After looking over AJ Crook’s Linkedin one thing is very clear: AJ Crook has the drive and the talent to create a successful company. After two short jobs in social media and digital marketing, AJ turned to entrepreneurship. In 2016 he founded two companies: Shake It Pup! and French AF Wine. Out of these two companies, AJ decided to continue with only Shake It Pup! in 2019. This company, which AJ co-founded with Brett Maiolfi, is a dog food seasoning company meant to make our furry friends' food taste better. This interesting company found itself on SharkTank this past February where the founders secured a deal with Mark Cuban. This question and answer session with AJ is jam-packed with information; there is a ton of information in every single answer - except maybe the first one (R.I.P Kobe).
Who would you most like to have lunch with? (who is your hero?)
R.I.P. Kobe Bryant
At what point did you know entrepreneurship was for you? How did you decide this is what you were going to do with your life regardless of the risk?
I think it's something that's in your blood - it's how you're wired. I wasn't very academically inclined and regretfully never applied myself through school. College was a struggle and became tough for me to land a job once I graduated. I was applying for jobs in a crowded and competitive market. After going through countless interviews, the company either didn't find me as a good fit or I couldn't find myself having a passion for their product, service or being a part of their team. I've always had the entrepreneurial spirit and it finally hit me that if I can't find a job for myself, I'll have to make one.
In your opinion, what traits make a good entrepreneur? How can one develop these traits?
If you have a product that fits well in a space/niche and has healthy, sustainable margins, you will not fail if you exude persistence, diligence and follow through.
What is some of the best advice you have ever received?
Some of the best words of advice I've received was by an entrepreneur I really look up to. We were on the topic of raising capital and he said, 'Ask for money, get advice. Ask for advice, get money twice.' It was the most profound thing I had ever heard. The best part was, he was just regurgitating a quote from, I kid you not, a Pitbull song."
What is some advice you can give to an aspiring high school entrepreneur?
Find what interests you and see if it can develop into a passion. From there, never look back. If you're able to go, take college seriously (unlike myself) and use its resources to further develop your capabilities. Whether it's building out a marketing strategy in a Marketing class or learning how to write a business plan in a Business Management class, the professors leading the class come from experience and are there for your success. I'm sure Gary Vee would disagree. Lastly, network your ass off. I've built a pretty strong network and it's without a doubt the most valuable asset I have.
The key takeaways:
• Every entrepreneur needs persistence, diligence, and follow through
• "Ask for money, get advice. Ask for advice, get money twice." - Pitbull
• Use every opportunity you get to your advantage
• Network, network, network