An entrepreneur’s path to success doesn’t always follow the same trajectory as another’s. In fact, it rarely does. Some jump in and figure it out later while others take a more calculated risk, still knowing that entrepreneurship is a high risk, high reward play more often than not.
Aaron Knape, now CEO and Co-Founder of sEATz, was once an undergraduate student attending Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. As we sat down with Aaron, he walked us through how he got his start. Right after college, Aaron had accepted a sales position at an air conditioning and generator rental company, Carrier Air Conditioning. It was there that Aaron got a front-row seat to entrepreneurship. He watched as the owner of this business grew it large enough to sell it and that is when Aaron’s entrepreneurial senses were awakened. He talked about the dozens of articles he’d read each week on innovation and all the amazing technological advancements being made around the world. After that company was sold, Aaron went to work for Fluor, an engineering firm, and in short order, he accepted a role at Dynamic Air Shelters, a brand that created blast-resistant air-inflated buildings. He grew his career at Dynamic, having taken over sales and marketing, and was ultimately named President of the company. He moved around Europe and Canada progressing the business and quickly took an intrapraneurial approach to helping the business.
During this time, Aaron was trying out a few startup ideas of his own, in the spirit of entrepreneurship. As he walked us through his career, he attributed much of what he would implement in sEATz to those processes and procedures he carried out at Dynamic Air Shelters saying, “As a person on the inside of an organization, sometimes it’s hard to implement innovation, so you’re almost forced to go outside and find external partners who can build these offerings that may not be core competencies to the brand, but are certainly significant components to client success.”
Throughout his travels in Europe to grow the business, Aaron developed a life skill that would easily translate into his entrepreneurial strength, learning how to get things done against the odds, akin to learning how to speak the language of others in a foreign country that is now your home. He spoke fondly of those times, happy to describe the times he had with his family, which only furthered his drive for success.
Aaron’s work life would continue to parachute him into foreign countries including France, Italy, Amsterdam, Canada, and eventually back into the States. Once back, he and his wife met up with two long-time family friends. At that dinner, he caught up with Marshall Law, his now Co-Founder, chuckling as he remembered the number of times they would say to one another, “We’ve got to do something together.” Sometimes they wondered if anything would ever come of it and finally the moment presented itself.
It was Game 3 of the World Series in 2017, Astros vs Dodgers. Marshall had been sitting out in left field when the idea of sEATz was born. He reached out to Aaron through a text that night and said, “The time is right. In-seat food delivery at stadiums.” Aaron remembered seeing his phone illuminate with that message and after a quick thought, he typed back, “Why hasn’t it been done yet?” Recounting the memory, Aaron’s face widened into a grin as he said, “In true Marshall fashion, he answered back with, “Because we haven’t created it yet.” Marshall was the tipping point for Aaron to realize his passion for entrepreneurship. Paired now with grit and fortitude, best estimates and processes, they quickly went to work developing the idea. As time would carry on, Aaron found himself drawing in an old friend, Craig Ceccanti, now CTO and Co-Founder to the business. Craig, a known serial entrepreneur, would join the team shortly thereafter describing how his decision to join was due to the seasoned leadership and individual skills of the team already in place.
Almost three years later, the brand and Aaron’s career in entrepreneurship are developing rapidly, glittered with success, both small feats and large undertakings.