CLN Exclusive with Shawn Wiese, Founder of VEXIL Brand and XD Sports
Welcome to another CLN exclusive! This week, I was stoked to be able to sit down with Shawn Wiese, who is an entrepreneur and business owner in the western industry. This interview is what Shawn likes to refer to as the “cliff notes” version of his life, he talks about his career as a bull rider, transitioning from business owner to multi-business owner and everything in between. Hope you enjoy it!
CLN: Can you give our audience a brief introduction to yourself and your companies? (Background, about you, and your experience in business and the western industry).
Shawn: When I was growing up, my dad was a bull rider and a bullfighter. When I turned 15, I started riding bulls and ended doing that for 15 years, riding through high school, college, then eventually riding in the PRCA. That’s the cliff notes of my life in the western industry. I continue to stay involved in the industry as well by raising bulls, I’ve had bulls go to the PBR finals that we’ve raised, then I started my agency and I became an agent for professional bull riders, then about 7 years ago I started a brand in the western lifestyle. So once my journey started in the western lifestyle, it’s become my life and my passion. I’ve figured out a way to not only make it my passion but also make it my living as well.
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CLN: Can you tell me a little bit more about what the transition was like from Professional Bull Rider to business owner?
Shawn: When I stopped riding bulls I went and finished school and got a degree in marketing and design. Then I worked for a label company, designing labels for packaging. I didn’t go right into being a business owner, but it was within two years that I became a business owner. For me, the transition from being a bull rider, and just leaving the sport in general, is kind of complicated. I was known my whole life, from when I was 15 to 30, as a bull rider. When somebody asked me what I do, I was a bull rider. Then that just ends, I had to ask myself, what am I now?
It’s really a journey to find yourself, and I had to figure out what the next phase of my life looked like. It was probably about two years that I left the sport altogether, I didn’t go to a rodeo, didn’t go to a bull riding, and I tried to be a golfer. I knew I had to break away because I didn’t know who I was hanging out at rodeos or bull ridings. Without being a bull rider, I didn’t know who I was in that setting. I didn’t have a desire to be a team roper or do any other event so I decided to break free and take some time to separate myself from that culture and figure out who I am and what path I want to go down. Obviously, your true passions shine and come forth, and once I got over that hump of “okay, I’m not going to be a bull rider and that’s okay”, I figured out a way to become a bull rider’s agent. So I was able to stay involved in a sport I love and the culture I love. So that was my transition from being a bull rider to where I am now.
CLN: What is the most rewarding thing about what you do for the athletes you represent?
Shawn: Through the work I do and bringing on sponsorships, I’m able to prep and provide my athletes with an income. Like I mentioned, these guys can’t be bull riders forever. That’s eventually going to come to an end, so I am able to help them put money away for the future. Some of these guys are making a crazy amount of money, to be honest with you, compared to when I was riding I didn’t have any sponsors. Now there are big brands that are investing in these athletes and paying them good money. So that’s pretty rewarding for me, I know that it’s going to help set them up for that transition that we were just talking about. Hopefully, they will be financially secure enough that they won’t have to go do something they don’t want to do, they can figure out if they want to start their own business or just figure out what they want to do. That part of it is what I am most proud of, I’m affecting these guys’ life, not just right now but also into the future, that is probably the most rewarding.
CLN: What was the turning point when you realized that you knew you were going to be successful with XD Sports?
Shawn: It took a while, I don’t know what year it was, but it was the third or fourth year into it, because I really didn’t make a lot of money until then to be honest with you. I just kept grinding, I kind of went at it like I went at riding bulls, when you start riding bulls, you don’t do very well so I knew that if I stay consistent and stay with it, I believed in it enough that I knew something would click. I did a deal with Lucky Brand jeans and that was the deal that really gave me the most confidence that I could get corporate America involved in this. It wasn’t easy but they were a brand that didn’t have anything to do with the western industry and I was able to bring them in and sponsor a pro bull rider. That was the point in time that I can look at and say “that’s what jumpstarted me”. Right after that, I played an intricate part in bringing on the US Army into the PBR for their athletes. That was another stepping stone that gave me confidence and it just kind of rolled from there.
In 20 years in business, you’re going to have some economic things come up and you aren’t going to have wins all the time. We did take a hit in the recession of 2008 because sponsorships are the first things to get cut. There were a lot of deals that went south during that time. I was going through a weird point in my life at that time as well, I kind of took a break. I took a hiatus for a couple of years, I was still involved with the business to a certain extent but we got hit so hard financially that I had to go get a day job just to pay the bills.
I look back on that time and when we came out of that hiatus, I was really energized, I was ready to move forward full steam ahead. After that, I was determined that we were going to take the business to new levels. That’s when I started working on Monster Energy, obviously, that didn’t happen overnight but I was determined to get a big brand involved that would make an impact on the sport. Monster Energy was my number one target and it took about three years to get it done. I can’t take all of the credit, Alan Altom, who was helping us at the time as well as my business partner Brad Bensinger both deserve equal credit for bringing Monster Energy on board, it was a team effort. As far as XD Sports, that is the number one proudest moment and accomplishment for that business. And now, they are the title sponsor of a PBR Tour and it started with me pounding down their door for three years. It eventually led to them becoming a corporate sponsor of the PBR then on to sponsor their tour.
CLN: It seems like your motto for the VEXIL Brand is “Be Strong & Courageous”, can you tell me a little bit more on that and what that means to you?
Shawn: It’s based on a Bible verse, Joshua 1:9 – “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” My whole messaging with the brand and my personal brand is that I want to encourage and motivate people to go chase their dreams live their passions. You only have one life to live, so don’t get stuck settling and being miserable your whole life because you only have one of them. I feel like this verse is basically what God is telling us to do, “don’t be scared, I got your back, so go do that” and so I decided I wanted to encourage people to do that because I feel like there are too many people not doing it. I hear too many stories of people saying they hate their jobs or wishing they could go do something but they aren’t taking the leap so if I can help somebody and encourage them and inspire them to take a step towards their passions, then that’s what I wanted to accomplish.
CLN: You’re pretty active on social media, doing “Monday Motivation” videos, real talk videos, encouraging videos, what is something you really want people to take away from watching your videos?
Shawn: The back story on that is that I felt led to do those videos for a while and I didn’t do it for a long time. Finally, I just started doing it and went into it with the mindset of “if I can help one person then it’s worth it”. When I started doing it and I started getting all kinds of positive replies from people, I quickly realized that I was meant to do that. Most of these messages I am actually talking to myself, I am just kind of giving you an insight into the conversation that is going on inside my head and how I motivate myself, and the real talk videos are about how I’m hard on myself and you gotta get straight to the point. It isn’t really directed at anybody, it’s more of me motivating myself and I stick to my motto, “if it can help one person, then it’s worth it” so that’s really my goal, just helping one person at a time. I just hope those messages inspire and encourage people to apply it to their own lives and that’s really the goal of them.
CLN: Do you have any closing thoughts about you or your business that you’d like our audience to know?
Shawn: I think at the end of the day I want the message to be, whether it’s from me or the brand, I want people to chase their dreams, you only get one life. I’ve seen too many people waste it, don’t be that person, don’t be afraid to take a step forward because people are doing it every day, people are actually out there living their dream and their passion. It doesn’t mean life is going to be perfect, but I would rather have normal day-to-day issues while living my dream versus having the same issues and doing something I don’t like. It’s the same messaging across the board and I just try to live my life and inspire people to go do big things.
I hope you all enjoyed this interview as much as I did. And if you take one thing out of this, I hope that you are doing something you love, because life is just too damn short. Also, keep an eye out for our new series featuring VEXIL Brand athletes from across the country as we dive into their stories. For more information on XD Sports or VEXIL Brand, you can visit any of the links below and make sure to follow Shawn Wiese on Instagram for your weekly dose of inspiration.
VEXIL is a brand built on the cowboy and cowgirl lifestyle. Some were born into it and others were just drawn to it but regardless of what lead us to this life, it is now forever branded upon our souls. From the sound of creaking leather as we climb into our saddles to the banging of metal as bulls and horses are loaded in the chutes, the small details of this life become the spark that fuels our passion. It’s really sad that the majority of this world’s population will never get to see what we see or know what we know. Outsiders will never understand our lives but that really doesn’t concern us. We will keep being who we are because that is what we know and all we care to know. We will be strong, we will be courageous, we will BE COWBOYS.
XD Sports is an agency that represents Professional Bull Riders and was founded in 2001 by former Professional Bull Rider Shawn Wiese. Shawn’s love for the sport of Professional Bull Riding and his desire to see these athletes earn more was the fuel that brought XD Sports to life. In 2003 Attorney Brad Bensinger became a partner in XD Sports. His knowledge of contract negotiations combined with a love for the sport made Brad and Shawn a perfect match.
The rapid growth of the Professional Bull Riders Association (PBR) has turned these everyday cowboys into national sports stars. The PBR’s national and most recently global exposure has created sponsorship and endorsement opportunities for these courageous athletes. XD Sports seeks out these sponsorship and endorsement opportunities for their athletes as well as managing all of their public relations. XD Sports takes pride in their knowledge of the sport of Professional Bull Riding and their desire to look out for their athlete’s best interest.