An Interview with Kelly Vaught, CMO of BeCore

Kelly has been with BeCore since the early days, and has had a massive impact in developing the company culture that makes BeCore the passionate, creative, and supportive organization that it is today. If you want to understand BeCore, you have to understand Kelly.

Everyone that reaches the executive level does not come from the halls of Harvard or Yale. The paths we take through life and our careers are often a struggle. But the hard work and sacrifices required to reach the top of the mountain are rarely mentioned. Kelly’s a humble guy and would always rather talk about the achievements of others or the hard work of his employees. But we convinced him to step into the spotlight and share his personal background, and we have many lessons to learn from his decades of hard work to reach his current position of CMO.

We’re proud of Kelly’s willingness to share his personal story, with the hope that others can be inspired to work hard to reach their dreams.

Hey Kelly! We heard you’re a Southern California native, tell us about your background.
Born and raised in Huntington Beach, California. High school dropout. Homeless at the age of 17 to about 19. I was hanging around a sign shop in Huntington Beach, I was a big fan of lettering because I loved graffiti as a kid. So I ended up hanging out there, sweeping floors and painting banners, and after a little while they gave me a job, which gave me a lift out of the streets and an opportunity to work my way back into civilized society.

I spent 20-plus years in the sign industry and ended up eventually operating my own business as an individual broker. After a while I realized that I wasn’t feeling very fulfilled. I was making money, but that’s never been my prime driver. I was looking for interaction with people, camaraderie. My wife suggested I “throw something out to the universe and see what happens”. So I put a generic ad on craigslist as a sales/marketing guy and got a call from a guy identifying the company called BeCore. So, I quickly googled their website, which was terrible at the time, and saw that they produced action sports events and I loved that. I’m a reasonably intelligent guy, never did events, but I knew marketing and sales, so I went and met Mark at his garage in Hollywood, that he shared with his brother Mitchell. That was in 2004, and that gave BeCore 3 employees.

So you have a very different story than most people. How does that background play into how who you are today?
I learned to be present. When you don’t know where you are going to eat or where you’re going to sleep or bathe or deal with many of life’s fundamentals, you learn not to think too far ahead. You are very much in the moment.

The second thing I learned was gratitude. The simplest gestures of kindness or help were super meaningful to me. I also learned to be self-sufficient, although make no mistake, it was because of the kindness of others that I was able to extricate myself from that situation. Yet I met a lot of people and I really learned to get to know people, and myself, and what I could be capable of. And after that, you don’t hold onto a lot of fear. If I’m not in danger of losing my life and have health, the bare necessities, I’m a pretty happy cat and everything else is gravy.

Was there any formal training in your marketing education or has it all been in the field?
It’s all been on the job. One of the earliest things I learned as a salesman was that a salesman is the actual opposite of what everyone told me… like A Salesman is a fast talker, a smooth talker but the reality is that a good salesman is a good listener. I had a couple of good mentors. I learned mostly by example.

What are you reading? What are you inspired by?
I recently completed Yuval Noah Harari’s book “Homo Deus – A Brief History of Tomorrow”. I highly recommend! Regarding inspiration, one thing I have been doing recently is engaging with the LinkedIn community: Marketers and thought leaders, start-ups and independents, freelance folks, and those who work for big brands. I’ve taken that to be a source of inspiration and education. It’s a community that I try to contribute to as well as learn from. But I’ve started taking it a step further. When I really appreciate what someone is posting, I’ll reach out to them, first in an email and then I’ll have a phone call with them. Then I’ll try to make sure we meet in person. I’ve been doing that regularly lately and I have really met some incredible people.

You have an incredibly inspiring story. What would you say to someone that’s in a similar position to you at 17?
I would say this to anyone who in a similar situation to my younger self: don’t be afraid to ask for help. Put yourself out there and be vulnerable. Social media makes it appear as if everybody’s life is beautiful and that they’re successful and that can make you feel like you should be having a flawless life. But we are perfect in our imperfection, and we have to acknowledge that. Being willing to invest my time and
effort before I expect to be rewarded has worked for me. I don’t want to say that if I can do it anybody can do it. People of color and women and other marginalized individuals have systemic challenges that I couldn’t even begin to relate to as a white male in Western Society, but again, it has served me

Are you still working with Stoked Mentorship?
Yes, I’m a Stoked Igniter. In total there are three programs that we regularly
support: Stoked Mentoring, House of Blues Music Forward, and Artworx LA. Sports,
music, and art – three of my passions.