Rocket IT Business Podcast | Marlon Allen | The Potential to Win | Ep. 27
In episode 27 of the Rocket IT Business Podcast, we have the pleasure of speaking with Marlon Allen, founding partner of Ramp Marketing. While, on the surface, Marlon and his team are giving student athletes the tools to pursue their dreams, the organization’s underlying mission has proved to be so much more. In this segment, we learn how Marlon is working to help people see their tremendous potential to win in every aspect of their lives.
In this episode, you’ll hear more about:
- How a career in baseball helped launch a business
- Key differences between sole ownership and a partnership
- The challenges of launching a sports apparel marketing company
- The importance of community involvement
- How coaching can be applied to every area of life
- Concepts for staying relevant in the consumer marketplace
Marlon Allen | firstname.lastname@example.org
Rotary Club of Gwinnett County
Gwinnett County School Board Foundation
Matt Hyatt (00:00:00):
Hello everyone, and welcome to episode 27 of the Rocket IT business podcast. I’m your host, Matt Hyatt. And today we’re talking with Marlon Allen, founding partner of Ramp Marketing. Ramp provides apparel to youth athletic teams, and they do a great job. But what I really love about Marlon is the way he approaches business and life. His purpose driven approach and servant heart are an inspiration to me and many others. So let’s get started Marlon, welcome to the show.
Matt Hyatt (00:00:32):
Well, Marlon, welcome to the show. We’re glad to have
Marlon Allen (00:00:34):
Glad to be here, Matt.
Matt Hyatt (00:00:36):
So I want to, we’re going to dive in a little bit about how we got to know one another, but before I get started, I want to hear a little bit about your marketing company. Ramp Marketing, which most people, when we hear a little bit about what you actually do, probably wouldn’t think marketing, but there’s absolutely a marketing element to it. So let’s dive right in and tell us about Ramp Marketing. How’d you get started? What do you do?
Marlon Allen (00:00:59):
Well, the core business model or, or what we do most is, is produced youth sports uniforms. And so that that’s really, and the marketing side of it came about because we, we really wanted, or, or felt that if we took the, the Nike model, which they have created and I’ll probably refer to it pretty well, they’ve done decent, you know, they were right on the heels. But, but when you take their model, you look at a phenomenal business and what they’ve done in the world of sports. They, they took a team, they took Oregon university and say, you know what, we’re gonna, we’re gonna create a brand that’s robust, that’s dynamic. That’s very different from whatever what else was done. And so the marketing side of our business came because when we met with a customer or really a sports team, a youth sports team, you know, the name Ramp, we said, we want to Ramp up your marketing efforts or your branding efforts or who you are as an organization.
Marlon Allen (00:02:08):
And, and we’ll do it through, you know, custom apparel, whether was uniforms, t-shirts, you know, yoga pants, hoodies, whatever it is we want to, we want to Ramp up the organization. And so when you, when you hear the term marketing, it’s not your traditional marketing company, but it’s that it’s really more about how can we take a youth organization because there most people don’t understand the ins and outs of, of youth sports to the point of Eric, tons of folks working behind the scenes, sure. That are working to really create a credible organization and respectable organization. One that is organized. And so a part of what we do outside of even producing uniforms is really if I, if I want to use the word consult, but really, really just advise companies on best practices and ways that they can even, you know, organize their sports, you know, from registrations to, you know, whether it’s online registrations and making sure that, that seamless for the parent or even, you know, trying on uniforms when that, when that kid gets to a uniform fitting to make sure that when the product comes back, that it fits properly. So sure. Quite a bit that goes involved in it, right? Yeah.
Matt Hyatt (00:03:29):
You know my, my kids are grown now, but they played some sports growing up and we would take them to the ball field and they’d try all kinds of different things. I think soccer and basketball, probably the ones that they spent the most time on, but it’s a production, you know, it’s absolutely production. It’s those kids running around, especially when they’re small, right. The front around, all over the place, the parents trying to figure out, alright, how do you know, how did I get signed up? Where do I need to be?. And then you get into it. We’re actually playing. And you know, we’re bringing pretty much everything we own to the ball field.
Marlon Allen (00:04:05):
Which is a whole nother business. Think about the times before. I wonder, what do we do before there were the carts that we will around now, the wagons. I mean, whoever created that they’re, they’re making a killer. I missed out on that opportunity, but you can’t go to a sports field without seeing all the wagons. I wonder what did my parents do?
Matt Hyatt (00:04:29):
Well, they probably weren’t bringing nearly as much stuff. That’s for sure. Now that we’ve, now we’ve got our carts and stuff, we can bring a lot. So tell me, how’d you get started in that business? What was the attraction there?
Marlon Allen (00:04:40):
It was really more out of some people call it frustration that you’re frustrated with something that happened. So in 2015, my nephew was essentially frustrated because he was getting charged $80 a wap for a t-shirt design. Now graphic design is a huge business and it’s, it can be costly. He calls me up. Oh, Hey man, do you think you can do some t-shirt designs? And my degree in computer information management has, has kind of led me to be self taught in different areas, hence the Adobe creative suite. And so I get around and mess around and that
Matt Hyatt (00:05:21):
I’m making a note. If that doesn’t work out for you. Let me know
Marlon Allen (00:05:24):
There you go, right. So yeah. Hey, I’m keeping my options open, but he calls me up and I say, yeah, I can help you out. So started doing some t-shirt designs for them. Wasn’t even thinking about it as a business. But then the beginning of 2016, about January of 2016, 1 of his, his t-shirt customers, which he’s out in Fort Worth, Texas and his son was playing youth sports. So football at the time. So one of the coaches or someone called him up. Hey man, can you do basketball uniforms? He picks up the phone. Hey Unc, can we do basketball uniforms? I said, well, there’s a lot of online resources. I’m sure we can get some blank uniforms and find a screen printer and, and, you know, and make a couple of hundred dollars. So, still wasn’t even really thinking about a business at the time. So we turn around that order, fulfill that order.
Marlon Allen (00:06:18):
And, and while from November of 2015, up until about February of 2016, my nephew was doing some research and I didn’t even know about it for international apparel suppliers. Oh wow. So he was doing all the research on that. He tried to figure out before, before we even discussed starting a business. Well, about November, about the time he calls me, I was starting my son’s travel baseball team. Reached out to a past college teammate who was a rep for a big baseball company. I man, I need some uniforms. So he said, I, I can outfit you. So we ordered the uniforms in November, Matt of 2015. I get a call from him in February of 2016 saying, Hey man, these uniforms won’t be until the end of March. So now I got, you know, 12, 12 parents that are looking at me like where, you know, where, where, where our uniforms?
Marlon Allen (00:07:24):
Right? So I call up my nephew and says, Hey man, do you think, you know, you, you got contacts with anybody that can do these. He says, yeah, I think so. So that was the first time that, that, that I used a, an overseas supplier to do uniforms, custom uniforms for us. And the frustration that I had with my roommate, college teammate, who didn’t, it wasn’t his fault, the company just, and this was, think about it is COVID was nowhere around, right? You didn’t have COVID excuses. It was just the fact that custom uniforms just took quite awhile to get, for that company to fulfill. Right. So we got those done and then May, so that happened March of 2016. So now we started, we started these discussions about really starting the business and may of 2016 is when we started it.
Matt Hyatt (00:08:21):
Wow. Happy five-year anniversary.
Marlon Allen (00:08:25):
Yeah. It’s big for us. We’re five years old. We are, we’re now eating whole foods, you know, solid foods right now we’re off the Similac, you know, walking around.
Matt Hyatt (00:08:39):
I think we’ve talked about that. Raising up a businesses is somewhat like raising up a kid.
Marlon Allen (00:08:43):
Absolutely. We’re still, still got a rocket to sleep at night, take a bath and five. They probably still need a lot of help. We’re still cooking for him, you know. So that’s where it came about. And so the name Ramp, which is folks say, you know, where does that name come from? Well, it’s actually my initials and my, well, first of all, my wife came up with the name. She was sitting there. We were just throwing out all kinds of stuff. And she says, what about Ramp? He says, why Ramp? She says, well, that’s your initial, Marlon Allen and Ronnie Pollard’s initial. So she fixed it up in her mind to come up with Ramp. And then we’re me and my kids were in, in our great room sitting down talking, and we just started creating a little jingle, wrap it up, Ramping up and whatever else. Ramping up.
Matt Hyatt (00:09:39):
Are you prepared to sing
Marlon Allen (00:09:40):
That really they still in the book, the next episode, that’s right. That’s right. We were still in the studio trying to perfect it, but Ramp it up really became our tag line and model. So to say, because that’s what we really wanted for our customers to believe that we were really going to take your ideas, Ramp up those ideas, you know, in a, in a, in a way that only we could do that. That wasn’t at the time really done in sports, especially for the youth for youth teams, so.
Matt Hyatt (00:10:20):
So tell me there’s so there’s a lot to unpack there. Let’s let’s let’s start. So you mentioned college roommate teammate. So, so you have a background in sports. Can you tell us about that?
Marlon Allen (00:10:33):
Oh, absolutely man. It, it started at the age of eight years of age, my first time playing for the parents in Columbus, Georgia Eastern little league. And that was my first year of baseball and, and I fell in love with it at first sight. Really started playing baseball at eight years of age and around 11, I can vividly remember that year one of the best baseball teams out ever played on, we actually won the city championship that year. I had one of my, I even remember having one of my best years in baseball and was second in the league in home runs and all of that stuff. And, and, and that was a year where I said, you know what, I, I, you know, I want to play baseball. And at the time, I don’t know if you, you remember the, the follow every, even if you follow the Braves, if you don’t.
Marlon Allen (00:11:34):
But at the time when I was that age, they used to say, all these baby blue jerseys at the Gulf, I’ll call it the filling station, which is we call it the gas station. I went back there, we called the filling station, but the Gulf Gulf gas stations used to sell Dale Murphy, baby blue, vintage jerseys. And I used to always want, I couldn’t afford it, but that was my dream to have, you know, one of those jerseys because I love the Braves. Love Dale Murphy was one of my idols growing up. And so continue to play in high school and then received a scholarship to Columbus State University, which is in my hometown, Columbus, Georgia. And it’s funny. Yeah. Well actually. Well, it wasn’t an academic now I’ll tell you this. I wasn’t wasn’t smarts off the chart, but you know, parents had some high expectations.
Marlon Allen (00:12:36):
A B student all the way through school. And, but it was a dual scholarship for basketball and baseball. So that actually was a baseball, a basketball scholarship because at the time the basketball program at Columbus State, which was Columbus College in 1991 was a little bigger at the time or no more than baseball. And so anyway, basketball scholarship. So they paid for my way through school and then baseball allowed me to play. And the backstory behind that, it’s funny because I have two older brothers that played division one football, one played at Georgia Tech. One play quarterback at Georgia tech. Yeah. And the other plate, quarterback at Austin PeaySstate University. Those two are division one colleges, which is the highest level of college sport sports Columbus College was division two. And, and I remember the report is asking, well, how do you feel, you know, going to a division two school and your brothers went to the division one school.
Marlon Allen (00:13:44):
I said, my brothers only played one sport. I’m a two sport athletes. So there you go. Some fun competition with them. And so played three years in college, played two years of basketball. My junior season, I decided that it was time to concentrate on baseball and still was chasing the dream of playing professional baseball. And that year was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds to play professional baseball and spent five years in their organization, made it up to AAA, finished in AA, one step below the majors finished in AA and coach one year for the A team as a hidden instructor. So a lot of sports. Yeah, no kidding. Yeah.
Matt Hyatt (00:14:31):
How did you feel getting drafted? I mean, was it like, yeah, finally. Or was it a big surprise.
Marlon Allen (00:14:37):
It was, I mean, it was a big deal because now tell you this, I, and I have to, this is just for the record.
Marlon Allen (00:14:49):
It wasn’t this huge signing bonus. I was drafted in the 40th round. So if you ever follow sports, you know, you know, football, I think has, you know, maybe six rounds at the most, maybe even five basketball doesn’t have as many. So you talking about well and baseball, this is a different model because of the minor league teams that they had at the time. So they drafted, it was close to 50 rounds of players that they drafted at the time. And so, but for me, it was more about the opportunity to, to chase the dream and pursue the dream. The dream had become a reality at the time because my scout sat down at my table at home and, and we went through the whole shebang of signing a professional contract. And he congratulate me on now being a professional baseball player. And so that meant I got paid, Matt.
Marlon Allen (00:15:50):
Fantastic. Now let me tell you about the pay cause it’s very interesting. Yeah. So at the time I was making $840 a month as a professional baseball player. A lot of folks don’t even know about that. That was a minor league. That was a minor league. Wouldn’t even necessarily call it a contract, but that was a minor league pay at the time. And it was funny because my first assignment was, it was Billings, Montana, which I was excited about because I’d never been on the west coast. Oh wow. And beautiful country out there. I mean, actually, yeah. Three days later they shipped me to, I hope no one is listening from Princeton, West Virginia, but Princeton, West Virginia is where they shipped me. I’ll just keep my comments because this is a special place as well, because.
Matt Hyatt (00:16:38):
That’s where Chris and Jessica are from.
Marlon Allen (00:16:43):
But Princeton, West Virginia, very, totally different from billings. But we get there and they show us a boarded up dorm college dorm. It was boarded up that we would be staying at for the summer.. So, and then they were taken out about $200 a check for, or about $150 a month or something for, for rental of this boarded up, closed up college dorm room. So that’s the life of a professional baseball player.
Matt Hyatt (00:17:18):
It’s not as glamorous as I thought,
Marlon Allen (00:17:20):
No, it’s not, I’m telling you.
Matt Hyatt (00:17:26):
Well you’ve got to, you must really love the craft to go through that. So how, how so? How long was the career?
Marlon Allen (00:17:33):
About five. It was five years. Coach one year after that year, I was 26 years old and I got a call saying that I was too old. Yeah, seriously. Oh my gosh. And they say they were going in a more youthful direction, which really means that they have some younger prospects that at the time seem more promising than what I was.
Matt Hyatt (00:17:56):
That sounds pretty cutthroat.
Marlon Allen (00:17:58):
Oh it is. Yes. You best believe it is a, it’s a cutthroat business because at the time you’re not, you know, it’s not a soccer parent or a soccer family going to sign up. Right. I mean, it’s a business and you’re in it to win.
Matt Hyatt (00:18:12):
Well, I’ll tell you what though think about that. You know, how many kids at 11 years old have any idea what they want to do as an adult. And then that, that’s a very small number, right? It’s gotta be a very small number. I, you know, I remember thinking about what I wanted to do in my late teens. Most people would consider that very early. Right. You know, 11 years old, that’s pretty darn early. And then how many, 11 year old kids dream of playing professional baseball that actually get to do it. Right. You’re one in million probably.
Marlon Allen (00:18:48):
I’m blessed. And I really realized that and, and realize that the opportunities that, that life and, you know, and God has afforded me is, is all the more reason for me to give back the way that, you know, the way that I do and, and keeps this goal. And so, yeah.
Matt Hyatt (00:19:07):
Yeah. So I think that it’s probably helps a lot, especially in your line of work, working with youths as you say, and provided the uniforms and you’re directly involved in the sports field. And that’s kind of a funny word to say, but yeah, that’s pretty awesome that you’re really good to carry on and still be around all of that. Now, have you done any coaching, as your kids are growing up or is that that’s a thing for you?
Marlon Allen (00:19:36):
Absolutely. It’s, it’s a part of who I am.
Matt Hyatt (00:19:38):
I thought you’d mentioned that. Tell me, tell me about how much time you spend doing that stuff.
Marlon Allen (00:19:41):
As a matter of fact, I’m probably sure that, that one of my kids, when they are unfortunately, well, I’ll just say, fortunately, they’re standing up, you know, talking about me when I’m long and gone. They’ll probably call me coach before they call me Daddy
Matt Hyatt (00:19:58):
Always been coaching.
Marlon Allen (00:20:00):
Oh, funny story. My daughter is in the chorus and she comes home and she’s singing a song and I said, all right, baby, let me just talk to you about that. She said, daddy, does it really have to be a lesson or a coaching session Every time we do something? I say, yes, because that’s just who I am. So you’re stuck with me. Right. But yeah, coaching is a big part of, of, of our life and what we do.
Matt Hyatt (00:20:23):
So you touched on something earlier and it reminded me, I think, and forgive me if I’m wrong, we’ll cut this out if I’m wrong. But I, I think I remember that there was a story about your brother when he was quarterbacking, sort of a touch of fame there somewhere,
Marlon Allen (00:20:41):
A little touch of fighting for all of you, Rudy fans out there and you know, yeah. You know, the name fans, you, you know, Rudy, Ruetigger’s name.
Matt Hyatt (00:20:52):
I met him once and he came to some conference.
Marlon Allen (00:20:56):
Yeah. Yeah. Awesome. I got a chance to meet him as well in my hometown. And that was a part of the story. Well, anyway, always big sports trivia. I ask people, do you know who Rudy Ruetigger sacked in real life? And they’re thinking about the movie. And, and I said, no, go and pull up the YouTube video, the Rudy play. And it’s an actual play. And at the time my brother was playing quarterback at Georgia Tech and Notre Dame was playing Georgia ech when Rudy Ruetigger, you know, got into that game. And, and at the end of the game, he, he actually sacks my brother. So Rudy, Rudy, Ruetigger sacs, Rudy Allen. So I tell my brother all the time, you have really missed out on millions because you could have gone on a speaking tour as the other Rudy.
Marlon Allen (00:21:52):
And he actually has a pretty powerful story. My brother is, he is, I mean, if you want to talk about an idol outside of my dad and just the things that he accomplished. Second African-American quarterback at Tech. So a lot, I mean, I could have I could talk we can have a whole nother podcast just about that story. That’s pretty. And for him, it’s pretty inspirational to see what he went through and for people really to know Rudy Ruetigger story, more so than his story, which at the time was, was pretty phenomenal to be able to go to a college in the seventies as a, as a black quarterback and, and, and, and for a college to accept you in that position. Back then it just one done. So, so that’s a part of all of our family’s, just story, and even some inspiration that we all use to drive us.
Matt Hyatt (00:22:51):
That’s so awesome. So speaking of family, you know, you and I have known each other for a couple of years now, maybe we’ve known each other longer, but we kind of the friends the last couple of years, right. Something you’ve mentioned several times in our conversations and meetings we’ve been in together is the impact that your parents and specifically your mom, like you mentioned your dad, but I remember a lot of stories about your mom. Can you tell us a little bit about how her leadership and how growing up with, with your mom and dad, how that affects your day-to-day decision making? I have a feeling that, you know, what’s, what’s the good word I’m looking for here that she reigned control. It’s what it seems like like when I’ve heard these stories. So how, how does, how does her legacy live out in your life?
Marlon Allen (00:23:41):
Absolutely, Matt. It’s and really for both of my parents, as a matter of fact, shout out to them, we are in two weeks celebrating my dad’s 85th birthday and my mom’s 84th birthday. So we’re having a big gathering in Columbus, Georgia. So I’m organizing that. So big deal and mom was, was, was very influential because of really her servant, servant heart. So we’re growing up. Matter of fact, they still live in the same home today, which my dad actually built in the sixties. Because he was a, he was a Bible vocational pastor. And so part of his, his other work when he wasn’t in the pulpit was a brick brick, masonry. And, and so one of the jobs at the time that he had was built in the neighborhood that they lived in, or that they eventually moved into think it was a 1964 right around when my.
Matt Hyatt (00:24:41):
Please tell me he lives in a brick house.
Marlon Allen (00:24:42):
Yeah, it is. Yeah. Now that’s all he believes. It’s brick. Yeah. We didn’t have any stucco back then. Not a whole lot of that stuff, but so anyway, mom, stay at home mom, domestic engineer, as you call it and very influential seven, seven kids. I’m number six out of the seven and the family’s kind of two stages. So my top three siblings, my brother and two sisters, are all three years apart. Then I think there was about a six year gap with my middle brother, which he says, he claims he’s the miracle child, Vince Allen. And then as another six year gap between Vince and Tanya or the bottom three kids, which is Tanya, my older sister, three years apart from her, then me, then Dimitra, three years apart. Nice. So it’s a 19 year span between the youngest and the oldest.
Matt Hyatt (00:25:44):
Once the youngest come along, the oldest is off to college.
Marlon Allen (00:25:45):
Yeah, he was gone. He was gone. And, and so my mom was raising essentially two different families in a sense.
Matt Hyatt (00:25:55):
Is it better or worse to be the second half? Like, you know, make all the mistakes on the first half. Right? You take a breather and say, okay, let’s try this again. We’ll take everything we learn and we’re going to make sure that Allen and brother and sister.
Marlon Allen (00:26:09):
That’s right. So, two sisters on either side. One older and one younger.
Marlon Allen (00:26:15):
Yep. That’s right. Yep. And four total sisters. four total sisters and the two brothers. So I’ve heard that the younger siblings had it easy compared to the older ones. And I can imagine that I can see that. My son now thinks that my daughter has a much easier than him. So, but
Matt Hyatt (00:26:33):
He had to do all that training with you.
Marlon Allen (00:26:36):
That’s right. We had to figure it out. By the time Sarah come along, we knew it. At least thought we did. But yeah, my brother used to say that my dad did a lot of coaching when, when they were coming up more so than what they did from when I was coming up. Right. And I just tell him, I was just a better athlete. He didn’t even have to coach him this hard. But to go back to your original question about mom, very influential, servant’s heart, three bedroom home that we lived in. And she was always, she would always bring kids in who, for whatever reason needed a place to stay for extended period of time, whatever their home life or their,
Matt Hyatt (00:27:18):
All of you and other things.
Marlon Allen (00:27:20):
Yeah. Wow. So it was, it was, it was, and, and, you know, and I never grew up feeling like, you know, I didn’t have my mom or my mom was giving attention to someone else. And she always every Saturday or during a week, baby, have you read your Sunday school lesson? You know, for Sunday school. She was the one, the stickler for that. And, and you know, my dad came in in terms of discipline, whenever mom just got to the point where she said, you know what I’m telling your dad, you know? And then he would come in and we never really wanted that to happen because when that discipline some, one of us, everybody was crying. Everybody crying. If he got on to me, then my other sisters were crying, because it was. It was pretty tough, but that my parents were very, I mean, just, just their life of, of service. And that’s what I look at. And, and that’s the legacy. They always, I’m in Rotary Club of Gwinnett County right now, our motto is service above self. And I didn’t have to join rotary to learn that because that’s what our family was about. And that’s what we’re about today. And my oldest brother always says, if you see a need then meet it, so meet the need, you see a need, meet the need. I love it. And then that’s how we, that’s how we live. So,
Matt Hyatt (00:28:52):
Yeah. Yeah. All right. So let’s dive in a little bit. I want to talk more about the business. It sounds like, you know, you told us a little bit about how you got started. So I think there are several things that are interesting about that story. Number one is, you’re, you know, you’re working with a partner, that’s also a family member. That’s not always the easiest. And so like to kind of jump into that a little bit, and then also you’re separated by, you know, geographically you’re separated by states. And so you were doing the work from home before it was cool. Right?
Marlon Allen (00:29:24):
Absolutely. You know, a lot of us have to transition.
Matt Hyatt (00:29:26):
Right. So any special challenges or any unique way, you have to do things when you’re working with your family member, who who’s also a coworker. I can’t imagine if you’re falling down on the job and he’s got to call you out how that goes,
Marlon Allen (00:29:41):
Uncle Marlon. Yeah. Vice versa. Right. How do you handle those kinds of discussions or is it super easy? It’s at times is easy. You know, I will say in five years we, we just had our, probably our biggest disagreement in five years and I’ll take that. Right. So if it’s not until another five years, I’ll take that on the podcast. So we’re only going to hear your side of the story. Well, you’re only going to get what I just told you. So, but my nephew and I leave at, at, at one point, yeah, I’m his sister and his mom, older sister were, were living with us. So that was one of those stories where they were in the household with us. So we grew up pretty tight. You were very good friends. We were very close growing up. Matter of fact, he, I tell him even that day he was a much better baseball player than I was.
Marlon Allen (00:30:40):
Oh yeah. But he just chose a different route. And so, but anyway, Ronnie and I have a, have a very kindred spirit, entrepreneurial spirit at the core of who we are. And so our vision for the company, it aligns and that’s important. It really is. And so he handles the Fort Worth. He’s in Fort worth, Texas. So really Texas is big enough for him to, to do without anything else. And so a big part of our business originated for, with, with some of the teams out in Texas. And so he’s, he’s probably one year ahead of me introducing certain products to Georgia. So interesting. So for instance, in 2016, when we started the business, he was the first to really, I did baseball jerseys that year, which is pretty simple, but he did football, which is a more complicated product in terms of the way that it’s built and constructed.
Marlon Allen (00:31:48):
And so in 2017, I came about and started introducing football to the, to some of the youth leagues here in Georgia. And so that’s kind of how we have, how the business has just kind of naturally it’s organically been built that way. And it has worked. It certainly has worked for us. So what I didn’t say about the start of the business is that you, you mentioned 11th grade, which was about the time while also said I wanted to own a sports company. So I was pretty intrigued and I’m trying to think of the sports company back then because it wasn’t many that I could, I went into and it, it may even have been Kmart back in the day, long before Walmart. Right. But you will go on the sport session section and say, Hey, man, I want to own a sports store sports equipment store one day. And so that was about fifth grade. About the same time I was all wrapped up in baseball as well. And, and then for us to be able to do it and see that dream as well. It’s, it’s pretty, it’s pretty cool. And, and so for us, it works, it works hand in hand.
Matt Hyatt (00:33:04):
I do have a question though, about how you divide up the workload. Because that’s always a question of how, you know, especially if you’ve got multiple partners, okay. This partner is going to conquer a particular role. Like we met, we had a podcast recently with Level Seven Facility Services, and we were talking about how, you know, one, one partner is sorely focused on business development. The other ones were beyond operations. It sounds like you guys are almost running two different businesses, you know, related, but you’re running your thing. So is it okay, I’m wearing the sales and operation and purchasing here. And so is my partner back in Dallas or how does that work?
Marlon Allen (00:33:45):
So, so I mean, because of the way that the model is, obviously we’re selling we, and you have the ability to sale nationwide or even worldwide. So with that, our influence in our own communities is very different. And to have him to call on a potential customer in Georgia just doesn’t make sense for our business model. And so because of that, we have there are some roles in, in, in the company that overlap such as sales, where we’re both sales driven and that’s the core of our business is selling the product. And we both know the product. We know the uniform, we know how it’s supposed to fit, and we can pretty much convince, you know, a whale in the sea to, to wear Ramp uniform if he needs it, you know? And so, and so that aspect of, of the company at this even from the beginning, we always felt needed to happen that way. the way that the roles pretty much are, are segmented, he still takes on the huge responsibility of, of supplier or factory research.
Marlon Allen (00:35:05):
So as our business continues to grow, we’re always making sure that we’re contracting with the best factories to produce what we’re doing. And so along with that research in terms of those factories also comes along product development and research, which that’s his lane, for instance, right now, he’s really in his first year of offering cheer uniforms and apparel. I don’t touch it here. You know, cheer, cheer uniforms, and my mind is pretty high maintenance when you’re dealing with some cheered cheerleaders, but he’s working through.
Matt Hyatt (00:35:49):
You know what’s coming though. If you’re a year behind, get your mind right.
Marlon Allen (00:35:52):
We’re already, we have some organizations that already always already asking me, you know, do y’all offer cheer. So he’s perfecting it. And, and, and that, that research takes a lot of his time. So I’ve taken, this is just kind of naturally happened. I’ve taken more of the operational role of it overseeing the HR aspects, the, the accounting aspects of it,
Matt Hyatt (00:36:24):
Marlon Allen (00:36:24):
You know, we, we do a little bit of that.
Marlon Allen (00:36:27):
It’s a hybrid model because we do have,
Matt Hyatt (00:36:31):
I didn’t know if you were still having to do that or not.
Marlon Allen (00:36:33):
Not as much. Early on, I was because of the type of, we call them mock-ups. So uniform mock-ups that our customer that we filled our customers needed to see. So we produce 3D Photoshop. Mock-Ups for our customers.
Matt Hyatt (00:36:53):
It’s not like when we were growing up is, you know, you’re lucky to get a little, you know, hatch or something on the corner. Now you see uniforms and like it’s 360 all the way around, right?
Marlon Allen (00:37:03):
It’s a, I mean, there, there are details to the uniform. I mean, you look, you can do a 360 turn of a uniform and there are some aspects of it that we are, that we’re adding or elements to the uniform that we add that differentiates one team from another. And these teams go back to marketing these teams.
Marlon Allen (00:37:25):
They love their teams. They love their brand. They love their mascot. So every detail that we can incorporate in the uniform, you know, is important. So yes, I still, if it’s some details that our suppliers or our factories can’t do, then I’ll come in and, and, and make sure that that is taken to the next level.
Matt Hyatt (00:37:51):
So you’re keeping the saw sharp, is what you’re telling me.
Marlon Allen (00:37:54):
Then you go, oh yeah, yeah, we still, we, we are still, you know, have our our pens to the paper, so to say, when it comes to graphic design. Plus you know, for me, I’m a, I’m a creative mind and, you know, I do a little videographer videography here and there and messing around with that. And that’s just a, it’s a hobby of mine that I’ve always been attracted to. So back in the day, I remember when it was funny, Adobe Premiere came out and I was an avid fan of Adobe Premiere. And then Final Cut Pro came out when I shifted gears to Mac. And I was going to ask said, yeah, I’m all Mac. And, and so, so anyway, I kind of transitioned from there. So the whole Adobe Suite is, is a perfect model because those tools are things that we always use, you know, to, to carry out.
Matt Hyatt (00:39:03):
Well, I’ll tell you why they’ve got a good business model, if you need any one of their products you end up basically buying all of all. Yeah.
Marlon Allen (00:39:11):
Matt Hyatt (00:39:13):
So we need to figure out how to do that with our, with our services and our products, when you’ve got to figure it out. You know, Sally needs a uniform, well so do, all 26.
Marlon Allen (00:39:23):
That’s right. You know, you’re not only need a uniform, but you need socks to match. You need a compression shirt or you need shorts as a practice uniform, and t-shirt. So we add value outside of the uniform and it’s important.
Matt Hyatt (00:39:41):
So now, if we go to your website and remind me, is it Ramp Marketing?
Marlon Allen (00:39:49):
Matt Hyatt (00:39:51):
You got a pretty meaty mission on there. It doesn’t, it doesn’t, it’s not just, you know, to provide the best uniforms and sports teams and Georgia and Fort Worth. It’s bigger than that. Can you tell, where did that come from? What’s what’s, what’s the idea there?
Marlon Allen (00:40:07):
Our mission of, in a really infusing in, in our customers or just people that we meet when a person is introduced to Ramp, we become very inspired to, to infuse that person with, with what we believe drives us as a customer, as a company. Creativity, partnerships, innovation. So the, those, those key words are very important to us because when I sit down with a customer, I don’t want it to be a very one dimensional transaction.
Matt Hyatt (00:40:50):
Transactions a good word. You don’t want it to be just transaction.
Marlon Allen (00:40:54):
Yeah. No, let’s talk about the partnership and let’s talk about, you know, I understand that we, that you want uniforms and yes, we can handle that. But talk to me about your organization and, and, and let’s see what we can really do to, to infuse your organization with the creativity, the inspiration, the innovation, the partnership, the, the, the influence that we have that we believe drives our company, that we also believe can drive your, your organization. And at the end of it, it means that, that the future leaders, the world really have a, a very unique experience in that sport, whether it’s baseball, football, basketball. As sports has done so much for me, Matt. And I know you, you know, that you probably can, don’t even have to guess. You just know it, it has, it’s a huge part of my life, right? And there’s a, there is a power within sports that we truly believe changes the lives of kids that participate in it.
Marlon Allen (00:42:03):
And so it’s not just playing a game on a Saturday or Friday. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s life changing. And me and my wife was talking the other day and we were, we were saying, football is the one sport that you hear athletes say changed their life. Yeah. You can hear stories from, from NFL athletes. And they’ll say, because of football, if it wasn’t for football, you know, my life wouldn’t be derailed or, or I’d be on a detour. I don’t hear that too often in baseball, the makeup of baseball, the demographic of baseball is pretty different. But, but for football, we hear it a lot and to see kids’ lives changed, you know, because of that. And in this community Gwinnett county, one of the largest school systems in the state of well, really in the nation, it is, is, is it’s a pretty big deal for us.
Marlon Allen (00:43:04):
And even out in Texas for us to be able to provide a uniform for a kid, and to know that when he wakes up in the morning and he puts on a uniform, he’s going to be jacked up about how he looks. Right. And you think about the, the, you know, kids today, we often have conversations about how they look, you know, the way they dress. And, and I don’t know, I would imagine you, your parents taught you this, but first impression is your last impression. So for us, when they put that uniform on, we, we want them to, to really feel good and know that, man, not only can you look good, but, but this will inspire you to play your best. Yeah. So it was pretty big deal.
Matt Hyatt (00:43:51):
Yeah. I love it. So you mentioned community. Yeah. That’s how, that’s how we got to know each other a little bit on board for a local bank. But tell us a little bit about that. Cause it seems like, it seems like you’ve really embraced your community. You’re involved in a lot of different ways. You mentioned rotary. Yeah. Tell me about that. Is that part of the marketing plan of Ramp or is there something different at work there? What draws you to that?
Marlon Allen (00:44:20):
Well, the community I’ve always been drawn to the community and it’s, it stems from the example that my parents said. And my dad actually was going to seminary school in Tennessee when he left seminary school to come home to Columbus, Georgia to organize the civil rights movement. So that was back in the sixties. So, so in Columbus he was one of the organizers of the movement back then. And so, and so me learning that because I wasn’t even born at the time, but me learning that, hearing about it, growing up in a city where people really respected my dad for his sacrifice and go back to mom and for her waking up in the morning, fearing the life of our kids because of the mission of her husband, it was pretty, it was pretty serious deal. And so for me, I’ve, I learned that from my parents and the influence that they had in the community, and that’s just our DNA, that’s who we are.
Marlon Allen (00:45:35):
And so yes, it can, we can look at it and create, you know, some, some story that it’s a part of, of, of the company. But no, it’s a part of who we are, whether it’s working for Ramp or any other company we’re, we’re going to be involved in the community and people always ask me, how do you have to have the time to do what you do? And my life mission is simply to die, to die on E. I’m going to be on E when I die, it will be empty. So now, if Tasha was here, my wife, she probably, you know, roll eyes at me because like, yeah, you need the unique, you need to pull it back a little bit, but just, just for instance. So in rotary, so the things that I’ve been involved in here in Gwinnett county, which I think is huge, this community is very special, very similar in ways to, to what I grew up with in Columbus. But really started out in the rotary club of Gwinnett county, when I first got involved. Then I would say, I became president of the club, Leadership Gwinnett came about that same year, 2015, got involved in that. After that, I went through the program, started working on the committee. So, you know how it is, you become visible in the community. People begin to know you, they know what you stand for. Soon. I was later asked to be a trustee on the Gwinnett county school boards foundation. So I’m currently doing that.
Marlon Allen (00:47:16):
Let’s see what else. I may, I started a leadership program for African male African-American male, ninth grade students at Decula high school. So that was pause. That’s been on pause because of COVID, but we’re about to start that back up. So I’m doing that. I’m a chaplain that for the sports teams at Decula high school, I’m the president of the touchdown club at Deceula high school. So I don’t say all of this to say.
Matt Hyatt (00:47:46):
I’m surprised you had time to come here.
Marlon Allen (00:47:49):
It’s tight, but I don’t, I’m not bragging about any of that. You know, it’s just what I just believe that is my, my role in the community. Now, I don’t know if I have a whole lot more time to give right now, but it’s, it’s, it’s pretty, it’s just awesome to be able to influence and impact and serve others is simply what it is. And so Occonne State Bank, I think our role there, Rowan task force and the huge project
Matt Hyatt (00:48:23):
So for our listeners, I should look up Rowan, absolutely. About this project that’s taking place in our counties is pretty amazing.
Marlon Allen (00:48:32):
Yeah. I don’t even have time to even start talking about that, but yeah, look up Rowan. And, and so those are just ways that we, that we give back is simply that, so.
Matt Hyatt (00:48:44):
I love that. I do wonder how you have time to balance the five-year-old baby business. And I’m saying that kind of half kidding a five-year-old business requires a lot of attention from its founders. And you’re very active in the community. And I think you just listed off nine different things that you’re involved in, but you also have kids at home. How old are your kids?
Marlon Allen (00:49:09):
My kids are 14. My son is 14 and my daughter is 11.
Matt Hyatt (00:49:14):
So yeah, they’re there at a tender age. Yes. Through middle school, early high school, probably somewhere around there. That’s a lot going on. It’s a lot. How do you make time for all that?
Marlon Allen (00:49:26):
And my marriage. You know, I couldn’t do it without her, but
Matt Hyatt (00:49:32):
So you sleep three hours a night. Well, how you get the more time or.
Marlon Allen (00:49:36):
No, it is interesting as I’ve the older I become, the, the more important sleep is to me and it’s in his interest. And I think we can all say that because in our younger days, you know, we didn’t get, we could, we could really go an entire day off a couple of hours of sleep. So very intentional. And I’m thankful for, for apple that has the features on my phone that I can put on the do not disturb. Oh, nice. Sometimes I don’t abide by the notification, but it has helped develop some sense of discipline for the rest that I know I need in the day. So my day usually starts at about 4:00 AM. Partly is because our company or we’re using international suppliers, which is about anywhere from seven to nine hours, time difference. So me interacting with them in the morning or in their afternoon or whatever it is, is very important.
Marlon Allen (00:50:45):
So that’s how I, I get a lot of done, a lot done for my, for my work. So by the time my kids wake up, I’ve had four hours of work, pretty much done. And so it allows me to be a little bit more flexible during the day. Whether it’s to pick my kids up from school or to take them to practice or to take them to sports, you know, events or, you know, whatever the case may be. So we are very fortunate that our schedule allows us to, to get everything done. And
Matt Hyatt (00:51:23):
So I got to know, what time did you go to bed last night?
Marlon Allen (00:51:27):
I was in the bed at 10.
Matt Hyatt (00:51:29):
That’s pretty long day of 4:00 AM to 10:00 PM.
Marlon Allen (00:51:34):
Yeah. It’s long. And I start and I start winding down at you know, about seven o’clock or so, and it just kind of depends on the day. But my mental, and that’s the thing turning, turning the business off mentally over time that has improved. And, and that’s because I realize as I think we both said that yeah, whatever that issue is, most of the time is not life-threatening and, and you realize that, okay, you don’t, you, you don’t have to like do everything right now.
Matt Hyatt (00:52:18):
It’ll be there for you in the morning.
Marlon Allen (00:52:19):
Yeah. I mean, it really will. And, and so, and so that’s, that’s just kinda what I’ve learned over the years and certainly don’t stress as much as I used to live in a more healthier life.
Matt Hyatt (00:52:34):
No, that’s good. That’s good. Yeah. So, but if I brought your wife in here and asked her how you deal with that. She would agree with you. I won’t bring my wife in and I’ll bring your wife.
Marlon Allen (00:52:47):
I think she’ll say I’m improving, but I have a long ways to go still.
Matt Hyatt (00:52:51):
There’s still time for you.
Marlon Allen (00:52:52):
There’s still, there’s still some days when I don’t turn it off
Matt Hyatt (00:52:56):
This has been a great conversation, we’re going to move on real quick to our lightning round. These are questions we ask every one of our guests. And the first one is, tell us about somebody who’s had a profound impact on your life. Who’s, who’s stepped into your life and really changed things for the better.
Marlon Allen (00:53:12):
It’s hard for me not to say my dad. I really tried to think of somebody else. I know I’ve talked a little bit about my dad, but it’s my dad. And, and part of me observing his life came in 1980, he started the church that we grew up in. And as a result of him being a Bible, vocational pastor learning the trade of construction, he was able to build our churches. He built it, which was my summer job. Yeah. So that was a couple of summers where I worked for my dad. Yeah, no, well, no, no. I didn’t even learn because I was a laborer. I was working. The hardest thing I was, I was bringing bricks to the layers, the hardest work ever you weren’t talking about, why do I go, why did I go to college and finish?
Marlon Allen (00:54:08):
It was because of those summer jobs with my dad. And he, I remember one day he, he says real quickly, he says, I was carrying some bricks in one hand. He say, son, he said, yes, daddy. I knew it was going to be something. He says, what’s wrong with your left hand? I said, nothing wrong with my left hand. He said, well, I need to see some bricks and those hands too. So, so he was, he was pretty tough. If I wanted the day off, I didn’t ask my dad, I asked my mom, but, but his faith is the influence of my dad and his faith. I remember someone in the city walking by the church saying, man, what do you need with all of this church? You don’t even, you don’t have enough members. How are you going to pay for it? And when I heard that it was because I knew then that my dad had a different type of faith to, to, to really build a building as big as it was at the time.
Marlon Allen (00:55:04):
And to do what he did in ministry. It was, is pretty phenomenal.
Matt Hyatt (00:55:07):
That is amazing. He sounds like a terrific guy. And I hope we get to meet him someday. All right. So next one. Are you a, are you a reader? Are you a podcast guy?
Marlon Allen (00:55:20):
A little bit, little bit of both. Little bit of both. And these days it’s, it’s transitioned to, to the audio books. And for me this is funny. I’ve always been a Nike fan. Growing up. Most athletes are just fascinated by the company. So my favorite book is Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight. And for me it’s is not so much about the brand, but I’m just intrigued that everything that they went through in, in the seventies to, to get the company where it is today and for many of us, we just see the company as it is, whether it’s the endorsments that the, the athletes that endorse that are endorsers, or, you know, the different brands or the different types of shoes. But, but to hear his story where he even went overseas to negotiate, you know, product development and to learn that, man, it was, it, it quickly became a yeah, very inspirational. One of my favorite. And then
Matt Hyatt (00:56:27):
By the way, I know a lot of folks through here. I don’t think anyone’s mentioned that book, but it is a terrific book with a great reputation.
Marlon Allen (00:56:34):
People love it, but yeah, it is so, so many different, different stories in there. And then folks, probably a man sound like you need to go work with Nike, but they have a trained, trained, Trained podcast that they do. It’s called, Trained. And it’s, it’s really more about his training in so many different ways. And, and, and that’s where I learned. Lebron was on one time talking about the importance of sleep and how that’s probably one of the things that has the most impact on your performance is the amount of rest that you get. And I think most of us naturally know that, but to hear him talk about it, how important it is for him, you know, in my mind, I’m thinking, man, you’re out in LA, you in a big city. And I mean, this huge celebrity and he gets on and he’s talking about sleeping. Yeah. So that’s, that’s one that
Matt Hyatt (00:57:38):
Nike’s Trained podcast. Check that out. So tell us, you’ve been in business for a while now, also had this baseball career and I know you’re involved a lot of different non-profits and so forth. What’s, what’s an important lesson you can share with the listeners that has been really key to your success. It’s
Marlon Allen (00:58:01):
I want to say John Maxwell said it, it says every everything rises and falls on leadership. And I think when I look at, at every turn of my life, every stage of my life, everything that I’m involved in, one of the natural attractions I have is just to look around, to see who’s, who’s leading it. You know, who’s, you know, you can, I can tell a lot about who you are as a person when I walk into this, in, into this building. And, and I think that is so important. And it is, it is lessons that I hopefully am doing, I’m doing the best I can to transfer it to my kids. Yeah.
Matt Hyatt (00:58:47):
It sounds like you’re doing a great job.
Marlon Allen (00:58:49):
I hope so. I mean, you want to talk about feeling inadequate. Parenting parenting on many days. It makes me feel inadequate.
Matt Hyatt (00:58:59):
It is kind of funny how that works on things. Figure it out and then God throws a kid at you. Oh Lord. Oh my goodness. Yeah. And then we learn everything.
Marlon Allen (00:59:09):
Yeah. Well, but have a great partner in, in that as well. Right.
Matt Hyatt (00:59:15):
Well then you get the second one and that one’s completely different than the first
Marlon Allen (00:59:22):
It is. Oh boy. So many stories on that, but yeah, it is.
Matt Hyatt (00:59:27):
Well, Marlon has been a real pleasure to have you on our show. Thank you for making time to spend with us. Marlon Allen with Ramp Marketing and great job, sir.
Marlon Allen (00:59:37):
Thank you so much for having us, Matt.
Matt Hyatt (00:59:38):
Thank you. On that note, it’s time to wrap things up. Marlon, from myself and our audience, thank you for joining me today. And to our listeners, thank you for tuning in. Before we go a quick plug for Rocket IT. Did you know that organizations with mentors retain 94% of employees for a longer period of time? To learn how Rocket IT’s virtual Chief Information Officer can reduce burnout and your technical staff and transform your it managers into strategic leaders. Visit rocketit.com/vcio.