"I'm here to help people," Matt Kaspari's inner voice has been telling him that for a long time. It's an instinct many people can relate to, the desire to be of service. But the translation of this urge into a career path can be tricky. It takes a born entrepreneur to find a way to create something brand new that satisfies the itch.
Being true to yourself is a complicated art to master. Kaspari developed this type of loyalty while earning his BS in Mathematical and Statistical Science in 2005, and followed up with a MS in Applied Mathematics in 2010. Coming from five generations of engineers he could easily have worked to fit himself into that mold, but he says he knew from the start engineering wasn't for him. When it came time to get his education Kaspari struck out on his own.
Kaspari started working when he was twelve years old, cleaning the shop of an uncle who produced awards and trophies. Many of Kaspari's extended family owned their own businesses, and he took every opportunity to contribute and learn all he could. Not satisfied to sit back and watch the adults run the show, Kaspari started a "side hustle" selling bubble gum out of his locker in middle school. The itch to be an entrepreneur was born.
By the time he was in high school, Kaspari had convinced his uncle to train him not only on the production side of the company but also in sales. While he continued cleaning the shop after hours, Kaspari remembers, "I was selling awards to high schools, four or five at a time, and that was great. But then one day I found this sunglasses clip that we had produced ... with a logo on it ... and I asked 'What is this?' and my uncle told me, so then I asked 'How many did they order?' and he said 4,000 (or something like that). And the light went off in my head!"
Because math was always something that came easily to him, Kaspari quickly calculated the profits after inquiring about the product markup. He asked his uncle why they weren't selling more high-volume items. His uncle said he liked running the business he had been running for most of his life; he didn't want to run a sales team or act as a middle man for products he didn't produce himself. But Kaspari saw the future. He saw an opportunity that shops like his uncle's weren't taking. The more he thought about it, the more excited he became, "I was like 'this is good! This is going to be my chance.'" After further discussion, Kaspari says his uncle "pushed him out of the nest" and prompted him to start a company of his own.
Kaspari started Kaspo, Inc. in 2003, when he was a 20-year-old CU Denver undergraduate. His initial major was in business, but he was also a budding philosopher—asking the universe where to dedicate his life and looking for his path. As a young person Kaspari was disillusioned by the white-collar crimes of Enron and the like, and didn't see a lot of ethical behavior in business. He wanted to use his entrepreneurial spirit, but didn't know how.
Kaspari never slouched with his elective courses, taking classes as diverse as Computational Biology, glacial study in the Geography Department, human behavior in Psychology, and ethics in Philosophy. Often, his unbridled enthusiasm meant he set the grading curve. Kaspari feels that he could have gone almost anywhere and started graduate study in just about anything with the diverse education he received getting his liberal arts degree.
But even with all this preparation, Kaspari had a rough first semester of his graduate program. While dealing with the first major challenge to his business (a misprint on a large order), he had to juggle a family emergency (his grandmother, mother, and sister were out of communication, trapped in Mexico for two weeks after Hurricane Wilma). His advisor paused his degree two weeks before finals, and he had to make a serious commitment to come back and finish his MS. What kept him moving forward in his studies was a simple equation: the more educated he was the more successful his company could be, and the more successful his company was the more people he could help. He says, "I realized you can't help anybody until you help yourself. The better I feel the bigger impact I can have."
"I started a marketing company because I think the point of marketing is to reinforce or change behaviors," Kaspari says. "Impacting human behavior is so powerful, and can be really important."
Kaspari wants Kaspo, Inc. to increase consumer loyalty for brands he believes in, helping these companies make the biggest impact they can. The company website says it best: We are a hardworking group of creative, like-minded individuals that love working with companies that make us smile. As a creative marketing firm, we have come to understand that consumer behavior is not centered around needs, but rather a desire to connect with something bigger. Our goal is to help your company make that connection with consumers effectively.
"Marketing helps businesses grow, and I pick and choose what businesses I help," Kaspari says. He gives each client his full attention and loyalty, so that they can have more success through exceptional marketing. He knows, "My impact can be really large, even as one person, or one small company, because I have a role in my clients' success."
Kaspari runs an ethical business, first and foremost. He uses a mathematician's precise mind to determine a potential client's ability to add to the common good or detract from it, and he chooses clients that he knows can make the world a better place. Kaspo, Inc.'s first client was another uncle's construction company—they ordered some hats and shirts. His client base now includes the Colorado Avalanche, Chipotle, Larabar, Muir Glen Organics, and many other recognizable brand names.
Running a business focused on customer loyalty has become a profitable enterprise. Kaspari remembers conversations he had early on with his father and others who saw starting a business as something too risky to take on. He enjoyed sharing his success with these people as staying loyal to himself began to payoff.
Kaspari sees a liberal arts degree as the ultimate preparation for a person who wants to start their own business, or succeed in his field. He says, "I need problem solvers. When I hire people I look for problem solvers, and I got that ability myself from my degree. No, I don't have the business jargon in my school background, but I picked that up."
"Math is the universal language, I tell people that all the time," Kaspari says. "Mathematics is truth, that's how I see it. I pursued my degrees in math because the structure of that truth made sense to me." It also makes since to Kaspari to give back through community service. He has volunteered his time with the Challenge Foundation, Environmental Learning for Kids, Cans for Hope, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Arthritis Foundation and the Colorado Student Leaders Institute.
"I say follow your passions," Kaspari concludes. He's never looked back on the passions he's chosen to follow, and often speaks to young people through mentoring and other venues, coaching them on how to be loyal to the voices in their own heads. "Life is short, you gotta love what you do. And it's not 'just that easy,' but I want to tell you it is possible."