Mike Mauzé

Soccer instilled in me the power of finding your niche, which is what entrepreneurship is all about.

From the soccer field to the jazz club, Mike finds inspiration for VMG and his entrepreneur partners everywhere he goes.

True story

I read biographies and non-fiction. These aren’t ‘curated’ lives. They unfold in unpredictable patterns, go off on wild tangents before they make sense.

High notes

My wife and I have been going to jazz clubs for 30 years...The way each musician finds their own, passionate interpretation of the music. That speaks to me.

Full house

We have 3 biological sons and a son from Ghana. Each entirely different and unique. I’ve learned to appreciate that each is on his own journey—and it’s not mine.

We’re joining entrepreneurs on the most important journey of their lives. It’s important to respect each other. In the end I want them to say “I really enjoyed walking this path with you.”

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What should we know about your childhood that shaped who you are today?

I grew up in St. Louis and NJ. Two hotbeds of soccer before soccer was remotely ‘hot.’ It was a niche sport played by kids like me who weren’t good enough athletes to play football. It became my passion and I played through college. That instilled in me the power of finding your niche, which is what entrepreneurship is all about.

So, straight line from niche sport to niche brand opportunities.

Looking back it makes a great story, but as I tell my kids, there are no straight lines in life. The fog of events and struggles obscures meaning until you’re on the other side of it.

Until you write your memoir. Speaking of which, what are you reading lately?

That’s why I read biographies and non-fiction. These aren’t ‘curated’ lives. They unfold in unpredictable patterns, go off on wild tangents before they make sense.

Sounds like jazz, which you’re also a fan of.

A big fan. My wife and I have been going to jazz clubs for 30 years and I have a leadership role in SF Jazz. I see the beauty of improv there all the time. The way each musician finds their own, passionate interpretation of the music. That speaks to me.

You mentioned you have 4 sons. That’s a bit of a single note, huh?

Only in gender! We have 3 biological sons and a son from Ghana. Each entirely different and unique. I’ve learned to appreciate that each is on his own journey- and it’s not mine. If I can help guide them, great.

And you founded VMG to help guide entrepreneurs. But you came from working with large institutions. Why the shift?

In the end I think you’re either a big or a small company kind of person. I’m the latter. I consciously wanted to plant my flag in that space and, importantly, not grow out of it.

Speaking of space, your offices have always been small. Is that intentional?

I’m partial to round tables and a crowded, open work space. (We move when two people have to share a closet). I think this fosters communication and a democratic, lively culture. There’s no place to hide.

Which means?

Look, the world’s increasingly transparent. We’re all judged in the open by how we treat each other and our partners. And we should be— even when we’re not perfect. We can’t tell a ‘story’ that isn’t true.

So every entrepreneur can judge your relationships with other entrepreneurs.

Exactly. And they really are relationships. We’re joining them on the most important journey of their lives. It’s important to respect each other. In the end I want them to say “I really enjoyed walking this path with you.”

What qualities do you most respect about these founders?

They see a niche the rest of us don’t see. Big companies don’t see it. Market data says that it doesn’t exist! Still, they bet their lives on it. Plus, it’s a long journey- unpredictable and full of failures before the success. They get that.

There’s got to be a lesson in there for your sons.

25 years ago I’d never heard of PE or CPG and I’d never been to California. And yet here I am. I tell them you’re not following sheet music. You’re writing it along the way.

Ah, we’re back to jazz.

All roads lead to jazz.

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