Heart Of A Champion
Mentors meant everything to Matt Kaspari; now, he strives to empower the next generation.
Most college students barely manage their classwork between fraternity parties, Starbucks runs and afternoon naps. Matt Kaspari, owner of Kaspo Inc. (UPIC: Kaspo705) in Denver, Colorado, was no ordinary college student. Between classes, two part-time jobs and a lot of community volunteering, Kaspari still had energy to spare. So he decided to start his own promotional marketing company. He was 20. Thirteen years later, the company has four employees and a steady stable of clients.
That’s pretty impressive, but Kaspari says none of his success would have been possible without the influence of his uncle and mentor, Shad Thayer, owner of Awards USA, where Kaspari worked part-time in sales and manufacturing while growing up and during his college years.
Since his uncle’s company focused more on the recognition side of the business and sold few promotional products, Kaspari was confused one day at work when he came across a Broncos-branded sunglass clip that a customer had ordered.
“I didn’t even know what it was. My uncle told me that people hang it on their visor to hold their sunglasses. I’m thinking, ‘Okay—people actually buy these?’ I asked, ‘How many did they buy?’ he said, ‘Five thousand.’ I did a little bit of math and thought, ‘Why don’t I sell these?’
Kaspari went home and wrote a plan about how his uncle’s business could expand more into the promotional products area. “My brain was going so fast. I explained to my uncle how it was all going to work. And he just looked at me and said, ‘Sounds like you’re starting your own company.’”
Reflecting on his uncle’s role as a mentor in his life, Kaspari says, “[That advice] was so amazing of him—like pushing a little bird out of its nest. What a great person. Over the years, I’ve learned so much from him.”
Now, Kaspari is able to share advice that he’s learned along the way by being a mentor himself. Through The Challenge Foundation, he was matched with Noah Jones, a bright 11-year-old from inner city Denver. The two bonded over many experiences during the past seven years and now Noah is a freshman in college. “I was a 25-year-old guy with no kid experience. Now I have a new best friend. We’re like brothers,” Kaspari says.
Through mentoring, Kaspari says he has gained more than he has given. “I learned patience. I’m very Type A. I just want to come in and solve problems. And sometimes you just have to slow down and listen. I’m a talker. But there’s a reason you’ve got two ears and one mouth. You’re supposed to listen more. Especially me. And that’s made me a better boss and a better leader.”
Where do you live, and who are your family members?
I live in Colorado with my girlfriend, Ashleigh Sawa, and our dog Brahma, a boxer. My brother, sister, Mom and Dad all live in Colorado, as well as 28 of my 32 cousins. We have a big family and we love to hang out.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I love traveling and being active, mostly outdoors, as well as volunteering in the community. My favorite activities are hiking, biking, running, snowboarding, exploring, racquet ball and tennis.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
We are a small company and the people I work with are some of my best friends, so that is very special. I enjoy that we are only bound by our own creativity and that is exciting. Being creative for our clients as well as being creative for our team—I really enjoy exercising that passion of mine at work.
What was your first job, and what lessons did you learn?
I worked for my uncle, Shad Thayer, at Awards USA from the ages of 12 to 20, when I started my company. I learned so many lessons about life and entrepreneurship it would be hard to sum up. My uncle has been my mentor for a very long time. Although I’ve had many mentors, he has been there the most to bounce ideas off, get advice from and be a friend. One of my favorite things he taught me was to be unique in your business. When you are unique, you can charge accordingly.
What motivates you in business and in life?
I love learning every day. Each day brings so many possibilities. Empowering people around me has motivated me as a person since I was 19 years old. My business ambitions help support my life ambitions, so I see them working in parallel.
What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
I am working on it. I feel lucky that so many people have opened up and taught me what they knew about building and running a successful business.
What advice would you give to an industry newcomer?
Have fun. Be creative. I think the best way to be successful in this industry is to sell promotional products as an advertising tool that solves your client’s objectives. And find a mentor. If you need help finding a mentor or would like to be a mentor, please go to www.promokitchen.org and fill out the mentor/mentee application.