003: Don’t Wait: The Story of Antonio Centeno, Founder of Real Men, Real Style

posted in: podcast | 0

By Patricia Bobek

You’ve probably heard the popular idiom before: If the shoe fits, wear it.

It’s one of those didactic phrases preaching a particular instruction: if something pertains to you, accept it.

But for this story, we’re going to replace the figurative shoe with a physical suit (a men’s suit to be exact) and how the search for the perfect suit eventually became an adventure in media entrepreneurship.

This particular story of media entrepreneurship begins years ago in Kiev, Ukraine. Marine Corps veteran Antonio Centeno was working in the country in the mid-2000s when he needed to buy a suit. He said he searched and searched for a suit that fit him, but struggled to find one. He found that every suit he tried either didn’t fit properly or was of poor quality.

He ultimately had a custom suit made for him in Kiev and found an online custom clothier based in London. That exhaustive search left him wondering:

“The question that lingered with me was: ‘Why was it so difficult and why couldn’t I find this on the Internet?’” Antonio said.

: The search for a perfect suit would eventually turn Antonio Centeno into a media entrepreneur. Photo courtesy of Antonio Centeno, Real Men, Real Style.
The search for a perfect suit would eventually turn Antonio Centeno into a media entrepreneur. Photo courtesy of Antonio Centeno, Real Men, Real Style.

 

The F-word: Fired

Antonio was working for a company in Ukraine for a couple of months when he requested a meeting to talk about his progress — a meeting that would change the very course of his life.

Why? Antonio was fired in that meeting.

“When it comes down to it, looking back I probably would’ve fired myself,” Antonio said. “I came in hired for a job, I was doing another job, and I probably wasn’t able to deliver as much as I thought I could.”

As a result, Antonio said he had to bring his wife (who was Ukrainian) and young son (who had some severe health issues) over to the United States where he faced a scary situation: how was he going to support his new family?

To top it off, the year was 2007 and the United States was on the brink of financial collapse. No one was hiring.

The Struggle Becomes an Opportunity

Instead of hitting the streets looking for a job with the millions of other out-of-work Americans, Antonio decided to take a risk: he would start his own business during the recession.

You read that right: Antonio started his own business during the recession.

The first business Antonio founded in the United States was A Tailored Suit, an online men’s custom clothier website that made… suits!

Antonio wanted to increase sales and drive traffic to his online custom clothier website so he began creating custom content. He wrote articles teaching men about men’s style. When Antonio saw the traffic the articles were receiving on his website, he made another very important career transition.

Is This Business Really Going to Become a Business?

Antonio purchased the domain for Real Men, Real Style in 2009 and decided to go full force with Real Men, Real Style in 2012. This meant creating custom content — a lot more content — in a variety of ways. Today, Real Men Real Style delivers content through articles, e-books, online course, and video. But in the beginning, Antonio focused on video and capturing a YouTube market.

“My goal was simply to pay the mortgage and not lose my house,” Antonio said. “For a long time I was wondering and wondering… is this business going to become a business or is it going to stay a hobby?”

 

In the early days, Antonio focused Real Men Real Style on capturing a YouTube market. Now, he has over 600 public videos on the channel, with some of his videos reaching millions of viewers. Photo courtesy of Antonio Centeno, Real Men Real Style.
In the early days, Antonio focused Real Men Real Style on capturing a YouTube market. Now, he has over 600 public videos on the channel, with some of his videos reaching millions of viewers. Photo courtesy of Antonio Centeno, Real Men Real Style.      

 

Antonio knew his first video wasn’t going to be great. Neither was his second or third or fourth. Antonio knew early on that he had to fail over and over again before getting it right. Now, Antonio said he has about 600 public videos on YouTube and some of those videos are receiving massive amounts of attention.

 

Antonio’s video “How to Roll Your Shirt Sleeves” has received over 1.8 million views on YouTube. Antonio said when he puts something out, he’s not always trying to hit a home run. Occasionally, though, he knocks it over the fence.

The Urgent and the Important

Antonio has some strict business philosophies that he’s put into place for Real Men Real Style. The first? He doesn’t follow the 100-hour work-week that many entrepreneurs believe is gospel when starting your own business.

His top priority, even as an entrepreneur is family.

 

Antonio Centeno, founder of Real Men Real Style has put systems in place so he can avoid the 100-hour work-week and spend time with his family. Photo courtesy of Antonio Centeno, Real Men Real Style.
Antonio Centeno, founder of Real Men Real Style has put systems in place so he can avoid the 100-hour work-week and spend time with his family. Photo courtesy of Antonio Centeno, Real Men Real Style.

 

Antonio’s Real Men Real Style business philosophies also include checklists, paying yourself a salary (even as an entrepreneur because he said it will help prevent a lot of the ups and downs of the entrepreneur lifestyle when you know you’ve taken care of your personal finances), and following the Eisenhower Matrix.

The Eisenhower Matrix, or Eisenhower Method encourages people to address tasks by placing them on a quadrant that shows you what is and isn’t urgent and what is and isn’t important. It’s based on of a quotation from Dwight D. Eisenhower who said:

“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important and the important are never urgent.”

The quadrant helps you focus on the things that are important because it can be really easy to get distracted by anything that is urgent event if it isn’t important. It’s easy as an entrepreneur to get sucked into always putting out fires.

Just ‘Do It.

So, what have we learned from this military vet-turned custom clothier-turned media entrepreneur?

If you put systems into place for your business and train your employees well, you can produce a lot of quality content and still have a life.

But the best advice from this media entrepreneur is this: go out there and just do it.

“…if you’re going to start a business … you realize there really is no better time than now,” Antonio said. “It’s not like you’re going to have less children in the future or you’re going to be younger in the future.”

If the suit fits…. Well, you know the drill.

This podcast is supported through the Reynolds Media Entrepreneurship Chair at the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.