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Video transcript
My name is Mark Ecko. I am, by nature, an artist. I came up at a time when there was a very unique window in popular culture. Hip-hop was emerging. There was an entrepreneurial virus that is hip-hop that rock and roll didn't quite have in the same way. There was a little bit more self-loathing amongst the rock set in terms of the commercialization of their work. Where in hip-hop, it's been embraced to go create industry around ideas. It's become a part of the ecosystem because it's coming from nothing. And there's this implied element of social justice as well in the business born out of what is hip-hop and street culture. So that's baked into the DNA of what we do. I love this fact that folks are making something from nothing in my peer set. We're founding value basically in the ether amongst themselves. Four rappers would get together, rhyme in a circle, and all of a sudden it was like, oh, let's make a mix tape from nothing. I wanted to fit into that ecosystem. I couldn't rap. I couldn't break dance. But I did connect to art. So I started to parrot the art of graffiti and started painting t-shirts. I loved the emotive-- the feedback, both the financial feedback that someone would pay me as a 15-year-old kid to make them this t-shirt. And then they'd wear it with such pride and beat their chest. And there was that emotional transaction that was really powerful and created the feedback loop to want me to go and dig deeper and pull on that thread and keep unfolding what eventually became this path of entrepreneurship. It wasn't like I onboarded because someone said, be an entrepreneur. I onboarded because I wanted to realize my dream. And I was an emotional, artistic kid. And graffiti, it was the extreme sport of art. That was a moment of luck for me. So many people are like, oh, graffiti's a gateway to crime. For me, it was a gateway to entrepreneurship. Go figure. I've really been a curator of pop culture for, let's say, males 16 to 40. And that's been my lane having come up in the '80s, around hip-hop and skateboarding culture and the emergence of technology. I've just trafficked in my hobbies. The things that I consumed as a kid are now the business. Young people know instinctively what it is they need to do. They just need to go out there and get it done. Shifting from what is effectively a consumer mindset to believing in themselves to be a producer. Going from I am consumer of x to I am maker of y. That's an aspiration that is amongst all of us, but some of us, we just don't know how to do it. We doubt ourselves. Why is it that you go to a classroom of kindergartners, you ask them, who in this room is an artist? Everybody raises their hand. You ask that same cohort 20 years later, no one raises their hand, maybe one guy. And they look at him like he's a freak. Something's wrong there. You have to connect to your artist, your instigator. It's right brain. It's left brain. It's chocolate. It's peanut butter. You have to find that.