Aaron Dodge on passion, collaboration, and branding
Updated: Jan 22, 2019
Have you ever had a moment where everything you’ve worked for and been building towards culminates in a single moment? For a single breath you see the why behind the past and see the who of the future and think yes… this… this is it.
On December 13, 2017, Charlottean Aaron Dodge found himself in a room with nine other people who were being asked to build something different within our city. A space where people can workout, recover, and build community all while being encouraged to celebrate their most authentic selves. On that same day, he’d quit his old job and taken a new business development position with a guy who used to play professional golf before launching into a video business. For some of us, it might be off-putting. But for Aaron, affectionately known as Dodge, it felt just right.
I spent some time with Aaron at a local juice bar recently. As we spent time catching up on work and life, he sipped his usual healthy Mr. Joe while willingly sharing his journey from a new kid in a city, where he knew very few people, to a household name for his Instagram antics and generosity with a smile and a joke.
What culminated on a December day started with a trip down 77 and a captivating skyline in 2013…
So, Aaron, what brought you to Charlotte?
A few things. Ultimately, I wanted to be closer to my family after spending time in New Orleans and Minneapolis. One day, as I was driving on 77 to see my family in Myrtle Beach, I really liked the Charlotte skyline. As I explored the possibility of moving here more, I found I really liked the energy. There are a few great sports teams, local breweries, and a young professional vibe.
I love that the energy of the city brought you here. So many folks move here for jobs and then fall in love with us. I’m guessing you came here with kind of work to do. Is that what you’re doing now?
Haha, no. My goal was to get here, and I took any job I could get. Sort of a starter place until I could figure out my next steps. My career until that point had been almost solely with the NBA. I actually still work for the Hornets part-time, but my journey from 2013 jobs to my present-day job was similar to what a lot of late twenty/early thirty-year olds face when moving to a new spot.
I was in recruiting for a while. I had my own LLC where I did marketing for different businesses in town. In 2017, I left my LLC for a marketing firm. During all of this, I really began experimenting with my personal brand. I didn’t know at the time that my personal brand antics would lead to my current career, but I think it’s interesting to look back and see how things work.
I love making people smile. I also really love to dance. So, when middle schoolers were using Snapchat to text without their parents seeing the contents of the text, I was using it to create videos of me dancing. Then, when Instagram began offering stories, I jumped in there with my dancing videos. I also started showing where I was eating, working out, hanging out, watching on Netflix, my general story and people loved it.
So, I became an ambassador for the Charlotte Marathon since I was planning to run it and had a strong knowledge of how to use social media as a platform for sharing my story. As part of my work as an ambassador, I met Duncan Littlefield and asked him to do a photoshoot for me. We kept in touch. I loved what he was doing with video and how he was creating a company based almost solely on providing content for companies to use in their online platforms.
I’d had a ton of experience in the power of video in my jobs with the NBA. I have been a fan of Gary Vaynerchuk since 2013 and knew the power of quality content for businesses. I was also pretty discontent with my job. I wasn’t involved in the creative or brand development part of the business. I was simply managing two accounts.
Duncan and I kept talking. And talking. And talking. On December 13, I was to meet with my boss at my last job to present to him my plans for 2018. I remember this day so vividly. I called Duncan and said, "I need to know if this thing with us is a go. Because, I’m going in to quit my job.”
Duncan said it was. So, as my boss asked me what my plans were for my account for 2018, I responded with… I’m leaving the company. This is my two-week notice.
A few week prior, Aaron got a call from his friend Katie Dixon about not making any plans on Wednesday, December 13th.
Wait… this feels important. Who is Katie Dixon?
Oh! Katie Dixon! Do you have people on social media you really like… either you admire what they’re doing or how they’re handling their own brand, and you really think you’d be friends. But, instigating that conversation feels weird?
Well, that’s sorta my beginning relationship with Katie. I met her in February of 2017. We had a nice conversation but nothing major. I found out she ran a fitness studio in Cornelius and taught cardio dance classes there. In April, during one of my bathroom dance sessions for Instagram, I tagged Katie. Within minutes, she messaged me and wanted me to send her that video. She reposted it. I kept dancing, tagging her, and our numbers kept growing.
I’m always one to sit down and collaborate with someone. Katie and I have so much in common and we started talking more, building a friendship. I started meeting other people on her team and honestly, we all became really great friends. I had no idea what was coming.
Okay, so back to December 13. You’ve just quit your job. You’re starting with Duncan. You get a call from Katie… And?
This is where it gets good. So, I get this call from Katie asking me to meet her at her new workout space. I knew she wanted to open a second studio in Charlotte. I drove to the space, walked in, and saw Duncan… which was pretty cool because it was the first time seeing him after quitting my job.
I also saw two tables with table cloths set out and it looked like dinner was coming. When all 10 people were at the location, Katie asked us to sit down and shared her vision with us:
She was opening a space in Charlotte called BLOC, Building Lifestyle On Community. A space for workouts, recovery, and community, and she wanted the people in that room to help her make it happen.
Can you believe that? In one day, I stepped into a new job with a partner whose vision I really believed in and the Universe handed me another opportunity: to get to build a space to invite more people who like me want to workout and do life together.
I’m a little misty-eyed at this point… What a perfectly beautiful moment for you. It’s been almost six months since that day. How is life now?
The Littlefield Co. is growing like crazy. We’ve grown from a team of four in January to a team of seven now. As video continues to grow, we continue to grow. And BLOC opened in late May with the city’s first recovery lounge equipped with foam rollers, lacrosse balls and AirRelax compression boots and some of the city’s best, most authentic instructors. I see it as my role to bring people to BLOC and also greet every single person who walks into a class.
I love when people say, “Aaron Dodge is authentic. He’s true to himself.” I honestly want to make the world a better place. I believe in lifting people up and seeing how I can help them. I love that I get to do that every day. Either through a funny or inspirational Instagram post, a killer video with Littlefield, or dance move with BLOC.
I really want to make the world a better place one laugh at time.
Aaron, thank you for taking time to talk with me. I like to end my interviews with a little rapid-fire Q/A. If you’re game, let’s go.
Great. So… what’s your favorite?
Sports team: Charlotte Hornets
TV show: Seinfield (though New Girl comes in a strong second)
Movie: Remember the Titans
Place to work out: BLOC
New thing in CLT: Scooters
Old thing in CLT: Freedom Park
Connect with Aaron on Instagram!
Photo credit: Julia Fay Photography