In your industry, is there such a thing as growing too fast?
Matkowski: For me, no. Last year, we got to a point where I had to hire someone else because it got to too much of a burden to ship everything out. We’re still growing, but it’s planed off to where it’s manageable.
SBJ: Have your goals changed as business has taken off?
Matkowski: My business goals are always changing. I always have new ideas. My goal is to keep growing and have a sustainable business that can support me and my family and everyone who works for me. I’m always looking for diversity in the products I carry. Since it’s a new, niche market, it’s wide open for innovation. I’ve been able to find products that were outside the industry and bring them in for people to use in the industry.
SBJ: What’s the best business advice you’ve received?
Matkowski: I’ve had a lot of people mentor me through this. The best is just: Be you.
Once a week this time of year, roughly 150 men trade business suits and work attire for baseball uniforms – complete from caps to cleats – for the Grip N Rip Baseball league.