Creating Jobs in America through Authentic Apparel

Creating Jobs in America through Authentic Apparel

Mario P. Fields Mario P. Fields
21 minute read

Welcome back to another riveting episode of the Unarmored Talk Podcast! We're thrilled to have you joining us once again. In this fascinating episode, our charismatic host, Mario P. Fields, engages in a truly compelling conversation with the remarkably dynamic Dean Wegner, who is not only a veteran with a wealth of experiences but also the industrious founder of the brand Authentically American. Known far and wide for its raw, unfiltered, and deeply human discussions, the Unarmored Talk Podcast remains a platform that sheds light on the multifaceted challenges and triumphant victories of individuals from all walks of life. These are people who have bravely chosen to remove their metaphorical armor and share their authentic stories, in hopes of inspiring listeners and providing valuable insights into the human condition. So sit back, relax, and prepare to embark on another enlightening journey with us here at the Unarmored Talk Podcast.

Meet our Guest: Dean Wegner


The incredible journey of Dean Wegner is characterized by a profound and authentic  unwavering commitment to three fundamental pillars: faith, family, and country. His journey started with a strong military background, where he served his country with honor and dedication. This experience forged his character and instilled in him the values of discipline, integrity, and patriotism. Dean's commitment to family is also noteworthy, having been happily married for 29 years. This long-lasting relationship is a testament to his dedication and authenticity. 

🔑 Key Takeaways:

Authenticity in American-Made Products: Only 3% of apparel in the US is domestically produced, emphasizing the rarity of authentic American-made goods. Authentically American's poignant tagline, "Where Is Yours Made?" challenges consumers to reflect on the origin of their purchases, fostering a deeper connection to the products they wear.

Authentically American's Entrepreneurial Journey: Founded by Dean Wegner, Authentically American is not just an apparel brand but a passionate movement to reignite the flame of American-made products. Wegner's commitment to authenticity extends beyond clothing, embodying a mission that transcends commerce—a commitment to the heart and soul of American craftsmanship

Strategic Shift Toward Authentic Impact: Entrepreneurial challenges prompted a strategic shift, leading Authentically American to focus on a niche market—veterans and veteran-owned businesses. The pivot reflects a commitment to authentic values, aligning the brand with a community that embodies the very essence of American resilience and dedication.

Crucial Entrepreneurial Lessons: The entrepreneurial journey underscored the critical importance of focus in navigating the complexities of business. Authentically American's story serves as a testament to the transformative power of honing in on a specific mission and audience.

Learning from Failures: Authentically American's path was marked by challenges, showcasing the value of learning from failures as an authentic and integral part of the entrepreneurial process.

Adapting to Market Realities: The ability to adapt to the ever-evolving market emerged as a crucial lesson. Authentically American's journey highlights the authentic resilience required to navigate and thrive in a dynamic business landscape. In essence, the journey of Authentically American reveals that authenticity is not just a tagline; it's a guiding principle that shapes the brand's authentic identity, mission, and the very fabric of its entrepreneurial narrative. 

💡 Discussion Points:

  • Dean's entrepreneurial journey faced challenges and strategic redirection.
  • Not everyone shares the same passion for American-made products, prompting a shift in Authentically American's strategy.
  • Parallel insights from Dean's experiences in Ranger School and entrepreneurship highlight the importance of teamwork and relationships.
  • The podcast coincides with Veterans Day, underscoring Authentically American's commitment to supporting veterans and creating awareness about American-made products.

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Transcripts by Buzzsprout:


Welcome back to unarmored talk podcast. Thank you so much for listening and watching each episode and continue pleased to share with your friends and family members and colleagues. And don't forget to leave a rating or review if you feel this is a awesome show.


And you can connect to all of my social media on the parade deck just looking at show notes or you can put in the search engine Mario P. Fields parade deck and get all access to my social media. Well, let's get ready to interview another guest who is willing to remove their armor to help other people.


Hello everybody. Welcome back to unarmored talk podcast. I'm your host Mario P. Feels good to if you guys watch me again on YouTube. It's always I wish I could see you guys but hopefully it's good for you to see me.


And of course, if you're on audio again, another amazing episode, another guest who's willing to remove their armor to help people develop a accurate way of thinking if life happens, which you know will and they will be potentially emotional.


But at least you can think through things develop that strategy and help people. Dean Wagner, what's going on my friend? Well, Mario, so great to see you. I can see you and you and I've got to know each other quite well after just a few short calls and looking forward to digging a little bit deeper and having a great discussion.


Now, same here, Dean. What you guys what you guys don't know is is some of you guys follow me on social media is when Snoopy, you know, our amazing dog that we had almost 16 years passed away, Dean's Dean's lovely puppy named Snickers have passed away right before where they had to you know, we had to make a decision.


And so believe it or not, when we're doing our discovery phase, Dean actually helped me and Nicole get through the loss of our fur baby. So Dean, again, thank you so much and having that kind of unfortunate but shared experience at that moment, my friend.


Well, fantastic. Let's dig in and looking forward to Mario. Yeah, let's let's get into it. So you guys know the deal before we get into our wonderful guests and I get to the professional part again I want to say thank you.


Thank you, thank you, thank you. A lot of times we take things for granted. I can only speak for me but to be able to wake up and breathe and just be able to see and have the functions of faculty working where we could come on this this podcast, develop a discussion framework as two living human beings is always a blessing.


So I would never take it for granted everyone who's been supporting this podcast for almost three years, about three years now. Thank you, thank you, and thank you. So now here we go. We have Dean Wagner.


He is a veteran. He is the founder of Authentically American. He does a lot more but I'm going to allow him to tell you guys a little bit about himself so we can get into this discussion. Dean over to you my friend.


All right Mario. Well, I always love to share a little bit personally about me up front so that way anyone's tuning in knows who I am and a little bit about me personally. And I tell everybody I'm a veteran and an entrepreneur but priorities for me alive with God, family and country.


That is ultimately what's important and it starts with my Christian faith and just four days ago, Mario, my amazing wife Kelly and I celebrated 29 years. 29 years so I'm allowed to put up with so I'm thankful for an amazing wife and we've got four incredible kids we have two daughters 25 and 22.


We have a 19 year old son and a 13 year old son we adopted from Ethiopia. So family is incredibly important to me and from a country standpoint, had the privilege of attending and was very fortunate graduate from the United States military Academy at West Point.


Went to flight school and had a fly helicopters and then had a unique opportunity after flight school went to the Army Special Forces Ranger School and serve seven years active duty so that's a little bit of a background on me before we dig into authentically American.


Dean thank and congratulations 29 years of the commanding general of the Wagner family putting up with me salute yes. Oh my goodness and the wonderful kids and family and and just your focus I get it.


You know so you've done a lot of things in your life there they were choices to not only. You know what I believe is America's most precious precious jewel called freedom and you chose protected, but then you got out and now you're doing even more through your entrepreneurship and your business owner and business.


And so I think that's what this mindset let's talk about what that is. So Mario, one of the things that really drives me is this insatiable desire to know that I'm making a difference. And that's really at the heart of what authentically American is all about.


We're an apparel brand. We've got amazing product, but it's all made here in the US. You give an idea how rare American made is when I graduated from West Point 93, over 50% was made in the US. They had three.


Wait a minute. Percent is all that's made here. So 93 was about 50% of things made in America. All apparel purchased in the US and now, 3%. Wow. And Mario, it is a shocking statistic, and that statistic gave birth to our tagline, Where Is Yours Made?


And it's designed to be provocative like, Hey Mario, great looking polo, Where Is Yours Made? Most people look at me like, Do you not have no idea? And they're shocked when they look at the tag and see Made in China, Made in Vietnam.


And the heart of our mission is our passion for creating American jobs. We just happen to be in the apparel business. Right. Yeah, and so what when you start at this vision when you when this vision be your founder when this vision popped in your brain And you conceptualize it and make made it become reality.


Was there any times where you're like? Am I doing the right thing or or or what is right thing I? Will tell you Mario in July. We celebrated six years and in 2017. We're a blank sheet of paper. Oh Was very clear on the vision, you know to build this iconic american brand With the same brand recognition think of a nike polo under armor north face brand like that But all american made and I have to tell you i'm exhausted It is the most challenging most difficult thing i've ever done I've been having flashbacks to ranger school But I will tell you it's exhausted as I am even more energized because truly feel like I have an opportunity to make a difference And it's been challenging.


There's been you know incredible amount of mine felt mine fields We've had to navigate through But you know things are really starting to take it off and there's just a number of you know lessons learned on that journey But i'm excited, but there have been many many points on that journey to your question like what was I doing?


Yeah, I did I do it not right, but you know God's been faith providing you know, we are really starting to take off now And it's amazing too. Just my belief when you're you got that spiritual foundation And you allow the the chairman right god to lead you and not yourself And so here it is you again 2017 blank piece of paper You had the ups and downs If you can think of one thing that you are emotional about but you thought right you said but let me let me research and Strategize and think through this.


What what did you do? Can you talk to me about that thinking process? Well, let me tell you one thing that's been a big surprise and has really changed our whole business philosophy and our whole approach because back to that 3% number, I thought everyone was like you.


I thought everyone was like me, like most of your listeners or those who are tuning into the podcast where they're patriotic, they love our country, I'm sure many of them are veterans, first responders and the thinking was Mario, everybody is just going to love our brand just because the fact that it's American made.


You know what I found out? It's most people don't know, but there's a large percentage who just don't care. They just don't care. And initially I was upset. I'm like, how can you not care about that?


And the whole philosophy used to be that we're going to be all things to all people. I thought, well, Mario woke up today and put a shirt on. So did his neighbor right next to him. So did that guy down the street.


Unless you live in a isn't this wonderful? Apparel is a massive $300 billion industry. And I thought, we can literally almost touch everybody. But I've got to tell you, one of the shortcomings, one of my failures was that lack of focus was not successful.


And what we really did is transform from all things to all people to my new mantra, Mario, is the riches are in the niches. And we're laser focused on who that target customer is in your reflection of that.


You're a veteran, you're a business owner. What we found is although most people don't care where their shirt on their back is made, generally speaking, the veteran does. So our focus is on the veteran, specifically veteran owned businesses and veteran focused charities.


So instead of a Nike, a Gildan shirt with your company logo on it that's made in China, you now have an opportunity to partner with Authentically American. And I will tell you, that has made all the difference in the world.


Yeah, no, Dean, and I love how you had this vision, this belief that like you said, I believe that everyone's going to want this. I mean, this is not going to be a wonderful discussion at the local coffee shop.


Come on. And then you found not everybody cares. So I love how you thought through that. We're again here, you could have chosen to say, you know, Mario, I think I'm going to try something different, or I think I'm going to go a different way.


And you thought through that and researched it and then really narrowed down your target audience, if you're your customer, if you would. And I love it. I love it. Now, as you started to really focus on folks like myself and other people who do care, I mean, I care.


Matter of fact, interviewing you is going to make me be more intentional. No. Obviously. Seriously. What has been the results now that you've kind of refocused and narrowed down your approach? Well, I think we'll go on.


Let me share with you some numbers. And this will put a perspective how impactful that focus is and that mantra of the riches are in the niches. Because initially, when I thought about veteran, I thought, well, that is too small.


When you think only 1% have served and a much smaller percent of that own a business, I thought that's too small of focus. But when I did my due diligence and we as a team looked at how big that market is, the numbers are astounding.


There's 400 ,000 veteran owned businesses with 10 or more employees. There's 40 ,000 veteran focused charities and we work with hundreds of both. But in a sense, we're touching 1% of the market. Our target customer, we're really reaching 1%.


So think of the upside. So now anything outbound, anything that we're doing from a marketing event related, anything across the board, we're making an investment in time and energy, it's focused on the veteran community.


Wow, that is amazing and I even know it was a 300 we take 300 billion dollar industry 300 billion it's a standing So we only need a small little market share to have a large successful brand Would they say it have the faith as small as the mustard seed You guys are looking at Dean who had faith as small as the mustard seed and look and look where we are today And I would tell you did you know again ladies and gentlemen everyone Of course, we're recording this one before we produce it But this is so important and what Dean is doing is passion for veterans is passion for creating jobs in America And it's of his passion for awareness Dean just so you know, I'm going to release this on Veterans



Oh Wow, I am so everyone Even though we're recording this before before Veterans Day, we're gonna say it I'm gonna say happy Veterans Day to everybody Then you've you've inspired me motivated me so much.


I'm gonna release this episode on Veterans Day well, Mario, I love that and your timing is impeccable because You know prior to you know launching authentically American I worked at big brand big companies and big brands Procter and Gamble and Mars for example Brands like Crest and Titan M &M's and we literally had Super Bowl had budgets Super Bowl had budget so multi -million dollars and my marketing budget being self -funded is about this big One thing that we do have is this feel -good American story, we're creating American jobs.


We're veteran -owned We're American made and we've been blessed with some incredible earned media and national TV exposure We've been on Fox and Friends, you know, just last week around MSNBC And it's interesting the timing on November 11th because the day prior knock on wood saying my prayers hopefully holds true, we will be on Good Morning America.


That will be so cool, I tell you. And if not, Dean, I've watched some of your interviews, most recent one, and I'm proud of you, your team, your executive director. You know, one more, because I know you're having fun, and I want to ask one more question as we discuss, and this is just awesome.


Reflecting back on all of your training, including when you were with the Special Forces, you became a pilot, if you could pick one or two soft skills that you learned that really was transferable when you started Authentically American, and especially dealing with the pandemic and other external factors.


Well, here's where I will tie back to Ranger School. And, you know, those who are not familiar, Ranger School, it is a military doctrine. There's a lot of that in the course, but ultimately it's a leadership course.


And what they do Mario, they deprive you of everything you need, everything you think you need to survive, namely food and sleep. And then put you in an incredibly stressful situation. So on day one, there were 340 of us.


And if you make it straight through for 72 days in a row, you live on one meal a day and two to three hours sleep a night. Wow. One meal a day and two to three hours sleep a night. And at the end of that 72 days, we lost 80% and there were only 70 of us left.


And being a flight suit wearing an aviator, there was no reason for me to be there. And you know, Army Special Forces Ranger School. But one of the reasons I was able to make it straight through, you know, one was the sheer grace of God, but the second one was my Ranger Buddy.


And back then it was Marine Corps Infantry Sergeant Roy Backey. So, you know, right in your family, you know, being the Marine Corps. But what the lesson taught me Mario is life is hard. Life can be challenging and don't do it alone.


If there's something you're going to do that's incredibly challenging, that's going to be incredibly difficult, you know, find that Ranger Buddy, you know, find that business partner, find that spouse.


And I'm an entrepreneur now and I believe that business is the ultimate team sport. Even if you're a sole proprietor, you have to have a banker, you have to have an attorney, you have to have, you know, a CPA.


So you've got all these members of your team, you know, that are going to enable you to be successful. And that's one of the soft lessons I learned that, you know, invest in relationships and, you know, don't go it alone.


Life is hard. Yeah. Thanks, Dean, so much. You guys heard from Dean, you know, there's many, many choices you can make while living, but choose to do it with the team and don't make that choice to do it alone.


Dean, how can the listeners and viewers find you, my friend? And how can they go on your store, your website and purchase some of your apparel? So the best way, Mario, is go to our website, authenticallyamerican .edu.


U .S. AuthenticallyAmerican .US and that .US was an intentional choice given the equity of our brand. So if you remember, I told you a little bit about our sweat activated print innovation. I'll do you a quick demo.


So this is me being an Army grad, a West Point grad. So printed it says go Army, but watch what happens when I spray this. You can see beat Navy magically appears and you know, I love the look on your face Mario.


So the reason why if you want to buy one of our individual consumer items, whether it's West Point Naval Academy Air Force, VMI Citadel, so or something like I'm wearing that's authentically American branded, use an individual can go to our website.


If you're tuning in, you can say, well Dean, I've got a business and I want American made. I thought I was resigned to Nike or Lanzan, something that's made in China. You can also have a contact with us there.


If you're leading a charity, that's also the best way to go. And the only thing I would highlight from a charity standpoint, we have two pricing tiers. So if you're a Pepsi, Comcast, for -profit business partner of ours, you're paying full price.


If you're a charity, a non -profit, doing amazing work, we're going to give it to you at cost. And that difference between the Mario allows our clients who are non -profits to build their brand and raise some money in the process.


So authenticallyamerican .us is the best place to go, whether you're an individual consumer, you know, a business or a charity. Dean, thank you. We will be talking subsequently after this episode. But you guys heard it authenticallyamerican .us.


Again, I love that army. Kind of get some sweat going, beat Navy. That was cool. And you guys heard from Dean, Dean Wagner. I truly appreciate you. Please tell your family. We said hello. And thank you again for appearing on the show, Dean.


Thank you so much. My pleasure. Don't be a guest and thankful to have a new friend, Mario. Absolutely. Same here. Well, everyone you guys know to do in a couple of weeks, we'll see you with another amazing episode with another guest who's willing to remove their armor to help people.


But until then, God bless you. God bless your family and your friends. Be safe out there. We'll see you soon. Thank you for listening to this most recent episode. And remember, you can listen and watch all of the previous episodes on my YouTube channel.


The best way to connect to me and all of my social media is follow me on the parade deck. That is www .parade deck .com or you can click on the link in the show notes. I'll see you guys soon.

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