Meet Jack Mann
According to the World Health Organization, 440 million people worldwide are at risk for hearing loss resulting from loud live entertainment.
Jack Mann is the founder of Vibes Hi-Fidelity Earplugs, which are discreet, reusable earplugs designed for sound quality that allow you to protect your hearing health, while still being able to hear clearly. The company’s mission is to help people protect their own hearing health in the loud modern world, while also empowering them to give back and give the gift of hearing to those less fortunate.
Every purchase of Vibes Hi-Fidelity Earplugs includes a direct contribution to Hear the World Foundation, helping empower individuals with hearing loss to fully experience their world and live independent, fulfilling lives. Vibes is currently funding a Hear the World Foundation project in Lima, Peru (where access to hearing healthcare is extremely limited) that will screen 30,000 children for hearing impairment. This will provide those in need with free medical care and hearing aids. Many of the children screened and treated have been able to hear for the first time in their lives!
We had the chance to chat with Jack and learn more about his company and insights on entrepreneurship
Influence Digest: Can you tell you us about your early life? What were your main interests as a kid growing up
Jack: I’m from Minneapolis, Minnesota.
I graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a marketing degree and I also went to UCLA for a bit in the music business school afterwards. As a kid, I was like most young kids – into sports, snowboarding, skateboarding and being hooligans with my friends. All those good things. I was always up for adventures in the outdoors.
Influence Digest: What inspired you initially to create Vibes?
Jack: I, myself, am not a musician, but I’m a consumer of music.
That’s how I spend most of my time. I would go to a lot of shows – sometimes multiple shows a week. I was at a concert a few years ago and ended up rupturing my eardrum due to loud sound. That itself is very rare, but I went to the doctor and they said you need to be wearing protection or you’re going to damage your hearing.
For some reason, I hadn’t really thought of that as something I should be doing. So, I took the doctor’s orders and next show I went to I wore a pair of foam ear plugs. I very quickly realized these are archaic and they aren’t designed for music. They distort and muffle the experience. They’re dorky and uncomfortable and not designed for music. So why are foam earplugs still the standard for ear protection in the music space? Something was missing. It was that event and realization that there was something missing here.
Influence Digest: Congratulations on having the opportunity to pitch Vibes on Shark Tank. Overall, how was your experience on the show?
Jack: It was a really intense learning experience I would say. I was only in business for about 3 months by the time I was approached to appear on the show. It put everything in sort of this pressure cooker to get the business together. I was presenting in front of millionaire and billionaire business people. The benefit of that was everything was going to be under a microscope and I was going to have to defend my entire business. That was kind of good to put myself in that position.
It was one of the more intense experiences in my life to develop a business pitch in front of people who didn’t know me at all and in front of millions of people on television. I’m not a huge public speaker and hadn’t done much previously, so being put on a stage in front of lights and camera was intense, but a good growing experience. I’m glad to have gone through it and didn’t get torn apart in there. I was happy with how our segment was handled. It was just a really big learning experience.
Influence Digest: Can you explain why you chose to not take Kevin O’Leary’s royalty deal?
Jack: It was a combination of things. I went in there with the full intention of taking a deal with the right person if it was the right type of deal.
Some people get accused of going in there for the publicity of it. I was in there to make a deal, but I had my parameters set before walking in and decided the metrics I would base my decision off of. So, the deal that was presented from Kevin O’Leary was outside of my range, both in regards to equity, percentage and royalty.
We had only been in business for three months so our sales were minimal at the time. So, we didn’t have much of a runway to build our sales and equity. At that time, the real kicker for not being interested in the royalty deal was because we were not 100 percent confident in our sales price at the time, because we were fairly new. To put a royalty of 2 dollars on it could be a huge swing factor if maybe the market couldn’t handle our pricing. It was too early to make a decision at that stage.
Influence Digest: We admire your partnership with the Hear the World Foundation. Can you tell us about the current project your working on together?
Jack: Through researching the development of the product, I started to understand the consequences of hearing loss in people.
I was researching Noise-Induced Hearing Loss and learning more and more of the impacts that has on people’s lives. The World Health Organization recently came out with an article that documents that 440 million people worldwide are at risk of hearing loss due to loud sound. So, that’s things like bars, clubs, concert venues…anything of that nature. So it’s a really big deal and people aren’t very aware of it because it’s a gradual decline. You don’t wake up deaf one day. It’s kind of a chip off a block of ice every time. The point that I’m trying to instill in people is that every time your ears ring, that’s irreversible hearing damage. That ringing that your hearing in your ears is those cells dying. There’s no way to get that back unless someone invents technology to do otherwise.
Anyways, through that research, we really wanted to do something to protect and give other people the ability to hear. In many areas around the world, access to health services is very limited.
What ends up happening is a lot of times is a child gets undiagnosed with hearing loss and can’t hear. Because they can’t hear, they can’t learn very well. And they’re at a school that doesn’t have a program for hearing impaired people. They get put in a class with everyone else and they cant really learn and aren’t really progressing well in life. In some instances they get put in a box with mental disabilities and their access to getting jobs is hard. That was something I was unaware of until I did research. We began this project to protect our customers hearing and also giving the power to people to hear through hearing aid and surgeries.
Influence Digest: As an entrepreneur, how do you perceive the importance of personal branding yourself?
Jack: Personal branding can mean many different things.
What I do think is what you put out into the world is what you will attract. Being confident, positive, engaging, humble, etc will carry through in your business. The law of attraction is real.
Influence Digest: Have you connected with influencers to market your Vibes?
Jack: No one that I would say is of super major status in the music world, but we do have a lot of musicians who use our product.
Vibes earplugs are available for sales music festivals, events, concert venues, arena and clubs. We’ve connected with all different types of festivals, such as rock, hip hop, folk, bluegrass and EDM.
Influence Digest: If you could get your earplugs in the hands of one person, who would it be and why?
Jack: Will.iam. from the Black Eyed Peas.
He is a major artist who actually suffers from Tinnitus – the issue where you have consistent ringing in your ears. He got this from noise-induced hearing damage. So, I think that he’s a bit of a public figure and invests in many different businesses; and he would understand the product pretty well.
Influence Digest: Which entrepreneurs and public figures do you look up to?
Jack: I know it’s cliche one, but Elon Musk is a machine and his levels of commitment in bringing an idea to reality is something admirable.
Influence Digest: True or False. Hard work will lead you to success.
Jack: Hard work is a prerequisite for success, but it does not guarantee it because there are other factors like luck, timing, and unforeseen problems.
Influence Digest: What advice would you recommend to aspiring entrepreneurs around the world?
Jack: Surround yourself with the right people. There’s a saying that “you’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”
My dad used to say that to me when I was younger and I hated it, but now I think it’s true to some degree. I think that surrounding yourself with like-minded people who motivate and encourage you is important.
In a lot of instances, the saying, “you don’t want to be the smartest person in the room”, is also true. You want to surround yourself with people who want to do good and great. I think a lot of opportunities will open up for you in terms of the momentum that comes from being around people like that and finding ways to support each other. If nothing else, you’ll find comradery. A lot of times, entrepreneurship is looked at as not a team sport – more of a solo game. I think at the end, yes you have complete ownership over your business, but you can’t only rely on yourself. You need the support of others.
Influence Digest: On a final note, are there any other messages you’d like to leave our audience off with?
Jack: You don’t always know where things are going to go.
The other thing that’s happened since being on Shark Tank is that we were a hundred percent focused on concerts. But, after appearing on the show, we found that people were using our product for a whole gamut of uses. All those markets included motorcycle riding, bartending, exercise classes and so on.
But, the one we were a bit unaware of was the autism space – people with autism, asperger’s syndrome, sensitivity to sound and so on. Their everyday lives are over-amplified as their brains are over-sensitive to sound. So, Vibes has acted as a way for those people to discreetly wear ear protection and still be able to hear and interact with the world around them. That was something that we were blown away by. We get stories from people saying, “This has change my life. I can’t believe that I hadn’t had these before.”
If you believe in the idea and keep going with it, you might be surprised. You may not get to the finish line you expected, but you might end up going off on a totally different path.
Special thank you to Jack Mann for taking the time to interview with Influence Digest.