In less time than it takes most folks to close on a new home, Kate and Carl Martens met, fell in love and started putting wheels on a dream. As the adage goes, ‘When you know, you know.’
It was that same gut-feeling, coupled with a willingness to take a chance and the gumption to jump in with both feet, that gave birth to Aventuron just 6 years ago. Lauded by every single one of their employees as “the best bosses ever,” the Martens are as amazing as individuals as they are a couple. Their synergy is intoxicating, and their ability to keep it raw and real lends to them a credible strength and an authentic vulnerability that is enviable.
The fact that they can do it all so seamlessly, while raising baby Mack (almost 2) and his sweet sister, Remi (brand spanking new) is awe-inspiring.
We had the chance recently to learn a little bit more about this power couple and how they keep the machine running.
How did the 2 of you meet?
I was a nanny for Carl’s cousin, and we met at a family reunion in Northern Wisconsin, where I’m from. We only hung out a few times before I moved to Chicago to be with him. The rest, as they say, is history (K).
Which one of you is the ‘funny’ one?
We can both be really funny!! Carl gets especially funny and chatty after a drink or two. Then the true clown comes out. I’ve got more of the sassy side and, thankfully, Carl knows I’m just being funny and not a total brat (K).
I don’t think most people realize how funny Kate is! She’s hilarious. I try to get customers laughing. People don’t like to do business with people that aren’t fun to do business with. As a salesperson, I’ve always tried to keep that in mind. I also love to say things that make Kate laugh and embarrass her in the grocery store or in the drive-through at Starbucks. (C)
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
My weakness is that I don’t like to listen to Carl!! I’m about as stubborn as they come, no matter how right he is! I know he would agree on that for sure! Carl does NOT give up on things, which can be both a strength and aweakness. He’s headstrong and makes sure that **it gets done. (K)
Kate is ridiculously organized. She keeps me on track because I can be all over the place. She keeps it all together. I go with the flow and roll with the punches. I always say, “Don’t talk about it, BE about it.” I’m more of a doer, right or wrong. (C)
Who’s the creative one?
I think we both are. I have ideas. Kate comes up with the copy and content for all our social media stuff, advertisements and whatnot. I’m just the ‘idea guy.’ (C)
I agree. We’re both creative, just in different ways. Carl is the National Sales
Manager for a different company and he does a great deal of their marketing, so he knows what it’s about. I’m more of the visual creative. He shoots me ideas and I make them look pretty, like on social media and e-mail blasts. (K)
What do you admire most about one another?
Kate being a mom. She does a great job and keeps it all together. She makes it so easy for everyone else. (C)
Awww. Are you going to tear up now? People don’t know that Carl is a really sensitive and empathetic guy…as he sits here tearing up on the couch next to me. Seeing him as a dad has been amazing. Most people don’t get to see him like that. (K)
Who were your heroes growing up?
I think Carl’s was probably his dad, but I don’t have a good answer for that one. (K)
I like Michael Jordan, too, but I was never obsessed. He was so driven and that’s what was cool about him. He lifted everyone around him. He had confidence and elevated others. But I don’t necessarily have any heroes. (C)
If you could sit down and have dinner with anyone, who would it be?
My grandpa or my buddy Ben. Maybe Teddy Roosevelt or John Adams. (C)
Carl’s best friend, Ben, passed about a year before we met. It was tragic and unexpected and I know it was hard on Carl. You weren’t supposed to make us cry!!!
On a lighter note, though, I wouldn’t mind seeing Tupac. I’d be okay with
that 😊. (K)
When you took this leap, what did folks say? Did they think you were nuts or did they cheer you on?
While I was still taking online classes for college and working in sales, we first started Aventuron. It began as a hobby and, at the time, we didn’t even have a name for it. Our families did ask us a few times if we wouldn’t rather play it safe instead of investing all our assets to secure this future. People don’t really understand…even our parents…what all goes into this.
There were days when I wanted to get rid of this thing! We had plenty of conversations with ourselves about whether we should really do this. (K)
If times were hard, we kept that to ourselves. We don’t air our dirty laundry and we never wanted folks to see our dream struggle. We kept pushing forward. AND, if you had told me all those years ago that we’d ever be doing $1M in sales, I’d never have believed you. And we’ve been doing that consistently monthly now. (C)
What has surprised you the most about this whole adventure?
Retail is a very difficult business. When someone asks who our competitors are and I say, ‘REI or Cabela’s,’ it seems silly because most mom-and-pop shops wouldn’t say that. They’d reference the bike shop down the street. But those big box stores really are our true competitors and I like that. We’re a small fish in a big pond but we’re competing with the big guys and we’re doing just fine. (C)
I’m still surprised at how much good gear there is out there. You don’t need to spend a fortune ALL the time. (K)
What gave birth to the name Aventuron?
When we first started, we were working mainly with bikes, but we knew we didn’t want to limit ourselves with a name like ‘Bikes America.’ We knew there was a bigger picture and a bigger plan, though we really had no plan at all. We wanted it to be bigger long-term.
I was doing some research online when I discovered that a portmanteau is a word that blends the sounds and meanings of two other words. So, we
combined ‘adventure’ and ‘on’ and got Aventuron. (C)
What’s your favorite part about what you do?
Everyone thinks what we do is cool…and it is!! It’s cool having a cool job and being able to sell things to people that they really want. They get to go outside and enjoy life. We’re family owned and operated…our entire team. Our customers realize that, and they truly appreciate it. We’ve become friends with some of them on social media, interacting each week, making them part of the family, too. (K)
I like that we’re growing a business, but we’re also growing a family and a community. The community involvement is one of the most rewarding parts of this job. We love our customers and how they keep coming back and buying things for their families, causing the Aventuron family to just keep growing. (C)
What’s it like to work for you guys?
We want to hire happy people and the right people have seemed to come along at the right time. It has all happened very organically and our team is really strong. They come in early and stay late on their own, just because of the environment we’ve tried to create. Aventuron was our first baby. We want the folks we hire to help us take care of it, so we take care of them. (K)
We’ve put together a retirement plan and everyone gets company paid life insurance and disability. We want to do right by them. We want them to feel appreciated. We want them to know they’re so much more than just a number. We encourage them to find their own individual passions or areas of interest and then watch them flourish. We don’t want to interrupt their own goals or dreams and we want to be able to provide for them the same lifestyle they could have in any alternate career. I want our employees making more money. My goal is to keep these folks so happy that, even though we’ll continue to grow, we’ll still have the same original people on board in 5 years and we’re all financially comfortable. Ultimately, we want work to be fun and we want to bring people together. (C)
Any parting thoughts?
Sales is just about going a little further than the next person. If you’ve got a good product and good follow-through, you’re going to be at the top of your game. So, we try to go the extra mile. We try to make ourselves available when others aren’t. If you’re into the outdoors, we’re going to be your shop.
We’re always trying to get into new things, exploring them ourselves and then offering to customers if we like them. We’re going to do the research for you, making your overall experience seamless. (C)
We’re proud that we use the brands and the products that we sell. They’re all things we believe in. And we don’t just promote these hobbies and passions, we participate in them. If we’re not working, we, too, are out overlanding, fly fishing and camping. (K)
Here’s a few words from those who know Kate & Carl the best, their employees.
Kate and Carl are the best boss-couple in the country. They are supportive, passionate and strong-willed, yet generous and open-hearted. This makes them the finest of human beings and I can’t wait to see where they lead Aventuron in the future. ~ Anton
From the moment I started, I didn’t feel like the member of a team, but like part of the family. The ideas that Kate and Carl have for this business seem so effortless and nonchalant, yet you can tell everything they do is purpose driven. They aren’t afraid to take risks or do things unconventionally. They really care about their business and what they do. More than that, they truly care about their team and their family. I am so thankful to be part of this experience. ~ Dan
Kate and Carl are the best bosses I think I will ever have. The amount of trust and confidence that they have in our team and in me is tremendous. They complement each other so well and really aspire to provide us all with a fun and flowy work environment that feels like anything but a 9-5 job. Carl is one of the more impressive people I have met to date. His work experience is intriguing, and he has so much knowledge about different and unique ways to reach our customer base, it’s outstanding. Just listening to the ideas that he’s conjuring up for the future gets me excited. I sure am glad I made the decision to join Kate and Carl’s dream. ~ Nick