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#58: USA Swimming, startups, and real estate trends with John Aselton

January 13, 2021 • 51:59

SPEAKERS
Aaron Spatz, Host, America’s Entrepreneur
John Aselton, Co-Founder and CEO, Koru Performance

Aaron  00:10
Good morning, DFW. This is The Dallas-Fort Worth Business Podcast. I’m Aaron Spatz. Thank you so much for joining us this morning. It’s a sincere pleasure to be with you. The point of the show for those of you that are new to the show, one, I just want to welcome you. But if you are enjoying this, please send me some feedback, let me know. What are you enjoying? What would you like to see more of, less of? What intrigues you? What inspires you? The show features business executives and leaders across DFW metroplex with the whole aim of bringing you stories that help fuel your drive, your passion, your pursuits, things in a way that are meant to entertain, educate, and perhaps inspire you. So we would love to hear how that’s going. Drop me a line at podcast@boldmedia.us.

Today we have John Aselton. John joins us from a variety of background and excited to have him here with us today from the Naval Academy all the way through real estate to startups that we’ll talk about here shortly. But John, I just want to welcome you to the show. Thanks so much for being here.

John  01:13
Yeah. Thanks for having me, Aaron. Really looking forward to joining with you and talking about all great things Dallas.

Aaron  01:20
Outstanding. Yeah. You know, it is a huge metroplex. And somebody out there can correct me, but, I mean, I think we’re the third or fourth largest metroplex across – I mean, if you take Dallas by itself, a fourth by itself, maybe not so much, but if you kind of put the whole blob together, and the blob is growing, by the way. But very, very, very large area and a lot of business.

John  01:45
Yeah. No, exactly. Everybody’s flown through DFW. Most people probably know of our areas as DFW. But no, it’s been great. And being on the real estate side, you get to see all the amazing things that are happening behind the scenes. And you know, it’s really exciting.

Aaron  02:03
So, what flavor of real estate do you do? Is it residential? Is it commercial? What’s your focus?

John  02:10
Yeah. So my professional focus predominantly was commercial. And so when I got out of the Navy in 2016, I started with CBRE, the world’s leader in real estate. I worked with their evaluation group and essentially focused and specialized in multifamily assets. So everything from your small mom and pop residential duplex all the way up to your multi-million dollar high-rise buildings in your inner urban areas. And so I did that in the South Central region. So Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, all the way out to Georgia and did some really cool things, valued some high-rise buildings that were mixed use in excess of $200 million, $300 million, which was really, really cool. Got to talk with developers, owner operators, just about anybody who touches a real estate transaction. And so yeah, that was really fun. So it’s all a wide, wide breadth, everything and anything.

Aaron  03:29
Wow. Wow. Well, I want to save that for maybe perhaps a few minutes later because there’s a ton I think people are curious and would love to hear your perspective on the real estate market and what’s going on, especially with COVID and everything else. But before we get there though, I want to jump backwards in time, looking at your background. So I was giving you a hard time earlier because being a Marine veteran, we love to give Navy veterans a hard time even though I came from a Navy family. But so one, thank you for your service, brother. Appreciate it.

John  03:58
Same to you.

Aaron  03:58
Yeah, man. Yeah. for sure. But before that, so tell me about USA swimming.

John  04:05
Yeah. So I grew up – well, let me jump back before that. So I come from a family of swimmers. My dad swam in college. My dad had two other brothers. They all swam in college. University of Miami was where my dad swam back in the ‘80s and they were a powerhouse back then, had multiple Olympic gold medalist, world record holders before they canceled their program because of Title IX. But you know, came from a really high caliber Aselton family of swimmers. And so growing up, you know, it was just kind of natural. I had that natural talent with swimming. I loved it. It was in my blood literally. So I swam essentially from eight.

Aaron  04:55
Dang.

John  04:55
All the way through high school. And that was like a job. I didn’t have a job. I just train twice a day for hours a day and was pretty good. I was nationally ranked and that’s what allowed me to go to the Naval Academy, you know, swimming. So they took a look at me and I could’ve gone to Florida for the state, you know, some of these other really good swimming programs, but chose the Naval Academy. One, because I come from a military family too. Both my parents were Army officers, grandfather was in the Army, both of my brothers were Army as well. So I decided to shirk the Army out of me as well. Well done to the Navy.

Aaron  05:42
That’s awesome. And well, no, I saw that. That caught my attention. Want to learn a little bit more about that.

John  05:52
I throw that on my LinkedIn just because you’ll find a lot of people were swimmers and so we have a lot that we can relate to. So you know, I was essentially on one of the junior national teams. So went and competed all around the country. It’s just something to throw out there.

Aaron  06:13
No, it’s fun. It’s a great way to get to know somebody and it’s a good way to build a bridge. So, no, I love it. I love it. I can’t imagine. Because I’ll tell people I complete triathlons, I don’t compete in triathlons and so I like to complete and so obviously a big part of that is swim training, right? And so I guess thinking about my very simple training program for swimming as opposed to yours and then having to make sure – I’m curious how you avoid injury or how you get through a shoulder injury or something while you’re training or while you’re competing. Because that’s got to stop you dead in your tracks, right?

John  06:56
Yeah. No, it can. Shoulder injuries are no joke in swimming. So I’d been to physical therapy probably when I was around 13, 14. Had really bad, bad shoulders at that point. And so that’s when I got really serious about doing the band exercises and things like that. I can talk about that kind of stuff forever. That’s like a passion of mine. Like this over here in the background. Can you see that? That’s one of Addaday’s BioChairs. So it’s like a massage chair. It’s got a swim specific function to work your shoulders and your lats.

Aaron  07:35
Oh, my gosh. It looks amazing. That’s cool. Well, yeah, once we get through a little bit of real estate stuff, which I’m really curious to get your perspective on, I love to circle back to endurance sports and talk more about your training and just wherever that ends up taking us.

John  07:57
Yeah. Anytime.

Aaron  07:58
Cool. Well, so talk us through then how you – so you talk about CBRE, right? But then how has that led you to where you are now?

John  08:09
Yeah. So basically, I would say my CBRE time was where I was cutting my teeth. So I was a history major at the Naval Academy. And so most people would say, “Well, how did you get into real estate with that?” Well, really, what it is is I was able to get an internship with CBRE coming right out of the Navy. And so I got in touch with tenant brokers during my internship and just saw everybody that’s involved in the real estate industry. And the people that I really liked that I thought was super cool were the valuation people. Because they got brought on to either appraise, assess, consult, really dig in, and so I thought there was no better way than to start somewhere there so that I can learn more because I really didn’t know anything. You know, going to the Naval Academy, there was no real estate 101. There’s nothing like that.

So yeah, it was just a really good opportunity to cut my teeth and hone in on all the fundamentals, all equated to getting a master’s in real estate. I mean, I went back for one of my real estate licenses and added up all my hours and the dollar amounts that I’ve been involved with. And I mean, we’re talking like, you know, $80 billion worth of real estate that I’ve looked at over the very short time since 2016.

Aaron  09:41
Wow.

John  09:42
But yeah, that’s how that happened.

Aaron  09:45
That’s insane. Yeah. So then tell us about where you are right now and what you’re doing and what does that look like.

John  09:52
Yeah. So right now I’ve got a portfolio of residential real estate. That’s like my personal side. But professionally, so I went from CBRE and I worked with Deloitte Global’s real estate group. And that was really just because at CBRE, I was more South Central specific, doing assets predominantly in Texas. And I decided that I needed to know more. I needed to know more about the global real estate market and how fundamentals work, not only in the US but in other countries. And so I saw that as an opportunity to hop off, expand my knowledge base, and then touch lots of really cool assets. So from there, I was doing mines in Indonesia, data centers in the Netherlands.

Aaron  10:49
Wow.

John  10:49
Just all kinds of really bespoke properties and really unique areas. And then I’ll say that the icing, the cherry on top of that would be valuing the condos on Fisher Island in Miami.

Aaron  11:05
Wow.

John  11:05
Which is the world’s wealthiest zip code. So talking with the developer there, talking with owner operator of those of that, essentially the HOA, if you will. But yeah, it took me to some really cool places. But at the end of the day, I wanted to do something a little bit different. I’m very passionate about sports, health, and fitness, and saw that that side of my life had really pumped the brakes. And so decided that, yeah, I’ve done a lot of really cool things. Now it’s time to go and maybe do something a little bit smaller and then take the time away from the really hard professional real estate stuff to start something really cool. And so that kind of led to my new startup, which is Koru Performance, which is an endurance sports cosmetic line. And so there, well, I don’t know, we’ll see how it goes.

Aaron  12:06
Wow. No, that’s really cool because you’re able to kind of go back to your roots, go back to what you really enjoy and it gets you back into the athletics fray, into that whole community, which is obviously really – that’s a really exciting thing to be able to return to some of the things that you’ve enjoyed literally since you were born. You were swimming since – probably couldn’t even walk, you’re swimming.

John  12:34
We’re all swimmers to begin.

Aaron  12:35
That’s true. That’s true.

John  12:38
Otherwise we wouldn’t be here.

Aaron  12:38
That’s so true. I was going to say it, but I’ll just let you say that, right?

John  12:44
I beat you.

Aaron  12:45
Awesome. No, no, that’s cool. Well, let’s talk then – because I think you’ve got a very unique perspective when it comes to the real estate situation, I mean, for those that are working real estate, but then also you’ve got a little bit more of a macro background also. So anywhere from the micro to the macro focus. And then, I mean, I’m going to ask you the obvious question. I think a lot of people would love to know is what do you see the impact of the pandemic having on residential and commercial real estate? What does that look like?

John  13:14
Yeah. So, COVID is, man, I mean, it’s kind of wreaked havoc on all industries, but when you look at real estate, I mean, residential, it’s really where are you? You know, if you’re in Texas, you don’t see any issues. So I live up here in McKinney. For all the DFW people, if you’re looking at DFW, you got Dallas, I’m tip top of Dallas up in McKinney, but you know, I live in a new master plan development, and I mean, houses are getting built. They’re getting bought. There’s not huge deep concessions and pricing. In fact, prices have gone up considerably. We’re looking at similar floor plans that I live in – currently, my house – and they’re selling for well more than I purchased it back in 2019.

So a lot of that is immigration. We’ve got a lot of people coming from New York, from Illinois, from California. They want to work from home. They want to live in a great area. So residential, it’s booming. But if you’re in San Francisco, you’re going to be pretty much dying because you’ve seen a rental apocalypse just because of the exodus. So that’s one of the great things about Texas. Texas is real estate market. It’s amazing just because we have the immigration numbers that are coming here. But you know, commercial real estate, things like restaurants, I mean, they’re struggling. Malls, struggling. Big million-square-foot warehouses, man, they’re doing amazing. The shopping online and fulfillment space.

Aaron  15:07
Interesting.

John  15:07
It just kind of depends. You get kind of have to bifurcate, you know, is your industry booming because of COVID or not because of COVID. And so there’s all these little areas where things are doing really well or are not doing really well. So where do you live, Aaron?

Aaron  15:26
Yeah. So I’m on the Fort Worth side of the house, more closer to the Keller-North Fort Worth area. So, no, I’ve noticed the real estate market. So I mean, you’re on the residential, I’m not surprised. The commercial is where it gets really fascinating to talk about. So residential. And then, again, I’m cautiously optimistic about real estate because it’s one of those things where, okay, great, housing prices are going up, things are looking great, evaluations are improving. And then there’s that little voice in the back of my head is when you’re like, “Well, is this artificial? Is this a bubble, right?” But when you see more companies moving here, when you see the growth of the economy continuing, you just see it expanding, there’s a level of comfort there. And so I’m really just genuinely curious about that.

And then you raise a really interesting point on the commercial side because I didn’t realize or even, I guess, think about how warehouse space is now probably a really hot commodity now because companies have had to really shift their focus to online fulfillment, obviously depending on what industry that they’re working in. But yeah, I mean, malls have been dying, man. Those are already on life support and I feel like they are hanging on for dear life right now. I don’t know how they’re doing it, to be honest.

John  16:53
Now there’s a company called Prologis that has just an absolutely amazing portfolio of warehouse. It’s specifically in Dallas. I mean, their portfolio includes people that are in the Amazon Fulfillment HQ out in Coppell, which is well over a million square feet. I mean, you go over there, there’s not a lot of vacancy and that’s because, one, fulfillment. I mean, when you think about a warehouse, you can automate it. You don’t need a lot of people. You can socially distance all you want.

Aaron  17:26
That’s true.

John  17:26
100,000-square-foot warehouse, I mean, I can be here, somebody can be over there. You really don’t need a lot of people. And honestly, a lot of them didn’t get closed down because they were deemed essential. So really, it is also your governmental influence – not that we need to go there right now. Yeah, I mean, in industrial, in general, is doing really well. Office, I think, is going to be a problem in the future.

Aaron  17:57
That’s what I wanted to talk about, yeah. Because I think that’s the one that I think is… for me, anyway, I feel like that’s a little bit more obvious. You can make the case for all these other things, you know, manufacturing and everything else. And I think it just depends on the industry and the business and how that’s doing, but now that you’ve got – because I’m just thinking, what industries are able to push people away from the office and home? Obviously, it’s got a lot of professional services type businesses and those companies consume a ton of commercial real estate, a lot of office space.

Well, there’s companies out there that are saving crap tons of money because they don’t have all this operating expense that they used to have because everyone’s working at home. Where do you see that going now? I mean, is it good? Is there a future where you feel like the office space in general is going to return, is going to be maybe more important than it ever had been? Or is it one of those things where, look, we’re just going to have a core critical node of essential people just so we have a home base, so clients could maybe visit us in person, but otherwise stay home? I mean, what do you see there? Where do you think we’re headed?

John  19:15
Yeah. So with office specifically, I mean kind of what we’re doing now. If you’re a professional services firm and you deal with people to people, you could do this online at home anywhere. I mean, you can do this in a Starbucks, in your basement, in your kitchen. You can change out your background so people don’t know where you are. They don’t see the dog or the kids throwing ketchup everywhere.

Aaron  19:40
Or the golf course.

John  19:41
Or the golf course. You can bring your green screen, throw it in the back of your cart.

Aaron  19:47
Darn right, man. Yes.

John  19:48
So you know, office, I mean, the thing that’s saving office right now is a lot of people were locked into these long-term leases. So, you know, if you were a company, let’s say you’re like a mid-cap company and you signed a five-to-ten-year lease. Let’s say you just signed it in 2019 right before Corona hit.

Aaron  20:11
Geez.

John  20:12
You’re looking at being a guarantor on a lease for five to ten years with some pretty severe implications if you have to leave that space. So a lot of people, a lot of companies, I would imagine, are looking at their leases and you know, yeah, they might’ve been able to get a below market lease that they considered an asset on their books, but now they’re all liabilities.

Aaron  20:42
Now they’re reaching out to their attorneys, and saying, “Get me out of this.”

John  20:45
Yes, get me out of this. Let’s find something in the HVAC system. Let’s find a way that this is unsafe so you can get me out. But you know, bigger companies are finding ways to downsize. So if you do need a geographical presence in an area, do you need five, ten, six floors, whatever it might be? Maybe we just need one. Maybe we just need a landing page with a conference room, coffee bar, maybe some snacks. That’s about it. And then, you know, your share space, your WeWorks, your XYZ company. If you do need to jump board, maybe you just need something temporary here and there. Maybe you just need like an office.

So what you’re really seeing is like a consolidation on the commercial side. Now everybody loves their office. Everybody wants a nice space to work. So I don’t see office going away, but right now with kind of how things are working, if there is a stay-at-home work order in a certain state or in a certain city or county, that means no office specifically.

Aaron  22:04
True. So yeah. No, I mean, it’s a fascinating thing because right now, if you own any of these large assets, there’s an element of you that I’m sure is thinking like, thank God that we’re in a long-term contract with our tenants. I mean, that is a really, really tough spot to be in because now there’s companies that literally can’t afford that. You hope everybody can, right? Now it’s just a pain, like a literal pain in the rear end that they have to pay their lease because they were occupying 10% of what they thought they were going to need.

But then I can’t help but wonder if you fast forward – and that just blows my mind how long some of these leases are, but let’s just fast forward three years or five years when leases begin to expire. We don’t know where we’re going to be as a country with this whole pandemic thing could have already blown over and we’re back at it and it’s almost like no change. Or it gets worse or continues to kind of be how it is now. And now you’re going to have this exodus of people from some of these office spaces. And so it’s an interesting thing to think about. It’s why I’m really curious about your thoughts, your feedback on that.

John  23:18
Yeah. So looking into the future, it really is kind of contingent on what do our local governments, what do our state governments, what are they going to do about this. So the nice thing about Texas, and I talk about all these things and I want to be DFW specific. DFW specific, you know, office prices aren’t cratering. We’re not seeing a great exodus. In fact, we’re honestly seeing somewhat of the opposite.

Aaron  23:53
Really?

John  23:53
So you’ve got national brands, national staples, companies that we know of around the world who are in these great location. They’re in these great buildings in New York. They’re in these great locations in California. And they’re realizing, “Holy crap. We’ve got an environment that is not conducive to having an office space. Where can we go?”

So the number one place that everybody’s leaving for is Nashville, Tennessee, which is surprising. Because I saw Nashville and I went, music? Country music? What’s going on in Tennessee? But you know, in the top three is DFW. And so they’re looking at DFW and they’re going, “Man, there’s great space. Everything’s new. We’re not in these legacy buildings that have issues. There’s plenty of land available that if we want to do a build-to-suit. We can build a campus. We can build whatever we want. And if we can’t build it, we’ll find it.” And so, you know, yeah, people here are locked into long-term leases, but pricing somewhat stabilized, cap rates are somewhat stabilized. So it’s a good thing being in DFW. A lot of people are wanting to come here.

Aaron  25:25
Yeah. No, I mean, and I think that’s what the saving grace is. I think the saving grace is we’ve got an economy, we have an environment here that is conducive for business and it’s an attractive place for people to do business. And so, I mean, you’re seeing it. People way smarter than me are relocating their entire corporate headquarters, as you mentioned earlier, from all these different states, all these different places across the country. And for whatever reason they’re deciding Texas, but then there’s a mixed bag of the DFW region and then Austin. But the point being, there’s a lot of growth here. There’s a lot of things happening. And so what I think I hear you saying is we’re somewhat insulated to some extent of the severity of what we may be seeing in other parts of the country.

John  26:18
No, that’s a hundred percent right. So yeah, the one metric that will change everything about our local market is immigration. The minute people stop moving from other places. When that happens, that’s the “Oh, crap, the shit just hit the fan. What are we going to do? We don’t have the people coming here.” I don’t foresee significant issues in the future. I mean, kind of similar to ’08-‘09 in the great financial crisis. DFW was a little bit insulated. We didn’t get hit as hard as other places. Even where you live, I mean, people love to relocate to Dallas. But man, there’s a lot of people moving to Fort Worth. A lot of campuses are being built. So it’s cool to see what’s happening.

Aaron  27:14
Yeah. Fort Worth is quickly becoming not the step sister to Dallas or whatever you want to call it. I feel like there’s definitely a surge of activity in Fort Worth. Because it’s always been this whole – I mean, what’s funny to see, and again, I’m not a native to DFW. So those that are listening, watching, if you’re a native, you even have greater perspective than I do on this. But just to see the blob of the metroplex grow as we have visited over the years, over the last probably ten years or so, just seeing it grow. But then also it’s pushing out west, right? It’s leaving the west side of Fort Worth or it’s leaving the north end of Fort Worth and heading towards the Denton or heading out towards Weatherford. And so you’ve got more expansion going this way. And then kind of like where you are, things are crawling north. Before you know it, man, there’s going to be a big blob from the south side of town all the way up to Oklahoma. It’s going to be like this little big old expanse of ground.

John  28:17
We’re going to invade.

Aaron  28:19
Invade Oklahoma. 

John  28:21
It’s going to be an invasion. We’ll just be the North Texas’ awesomeness.

Aaron  28:25
Right. It’ll make for an interesting cotton bull experience, I’ll just say.

John  28:28
Yeah. Red River rivalry. You know, everybody’s from the same group, there’s no starting line.

Aaron  28:37
That’s true. That’s true. Well, hey, we’re going jump to break real quick. But when we come back, I love to get more into the weeds of Koru and of what you’re doing there. And I said that right, right?

John  28:51
Right.

Aaron  28:51
Okay. All right. Good deal. So I love to learn more about what you’re doing there, what that looks like, and just all the stuff you’re working on. So we’ll be right back.

So this show is made possible by amazing sponsorships. And so I’m incredibly grateful for our sponsors, those that have agreed to partner with us on the show. And as you can tell, it’s a phenomenal opportunity for businesses to get in front of people as the show is growing and it’s growing in popularity. It’s a great opportunity, I’ll just say that.

So quick shout out today to our sponsors of 1st Response AC & Heating. They serve as more of the Fort Worth side of the metroplex. I appreciate that they’re an honest company. So I don’t have to worry about getting upsold or feel like being arm twisted in terms of what needs to happen. And with my system, I know what I’m being told is the right thing to do because I’ve tested them on this a couple of times just because I like to tinker with my own stuff. And when I think it’s broken, I try to fix it. Or maybe I break it even more, but they’ll come in. They’ll tell me what actually is happening and they’ll explain it to me. And that’s what I really appreciate is they’ll actually – and it’s not just me. I’ve seen this with other people that I’ve referred them to is they’ll take the time to explain exactly what’s going on. That way, you are comfortable with what is happening with your system.

And so phenomenal people. In this kind of a business where knowledge really is power, I appreciate knowing that I can trust what they’re telling me and I know I’m going to get exactly what I need. Not overkill, not underdone. It’s going to be done the right way. So anyway, incredibly grateful for their sponsorship, for their partnership on this program.

So, John, so you’re working on some really exciting things. So, real estate aside, and I mean, maybe we’ll circle back and cover a little bit more of that at some point later in our talk. But I really wanted to also shift gears because you’ve mentioned you’ve got a startup, you’ve got a cosmetics line called Koru.  So one, I’d just love to learn more about that. What does that do for swimmers? What does this whole thing look like?

John  31:00
Yeah. So going back to what we talked about earlier, I was in the grind, gained a few pounds, stopped swimming, stopped working out. And honestly, the thing that brought me back to the light was Corona. Being in this like quasi locked down, nobody was talking about getting in shape, getting vitamin D, getting healthy. And so I started working out again really hard like I was in my Navy days and in my college swimming days back in probably like March, April, and really quickly just found the love again for sport, for working out, for pursuing athletic endeavors.

And then from there, I started looking around and going, there’s a need for some issues I’m having. One, we live in Texas, I’m out here running eight, ten miles and I’m getting sunburned foreheads. I decided that if I do a swim-run workout or I’m in the pool and then I go run, I want to be able to apply sunscreen that’s not going to wear off by the time I hop out of the water and start my run. So essentially, what I did was I looked at, okay, we need a couple of tenants of products that are going to really serve endurance athletes and just athletes in general. And so I partnered with an organic and inorganic chemist. We decided that we were going to do a sunscreen that was going to be SPF40, water resistant, and sweatproof for 80 minutes.

Aaron  32:58
Wow.

John  33:00
And we also wanted to formulate a recovery lotion, something that has menthol, MSM, tea-salicylate that’s going to help, you know, really, your muscles. So, shoulders, knees, things like that. And also, I also do triathlons. I’m sponsored by Team Addaday. I’m on the US Military Endurance Sports team. And all this is recent. I hopped back into working out and realize like, man, I’m actually pretty decent at this. But anyways, looking at recovery stuff but also something really exciting. So kind of our pinnacle product is a sodium bicarb lotion. So I don’t know if you’ve heard of Amp Human Performance at all.

Aaron  33:56
Yeah.

John  33:57
So Amp Human Performance, essentially what they did was they took the old adage from endurance athletes of, “Hey, I’m going to chug a bunch of baking soda and water and try and see how this works out” to try and buffer the lactic acid in your body. And it does work. I mean, I’d tried it before with swimming with disastrous consequences. But anyways, so looking at them, I’m talking with our chemists and our formulation team and saying, “We need to make something that’s better, that works for everybody.”

And so we did. And so that’s kind of our leading product. That’ll be our activation and performance lotion. So you’ll put it on before any sport, anything that’s going to be difficult, and what it’s going to do is it’s going to allow you to push harder for longer. And I’m really excited to see that application in swimming because it’s never been done. So, you know, like a swim meet, I’m going to throw it on. I’m going to do a 50 all-out butterfly, 100 all-out butterfly, see how it goes. And maybe it makes a huge difference. And I’m sure it will. But you know, to what degree does it do? So yeah, that’s the startup. So that’s the fun piece. And so that’s what’s really kind of guiding me right now.

Aaron  35:28
Oh, that’s fun. No, that’s super fun. And it’s personal to you, right? You have built a life around sports. I mean, like we talked earlier, this is where you come from. So you’re simply circling back around to where it all began and then kind of scratching this entrepreneurial itch and this desire to like, hey, why not give it a shot? Why not go ahead and try and see what happens? And then like you said, you you’re putting it together as team. It’s really cool. You’re already sponsored. And so, I mean, what races are you working on right now and training for?

John  36:03
Yeah. So right now, yeah, I like my swimming background and I like competing in swimming, but I’m focused more right now on triathlon and on what’s called swim-run. So swim-run, for what people might not know, it’s just the craziest thing. Google swim-run races and you’ll see dudes in Norway climbing over rocks with wetsuits on, running and swimming with shoes. It looks ridiculous, but it’s a ton of fun. And so really, what swim-run is, is you do over the course of however many miles, you do multiple segments of swimming then running, then swimming then running.

Aaron  36:53
Oh, okay. So it’s not like just the first part of triathlon where it’s swim, bike, run and you’re just doing all those events once. What you’re saying, it’s like multiple iterations.

John  37:04
Yeah, exactly.

Aaron  37:06
Holy cow.

John  37:08
Yeah. And people might think of like a duathlon and triathlon. It’s like you swim and then you’re done. I mean, you can throw all that gear in the trash can. You don’t need it again. But with swim-run, you have to swim with your shoes on because then you got to run with them.

Aaron  37:24
Oh, my god.

John  37:26
If you’re swimming with paddles, well, guess what? Now you got to run with your paddles. If you swim with a pool buoy, you got to run with one. And then the whole time, you’re wearing a wetsuit.

Aaron  37:39
Oh, man.

John  37:39
So anyways, swim-run was something that I got into this year. One, because none of them got canceled. I mean, a lot of them did end up going on. There was a few big ones that did get canceled, but just because it’s a fringe sport, you know, all the Ironman races. I was scheduled to do an Ironman in November, got canceled. I was scheduled to do an Ironman in December, got canceled. And so I pushed those till 2021. I’ve got one in one in April. I’m doing the Houston Half. I’m doing the St. George, Utah Half in May. So, you know, where are those going to go, I don’t know.

Aaron  38:22
Yeah. I don’t know either. So maybe I’ll see you down there in Galveston because I’m actually registered for that one.

John  38:29
Oh, awesome.

Aaron  38:30
Yeah. My very first Half Ironman I did was back in – I think it was 2014. I think it’s 2014. I did Galveston and then I was registered for Waco. So there’s going to be a Waco race. I think it was – when was it to be? I think it was September.

John  38:47
Oh, they changed the date in Waco three or four times.

Aaron  38:50
They did. And then what was crazy is it was going to be Ironman 70.3 Texas. They’re in Waco. And then they rescheduled Ironman Texas from the Woodlands and brought it to Waco. So everybody was going to be converged on Waco on this crazy weekend. And the start time for the Half was going to be at noon on Sunday. I just think it’s going to be a mess and really, really unique. I’m like, holy crap, I’m going to be finishing a whole different time of day. I’m going to be cycling at a whole different time of day than normal. But then they canceled it, right? 30 days out, you get the cancellation letter. And so there’s a part of me, man, I’m just like, man, is Galveston actually going to happen? Because I would love for it to happen but is it really though? You know what I mean?

John  39:35
Yeah. I don’t know. I don’t know. I think a lot of these events, if it’s a big Ironman race, if they get any pressure from anybody, they’re just going to fold and cancel it. I mean, some of them got canceled like two days prior. So 30 days is nice.

Aaron  39:53
Oh, my god. But two days prior, I mean, some people are arriving in town.

John  39:57
Oh, they’re already there.

Aaron  39:59
Yeah, several days ahead of time. My goal – I actually had had a goal. The whole reason I’m doing the Halfs in 2020 and then Galveston in ‘21 was to set myself up on a trajectory to do a Full Ironman in September. I was going to do either Chattanooga or I was looking at Ironman Florida. And I think that’s probably the one that you’re talking about in November, right?

John  40:21
Yeah.

Aaron  40:21
Yeah. That’s a cool race, man. It’s nice and flat. It’s quick. Obviously, it’d be a beautiful swim, a great swimming course. But man, I hope all that works out for you. Like I really do.

John  40:34
Yeah. I’m knocking on wood. We’ll see how the plan goes.

Aaron  40:38
So tying this into Koru, so how do you see Koru affecting your performance? I mean, just for me, obviously, I can see some benefits, some application, but what kind of impact do you think you’re going to get from it?

John  40:57
Yeah. So really, what’s cool is I swim at 5:00, 5:30 in the morning on Monday, Wednesday, Fridays with a bunch of people who just happened to also be pro triathletes.

Aaron  41:09
Oh, my gosh.

John  41:10
And we’ve got three pro women. We got a pro guy who shows up every now and then. He likes to sleep in. And a bunch of really good endurance people. You know, there’s a guy who’s in his 60s who still run sub-three hours in the marathons. It’s crazy.

Aaron  41:31
Crap.

John  41:32
Yeah, great mentor. But anyways, yeah, I’m swimming with these guys. I’m hearing their complaints. I’m hearing the things that triathletes talk about, which is everything related to gaining an edge. And they’re talking about Amp Human. They’re talking about the sodium bicarb lotion that they use on the bike and on runs and how it’s chalky and it doesn’t absorb well and the minute you start sweating, it starts coming out in the sweat and you smell it and it does not have a good smell. And so, you know, I’m just digesting. I’m digesting, not talking, just kind of listening.

And so, I’m seeing all these holes that needed to be filled by people who can actually really enjoy the product. And for the women, I mean, their number one complaint was sunscreen. I mean, they’re just like, “I can’t find a good one. I can’t find one that’s zinc oxide, that’s not going to make me grow legs somewhere I don’t want them to grow. If I go swim in the ocean or go to Australia or Mexico and I go scuba diving, I want it to be reef safe. I don’t want it to kill the wildlife and the fish. And I want to be environmentally friendly too.” And so I I’m digesting this.

Aaron  43:00
That’s a tall order, man.

John  43:01
It’s huge. But big picture is there’s a lot of things that I saw that I could do. One that would not only be a fun business to start but also would be good for the athlete, the environment, and would be good for anybody to get into sport. Because ideally, we would love to sponsor athletes. We would love to attend events and partner with different groups. I’d love to partner with the swim-run folks because they they’ve got a definitive need to have a good sunscreen if they’re swimming, running, swimming, running, swimming, running.

Aaron  43:39
That’s nuts.

John  43:41
But you know, it’s a fun journey. So we’re really looking forward to it. And then we’ve got a really good test batch of people. So you know, if I meet you down at the Half, I’ll bring you a bucket full of products.

Aaron  43:56
Nice.

John  43:57
And you can certainly test it out and then either say, “Hey, John, this is crap” or “Hey, John, this this is actually pretty good. I remember you telling me about this and I think you did it right.” So I think we’re doing it right.

Aaron  44:10
No, well, I mean, and what’s neat about it too, I mean, you’re solving a very specific problem. So it’s fulfilling in that regard. Because you’re identifying a need, you’re taking the time to understand what the needs are, you’re taking the time to understand everyone’s pain points. You live the pain points ever since your youth all the way through now so you understand, right? You’re not an outsider coming into it without any – and then that’s okay. It’s okay if you’re an outsider and you got to come in and you’ve got to educate yourself. But for you, it has a real-life personal benefit for your own performance. But then it’s also really cool because it could also benefit the performance and address a lot of needs that other folks are having and they’re expressing their displeasure with certain products and some of the side effects of that. So, no, that’s really cool. I’m really excited to see the path and where this all goes for you. It’s really cool.

John  45:11
Yeah. I mean, for all the people that are out there that are going, “Man, the world sucks right now. There’s no way someone can start a business in this environment,” it’s just patently untrue. If you want to make it happen, you’ll make it happen. It’s got to be done right and that’s my goal. I’m not here to make a quick buck. I’m not here to get rich quick. Yeah, this is the empire building. This is doing things right from the get-go. And a lot of that might come from just the military background and being raised by a military family where you do these principles, you know, because you see the need and you want to help people.

For me, specifically, I’m okay if I don’t make money for a long time because I’m going to love this process. I’m going to love what we’re doing. And then also, I’m going to love that our lab, our formulation lab, is in Texas. All the products that we’re using will be made here, which is something really cool. So affecting the local DFW market.

Aaron  46:25
That’s great.

John  46:25
And you know, we’re not sourcing crap ingredients from China or from some other countries. Everything’s going to be really, really good and really by the book. And so, if you have anybody out there that’s looking to start a cosmetic line, I can talk a lot about getting your FDA clinical trials in vivo and in vitro testing.

Aaron  46:49
Holy cow. You have to do a vitro testing for this stuff?

John  46:52
Oh, yeah.

Aaron  46:53
So, I mean, let’s just go there. We’ve got a couple of minutes. So talk us through then what does the FDA approval like? So what products require FDA approval and then what does that approval process look like?

John  47:07
Yeah. So before I jump into that, I’m sure a lot of people have heard about all these local distilleries that jumped in and decided, “Hey, I’m going to make some hand sanitizer” and then got slapped with a ten-figure. I think it was $14,000, $15,000 fine by the FDA. And so the FDA covers a wide breadth of products and hand sanitizer was one of them. Specifically sunscreen. You might look at a sunscreen on the shelf and you go, “Man, anybody can make that. I can just throw some ingredients together, and no problem.” But no, I mean, the FDA process for sunscreen specifically, I mean, you’ve got to do in vitro testing. You’ve got to do in vivo testing, which is a clinical trial that takes about two weeks. We’re currently doing ours in the UK. And then we’ve got to prove our waterproof resistance over time, which you have to do in person as well. So there’s a big, heavy overhaul and a capital costs.

Aaron  48:19
I mean, that’s the rub, right? It’s probably not cheap.

John  48:24
No. I mean, when you look at our in vivo testing, that’s nine grand. When you look at our in vivo testing, that’s 3,500 per product. And we’ve got two sunscreens. We’ve got a lotion form and then a stick form. So we’re getting double tapped on that all across the board. But you know, it allows us to be FDA Certified. So when you buy a product that says it’s SPF40 and it’s 80 minutes of water resistance, you’re getting that product. So for us, I mean, before the in vitro testing, I mean, we were at like SPF50. But you know, doing the multiple rounds of testing and then looking at the standard deviation of the test results, SPF40 was something that we could claim constantly without any hesitation.

Aaron  49:22
Wow.

John  48:24
And our results were about 43 and a half. We’re SPF43 and a half. Water resistance, we blew out of the water. But 80 minutes is the max that the FDA allows you to market.

Aaron  49:38
Interesting.

John  49:40
Yeah. It’s the fun stuff that you find out through the process. So now I have a great amount of appreciation for anybody before me who sold sunscreen.

Aaron  49:52
Oh, man. For sure.

John  49:52
Yeah. Aside from that, I mean, working with the lab and working with chemists, you just learn such cool things. Like I said, I was a history major. Didn’t know much. I took chemistry at the Naval Academy for two semesters, but you have some of that stuff that comes flooding back, but I mean, you just learned such amazing things. So it’s been really fun. But yeah, the FDA process and the certification, something you have to do. Do it right, do it once, and you’re good.

Aaron  50:27
Do it right, do it once. Absolutely. Man, well, John, I just want to thank you. Thank you for sharing your story. This has been a lot of fun. I’ve enjoyed hearing just all the different facets of our discussion, from real estate to endurance sports. It’s been a blast. I really do appreciate you spending some time with me this morning.

John  50:49
Oh, thanks for having me on. Look forward to seeing you in Houston. I’m telling everybody about your podcast.

Aaron  50:54
Oh, man.

John  50:56
Well, let’s grow this thing. Let’s make it big and let’s see where things go.

Aaron  51:00
All right. I appreciate it. And real quick. I forgot. How do people get in touch with you?

John  51:06
Yeah. So really, I’m on LinkedIn. So you can find me on LinkedIn. My name’s really hard to spell and pronounce, but it’s John Aselton there. There you can contact me. If you’re looking for info on Koru, we don’t have a website yet. Like I said, we’re going through our clinical trials and stuff, but we’ll be on all the socials. So Instagram, Facebook, that kind of thing.

Aaron  51:31
Awesome. Awesome. Well, good. Well, I encourage you if you’re listening, watching, definitely check in the Koru and stay closely connected to John as they continue to develop their products and get through that FDA testing and all that. So now, again, John, thanks so much. It’s been a lot of fun.

John  51:49
Yeah. No, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Aaron  51:51
All right, man.

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