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Henry Kaminski Jr.

Henry Kaminski Jr. is a self-taught graphic designer and brand consultant. Over the past decade he’s built a multi-million dollar design business. In this episode, Henry shares his origin story. From surviving his tumultuous youth to earning his first million.

The Brand Doctor
The Brand Doctor

The Brand Doctor

Ep
149
Sep
08
With
Henry Kaminski Jr.
Or Listen On:

Part business lesson, part business therapy.

Henry Kaminski Jr. is a self-taught graphic designer and brand consultant. Over the past decade he’s built a multi-million dollar design business.

But the road there was filled with rusty nails. Some of which were ready to force him off the road and into a ditch.

In this episode, Henry shares his origin story. From surviving his tumultuous youth to earning his first million. Since he and Chris are close, it feels like you’re listening to old friends having a sincere—and at times difficult—candid conversation.

Chris and Henry talk about the dynamics of business, family and how when the two overlap it can lead to a lifetime of trouble and heartache.

Think of this conversation as part business story, part therapy. It’s rare that we’re able to be this vulnerable on our show and a kind reminder that we can learn a lot when we do allow ourselves to be.

Hosted By
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produced by
edited by
music by
Appearances

Episode Transcript

Henry:
The material things are not going to make you happy long-term and you really need to understand that you have everything that you need in your life already inside of you, you just need to acknowledge it and pull it out.

Chris:
Our conversation today has gone down a very unexpected path. I do not enter this conversation with any agenda, I just let it go where it goes. And so typically, we're talking to entrepreneurs who are dissecting their business, their life philosophy. But I know Henry has such a rich personal story, that I hope you prepare yourself for something very different today.
So Henry, I've been looking forward to having this conversation with you. And for full disclosure, Greg and company and people who are listening, Henry and I do have a professional personal relationship, so I just want to put that out there. But I'm going to treat this like I don't know you, okay Henry?

Henry:
I'm excited for this Chris.

Chris:
Okay. All right. So for people who don't know who you are, can you introduce yourself?

Henry:
Sure. My name is Henry Kaminski, I go by the brand doctor. And I have been a graphic designer for the past 14 years, started off as a freelance designer, and matured the business into a multi-seven figure boutique branding agency right outside of New York City. And I focus on helping personality brands. So personal brands, develop their online presence, their messaging, their marketing, building out their sales funnels, and helping them monetize their expertise.
And so it's just been a crazy wild ride and I'm sure we're gonna get into some of the some of the deep, dark moments of my decade and a half of entrepreneurship. And I'm happy to share and go as deep as you'd like because I'm here to help your audience become a better entrepreneur than they are today.

Chris:
Wonderful. So before we get into the present, and possibly the future, I'd like to go to the past. I want to know what it was like for you growing up and was the path towards doing what it is that you do today in design in running a creative business, was that part of your plan?

Henry:
Absolutely not.

Chris:
So take me there.

Henry:
Yeah, so I grew up ... So the quick backstory is when my parents got married, they wanted to start a family and they couldn't, my father had issues, my mother had issues. And they tried for 16 years to have a family and they failed over and over and over again. And I don't know about you Chris. But I don't I don't know if I would do anything for 16 years straight and continue to fail and keep going.
So I give them a lot of credit for their persistence and then once medicine got a little better, they figured out what the issue was and my mom went in for a short surgery nine months later here I come. And then when I turned twp, my mom walks into my crib, and I'm blue and unresponsive and pretty much looking like death and they rushed me to the hospital and they find out that all of the nutrients have been flushed out of my body. And my body went into this shock and had my hand my parents not getting me to the hospital in time, I probably wouldn't be here today.
So when I hear my mom tell the story as a young kid six, seven years old, "Henry is my miracle baby." I never understood what that meant and I never understood what it meant, "It took 16 years to have him." I thought women were pregnant for 16 years when I was six years old. So it was a complete shock. As I got older, I saw what that story actually meant to my parents and to me, and I said, "Wow, I'm going to do something with this life." But I grew up, Chris, I grew up a very insecure kid.
It's ironic, when I was eight years old, my parents went through an awful divorce, awful. I saw things that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemies. And it made me a very insecure kid. And that really, really had me struggling to my late 30's until I finally got some serious help from therapists and Chris, let's just keep it real for a second, you've helped me tremendously get through some of those skeletons in that closet and it has made me a stronger person, has made me a more confident person. And I think that's what my life's purpose is, is to help people see their true potential because I've been blessed to get people in my life to help me see my true potential and I want to carry that on. And it just so happens that I do that through branding and through identity design. And I just never thought in a million years I would be doing this.

Chris:
Before we get into all that stuff, I want to stay in the past for a little bit longer if you don't mind.

Henry:
Sure.

Chris:
So your parents who work on having you for 16 years, are you an only child?

Henry:
Yeah.

Chris:
Okay. So you're a miracle baby, you're one and done and it was this thing that they were just probably sitting there thinking it's not going to happen. And then finally, like you said, medicine, or whatever, the doctors catch up to, being able to help your parents conceive you, right?

Henry:
Yeah.

Chris:
And so I have to imagine this moment when they found you in the crib which you said that for some reason you flushed the nutrients out of your body, is that a health condition that you have or something that's going on?

Henry:
No, so here's the story. And again, this is very, that I only know one side and that not to go super, super deep here and get off track, but I must have been somewhat of a colicky baby and my mom was giving me water to drink, to try to calm me down. And what was happening was I was drinking the water, but I was paying it right out. So while I was doing that, all of the nutrients that whatever I had left inside of me was getting flushed out until I went into a shock.
Again, I'm not a doctor, I wasn't told the details, but that's how I've been told the story. And that's how the nutrients left my body. My mom was giving me gallons of water to try to calm me down and I was flushing myself right out.

Chris:
Got it. Okay. And then you said that despite having trying, your parents trying to have you for so many years, it ended up in a very bitter divorce, right?

Henry:
Yeah, yeah. And how old were you then?

Chris:
Probably eight, nine years old and that divorce-

Henry:
Yeah, I think that you told me. Yeah, that divorce went till I was 16 years old.

Chris:
It took seven years to process the divorce?

Henry:
Correct.

Chris:
Okay.

Henry:
So can you imagine what I saw? I'll give you a quick example. My father was building this log cabin all by himself up in Pennsylvania my whole childhood. And I think it was his way to get away from it all. And I would go up there with him and he would be building this house and we'd be sleeping in the camper of his pickup truck. And he would go to work ... He would work all day at UPS, 5:00 a.m. to 3:30 and then he would have these side jobs.
He's a mechanic, he was a mechanic for 33 years. And he would do all of the grocery shopping on Thursday before we would go to Pennsylvania on Friday. And I'll never forget, we came home from Pennsylvania one Sunday and we walk into the house and every picture in the home in my house was gone off the wall. All the food was removed out of the refrigerator, nothing. The baking soda was the left in the fridge, that was it. And my mother, that was the sign that my mother was gone.
No warning, we just came home that Sunday and every family picture was off the wall, nothing in the refrigerator to eat and my mom was gone. And I remember my dad just shaking his head walking in the house going, "I don't even have food for your breakfast tomorrow." Now I'm not painting this picture that my mom was this evil person. My mom had a lot of issues growing up, she came from a very abusive family. She had her own issues and I think she might have turned out differently had she gotten the help she needed.
So I'm not painting my mom is this horrible woman, I love my mom. My mom died six years ago, and I miss her every day. I do. So I just wish that we had a better relationship when she was here because I think confidence issues, things like that might have been solved.

Chris:
Okay. Do you think in any way that having a project kept your parents focused on a goal which is to have you and the ones that had you ... They didn't have that goal to work on, and it just started to come apart? Or do you think there are other reasons? I'm just curious why somebody would stick together for 16 years to have a baby and then eight years later say, "We're done."

Henry:
When I get up there Chris, I would love to ask that question to my mom, and my father is still around, I haven't had a chance to really have that sit down and have that conversation with him. But we've gotten into conversations, and my father's side of the story was she didn't realize the responsibility of what being a mother is all about.

Chris:
Yeah.

Henry:
Because she was never taught. She had a horrible relationship with her mother. And so she didn't know what it was like, she didn't know how to be a good mom, I don't know if anybody knows how to be a good mom. But I can tell you, my wife is one hell of a mother because my mother-in-law was one hell of a mother to my wife. So I think there's something to be said there. And unfortunately, my mother didn't have that role model in her life so she was going with what she knew and I think what she knew was to, you know what? Throw up your hands and say, "I can't do this anymore."

Chris:
Right. Okay, so we're getting through this part now.

Henry:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris:
They go through the divorce, how does this impact young Henry? What are you seeing through your nine year old eyes?

Henry:
Okay. So I'm seeing a very interesting upbringing. So my father like I said, worked four jobs and he had custody of me which was interesting in a divorce. Typically, the mother gets custody, my father got custody. And so I'm watching my father hustle his butt off and provide for me and do what he needed to do. The one thing that was interesting though is my mother's side of the family, although they stopped talking to her kept me in the loop and kept me part of the family which I thought was very interesting.
In the summers and in the holidays, I would go up to visit my mother's family. And my mother had a brother who's extremely successful to this day, owns a big construction company. And it's the lifestyles that are rich and famous when you went up to visit him. He would have parties at his house where there would be valet in his driveway. That kind of level of success and wealth, right? So I go up there and be like, "Holy crap, what is Uncle Joe doing? He's such a role model to me, I want to be like Uncle Joe when I grew up."
And then I would go back to my father, my father would pick me up, and we would go into this one bedroom apartment that was awful. Awful. And I lived right down the street from the projects in Long Branch, New Jersey, and it was very unsafe for me to be living in that neighborhood quite frankly. And I struggled with that and I said to myself as I was growing up, "There's going to be a day where I'm going to be able to afford the nicer things in life and I might not get to Uncle Joe's level of status and success, but I'm going to make sure that there's a nice roof over my head, and there's going to be nice wheels underneath my vehicle and I'm going to do something with my life and make something of it and, but it was very struggling for me because I was doing the right things for the wrong reasons once I started to come into some of my own money."

Chris:
Okay, but before we get there, let me drive the conversation [inaudible 00:13:48].

Henry:
Yup, yup.

Chris:
I know you want to get to that part, but I think understanding your mindset, your psychology, and your childhood really sets a lot of context for what's to come after. Okay?

Henry:
Sure.

Chris:
So you say that, okay, so your dad's hustling. He's a single father, he's taking care of you, he's working for jobs trying to make ends meet. You're really living in an area in a neighborhood that you describe as being unsafe. Did you know it at that time?

Henry:
I didn't, and my wife's ... It's interesting that you bring this up because my wife has brought this to my attention which made me look at my father a little differently. When my father said we were moving to Long Branch, New Jersey, I was petrified because the town had such a stigma of being such a tough town, and a no nonsense town. You better really watch your tail in that town because you could wind up dead, that kind of level of violence and seriousness.
And so we get there and I said, "Why did we move here?" And he said, "Well, it's closer to my job and we have a dog." And no nice place, this is what I was fed to me by my Father. No nice places, except dogs. So if you want to live in a nice place, you got to forfeit that dog. And I grew up with this dog, this dog had such a meaning to my life because when my parents were fighting and screaming and shouting, you know where I would go, I would go hang out with my dog.
So there was no way in hell I was getting rid of that dog. So we wind up living in this house. And I'll never forget it Chris, it is two miles away from my school and I was too close to school according to the school to get a bus. So I had to walk and there was no other way to get to school, but to walk through the projects. And I would see the drug dealers, I would see the fiends on the side of the road, chasing me down to one block ... One part of the block, I would have to run with my book bag because I would get chased by the homeless, and the drug addicts that lived on that bluff, that part of the block.
And I was like, finally, it took a year and a half for me to get the guts to go to my father, "We need to move, we need to move closer to the school because I don't feel comfortable walking anymore." So my father heard me and we moved closer to the school and he got me literally two blocks from the school which was a much, much better neighborhood. And I was a little bit more relaxed. But I got to tell you, I was one of 50 white kids in my whole school, in my whole school.
So I grew up in a very culturally diversed school which was actually a real benefit to me because I think prior to us moving to Long Branch, you'll probably hear this in my content and on my side of things where my mouth used to get me into trouble a lot. And when I moved to Long Branch, it was like that scared straight things started to sink into my mentality where I said, "You're not going to open your mouth around here like you did back in your old town because you're going to get the floor mopped with you." And I kept a very, very low profile which freshmen and sophomore year of high school I had no friends, I wouldn't talk to anybody.
I just went home every day. I had one friend, God rest his soul, he died when he was 35. Thomas Stole, I miss him to death. He was the one African-American kid that saw me coming to school and said, "You know what? I see something in this kid." And he took me under ... He was a very popular kid too. Took me under his wing, now we used to get into scuffles and he would get jealous of me and I would get jealous at him and we would have those high school scuffles. But when we graduated, he said, "You have a relationship with your father that I had never had with mine and I was jealous of that." That's why we fought all the time.
And that really stuck. He wrote that in my yearbook. So anyway, long story short, I grew up in a very diverse neighborhood and an interesting neighborhood. And it really shaped my confidence, it shaped my insecurity. And I didn't know who I was as a kid, I really didn't. I was always a follower which got me into some serious trouble. And then I started to get around the wrong people and then I started to get around the right people. And the right people really saved my life, they really got me out of that jam.

Chris:
Okay, let me process what I just heard you say. You're a white dude living in a predominantly black neighborhood, feeling unsafe because of a series of unfortunate things that happened between your parents and your dad just trying to make ends meet, doing the best he can with what he has, right?

Henry:
Correct.

Chris:
And so you're feeling unsafe, it took you several years to be able to even feel comfortable. And luckily, this friend of yours said, "All right kid, we'll hang out so that you don't have to live in fear always being by yourself."

Henry:
Pretty much.

Chris:
So these teenage years can be difficult under the best of circumstances. This is the opposite of best circumstances. And I think the story is so relatable because no matter who you are in the world, and no matter how many good things you have going for you, I think many people in their teenage years always feel like the outsider, but in this case, we're taking it to extremes.

Henry:
Yes, it was pretty scare.

Chris:
Okay. So you said this experience shaped you, tell me what's the psychology of Henry going through high school? Are you dating anyone? Are you participating in sports? Are you academically doing well? What are you like?

Henry:
Yeah, so solid C student. Solid C student, wasn't an academic type of kid. That did get better my later years of high school. So junior and senior year I became more of a B student, I wouldn't say I was a straight A student by any means. Never played sports. I played recreational sports outside of organized, but again, first two years of high school, very introverted, believe it or not very, very introverted.
As I started to make friends, I started to find my wings, if you will, and got around some good kids my junior and senior year who some of them I'm still friends with today from a distance, obviously, but got around a good circle of kids, went to college and had an interesting four and a half years in college. I went to college out in Amish Country, Pennsylvania, which from a city guy like me, that was like, "What the hell am I doing out here?" But it was a great learning experience.
It was, again, I think there was a lot of confidence issues. I had this one English teacher who saw something in me that I didn't see in myself and he saw the leader in me. And I didn't because I had him for English and we were ... I forget what the book we were reading. And he stopped the class and he said, "Henry brings up a good point here." And we got into leadership. And he said, "If there's anybody that could lead this class, it's Henry."
Now I don't know what this guy is talking about because I'm this introverted kid that I always thought there was something wrong with me. But he saw something in me that I didn't say and that really helped me. He would call me out when we would have these big pep rallies at the school, and the whole school would get into the auditorium. He would say, "And big shout out to Henry Kaminski." And I would sit there and be blown away by this. And so that helped me build a little bit of confidence in myself.
And then when I got into college, it was interesting, I started to really embrace that a little bit more and I got involved. I wanted to drop out of college, believe it or not. And I went to one of these big frat guys. Now, I didn't go to a school that had this big fraternity. But there was a big frat guy there who was my orientation guy when I got to college. And I said to him, it was my sophomore year, I said, "I want to get out of here, I want to quit. This college ain't for me, I'd rather go work for my uncle, I'll make more money."
And he says, "I want you to promise me something. Before you quit, get involved because you got one hell of a personality, because you showed it in your orientation." Because I was the spotlight of that orientation class. And he says, "Get involved." So I wanted his position, it was orientation facilitator. So being in the leadership role of all the incoming freshmen. So I got involved, I got the job, he put in a good word, I got the job and I did that for two years and I led the freshmen to their first stepping foot on campus and teaching them the ropes.
And I felt really, really good about myself which then led me into a job, summer job as a lifeguard. Again, a job saving people was my core duty. And then I graduated college and I said, "I want to lead people."

Chris:
With what degree? What did you say [crosstalk 00:24:12].

Henry:
Communications, yeah. So it was a very broad degree. Communications was my major. I went in as a business major, I took my first accounting class. Me numbers? Not, not the guy. So but I knew how to talk, I knew how to relate to people. And I thank Long Branch, New Jersey for that every day in my life, honestly, because I was the minority in that school. And it taught me ... Now by no means could I ever relate to a minority in the world today. I can't, but I have an empathy to.
I know I'm never going to be able to really truly experience that, but I kind of get it, I kind of get it and that was enough for me to realize, "You're put on this earth to bring people together. You're on earth to put people together." And that's been my my business's purpose and my life's purpose is to bring people together.

Chris:
Okay. I think I read that you have a master's degree, right?

Henry:
I do. I have a master's degree in business management.

Chris:
Yeah. Yeah, I'm having a hard time putting all the pieces together. Solid C level student.

Henry:
Yeah.

Chris:
Goes to college. Obviously, not stellar GPA or anything, but you do go to college and of all the things that you decide to study, it's communication.

Henry:
Yeah.

Chris:
Okay. Doesn't all add up. But okay, this is maybe you're finding out who you are.

Henry:
Yeah.

Chris:
And now you're going to go get a master's degree?

Henry:
So I get a job.

Chris:
Yeah.

Henry:
Right out of college, but it took me about six months to get that job. Uncle Joe was pretty affluent in northern New Jersey, and he built this hospital and he said, "I could get you in that hospital if you want, but you've got to represent the name well. I'm not going to just put you at the top, you're going to have to work for it." So I started at Hackensack Medical Center literally checking insurances.
He started me way at the bottom and there was some resentment there from my employer, my manager at the time, she knew who I was. And she was like, "I got to take this kid because who he's related too." So there was some political stuff there that I had to get through. But the hospital was offering to pay for higher education and I mentioned it to my father who no college education, tech school, Lincoln Tech.
He said, "If they're going to offer you higher ed to pay for your education, go get it because that's going to give you leverage." So now I'm 23 years old, I graduated young for my age. I get my master's degree at 24, and I'm applying for every directorial position and manager position and I only have two years of work experience under my belt. And the hospital is like, "Absolutely not Henry." So now I'm pissed because I get this master's degree and it's not doing anything for me. And so I [crosstalk 00:27:16].

Chris:
There's a life lesson by the way. Degrees don't guarantee anything now.

Henry:
Yeah.

Chris:
Okay.

Henry:
So I work my [crosstalk 00:27:23].

Chris:
You didn't pay for it though, right?

Henry:
They did, 90% of it they paid for and I learned some great lessons, I learned some great lessons. A lot of my professors were working professionals that really gave us the ins and outs and the do's and don'ts of business. And it was really, really awesome. We had some really, I had a savvy lawyer, big, big high profile lawyer as a Braff. I had the head of the Bergen County, New Jersey Police Academy as my professor for a few classes.
This guy was a wealth of knowledge. The county executive was one of my teachers. So really, really awesome, awesome program. And so I finally get my break at the hospital. I apply for a position at the Children's Hospital which is named after my uncle and I had to go through five interviews to get this position and the guy finally gives it to me. And it's a special events assistant director for the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Center of New Jersey. And if you don't know what SIDS is, it's when a baby dies under the age of one years old with no cause, so very, very sad.
And so my role there was to not only raise funds, fundraise for that department, but I had to create support events for all the families in the state of New Jersey four times a year so that they could come together and support each other. And that's where the story of me getting bit by the creative bug begins. And so I get Z100, I'm doing cold call ... I'm doing cold emailing trying to find sponsors. And I get Z100, one of the biggest radio stations in the planet to sponsor one of my events, and one of the morning show women who's still on the show today, Danielle Monaro, I emailed her and said who I am and what I'm trying to do. And she responded and said, "I'm going to get Elvis Duran to sponsor this event. I got to get his blessing first, but I'm going to work it."
And she got back to me she said, "Elvis is in. This is what we can do." They had me and one of the doctors come in to the station and they put us on and they helped us promote the event and so I needed marketing materials to promote this damn thing. And one of my friends to this day are our kids now our best friends from birth. They're like three months apart which is ironic. He was a graphic designer, and he says, "You're going to do this event that my nightclub because he was pretty he was a club promoter at the time, but I'm going to do all the graphic design for the flyers for you."
And I sit next to him in his bedroom, we were what? 26 years old. And he starts design in club flyer, the event flyer for me, and I go, "This is graphic design? Holy smokes. So you can take a thought in your head, and put it on Photoshop and actually make it come to life? I'm all in." And so we did the event, it was amazing. It raised 25 grand, that was big back then for me and I convinced my boss to get the Photoshop program for me on the company laptop so that I can do all the in-house design for the invitations and stuff.
She bit and I would go home, I was living in this little tiny apartment, barely any furniture, Chris. And I would literally design, I would create ... I would go find a poster on the internet. And I would bring it in Photoshop and I would try to recreate the poster from scratch. Right? And I didn't know, I taught myself Photoshop, I didn't go to any school for it or anything. And I didn't even have a mouse. I used my finger on the laptop on the mousepad to actually create designs.
And I would do that for the next three years while I still work at the hospital. And I always started to build up this little side hustle of nightclubs that wanted me to design flyers for them like my buddy Jerry. And that's how I got my feet wet in graphic design is I stayed at the hospital, I got the paycheck, I got the insurance, but I was building this little side hustle up for the next 36 months and then 2008 hit and the economic downturn hit and the hospital got whacked. And they came to me and said, "Henry, we're doing some downsizing, this position is not going to be around anymore."
Now, master's degree, eight years vested as an employee, they gave me the ultimatum of leaving or becoming someone's secretary. And I was at a crossroads, I did not know what to do because I didn't feel confident enough that the side also was going to maintain my lifestyle because I really started to make some cash. I was probably I was probably making more money on my third year designing than I was at the hospital at that point anymore. But I didn't know if it was sustainable. And again, that fear, that insecurity, that lack of confidence kicked in really hard at that point in my life and I started asking people what I should do.
And the first person that I went to was my Uncle Joe who got me the job. And I said, "Uncle Joe, this is what's going on. Do you think I could come work for you?" I didn't say it as a safety net, because he knew I had this little side hustle because I was proud of it. And he said, "What the hell would you do here at a heavy highway construction company?" He goes, "I see you as a bright kid." He goes, "I can't put you behind a shovel." He's like, "What would you do here?" And I said, "I don't know. Maybe I can ..." Now, his son works for him.
I said, "Maybe I could go with little Joe and I could shadow him and be a project manager or something?" He's like, "Henry, these are multi-million dollar projects. If you screw it up, I got to have that conversation with you." He's like, "Your cousin went to school for this stuff." So he goes, "Let me tell you what, let me talk to my daughter, let me talk to my brass. Let me see if we can find a spot for you that makes sense." I said, "All right." Week one goes by, no response. We two goes by, no response. Week three goes by, no response.
Now I got to get back to my boss, I got to give her an answer. He never got back to me. Never brought it up at a family event. Never ever spoke about it again. So I got down to the wire and I was like, "You know what? He gave me his answer. He just didn't say it." And so I went to my boss and I said, "I'm out. I'm out." And I left. And it was quiet because I was getting really bitter towards my end of my hospital career because they knew what I was up to at one point and they started taking me away from the laptop computer, making me file papers making me do menial work just to get me out of there really. But they couldn't fire me, they couldn't fire me.
They didn't want to, I guess for numerous reasons. They couldn't fire me and so I left. And I remember waking up January 1, 2009 saying, "You're your own boss buddy, what are you going to do with it? What are you going to do with this business? What are you going to do with your life?" And I hustled my butt off the first year, and I made $248,000 literally designing club flyers and print was pretty big back then, especially in the club life, they would print thousands of quantities.
So I had to print a big print house that I used, and I made a lot of money printing. And that gave me the confidence to go on. And after about 24 months, I made my first million bucks and thought that was like, "I made it." And I started to do some really awful things.

Chris:
Before you go there.

Henry:
Yeah.

Chris:
That's an accomplishment. I didn't know club flyers paid so much. How does one even make a quarter of a million dollars doing club flyers?

Henry:
It's amazing, a lot of volume and a lot of sleepless nights.

Chris:
Yeah, just tonnage.

Henry:
It's tonnage and I think you know what Chris? You know what really paid off? the personality that my mother gave me because she had the gift of gab, she lit up rooms. When my mother walked in the room, everybody was laughing, everybody was smiling. She really knew how to connect with people on really deep levels. And I'll never forget it. I had a developer that I came friends with who helped me with some website stuff way, way early on and my design work at the time Chris was F level work. It was awful. But I was getting all this business, and his name was Mike Watkins.
Mike said to me, and I couldn't figure it out. I said, "Mike, I don't know how we're getting this business because this work, I'm not confident in this work." And he said, "You know why you're getting this business? Because they like you. They like you. They like your hustle. They like your drive. They like your you and that's how you're getting all that work." And that's what happened. The nightlife industries saw me as the guy that got you what you needed fast and it wasn't even about being the cheapest, it was getting them what they needed when they wanted it.
And I knew that if I couldn't beat my competitors in quality, I was going to beat them on speed. And that's what I did. I just doubled down on what I was good at. And I think it was speed. And you know what it was? It was the naivete of me not knowing real design that helped me get it done faster, but helped me become more profitable. And I got to tell you, that's how I was able to do it, but to the point, I made a lot of great connections. That's how I met Jon Bon Jovi's brother, that's how I did work with Bon Jovi for two and a half years because I loved people at that point.
And my mother loved people and that's how I built a huge, huge network of acquaintances. I wouldn't call them friends, but business acquaintances, and they got me into every nightclub that was starting out or opening up. And I know at one point, there wasn't one nightclub in the state of New Jersey that I didn't do work for. I had all the accounts that bled into New York City, that bled into upstate, that bled into Connecticut. Bon Jovi's brother opened up a couple of clubs up there. It was crazy. So it blew up and then it came crashing down.

Chris:
How did that happen?

Henry:
Well, I would be lying to you if I wasn't bitter about my uncle not getting back to me about taking me up on that job. And then I also saw all of my family members working for him and I resented that a little bit because I was like, "Well, why can't I work for them?" So I was like at one point I said, "You know what? That wasn't meant to be, but I'll show them i.e my mother's side of the family." And that was the chip on my shoulder that I ran with for years. That's where, Chris, I lived in a walk up my first house.
It was it wasn't even a house, it was a co-op. It looked like a garden apartment if you will. I didn't even have a garage. I had at one point a Cadillac Escalade, brand new, a 6 Series BMW convertible brand new, an Audi A5, brand new. I got my girlfriend at the time an Audi A4. She's now my wife. I had four cars and I didn't even have a garage to put them in. I would go on these lavish vacations, I would go out and buy $1,000 shoes. I bought a Rolex, then I bought a couple more and my family looked at me like, "Who do you think you are?"
And I started really throwing it up in people's faces. And that created a lot of bitterness. It created a lot of resentment, but all behind my back. It wasn't until I got married that I found out that all this bitterness and resentment towards me was there. And it's probably ... The last time I saw a majority of my family on my mother's side was the day of my wedding. I bump into them on occasion here and there, my cousins are having kids now. So the one cousin, my best man, Uncle Joe's son, he's the one that I stayed in touch with the most because he didn't judge me, he didn't resent me and to this day, we're still best friends.
But the majority of my family is is gone. And listen, I think at the old James Brown movie. And he said something in that movie that really resonated with me. He said, "I paid the cost to be the boss." Because he did a lot of things that he probably didn't want to do, but he did them for the wrong reasons maybe. And if I ever could go back in time, I wouldn't do what I did, I wouldn't buy all that stuff to throw it in people's faces. I would have came with a completely different approach because they were actually proud of me at one point.
I remember my 30th birthday, my wife threw a big party at my uncle's restaurant, and my whole family was there. He wasn't there though. My uncle wasn't there. But my aunt came up to me and she said, "I'm super proud of you." And this was the aunt that kept me glued to my mother's side of the family and it was a huge smack in the face to her. When I started these horrible behaviors, and eventually caught up to me and to her. She was fed up and she was like, "You're a horrible nephew. And I don't want nothing to do with you anymore." And that was it. So there was a huge price I paid for all of that success that I don't know if I would pay if I had to do it all over.

Chris:
I have a bunch of questions for you Henry.

Henry:
Sure.

Chris:
Your uncle having the capacity to hire you and not wanting to hire you. Did you feel like he was obligated to hire you? He did get you your job at the hospital which ultimately you your degree your master's degree, how much more Did you think in your mind your uncle owed you?

Henry:
I don't think he was obligated to give me that job at the time. I don't think he was, I was more mad that he didn't answer my question. I think that I was more upset about that. I don't think that I was mad that he didn't give me the work, the job. I was mad that ... Okay, in my jersey personality, my thought at that moment in time was, "You don't have the balls to tell me no, you'll just ignore me?" That's what was going on in my head.

Chris:
Okay, pause on that though. That's a strange way to interpret it in my opinion because I look at it like you know what? He told you you're not qualified to do the job. And the way that you told her story sounded like he tried to let you down nicely which is like, "Let me look into it. See what else is out there." And I'm sitting there thinking to myself too that I run a business, some of my cousins have ask me for work, I just tell them no, I don't hire family just as a rule because it can go bad.
And I'd rather have you as part of the family and then first for me to say something that you're hurt. And then now we can't see each other at weddings or funerals.

Henry:
Right.

Chris:
Right? So all he did was in the way that you told the story was like he first told you, "No, you're not qualified to do this." And just because you want the job doesn't mean you get it.

Henry:
Yeah.

Chris:
But let me look into it. And he just didn't get back to you. And the way I see it is, your Uncle Joe sounds like a super successful guy who's got a thousand fires to put out on a daily basis.

Henry:
He does.

Chris:
Restaurants, construction, multimillion dollar projects, hospital wings, all kinds of stuff.

Henry:
Okay.

Chris:
Why does this register? Why does this register?

Henry:
Chris, here's what I realized over the years and as I got older.

Chris:
Yeah.

Henry:
My ego was so big, it wouldn't fit across the George Washington Bridge. So I didn't think of any of that.

Chris:
Right.

Henry:
I was, "Well, what about me?" And I look at it back, I look back now as a 40-year-old man going, you had some, we call them [inaudible 00:46:15]. You had some [inaudible 00:46:17] to think that, you know?

Chris:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Henry:
And so yeah, you bring up a great point. And so I look back and I know I could have done a lot of different things and had the opportunity to chose not to because of ego, because of selfishness, because of I cared a lot about what other people thought. We had a conversation not too long ago, Chris, you and I, one on one about a thing that happened to me when I was 21 years old, and a cousin giving me a real stiff arm and me having to deal with that now at a later age in my life and have it still come back and haunt me.
But I don't want to paint him as a bad guy all the way because I did some things that probably made him think and treat me that way. And if anybody taught me anything, it was you taught me what you put out in this world is what you get back. So and Henry, you have a great way of putting certain energy out and getting it back 10X the velocity, and that really helped me realize like what you give is what you're going to receive. So if you're going to put out that kind of energy, you're going to get it back and I was just getting what I deserved, but at a much forceful level. And I've muscled through that for about five years until I got some serious therapy help on it.

Chris:
Yeah.

Henry:
Yeah.

Chris:
Okay, so maybe this is me, armchair psychologist here. Your mom leaves the family and maybe you felt abandoned. And when Uncle Joe doesn't call you back and tell you what's up, maybe it's a recurring theme of abandonment and it hurts. And when we're hurt, we don't make the most rational decisions in life and it's okay. But how you respond to this confuses me a little bit. So you're successful, you're making money, you're probably spending money as fast as you're making it from the sounds of it.

Henry:
I was.

Chris:
What did buying all those things do for you as a person who has unresolved trauma? What did it do for you in the moment? And then I want to talk about how your family responded to it because that confuses me too.

Henry:
Okay. So at the time, it was a dopamine hit. It was a big dopamine hit. Well, buying a car right off the showroom floor, and getting that feeling the minute you drive it off the lot, a lot of that was just quick, quick fixes to a deeper pain. It did nothing for me long term at all, at all. Again, I had something to prove to people that loved me for who I was because they raised me, you know what I mean? They watched me grow up, right?
So they didn't understand why I was making this turn and I think they just ... Once I got married, they were like, "We're done with you. You have your own life now. We're out." And they were very, very clear on that.

Chris:
Now before we go there though. You buy these things, what is the story you're telling yourself when you buy these things?

Henry:
Oh, yeah, that's a great question. I'm buying these things going, "Now people are really gonna think I'm successful."

Chris:
Okay, so that's the chip that you're talking about?

Henry:
Yeah.

Chris:
That you've been disrespected, you've lived in a neighborhood adjacent to the projects. Your dad's a blue collar guy working for jobs, trying to make things work. So Uncle Joe and his wealth and affluence is on a different side of the family, your mom's side. And is it the Kaminski's versus the [crosstalk 00:50:23]?

Henry:
[Sanzari's 00:50:23]

Chris:
Sanzari's. Is it something like that?

Henry:
Yeah, the families never really mingled.

Chris:
Right. And so maybe is it you're longing to be part of this other narrative? Because there's two halves to you. There's your mom's side, and there's your dad's side and maybe for you, getting into that side of the family meant I need to be successful too.

Henry:
Yeah

Chris:
Okay. So you just went about it the wrong way?

Henry:
Amen.

Chris:
Okay. So you buy these things, I'm going to imagine, and correct me if I'm wrong, being able to walk in there and pick out whatever you want was about power, about control, and about status.

Henry:
Amen.

Chris:
Okay. So you do these things. And this is where I'm a little confused because at first, I think your family's happy for you because it's like, "You know Henry? He walked away from the hospital job which wasn't a good fit for him and he started his company and he's hustling his tail off working all kinds of things, and he's making things happen." And they're probably happy for you because we all want our family to be successful and especially because you're at this point self-made. That's a good story. How does this become something where they're like, "We're done with you." I don't understand because I buy things too.

Henry:
I think I had the answer. And again, this is all hearsay. I never went to the source and asked the question.

Chris:
Okay.

Henry:
So my cousin's husband who she married is another very wealthy, wealthy guy. He let his son, so my cousin's stepson, he put his son in charge of purchasing sweatshirts for his concrete company. So we design these shirts, and I find a vendor who was the vendor of the hospital to do this print the shirts for me. So this is all speculation. I don't know if this is true or not, but I think this is where the downfall started.
If I look back correctly, and had to piece it all back together, the vendor who printed the shirts, now my cousin in law who was in charge of that order, got a very expensive sweatshirt, the design was 15 colors. So we're talking a lot of ... You were in the printing industry before, so you know. My vendor comes back to me and says, "This is a $10,000 sweatshirt order. Are you sure you want to do it?" So I go to my cousin in law, and I tell him, "This is what it's going to cost." Right?
Now, I was only getting a little piece of profit out of that 10,000, the vendor got most of it. I think I got like 600 bucks out of that. And my cousin in law who was in charge of that order pulled the trigger on it. Now, my cousin's husband is extremely wealthy and he's known for being very miserly and tight and very strategic with his money. I don't fault him for that. I think he got that bill, and lost his mind and looked at me like I ripped them off. And then that story without me being able to explain myself got disseminated and people really thought that I was some con artist, I guess, or somebody who ... That's my that's my only thought because after that order, his name is Tony.
Tony never really was nice to me anymore. And I never understood why, but then later on, I was like, "Oh, maybe his son signed off on an order that shouldn't have been signed off on, check got cut, it was too late." And the old man was mad about it, and never looked at me the same. I'm sure that wasn't the only thing that I did.

Chris:
Hold on. So when you say that I did, what did you do? In your mind, what did you do?

Henry:
Again, through a lot of my success up in people's faces, rather than being humble about it, I made you know just buy the cars. I had three Range Rovers before I was 27 years old.

Chris:
Wait, wait, hold on, hold on. I'm talking about this sweatshirt order.

Henry:
Oh, oh, I'm looking big pictures though.

Chris:
You facilitated an order which you made $600 on.

Henry:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris:
So when you said what I did, what did you do?

Henry:
I sold a really expensive sweatshirt order without big Tony's approval, and I think he was pissed that that got through without him knowing because had he known, I think he would have not went through with the order.

Chris:
Okay. Was it your responsibility to do that?

Henry:
No.

Chris:
And did you suggest to go with these crazy printing options? Was this-

Henry:
I remember me and Trey, Trey was my partner on the job. He was the one that actually printed them. Trey came to me and he said, "Dude, look at this design, make sure little Anthony knows that this is going to be really expensive." And this was my family. So at the time, I said to little Anthony, I said, "This is a very expensive order. I'm just telling you now. It's a $10,000 order. Are you sure?" And I remember his tone of voice. He was like, "Get it done. Do it." Like that. It was a get it done. Little Anthony gave me the ... He gave me the order. And I was like, "Okay."
I went back to Trey, I said, "Little Anthony said move." Trey said, "Okay." And we did it. I remember delivering the boxes to the house.

Chris:
Was he happy with what he got?

Henry:
Little Anthony thought that they were awesome. Yeah, I took one for myself because they came out so fantastic, but big Anthony? No way. No way.

Chris:
So I still don't understand where this is the driving wedge between you guys because it's not like you from the outside, it might have been like you fleeced your cousin-in-law.

Henry:
Right.

Chris:
And you up sold them something that you lined your pocket at the expense of your family. And I could see then why that would be the thing that splits you guys up because you don't treat family like that.

Henry:
Right.

Chris:
You try to tell him and he's like, "Don't do it." He exercised his control and his authority and it just got, it just didn't end well because of his his dad.

Henry:
Yeah, I think it was this and here's another thing that I think this has to do with. So again, this is my opinion. I've seen even before I had a business Chris, I grew up with this family. I was closer to the Sanzaris than I was to the Kaminski's.

Chris:
Yeah.

Henry:
And there was a common denominator amongst the aunts and the cousins, and all of that. I think, in my opinion they were all insecure themselves because they all went about their days thinking that everybody was out to take advantage of Uncle Joe and his wealth and his status and his thing, right? So they were very protective of him and at the same time, my mother's uncle was the one with all the money. He was the one that started the Sanzari's Empire.
And there was a lot of animosity between one generation versus another because there was an uncle that got killed on a job, he got ran over by a bulldozer. There was a big falling out between my uncle and his uncle. And you could write a Netflix documentary on this family. It would be an Oscar award winning freaking episode. And everybody talked about each other. There was always this backstabbing nonsense going on and I saw this as a young kid and I saw my mother do this. And I said, "I don't want to do this. I don't want to treat people like this."
She loved people, but she had that ... We call it the Sanzari curse because everybody was clawing at each other's back the minute you left the room, and now every family has their own stuff, right? But I grew up watching this. So maybe there was a bit of jealousy there where like I broke away and really tried to make a name for myself and as much as they were proud of me, they were a little jealous of me because I have a cousin who's about the same age who made it a career to work for Uncle Joe and I went out and did my own thing and built a name for himself and maybe my aunt and uncle was a little bit jealous of that because their kids didn't do that and their kids are all working for my uncle and there was some animosity there. I don't know Chris, I'm going to die not knowing.

Chris:
You don't have to.

Henry:
I know. Yeah, you're right. I saw my aunt, the aunt that I'm referring to, she actually checked out because I could see who looks at my LinkedIn. And I saw that she peeped out my profile not too long ago. And I was this close to reaching out to her, just to ask her, "How's life? I haven't talked to you in a decade."

Chris:
Yeah, but-

Henry:
But it's tough.

Chris:
Okay, okay, hold on. It doesn't have to be tough. As much as you are characterizing the families having the curse and chasing the money and the rivalries and all that kind of stuff. You're playing right into it.

Henry:
You're absolutely right.

Chris:
If you've wronged someone, and if you've been ungrateful, if you've been entitled in your life, let's say if you were, let's say if because I don't understand still yet how when you become successful and you spend your money the way you want, the money you earned, that money was given to you, why anybody would begrudge you on that. There's something else that's deeper and there's no way we're going to be able to figure this thing out.
But why has it up into this point not occurred to you? You call up your best man and say, "Yo, can we just have some straight talk? Because I want to get right with this family."

Henry:
You know what? Okay, so I [crosstalk 01:01:23]. Yeah, so I remember this. So I went to my cousin Frankie who I grew up with this guy. I mean, me and him were probably the closest of all cousins, right? But then as I got ... When I moved up to northern New Jersey once I started my career, he's a homebody. And I wanted to get out and meet and network, right? And when I would ask him to come out with me, the answer was always no.
So finally I was like, "I'm done hanging out with Frankie because I don't want to be a homebody. I want to go out and spread my wings." So we stopped hanging out so much, but we weren't mad at each other, we just realized that we're going to do different things. So it was right after my wedding I tried to get some answers. I invite him to the capital grill and I said, "Sit down, I got some questions." And he said, "Okay, shoot." And I said, "What did I do wrong? I had some ideas, but I didn't know."
And you know what? He looked me right in the eyes and he said, "I can't tell you." You can't tell me? He said, "All I can say is that you do a lot of things that piss a lot of people off." And I begged him. I said, "Please tell me because I can't see it. And if I can see it, I'll make it right." And he looked me right in the face and said, "I can't tell you." Chris, this conversation was about nine minutes long.
I said, "Well, if you can't tell me, this conversation is over." I got up and I left. That was it. I don't know why he couldn't tell me. I don't know why. I think if I would have known at that point, I would have went to every single family member individually and made it right because that's who I am. But I was left in the dark. So that's when I became really bitter and I really, amplified that chip after that.

Chris:
What are you bitter about?

Henry:
I was bitter that I didn't get my ... I didn't have control, one. Two, that I didn't get the answer that I wanted. It was a very direct question and I was hoping to get some answers so that I can fix and I didn't, so I got angry. I got angry and I became very bitter.

Chris:
Yeah, I still don't understand what you're bitter about because-

Henry:
Well, because [crosstalk 01:03:57]

Chris:
Because you asked me a question I'm not obligated to tell you. You do understand that, right?

Henry:
Yeah. But I thought we were [crosstalk 01:04:04].

Chris:
[crosstalk 01:04:04] approaches you on the street and says, "Henry, how much money did you make last year?" "It's not really your business." And then they become bitter. So here's what I'm thinking.

Henry:
Yeah.

Chris:
And you've admitted it so it's not like I'm trying to tell you something new.

Henry:
No.

Chris:
Your sense of self, the ego and the insecurity defaults to a state of hurt and then flips really quickly to anger.

Henry:
Yeah.

Chris:
It's hard to move in the world that way.

Henry:
Yeah.

Chris:
I'm going to interpret this as you're hurting me, then my response to you is to respond with anger.

Henry:
Yeah.

Chris:
And I think it should be the opposite which is I respect that you can't tell me. Do you have any other ideas, suggestions of things that I can do? And even the way that you phrase the question, I'm sure it's not exactly how it went down, but if you phrased the question like ... What's this person's name again?

Henry:
Frankie.

Chris:
"Frankie, I want to make it right. I know I did something, I want to make it right. Do you have any suggestions?" Versus like, "Tell me what I did wrong." Because [crosstalk 01:05:02] out of curiosity-

Henry:
Look at that.

Chris:
Just I need to know who my enemies are, as opposed to, I want to make amends.

Henry:
Right.

Chris:
To this day, if these people are still alive from your aunt to Uncle Joe, you could literally just send them a basket and just write a very touching note.

Henry:
Yeah.

Chris:
Because this is more about your own personal healing than it is about you trying to extract something.

Henry:
Yeah, that's a great, great point. And I've been really contemplating that and I need to pull the trigger on that. I think it's the right thing to do.

Chris:
And I think you don't want to go to your grave saying, "I woulda coulda shoulda and Uncle Joe's gone and my aunt is gone." Your mom passed away, I know, it's made a mark on you, it's impacted you. But it's the proverbial chip on your shoulder hasn't gone away, it's still there.

Henry:
It's still there.

Chris:
And these are things you need to do for you, not for them.

Henry:
Yeah, that's great.

Chris:
But anyways.

Henry:
This is a great conversation. Yeah. It's a great conversation. I didn't know we were going to go here.

Chris:
Well, I just go wherever the conversation goes.

Henry:
Yeah, but this was great. I'm happy that we did because I hope that the listeners get ... I hope the listeners don't make the same mistake I did.

Chris:
Okay, so let's do this. I want you to talk to your younger self now.

Henry:
Yeah.

Chris:
So just take a few moments to think about this.

Henry:
Yeah.

Chris:
I want you to give some wisdom to younger self so that your younger self doesn't repeat the same mistakes. What are a couple things you could say to your younger self?

Henry:
A couple things. One is that the material things are not going to make you happy long-term and you really need to understand that you have everything that you need in your life already inside of you, you just need to both acknowledge it and pull it out. And you don't need anything materialistic to make you feel like you are enough. And I know that gets thrown around a lot these days, but it's the truth.
I have a very ... All right, let me continue. What else would I say to my younger self? I'd say, "Why are you really doing what you're doing? Is it to impress people or is it to really fulfill a higher mission?" Be honest with me. Why are you doing what you're doing? And if it's to show off, okay, as long as we know that, that's what you're doing it for. But if it's really to make an impact on people's lives, then your actions better follow. It can't just be lip service. It can't just be lip service.

Chris:
I want you to try to do it one more time. You got choked up a little bit somewhere in there near the beginning. And then it got into a less vulnerable state. You've realized things in your life now. Share that wisdom with me Henry.

Henry:
Yeah.

Chris:
Just visualize your little man.

Henry:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Chris:
Dante, right?

Henry:
Yup, Dante.

Chris:
You're a Dante sitting on your lap, "Papa, what do I need to know?" What are you going to say to little Dante?

Henry:
Oh man, what am I going to say to him? I'm going to say that you are one in 7 billion and you need to really own that and hold it deep ... Hold it close to you and never let anybody else make you feel like you're less than because when they do that to you, it's just them hurting more than you are right then and there and instead of getting angry at them, help them, help them because that's going to come back around.
I don't know when, I don't know how, but it's going to come back around and if there's one thing that I can tell you Dante, it's this. What you give is what you get.

Chris:
Henry, thanks for sharing so openly, so full of emotion and I'm hoping that your story hits so many different people in different ways.

Henry:
You're welcome.

Chris:
So Henry, we barely got a chance to speak about your business, what you do for people. I think understanding your story, what motivates you, the things that you've learned and the things that you're still working through, I think make your story much more complete. And as we're talking about whatever you give to the world is what you're going to get. I hope hearing this allows people to relate to you in a totally different way than perhaps in the past. If people want to find out more about you, and the brand doctor and what it is that you do for people in the personal brand space, where should they go?

Henry:
So if you go to uniquedesignz with a Z at the end, not an S .net, you'll get access to The Brand Doctor Podcast, you'll get access to my YouTube channel, you'll get access to Instagram, all on the homepage. Feel free to subscribe and follow my journey as I continue to evolve and grow and become a better entrepreneur, a better father, a better friend, and a better human being.

Chris:
So that's uniquedesignz with a Z at the end .net? Uniquedesignz with a Z .net. Henry, thanks for coming on the show.

Henry:
Thanks for having me. My name is Henry Kaminski Jr. and you're listening to The Futur.

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