We had the good fortune of connecting with Stephan Aarstol and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Stephan, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I have always wanted to guide what I do on a day to day basis, and more importantly what contribution I can make in the world. I feel my living circumstances are pretty fortunate so I’m in a position to make an impact, not just get by. And I also feel that business, strategy, and marketing are sort of a natural talents I possess, so it would be a waste not to use them. In my mind, the best way to have an impact on the world is thru creating a business that is designed to improve the lives of others. You add value, and you get compensated for adding that value. Then you can reinvest into adding more value, all while doing what you like and earning a pretty good living for yourself and your family. It’s a good life.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I’m an internet entrepreneur and it’s all pretty native to me just because of good timing. I’ve just kind of been in the right place at the right time. I graduated college above Seattle (home of Microsoft) in 1996 right about the time Amazon was launched there. My older brother was finishing up his PhD from Stanford at the time. A few years later, I got my MBA in San Diego in 1999 right about the time Google was founded. My first job was for an Internet Portal start-up in radiology and we built that, in part, off PPC advertising for a penny a click using GoTo.com years before Google Adwords even existed. I started my first business called BuyPokerChips.com as a side hustle in 2003, and then quit my day job in 2004 to pursue it full time right about the same time FaceBook was founded. As I had no money, I was crowdfunding the rollout of new poker chip lines in discussion groups 2-3 years before Kickstarter even existed. In 2010, the same year that dtc pioneer Warby Parker was founded, I had also started a direct to consumer business focusing on the stand up paddle board market. In 2011, before I even knew it existed, I was invited to pitch on ABC’s Shark Tank and ended up being one of Mark Cuban’s first investments, and would later end up being one of his best investments in the history of the show. While I had been selling poker chips and accessories on Amazon as far back as 2008, I really jumped into their marketplace as it took off in about 2013. We scaled up quickly there and became a sort of poster child of selling on Amazon. In 2015, we were the #1 brand worldwide (out of 2M brands selling in the Amazon marketplace) signed up for Amazon Exclusive program. A year later we would get a shoutout personally from Jeff Bezo’s in his annual letter to stockholders. All of this would contributed to us being named the #1 fastest growing private company in San Diego in 2014, and being ranked #239 on the 2015 INC 500 list of America’s fastest growing companies. Today, we’ve largely jettisoned from Amazon to pursue a more pure direct to consumer strategy with Tower Paddle Boards and our newly launched eBike company Tower Electric Bikes. By splitting our costs across two large dtc brands, we have an even leaner operation that can pass on more value and savings to consumers. Additionally, on the side we’ve launched NoMiddleMan.com, an aggregation of all the world’s great direct to consumer brands in one easy place for consumers to find. It’s what we believe will be the Amazon antidote, and the future of retail. We’re also trying to make a dent in workplace culture. In 2015, we moved our entire company to a 5-hr workday from 8am-1pm as an experiment. It got noticed, and a year later we authored a book on our experiment that got press in over 20 countries and spread the idea we invented to over 10 million people worldwide.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
San Diego calls itself “America’s Finest City” and I agree. Growing up above Seattle, I wasn’t a big fan of the rain and dreary 8-month off-season. I’d lived a bit in Hawaii, so I wanted to find a mix of good weather and good economy. In 1996 I set off on a road trip to find the best place to set-up roots and live in America. I traveled down the whole West Coast and then across the country all the way to Key West. It came down to a choice between Fort Lauderdale and San Diego. I opted for San Diego because it was an easier flight home to Seattle to visit family and friends. The real beauty of living in San Diego is the beach life. My company Tower Paddle Boards is really a beach lifestyle focused company. We live and breath the Southern California beach lifestyle and our mission is to sort of bring that to the rest of the world to enhance their lives. Paddle boarding was the natural launch point when we saw that taking off here in 2010. We’ve also extended into skateboards, surfboards, and most recently eBikes with Tower Electric Bikes. So my advice for a week in San Diego is probably slanted towards immersing yourself in San Diego’s beach lifestyle. Skip the Zoo. Skip Sea World. Skip downtown – there are far cooler, more metropolitan “big cities”. Skip getting a rental car. You should rent a place on the beach and one the boardwalk with a view of the crashing waves. Get a beach cruiser for the week. That’s your transportation everywhere you need to go. Or even better an electric beach cruiser like the one’s we make at Tower Electric Bikes. With a 50 mile range, on this you can even do a trip downtown to check out the waterfront. Rent a surfboard and boogie board for the week. This is your morning routine and workout. Get an inflatable paddle board to cruise the bay. Rent a boat and enjoy the bay with a little wakeboarding or just cruise around. There’s a cool service next to use called Hot Tub Cruising – it’s a hot tub on a pontoon boat with a bbq for a day on the water. Spend you day’s sampling fish tacos, coastal cuisine, and margaritas along the coastal cities of Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, and La Jolla. The boardwalk and many biking trails lining the waterways is your transportation route. Spend a good chunk of your days lounging at the beach, or playing horseshoes, or beach volleyball. That’s it. Don’t be a tourist rushing to0 see every attraction you think you should. Rather just insert yourself into the Southern Californian beach lifestyle and live it a week. It’s not a bad way to live.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have an amazing family network that has really put me in a position to be successful and really do what I want in this world. I was backpacking through Australia 3 months after college with 3 college buddies. About half way thru that trip it dawned on me one day how incredibly fortunate of a life I was living. I had done nothing in life and yet I was off on a 3 month holiday vacationing and seeing the world. Then I contrasted it to the life that my grandparents had lived. My grandfather on my mom’s side drove a school bus. My grandfather on my father’s side was a berry farmer. They really did all the hard work and laid all the groundwork for my parents and then they did the same for me. And I’m the one enjoying the vacation and seeing the world that they never had the luxury to. People talk about overnight success, but even that usually is better characterized as 10-20 years of grinding to find it. But in reality, the foundation of most success is really generational. Without that strong foundation, you don’t really have the luxury of taking the big chances or making the big bets to get to living an extraordinary life.

Website: https://www.TowerElectricBikes.com
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/towerbeachclub/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TowerBeachClub
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/towerbeachclub
Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/tower-beach-club-san-diego-2
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/TowerLifestyle
Other: https://www.amazon.com/Five-Hour-Workday-Differently-Productivity-Happiness-ebook/dp/B01FGAFDBO

Image Credits
none, these are all in house photos.

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