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Combining Storytelling with the Physical World

Devin Lars is the Founder and CEO of Kurieo Media, a creative agency specializing in fusing digital marketing with the physical world to bring unique solutions to their clients. Kurieo has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world, like Tesla, Cisco, and Nike, and A-list celebrities in the transportation, technology, music, and film industries. Although Kurieo is a relatively young company, Devin has spent more than a decade building the foundation that led to Kurieo’s success. Before even graduating high school, Devin built a successful screenprinting business out of his grandfather’s garage, selling customized t-shirts in his neighborhood and beyond.

“How do we capitalize on our knowledge of production and our knowledge of storytelling from a digital campaign standpoint, and how do we merge the two?” - Devin

Devin LarsFounder of Kurieo


Welcome to Building While Flying, a Sasha Group podcast where we interview business leaders about how they tackle challenges, stay resilient and navigate ever changing skies. Welcome to the Building While Flying podcast. I’m your host, Joe Quattrone, and today we get into Harry Potter Times beeya. We get into all things AI with our boy Devin, Lars, CEO and founder of Curio.

Devin, welcome to the pod. How’s it going? Thanks for having me. Excited to be here. Of course. Yeah. So me and Devin became familiar with each other a few months back in preparation for a GaryVee event that we held about a month ago. Wow. So Devin, tell me what was it like getting to, meet GaryVee in person and hang out with us in New York?

What was your impression about hanging with the Vayner X crew? It was great. I. What’s interesting is I have been following Gary since like 2013. And so it’s, his content and stuff has helped me a lot during this whole process of growing my business and transitioning into what we’re doing now.

I started in 2005 and so it was just, it was really cool to see the behind the scenes of things and that it’s like. Really what he talks about and says, I think that’s really cool cause you have a lot of people online that tried to talk a big game. But to see that internal operation was really inspiring.

I think that alone was just, really cool to see. Yeah. And you, your story is somewhat similar to Gary as you, you got into this whole like marketing game a little bit by happenstance or by accident. Why don’t you rewind the clock a little bit and tell our listeners at least what Spark did it to get you into this universe a little bit.

What kind of started it all? Yeah, so in, in high school, my senior year like Gary wasn’t a good student. I didn’t really, school wasn’t my thing. I was a kind of person that needed to do things instead of, somebody trying to tell me what to do. And so I was always into art.

In high school, my best friend and I started a airbrushing company where we started airbrushing, custom t-shirts for people around our community. And so that kind of built, we figured it out. We had no business background or experience. We just were just figured out selling shirts out of our trunk and, driving around the community, we would go to every single event.

This was like when MySpace was, was big. So we would, have all of our stuff on my space. We would print our phone numbers on the back of our hoodies and go to every single event and out flyers and just, figure it out. Just put our name out. We were everywhere. And so it’s.

We were always really good at being on the scene and just understanding how to kind of market and communicate. We were doing things a lot different from a airbrushing standpoint. Now looking back at it, it makes sense. We started to do like vlogs before we even knew what vlogs were.

This was before, YouTube. YouTube was just really cat videos and stuff. So we would just do stuff that we would post on MySpace and into the whole storytelling aspect of. And so in 2008, we wanted to start our own clothing company, and we knew we couldn’t airbrush it. And so we found out about screen printing.

And so we went up and signed, we went to a local community college in Oakland and found that they had offered a screen printing class. So we signed up for the class, and this was in 2008 when Obama was running. So everybody had Obama t-shirts. And so we would use the school equipment to print shirts and pass it out and sell ’em.

And then class ended, and we were selling t-shirts and we had a store that we sold into. And so they called us and they’re like, Hey, can you get 24 shirts by Friday? And so I was like, oh yeah, no problem. And we didn’t have access to any equipment. We really didn’t have any money at the time, so we had to get creative.

And so I went down to Home Depot and bought like some wooden clamps and built our own one color, one station wooden screen printed press. And set everything up. We set up shop in my grandfather’s garage just hustled and sold shirts, just again, being on the scene, doing things like that.

We were in the garage for about a year and a half, just building our business. And then we moved into our first location. Again, just connecting marketing. Connecting with the radio station, doing giveaways, stuff like that. And so we grew the manufacturing facility into, we had two facilities.

We were doing work with Tesla and the radio station and doing all the manufacturing and production in-house. And this was like in 2015, 2016. And I really just hated it. I was miserable in the whole manufacturing side of things because I felt like I could be doing so much more and it was just such a, messy business and I just, I didn’t like it.

And I got to a point where I just said, you know what I’m gonna get rid of the facility. So I ended up selling it in 2017 for literally pennies just to get out because I was just so miserable. I was like I need to do something different. And so I saw where social media was, I saw where storytelling was, and I saw where things were going.

And I said, we’re more of a creative agency. That helps with the whole development of the story and the product versus the manufacturing aspect of it. So I said, okay, we can partner with manufacturers that can do the production, and then we do the front facing, creative side of things.

And so in 2017, we made that shift. And and it was hard because literally my whole time from 2008 to 2017, I made my money from screen printing and manufacturing, so I was a little nervous to jump out and figure it out because I didn’t even know what a creative agency was. And it was funny because I was following GaryVee and he was doing like the Ask GaryVee, show and everything like that.

And I remember my mentor one day was like, why don’t you start a creative agency or advertising agency? I was like, man, I don’t even know what that is. What is that? And so I then I realized, I went and Google what is the advertising agency? And I realized that’s what Gary did. And I was like, oh damn, that’s crazy.

This is what he does. I didn’t. even know people could get paid To do campaigns and stuff like that. And so it was just an interesting transition as we made that shift. And so yeah, just following a lot of, even Gary’s content of just like how, he, of course he gives out a bunch of free advice and all of this stuff.

And so just learning from afar of all that stuff. And then learning from testing and actually doing and com, combining the two. And so it just accidentally fell into that, and now we work with the Warriors, we work with Starbucks. We work with a lot of big brands, target, chase chase Center.

And yeah, it’s cool. It’s been a, it’s been a journey to get here and it’s been, figuring it out along the way. Yeah, I was just about to ask you about that cuz the Warriors in Starbucks stand out to me a little bit amongst your client roster, but in terms of, just so everybody can calibrate in their minds, what kind of agency you are, you guys are, a lot of different companies work with Starbucks and the Warriors.

What do you think your. Specific, niche is And why would a big brand like them come to you? What do you do for them that’s different than maybe all the other agencies that they have on roster? Yeah. I think what’s interesting is coming from a production background and understanding products and understanding how things are made and having deep connections in manufacturing was an angle that we took of like, how do we create this experience from online storytelling to then the offline physical product and experience?

Cause I feel like brands are able to really connect and create deep connections when you merge the two, the online and the offline. And so I think what has been unique. In a sense of where we’ve been able to grow our business was that whole physical product, storytelling. How do we create seating kits, influencer kits to be able to connect with the audience and then have merchandise?

That kinda extends the story out from a digital kinda, you have a digital communication and then you have the physical product to extend that out into the physical world, and I think what we saw was. A space that we knew really well and we seen like things shifting to how do we, seeing brands collaborate and do product drops and collections.

Trader Joe’s has a merchandise line and so seeing all these connections of okay, how do we capitalize on our knowledge of production and then our knowledge of storytelling from a campaign digital standpoint, and how do we merge the two? And I think with that it’s been. It’s been super successful and I think that it’s been really cool to partner and work with these brands and these companies.

It took a long time to get into the Warriors and get into, to build the relationship that we do and doing the scale of business that we are with these companies. And it’s been great. We just have been coming in there and our philosophy is just, Provide as much value as possible, even if we take some losses.

Think long term and build those relationships. And that’s how we have gotten in and that’s how we’ve stayed in and that’s how we’ve grown the business within those organizations. So outside of GaryVee, thinking a little bit more nail on the head, like being influenced by different factors what do you think the best kind of brand collaboration has been over the last handful of years that you’ve been the most inspired with to go out and do amazing things?

I think there’s a lot of stuff. I just think what I really love is this new generation of creators. Like I, I just, I think that to see what people have done with TikTok and creators and like all of the stuff, it’s just, I think I get a lot of inspiration of just seeing what create creativity is out there.

Not even necessarily what these big brands are doing, but what are these creators doing of like storytelling and building community? There’s this brand that I’ve been following. The guy’s name is Moad and his clothing brand is called Trico. And I, he has by far, hands down the best marketing for a clothing brand, like at all, like hands down and is super creative of how he’s doing stuff.

And it’s so interesting to see like now my feet is all filled with people like copying his style and stuff like that. So it’s very interesting. So I think just seeing creators and how they’re doing stuff, I think there’s there’s several brands that are doing, unique collaborations.

I just love the way of storytelling. For instance the thing that stood out the most and from an advertising standpoint is what Tubby did with Super Bowl. That was so freaking genius and so simple, and it got such a reaction from me. I was like yelling who’s sitting on the remote?

It just, it was, so there’s a couple of ex VaynerMedia or VaynerMedia alumni people that worked on that campaign, I should say. It was genius. It was, so I was talking, I couldn’t even focus on the game. Two minutes after the game came back, I couldn’t even focus on it. Cause I was that was so genius and it was so simple.

And so I just get inspired by that. What are brands doing that are different to stand out in unique ways of storytelling and using this medium of storytelling online. And then also, the physical side of things too. Have you been getting into at all any of the like AI mashups where people are bringing in like Tupac and Biggie on Kanye tracks and the Balance yaga, Harry Potter mashup and stuff like that?

Yeah. That stuff unfolds. Yeah. My, my whole literally feed on TikTok is all AI stuff. So it’s just, it’s pretty interesting to see what’s happening and how quickly things are developing. It’s scary to think about from a standpoint of we’re not gonna know what’s real and fake, in, in a minute.

And how is the internet gonna change with putting these parameters up and stuff. And so it’s been fascinating. We’ve been using it a lot, AI and just getting familiar with it and it’s just, it’s going to change. It’s changing the world and how we do business and how we operate and yeah, it’s pretty fascinating.

I’m excited to see what happens in the next two years. Yeah. So I think we’re all starting to grapple with it. I started figuring out just the power of it when I went to go write a scope of work the other day, and I just let me try chat g p t first and see what it can do.

Literally cranked out a scope within six minutes with and that was six minutes after I did Seven revisions on it. So it was like, I saw the first one, I was like, Nope, wrong state. Lemme do. So you just basically just bar commands at chat g p T and it just keeps getting better and better.

It’s wild how fast it’s from entrepreneurs like that are just starting. So my, one of my biggest weaknesses is writing, right? So I have A really good team that helps with writing. And our communications director, I’ll have to, before I’d have to go to her, explain the idea, break it down, and then she would do a draft and we would go back and forth and it was like, all this stuff, I’m able to get stuff done in a weekend now where I brought it to her, she was like, who, who wrote this?

Like, how did you, where did, where do we even start? And it was like accurate and correct. And so I think it’s just, It’s a superpower for people that can, that aren’t like necessarily good at writing or being able to articulate ideas well. And so it’s a good way to be able to incorporate into your creative work, and it’s something that I’ve never seen anything.

Like this or had a tool like this. And so I think it’s just now it’s just the best time for anybody to, be able to develop stuff and having these tools and utilizing it. Yeah, reminds me similar, I think pa past 10 years or so, two, two timeframes really pop out to me like, Post 2014 when Facebook launched their app and they made everything pay to play.

And then, okay. The universe of advertising is clearly very different now than it was just one month ago. And then 20 19, 20 20, really? 2022. I would say TikTok and musically circuit 2019. But it really didn’t catch up to CMOs and marketers until 2022, where everybody’s okay. Yeah.

TikTok is the front of everybody’s marketing plan right now, so we gotta figure this thing out. Yeah. Yeah. Now AI seems like it’s having a three month, six month window where before I do the standard old thing I would do, let me run it through Jasper or one of these other AI tools first. Yeah. It’s pretty incredible.

I think that like it’s so crazy how fast the world changes. Like I think that was one thing from when we did the four Ds was just like, There was a couple things that stood out to me that was like groundbreaking. I mean that like literally that experience that I had was so transformative from a standpoint of just.

I think the biggest thing that I saw was getting out of the small business mindset. I think there was a couple conversations there where it was like we were talking about small businesses or something, and they were like, somebody mentioned, yeah, a hundred million dollars is believe it or not, that’s like a small business.

And so it’s like just getting out of like in one of the workshops, the small business mindset. And so just it was like permission. In a way that like you can grow this and you can do this and like to be around people and companies and organizations that are doing. Numbers, big numbers and stuff like that.

It just gives you a thing of oh, I actually was putting a cap on myself. I thought that, I was thinking big, but I really wasn’t thinking as big as I could be thinking. And so that was one big thing. And then just seeing how, the interaction with Gary was very short, but like how he sets up the organization, right?

Like I always had struggles of okay, we have a small team. How do we get past and grow this team? And so being able to see how oh yeah, Gary has the magic, but the real magic is the team that he put in place that’s actually executing and getting it done. And so it just, it was really cool to just get that experience and see that, because I’ve never worked within an organization.

I, I got I just went straight into my own thing. So I’ve never had to deal with managers. I’ve never had to do that. So the way that I’ve set up my organization, It’s very different because I haven’t had that. So people that come from a corporate structure are different structures oh, this is a different environment.

I don’t. But I realized that there was some stuff that I was missing or trying to figure out, and so just being able to see it allowed me to say, oh, okay. I, the pattern recognition, oh, okay, I get how this can be set up. Yeah. What’s next for curio or what’s next for Devin?

So I, so in 2019 I had my daughter and my first child and it was very transformative. I was in a, I was just in a space where I just internally wasn’t good, and I felt like, On the outside it looked good. I was posting on social media, we were working with these clients, we were doing this, and this.

But internally, I just wasn’t happy. And I found myself like trying to get valid external validation by like posting on social and like getting this oh, I look happy online and all this stuff. And I just, I remember one day I posted something and I was like looking through my likes and comments and I was just like, what am I doing?

And so I was just like I wanna be happy in real life and not online. And so I, in 2019, I took a step back and I just stopped making content. I was just like, you know what? I’m doing these for the wrong reason. Like my intentions were good from a standpoint of I really do want put positivity out and help.

But then it was like, there was still some stuff I needed to get together. I just. I started going to therapy. I got all my stuff together. I’ve just been like working for my internal piece and getting good and situated happy with my life in real life. Sure. I’m I excited to.

Excited for the next chapter. We’re getting ready to launch a podcast, and it’s really gonna be centered around just interviewing people and talking to people, but like really talking about my experience, what worked for, and what therapy and the importance. Grew up in environments that I grew up in that’s not talked about and it’s not kinda it’s not cool.

Like you think people think there’s still a stigma to therapy. Oh, it’s something you have to be crazy or something’s wrong. But in reality it’s No, the better that you become and the better that you understand yourself, the better your life will be, the better your business will be, the better your relationships will be, the better everything will be.

And it starts internally with you and it, I just had so many breakthroughs along this time that I’m excited to push this content out. So it’s something that basically my agency is producing and we’re putting together, and I’m gonna be the host of this podcast, but it’s also a passion project of mine as well.

So that’s what’s next. What’s what’s the name of it so we can look out for the first episode when it drops? Yeah. It’s gonna be called doing everything different. So everything is doing everything different doing everything different podcast.

So I’m really excited about it. It’s just about, everybody can relate that I was doing something and it didn’t work, and so I had to try something new, to get it. And so the whole concept is about that, of I wanna talk to people that have really went through it, not people that have learned about it, not people that have studied it, but people that really went through it.

Because I think that’s gonna resonate and connect with people a lot more. And it’s gonna be, you see a lot of stuff online that’s just, it’s just not the realness of it. I want this to be like real and authentic and unfiltered and what are those like emotions that you feel and cuz people.

Need that. And, I shared some stuff of like how with somebody about like how hard it was for me to get. When my, when I had first had my daughter and how much it was like a challenge for me and how much I disliked it a lot and what I had to go through internally. And he was just like, nobody has ever said that to me.

And I really appreciate you saying that because it was something that I was feeling and nobody talks about that. And so I think it’s just, there’s real stuff that I wanna bring into like now. It’s cool because it’s I don’t need this to look cool. I don’t need this for followers.

I don’t need to show off anything. This is really just about like, how do I provide value and what is like the 19 year old version of myself? What would I need to hear in this time? And so that’s who I want to, that’s who I wanna talk to, and that’s who it’s geared to. That’s cool, man. You gotta there’s an old expression sending the elevator back down, which kinda refers to once you’ve made it to somewhere in life that, don’t forget to bring up, either hundred percent your people from the neighborhood or, somebody that looks just like you, that maybe going through the same thing.

I think that’s really commendable and I applaud you for that. So congratulations. I appreciate it. And I think we’ll wrap up at this point. How can people if somebody’s listening Hey, oh shit, curio, that sounds amazing. Let me reach out to them. Or, Hey, this guy Devin, seems pretty dope.

Let me let me figure out how to follow him. How can people get ahold of you? How can they follow you on social media right now? Yeah, my, my social channel is on all platforms is Devin, Lars then curio as well. Every social channel is company. Thanks for joining the Building While Flying podcast.

It’s been a really great pleasure getting to know Devin a little deeper than I already know him, and find out a little bit more about Curio and what his plans are for the future. Please be sure to tune in next week as we drop another episode of the Building While Flying podcast.

Subscribe to our channel on YouTube and hit that bell notification. So you can get notified when we update new content from the Building Wall Flying podcast, and also go over to any podcast platform that you prefer, and leave us a rating and review. Those ratings and reviews. Definitely help us perform in the rankings and motivate us to keep doing more and have amazing guests like Devin on the pod in the future.

Thanks for joining us for Building While Flying today. I hope you learned as much as we did. We’ll meet you right back here next time for another flight.

Welcome to Building While Flying!

This weekly podcast is brought to you by Sasha Group. We’re the consultancy meets agency arm of the VaynerX family of companies. We help ambitious companies build strong brands that flex with the times through strategy, branding media and marketing.

In ever-changing times, businesses and brands have to shift and adapt. And across all sectors, there is an air of experimentation. Business owners are trying new things out in the wild;  building the plane while flying.

Our pilots, Katie Hankinson, Mickey Cloud, Maribel Lara, and Joe Quattrone will be talking to a diverse range of business leaders and founders. They’ll explore how these guests tackle various challenges while staying resilient and committed to growth. Through these real-life examples of strategies put into practice, we hope to inspire you to experiment and develop your own strategies as we all navigate these uncertain times together.

Combining Storytelling with the Physical World

Devin Lars is the Founder and CEO of Kurieo Media, a creative agency specializing in fusing digital marketing with the physical world to bring unique solutions to their clients. Kurieo has worked with some of the biggest brands in the world, like Tesla, Cisco, and Nike, and A-list celebrities in the transportation, technology, music, and film industries. Although Kurieo is a relatively young company, Devin has spent more than a decade building the foundation that led to Kurieo’s success. Before even graduating high school, Devin built a successful screenprinting business out of his grandfather’s garage, selling customized t-shirts in his neighborhood and beyond.

In this episode of the Building While Flying podcast, Devin joins Joe Quattrone to talk about how he started his agency and the future of creativity and business. He gives insight into his personal journey, merging storytelling with production, and the importance of therapy.

In-flight topics:

  • Devin’s journey to starting his own agency
  • What makes his agency unique
  • How AI is changing how we do business
  • Growing out of the small business mindset
  • His upcoming podcast and personal healing
  • …and more!
Connect with Devin:

Devin’s Website:

Devin’s LinkedIn:

Kurieo Website:

Kurieo Instagram:

New York, NY
Chattanooga, TN
Los Angeles, CA