All podcasts

Building A Performance Textile Company, With Seth Casden

Leadership is more than simply inspiring people to perform at their best. It is also an opportunity to provide a safe space where everyone can showcase their authentic selves. In this episode, Seth Casden shares how striking a balance between these two priorities helped him build the performance textile company Hologenix. He joins J.R. Lowry to talk about their flagship product that converts body heat into infrared energy. Seth also explores his servant leadership approach, the secrets to their B2B success, and how he guides his team in taking care of both their personal and professional lives.

Check out the full series of “Career Sessions, Career Lessons” podcasts here or visit pathwise.io/podcast/. A full written transcript of this episode is also available at https://pathwise.io/podcast/seth-casden

Watch the episode here

 

Listen to the podcast here

 

Building A Performance Textile Company, With Seth Casden

CEO Of Hologenix

In this episode, my guest is Seth Casden. Seth is the CEO of Hologenix, which describes itself as a human potential company. Its flagship product, Celliant, is a performance textile that converts body heat into infrared energy and is a key ingredient in a variety of world-class brands across a range of industries, including athletic wear, everyday clothing, sleep systems, healthcare, and much more. Seth is a lifelong athlete and has always been passionate about the intersection of sports, wellness, and technology. He founded Hologenix in 2002 and has led it ever since. Prior to starting the company, Seth was in private equity with a focus on real estate. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Pepperdine University, and he lives in Santa Monica, California. Seth, welcome. Thanks for doing the show with me.

Thanks for having me, JR. I’m excited to talk with you.

Look forward to having a conversation and learning a little bit about what you’re doing. You run a performance textile company, so give us an overview of what your firm’s all about.

Our brand is called Celliant, and that’s a combination of your cells and reliant. Our technology is powered by your body, and so we make products that are textile-based that harness the energy from your body and convert heat to infrared, which has many physiological benefits. Anything that has our technology embedded into it is going to help harness your body’s energy and improve basically your overall quality of life.

Sounds exciting. As a marathon runner, I probably should try it out because I could use all the help I can get.

Yes. We’ve been fortunate enough to sponsor a few marathons. Our socks help with blisters and sweaty feet. Your body’s trying to stay in homeostasis at 37C or 98.6 Fahrenheit. That works to maintain that core temperature, and the result is that we’re giving off about 100 watts of energy at any given time. If I could plug a light bulb into my head, whether I’m sleeping or running a marathon, that light is on. Our product harnesses that energy, and then when we improve circulation in the body, it helps maintain the core temperature and allows the body to direct its energy wherever it can be, whether it’s exerting performance side, recovering, or sleeping.

Acquiring The Technology

You were working in private equity before you started this company. How did you come to start the business and how did you develop or acquire the original technology?

I was fortunate. I have a degree in Business Administration, and my first few work opportunities were in private equity. I was exposed to a lot of different investments, different teams, and people who had a vision, trying to build something to improve our environment and our world. That inspired me that rather than invest in these companies, I’d rather create one. I met the inventor, David Hornik, and the technology, and what he was doing resonated with me. I had an experience. I had surgery and was able to work with the technology, and it showed me firsthand the benefits that it has. I’ve been hooked ever since.

You talked a little bit about some of the applications in passing a second ago, but what are the main ones in terms of where the technology gets used?

Such a great question. Thank you, JR. What’s hard is that it’s a blessing and a curse. It helps so many things. When you improve circulation in the body, you have a whole host of benefits. At the same time, people want to know exactly what it’s going to do for them. It depends on their body and where they are. The circulation, the blood flow, and the oxygenation to our cells, that’s a real primary factor in our health, and being able to improve the cellular respiration rate and direct infrared onto the mitochondria enhances the performance of the body. Not to get too technical, but infrared is an energy source for us. That’s what our core benefit is founded on.

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Seth Casden | Textile Company

Textile Company: The circulation of blood flow and oxygenation to our cells is a primary factor in our health. Improving cellular respiration rate and direct infrared onto the mitochondria enhances the body’s performance.

 

We don’t have to get too technical. We’ll probably go beyond the level that most of us or either of us could talk about it, but infrared then gets redirected into your body and has those benefits that you’re talking about in terms of improving blood flow, circulation, cell oxygenation, all of those things.

Exactly. When you look at something like strength, the more circulation that you have to that area, the stronger the muscle can respond. We’ve done studies in canines to show that when you force blood into a muscle, that strength output, however, it’s measured, force per kilo, you see an improvement. By being able to direct more circulation to muscle groups when an athlete’s performing, you’re going to see strength and endurance, a stamina benefit. When you’re recovering, you want to eliminate metabolic waste from the body, and that’s a function of circulation to a large part. The more circulation to a given area, the faster the metabolic waste is cleared.

We spend about a third of our lives sleeping. We sleep to rest and recover. If you can improve circulation while you’re sleeping, you help with thermoregulation. A lot of times, we wake up because we’re too hot or too cold or we’re sore from lying on one side. With that pressure point, the more circulation you can delay, you’re going to have improved sleep quality. When you look at what circulation does for the body, it has a wide parameter of benefits.

How It Works

This may be a silly question but take your strength application. If I’m doing something that requires arm strength, does it matter where I’m wearing the technology on my clothing? Does it have a general whole-body benefit, or do I want to wear it in my upper body if I’m doing upper-body work?

It’s a local effect. It’s going to affect where you have the product on. I’m wearing an underarm or a salient shirt. It’s going to be in the shoulders, the chest, or the shirt. There’s not a hard line that will radiate down my arm. If I’m looking for my feet to improve how they feel, I’m going to wear my socks. It’s going to be a targeted local effect. There’s no energy organ in the body. We have our heart for blood flow and our lungs for air. Energy is made in every cell individually. That’s a Krebs cycle ATP. If you can direct infrared into that area, wherever that area is, that area is going to have the benefit.

Active exertion, recovery, sleep, medical situations like the one you mentioned a few minutes ago, your own. Do you have to tailor the technology for the different uses or is it a pretty standard technology and the different fabrics that you get woven into?

There’s the core infrared output that you’re trying to measure or that you are measuring through mechanical testing. At the same time, as we grow, we want to have a formula that’s targeted just for sleep, an energy formula for when you need to perform. You can certainly look at ways to fine-tune the formulation for the desired targeted benefit. With the current evolution of our technology, selling it, whether you’re sleeping or performing in a competition or looking to maximize your ability in that given moment, the formulas could be the same. We’re looking at what’s the maximum amount of infrared we can get back to the body without changing the environment. This isn’t something that plugs into the wall. You go into an infrared sauna. You can only go in there 10, 15, 20 minutes. With our technology, you can have it throughout your day because you’re just working with the environment.

Testing And Benefits

You’ve talked a little bit about some of the benefits and turning infrared heat back on the body. How do you do controlled testing where you look at recovery and people who wear this as recovery or sleepwear versus people who don’t? What are some of the tests that you or your clients do to quantify the benefits?

You’re asking about how we target those types of people and fine-tune our product for a specific outcome. When you’re talking about somebody measuring recovery or sleep, we have ten published studies. There’s always going to be skeptics. One of the things that I learned is that validation is not binary. For some people, you’re sitting at the dinner table, and your wife or your husband or your friend says, “I tried this. It’s amazing. You should try it.” You go try it. You’re like, “That’s great.” For other people, they go, “They have ten published studies.” You go, “I don’t care, so what? I don’t know who they are. I don’t know. Does that really work?”

In our experience, the best thing we can do is introduce the technology, show people, and open their minds to what is possible. You can enhance your environment. We have Faraday bags now, and you’re looking at clothing that blocks radiation because we understand how a cell phone can be dangerous. Just in the same manner, there are things that can be helpful for you that you don’t see, too. What our body is doing is generating healthy wavelengths of energy and light that will improve our performance. What we’ve been able to measure so far, our seminal study is 153 people, and we’re looking at tissue oxygen levels.

There are helpful things in your body that you don’t see. It is busy generating healthy wavelengths of energy and light to improve your performance. Share on X

Tissue oxygen is the best gold standard of how you measure a benefit or an increase in circulation. If you’re looking at getting technical arterial blood flow, you can put a device in an artery and measure in liters per minute how much blood is going through that space. If you’re looking at the peripheral tissue and you’re looking at transcutaneous measurements of oxygen, it’s an indirect measurement. What you’re looking at is this body.

In our case, when you’re looking at TcP02, the study I’m referencing, there’s an increase in tissue oxygenation. That shows that the body’s getting more nutrients, in essence. When you understand that, then it helps with performance or recovery with sleep. We’re looking at the foundational claim. People go, “I want to understand how that affects strength.” We have a grip strength study that measures an improvement in grip strength and shows that tissue oxygenation increase translates to an increase in grip strength. That’s been one endpoint we’ve looked at.

B2B Opportunities

Irrespective of whether an individual believes or wants to look at the studies that you’ve done, you’ve got some major brands that you’re partnering with. You’re wearing an Under Armour shirt at the moment. I know they’re a partner of yours. Who are some of the other well-known brands that you partner with?

We’re, at the end of the day, a B2B opportunity, and we’re looking for brands to adopt the technology and understand that they’re consumers, but they’re not asking for it already. They will be soon. When you talk to people one-on-one, like in this environment with your audience, it’s just intuitive. It makes sense. You go, “Wow, we’re taught traditionally the way to improve our lives is through better diet, more exercise, more sleep.” There are other ways, just passively, by surrounding yourself with infrared, that you can harness your own energy to improve your quality of life. The adoption that we have, Under Armour was an early adopter.

It’s always hard when you want to start sharing your partner. We have about 65 partners, so it’s not possible to list them all, but KT Tape, Kinesiology Tape that’s used when you think about volleyball players or athletes, triathletes, that tape, they’ve been an early adopter. We have brands that do betting, like Bear Mattress, Medline, and the Curad brand, which we know has the green logo, has elbow and knee wraps, and ankle wraps. We work with brands like Defend to do sports performance recovery for professional teams and military, Xcel Wetsuits. If you can stay warmer in the ocean, that’s helping your circulation stay warmer. You have enhanced bottom times. You can extend the operation. You have so many things tied to our circulation, our ability to thermoregulate ourselves.

State Of The Company

You started the company more than twenty years ago, so you’ve had a great run of success in operation over the last twenty years. You mentioned you’ve got 65 B2B clients. How many locations are you selling in a lot of different countries?

It’s been, as you said, over twenty years. We’re over $50 million in sales for us personally, and over a billion dollars in retail sales in terms of the product, the consumers that people have bought and purchased that have our technology. Even though a lot of your readers have probably never heard of us at the same time, we’ve been able to make a mark for certain applications and with certain people. It’s just required a certain level of dedication and belief that when you explain this technology to someone, and they understand what it can do that, they’re going to be interested and want to use it.

There hasn’t been a secret sauce to it to the extent that if you went to your MBA business advisor and said, “Here’s my business plan,” rule 101 is to build a product for demand. We built a product where there isn’t a demand, and we’re trying to generate that demand and build that demand. I think, for the most part, we’ve been very successful in that and look to continue to be successful.

When you do something that’s groundbreaking, like what you guys are doing, you have to make the market. The traditional rule of ‘go where there’s already demand’ doesn’t work so well when you’re trying to be an innovator. You’ve got to get out there and blaze a trail like you guys have done.

Thank you for saying that. That’s certainly what we’re endeavoring to do.

Strategic Priorities

What’s ahead for you in terms of the next few years? What are your big strategic priorities?

I think in addition to growing the brand name recognition, looking at other applications. We started out as an additive to a yarn or a fiber. From there, we expanded to a way to print or bond in films and screens. Traditionally, we’ve looked at how to improve our own performance. In that, we’ve discovered that there are also benefits for agriculture for example, and how plants process production and growth. We’ve been exploring agriculture applications that I think you may see in the next short time period. Those are the two main applications that we’re looking to develop. As we talked about earlier, targeting certain benefits and being able to have a formula that’s for sleep or energy. Our ethos and our core is just how to broadcast to the world that infrared is a benefit, and we can deliver that.

Looking Back

You mentioned you got a bachelor’s degree in business administration back when you were in school. What did you foresee yourself doing professionally? I’m sure it wasn’t this since you didn’t know about it back then.

As naive as I was, I was smart enough to not have an idea of what I was going to be doing. I was interested in a lot of things. Being a jack of all trades has its pluses and minuses. Some people will argue you’re better off just focusing on one thing and learning that. I was always too fascinated by all the different opportunities to think about what I was going to settle on. For me, it’s been about the people I work with and that was the most important thing. The product was almost secondary. The product needs to work and the fact that it provides a health benefit is an amazing plus. Waking up every day and the people you work with, you want to have a good team that you believe in and it believes in you. That was always coming from private equity.

The companies it wasn’t always the ones that had the best product, but they had to have the team to deliver the product. In some cases, the product might not be the best one, but they had the best team. I obviously feel I have the best of both, but for me, looking back from college, I just knew that I was passionate about whatever I was involved in. I would deliver my best effort on whatever I ultimately decided to pursue.

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Seth Casden | Textile Company

Textile Company: You don’t always have the best product out there, but having the best team to deliver at all times is sometimes the better thing to have.

 

What was it that led you into private equity out of school?

A lot of that was just coming from maybe a conservative background that is something you can fall back on, understand business, and make sure you don’t get taken advantage of. There’s no formula for that. Regardless of what you major in, you’re going to learn about the humanities and have your GE curriculum and chemistry and algebra calculus. Having the business focus allowed me to understand business law, case studies, and what things to look out for. At the end of the day, I’ve always wanted to be a creator and build things.

Did you foresee yourself being an entrepreneur before you met your partner and decided to go into business together?

I grew up in the TV age where they would have as seen on TV and the infomercials would come on. I always thought, “What could I invent? What would be a great product?” A better hair cutter, the flowy, whatever it was.

Clearly, you’re a Ronco fan.

Yeah, exactly. I think I always knew I wanted to do something, but what form that takes and how that evolves has been the journey.

Biggest Mistakes

When you think back to your early days as a founder, what were some of the biggest mistakes that you made that you learned from?

There’s been a lot. I have a lot to choose from. I think the more mistakes you make in those early days it’s just more indicative of the effort you’re putting out because, at that point, it’s just so many decisions are going to be one that you would have done differently. To deny that, I think, is to not be able to be honest with yourself. Some of the biggest ones going from despair to we’ve made it back to despair. You think something is going well. You have a great meeting, and you’re telling your family and friends. You signed somebody, and then it falls through, or you signed someone, and then they can’t make the product.

There’s always an unforeseen something down the road. When you go from 2, 3, 4, or 5 people to 15 or 20, and then there’s something macro that has nothing to even do with your business, problems in trade, tariffs. Now, you’ve got to go back to 7 or 8 people. That’s always been my toughest challenge is dealing with the personal. The people I hire, I care for them. When you have to make a change or downsize, those are the hardest conversations, much harder than trying to raise money or talk to a board.

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Seth Casden | Textile Company

Textile Company: The hardest business conversations are about the people you are hiring or letting go. These are more difficult than those discussions about raising money.

 

Becoming An Entrepreneur

It’s your business. When you’re an entrepreneur, you wear everything much more on your sleeve, and everything either feels good or feels painful when it happens. The ups and the downs are inevitable. Very few people have Mark Zuckerberg. It only went up and up and up and up story with Facebook. Given that most businesses fail, as some of my friends have said, “You have to be incredibly optimistic and probably a little bit delusional to think that you can be one of the ones who succeeds as an entrepreneur.” It’s hard not to have those failures. I guess I think everybody does when they start a company in one way or another. Overall, how do you find the experience of being an entrepreneur? What do you like the best?

I think being able to stay at it to the point you were making, maybe you don’t expect any one individual endeavor to succeed, but you believe in hope over the trajectory of your career that there’ll be 1 or 2 or several that do bear fruit. There’s always been just enough progress for me to continue to invest and dedicate my life in building this. What I’ve enjoyed, just building on what I was saying, it’s the people and the relationships that you make along the way because, at the end of the day, you’re sacrificing your time and you’re dedicating your work to something that is intangible and that other people may not see or appreciate or realize. It has to be clear for yourself.

As you said, if you’re not Mark Zuckerberg and it didn’t just take off in the beginning, you’re going to have these peaks and valleys. You’re going to have these nights where you’re waking up with heart palpitations, and you’re like, “Am I doing the right thing?” That, I think, just helps define your focus and helps clarify for you, as an entrepreneur, why you’re doing what you’re doing. When you get back and distill to your motivation, that will then push you past the next wall, the next mountain.

The thing you don’t know is how many mountains are out there ahead of us. It’s always about the journey. Not the destination. As long as you’re getting fulfilled through the journey and you’re seeing progress for me, that’s been the reward I’ve been looking for. Obviously, I want this to be successful long-term and have it be understood. The way you think of Q-tips or Band-Aid or Kleenex selling it as infrared for delivering infrared, and that’s our mission.

You talked earlier about people not necessarily knowing your product. That reminded me of the old BASF ads. I can’t remember exactly how they worded it, but it was like, “We don’t make the products you know. We make the products you know better.” That’s very similar to what you guys are trying to do, in essence.

That’s exactly it. I used that example myself, and you quoted it perfectly.

Servant Leadership

My memory is reasonably good unless you listen to my wife, in which case it’s terrible. You’ve talked about people a few times. How would you describe your leadership style?

It’s changed over the years. In the beginning, I thought it was important to exert your authority and show me that you’re not afraid of a confrontation or that you command respect when you walk into a room. If somebody makes a mistake, you have to call them out. You have to discipline them. You have to make an example out of them. Even going into private equity, that’s just the hierarchy of coming from private equity. As I matured and understand, your employees are extensions of you in a real sense, especially in a small team. People talk about work-life balance and that’s a misnomer, especially now with a smartphone. Even if, as an employee, I want to have my own space, I’m going to be checking my phone, and I’m going to see an email from work. It’s almost impossible to not be affected by your job 24/7.

As a leader, what I want to show is that that’s a safe place for people, but it’s not a place to create anxiety. If there’s a problem, we’ll deal with it. We’ll talk about it. The filter is in the hiring process. If you don’t get the right person, you’ve got to start over. The sooner you can recognize that, the better. It may not be easy, but as I’ve gotten better at being able to identify and understand I’m able to confront that situation more quickly, so my leadership style is servant leadership, getting out of their way, and getting the right people. Making sure that they have what they need, that they understand the vision that I’ve articulated clearly, and what we’re all rowing towards. Once that message can be echoed back to me and, I’m like, “You get it. You understand what we’re doing. Be with God. If you need anything, let me know.”

How does that translate into the things you think are important in terms of the culture that you’ve worked to create in your company?

Post-COVID, everything changed. In the past, if you were working from home, you were slacking off, you were playing hooky, or taking your kid to a movie. That was just a shame. Now, working from home is I work from home. As far as how you evaluate that, it can be challenging. You have somebody who works in a location, and your only experience with them is through Zoom. For me, it goes back to hoping you hire the right person and trusting that if you don’t, you’ll get through that. To the extent you did, you’ve got to give them the freedom they need. If they want to go to a Pilates class at 11:00 AM because that’s the teacher they like at that time, great.

If they need to go to their kids’ performance or something changes and the doctor’s only available at 1:30, like whatever it is, I almost got fired for going to a dentist appointment, and they’re like, “No, you can’t do that.” You have to do that on a Saturday. Now I was like, “He’s not there on a Saturday.” They’re like, “You have to find a dentist.” That was what I was running from. To be able to give your employees their own ability to regulate themselves, tell them what you need when you need it. If it’s not there, then you have a problem. If you’re giving them enough time and you’re clear on what you need, then give them the space to do it on their own as they can. It’s different. We’re dealing with people that have a lot of passion, a lot of vision, not that everybody doesn’t, but I’ve had jobs where you’re just punching in and punching out. That’s a different time in your life.

If you give your team enough time to clear everything up and determine what they need, you give them space to do their work in their own unique ways. Share on X

Where do you choose to focus your time versus what do you leave to others?

That’s a great question because, selfishly, I’d love to have as much time to spend with my son or pursue things that I like or exercise. At the same time, I come from a micromanagement mindset. I want to reread their email. The faster we’ve grown and the more people we’ve had, it’s forced me to be like, “You can’t read ten people’s emails every day.” You learn to let go because if you can’t control that, then why are you trying to control something else?

You realize you have to zoom out further and like, “I want to focus my time on making sure the mission, the values, and the objectives of the company are clear.” Many times, you ask somebody, “What are the values of the company you work at?” They can’t answer that. I think at Hologenix, people are clear on what they’re doing and what they’re building. The larger you get, the easier it is to have defined roles. The less you have to have people do multiple functions, and it just becomes a better process that gets better results.

One of my very first show guests, a guy I’d worked with years before starting a data analytics company, said, “At first, you have a pulse on everything.” At first, you do everything, and then you have a pulse on everything. You get to the point where you realize this company is big enough that not only can you not have a pulse on everything? I can’t know what everybody’s doing every day. You just ultimately have to condition yourself to relinquish control and ultimately put the right people in the roles that are important to you and make sure that they get the job done, but trust that they know what they’re doing on a day-to-day, minute-to-minute basis.

That journey you just described articulately, I was exactly thinking of each stage where I was and what was happening. When you have that realization, it’s clear.

Hiring Process And Safe Space

What do you look for when you hire people in your company?

That’s so hard. People can interview great and just not work out, and maybe somebody doesn’t give their best interview, but you’d be making a mistake to not bring them on. I was talking to a colleague about the hiring process. If you think about it, you have somebody who’s going to be spending 40-plus hours a week at your company. That’s the majority of their waking time. You’re going to hire them based on a 45-minute, 30-minute hour interview. Some companies don’t have an interview. It’s all through email. You talk about divorce rates of 50%, but what’s your success rate? Could it be spending an hour with somebody and deciding how they’re going to be for your company?

What I look for is just the ability to not have a canned response to be authentic, and to not go into the meeting with a set mindset. Obviously, you want to be prepared. You want to know the job you’re applying for. You want to be able to talk about your skills and weaknesses. Now, with Google, you can see what are the best interview questions. You hear case studies on how to screen people. It’s a gut check, and the less bias that I have in that process, the more intuitive I can be. For me, it’s about creating a framework to bring someone in to hear about their lives, to give them the floor. If they interest me, and I feel like obviously they’re interviewing, they’ve passed a screening process already, so they have the right skill set for that position.

That’s almost like a given. Now you want to know, can I work with a person? Am I going to get irritated, or they get to irritate me? Am I going to irritate them? You want to be able to have honest conversations with people as fast as possible. Sometimes, it’s easier to share your most intimate secrets on the bus with a stranger than with your own family, but at work, I think the paradigm is changing from you’re at work. You don’t cross personal work, but the reality is it’s all connected. If somebody is having a problem in their marriage or somebody’s dying, you go through these life events, and they can’t talk about it at work, you have to create a safe environment for employees to share in a way that is protected and confidential so that they have support at work? Instead of work being an abrasion or a point of friction, it’s a point of support that’s lifting up your team. When you’re interviewing people, you’re looking for people who are willing to be vulnerable because you’re being vulnerable to set an example.

Years ago, I went to a training program. It’s probably been almost 30 years at this point where we talked about masks and shields. The masks we wear at work, the shields we put up at work. I think, to your point, a lot has changed. It would be in the whole alpha male command and control style of leadership. I think we’re mostly past that, although there are still remnants of it. At the end of the day, it’s hard to feel like you’re bringing your authentic self, your whole self, to work if you have to wear a mask or you have to put up a shield to feel some sense of safety. I don’t think we’re completely there yet. At one level, you need to get the job done. There’s a balance I think that, as individuals, we need to strike. There’s a balance. As managers, we need to strike, and COVID made a step change shift, but it’s certainly something that’s not perfectly understood still, at least from my perspective.

We’ve talked about a four-day work week and some of the feedback has been, “I don’t want to do that because then you’re telling me I can be off Friday, but I’m going to be stressed out because work is still going to be coming on Friday.” It’s a day off. It’s not off. The other analogy I’ve heard is protector and projector. Your protector is trying to protect you and it’s going to be telling you don’t do that. Don’t say that. It might even be critical. That’s a bad idea because it wants you to survive. That’s just your genealogy, your ancestry. We’re built in to protect ourselves.

Your projector, which has to be fed and encouraged and saying, “Speak out. Do what you know is right. Follow your passion, your heart, follow your intellect, follow your intuition.” That’s usually what gets crushed first. How do you strengthen and develop that and encourage your employees to have that projector voice and not go into protector mode?

We are built to protect ourselves. As a leader, teach your team how to strengthen and develop their skills to embrace their projector voice and avoid being stuck in protector mode. Share on X

Coming back to hiring, do you feel like you’ve gotten better at hiring over the years?

I’ve gotten better at hiring over the years in the sense that I’ve handed that off to other people. I think I’ve gotten better at being able to spot some of the interviews well but maybe isn’t the best candidate. I’ve gotten more patient. In the beginning, when you need a role and you’re so overwhelmed, you’re like, “This person sounds great.” It was like, “Go.” I think we have a little more discernment, and we can take our time. The team that I have now is been with us for a few years. Some more than half a dozen. I think that employee retention is the best sign for me that I have the right people.

How many employees overall do you have at this point?

We’re about 10 full-time, and then we have another 10, 15 that are half or more. You’re asking about our footprint. We have seven offices globally or boots on the ground and we’re able to extract extreme fiber in the US, Europe, and Asia. We can deliver for our customers wherever they’re sourcing to build their products.

Presumably, then, you’ve outsourced a lot of the production itself.

We don’t own any planner equipment. We control the formula and grind the particles. Just as a fun fact, the hair on our heads is about 100 microns. Our powder is 1 micron. One hundred the thickness of a human hair to give you an idea of the scale, and the yarn itself is only about 10 microns or 10, the thickness of the human hair. The minerals have to be ground small enough and dispersed correctly so that they can fit within that matrix. To your point, we control that, and then we contract, or we partner with brand manufacturers to extrude the fiber, the yarn, which is knitted into the fabrics, cut into the garments, and sold by the brands that we see on the shelves.

Beneficial Habits

Switching gears a little bit. Do you have particular routines or habits that help you be effective?

I’ve been doing this for so long and there’s been a lot of starts and stops. The best thing for me is to be able to keep what I’m doing fresh in my mind. That can counteract habits or patterns. What for me, the best habits and patterns are? It might sound cliche or corny, but it’s personal hygiene, keeping my house clean, keeping my bed made. I want to have my life in order, and then within that order, I want the flexibility to focus on emails, to have an R&D meeting, and to have a consistent exercise program. I’ve been able to do almost ten 5Ks with my son, who’s nine. Your children are interested in what you’re doing. For me, the energy and the passion have been based on being able to have a set routine in certain areas of my life. Personal care, diet, sleep, and then being able to be free to travel or see something or pursue something in a given moment that’s unique.

To some extent, as I’ve described before, I remember reading a story about David Lynch, the movie director who would eat the same thing pretty much every day, I think for breakfast and lunch. His view is, “I have bigger things to think about than what I’m going to eat every day.” Steve Jobs wears his black turtleneck every day. Those are a couple of examples that are a little bit different, but you want to focus your energy where it’s going to have the most impact and have your energy focused on, “Is my house a mess, and should I be more focused on cleaning that up versus how’s my business doing?” you’ve just taken that out of the equation by just making sure it’s done all the time.

That’s exactly right. To add onto that, when I’m doing those things, I can be in that moment. That’s a good exercise for my mind because so many times, we’re trying to run an email, but we’re thinking about our to-do list, or my mind gets fractured. One of the habits I’ve tried to develop is that when you’re doing a repetitive task, busy work like that, to just be focused on that task and block out, and then when I go back into my world, I’m just recharged, and I can see things clearly. It’s just a good excuse to have a break. I’m doing the dishes. I don’t need to think about anything else, but that’s what I’m doing. I want to do a good job of that. When I’m done with that, I’ll check back in on my world and just create this space. It’s like a meditation.

Is there a time of day that you’re most productive?

Definitely in the morning. If I can go to bed early and I wake up at 4:00 or 4:30 and I don’t feel tired and I can get an hour of writing in, journaling, again, that’s a cliche, but it’s true. Everything is quiet. Nobody else in the house is awake. It’s like free time. During the middle of the day, at the end of the day, you’re like, “I’ve had a hard day. I just want to check out.” The other time, I guess for me, late at night, the same thing, everyone’s asleep and so late at night or early in the morning are my most productive times.

For me, it’s definitely the morning, and it slides downhill as the day progresses. I’ve never been a night owl, but obviously, I have a lot of friends who very much are night owls and can’t function in the morning until they’ve had four cups of coffee. We’re all different. How you figure out how to make the best use of that time, I guess is what matters.

Once you have kids, it becomes harder to sleep in.

Consistent Strengths

Very true. My kids are all grown at this point. I don’t have to revolve my life around their schedules, but I’d certainly remember those days well. When you think back on your career so far, what have been the consistent strengths that you’ve drawn on?

I think my motivation and interpersonal connection, knowing that sometimes it can feel very alone to be on an entrepreneurial journey. You get a lot of skeptics, and to be able to go into the office each day pre-COVID and now on Zoom but have that team that’s in there with you, and you feel like you’re in the trenches together, and everybody is working towards something that they want to create and manifest, and that’s really, I think my strongest motivation. You can’t fake interest in something. Maybe for a little while at first, but in order to push past all the challenges you’re going to have as an entrepreneur, you need to be able to draw on some bigger meaning that’s going to push you past the temporary roadblocks that you’re going to inevitably encounter.

To push past the challenges as an entrepreneur, draw on some bigger meaning in life to push you past the temporary roadblocks you will inevitably encounter. Share on X

What have you had to work on over the years?

We talked about my change in leadership style, being honest with myself, or that process of being able to be what other people see in you that maybe it’s hard for you to see. I love the Johari window model. I don’t even have heard of that. You have a quadrant of four spaces, and you’re in the top quadrant is what people see and know about you. You have a quadrant where what you see about yourself, but you hide from people. The opposite quadrant is what people see in you, but you can’t see in yourself. You’re trying to go to the bottom quadrant, which is what is unknown to other people and to yourself. That idea of embracing that and pushing through the fear of that, seeing yourself for all the words you have and all your shortcomings, but still believing in yourself, that’s frankly a challenge for me that I still have every day.

You’re constantly when you do better than you expect better out of yourself, and growth isn’t linear. We talked about that. You’re going to have setbacks, and being able to convince yourself, like what you’re doing is the right thing, takes a certain effort, and still, I’ve been through this process of trying to understand why is this important to me. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to do this or to do that and to be here talking to you and say, “No?” This is believing that everything that happens is for a greater purpose to build you to where you are now. That’s more than just blind tape.

Keeping An Energized Self

I think ultimately that you’re talking about having a growth mindset. This belief that you can get better, that nobody’s perfect. Nobody will ever be perfect. You have to accept your imperfections but work on improving them. For a lot of people, I think they get that. I think a lot of other people struggle with it. They just feel like their development becomes static as a result of that. What do you do to recharge your battery? What do you do to keep yourself energized?

That’s one of the things I struggle with because some days there just isn’t enough time, and you’re like, “I need some downtime, but I should go to sleep.” You’re like, “I want a little more time.” In my day, that’s conscious awake before I go to sleep because all I’ve been doing is work or whatever it is, something that’s high stress. You don’t get enough sleep, and then you indulge in that short-term fix, and then the next day you’re tired. Staying recharged and staying energized for me is a function of creating time outside of work that can help balance the push that I do at work.

There are periods when it’s not sustainable. I’ve had periods where I’ve worked over a hundred hours a week, I’ve had vacations, or I did very little for a week, but overall, it takes a continual effort and push to build towards your vision, your success, your growth, whatever, however, you define that. That’s something, recharging, and a lot of times, through exercise, there’s that great feeling after you push your body physically, and you just feel sometimes, you don’t want to do it, but once you do it, it feels great. Trying to find those opportunities and spending time with family usually is recharging.

There isn’t an answer that fits every day on that. You’re not always able to do it. You just have to understand, take your rest when you can, and create space for things outside of work when you can. If you’re not doing enough of that, I’ve had team members reach out saying, “Look, I need two weeks off. I need to focus on my family.” That’s not going to happen in a large company. I’m like, “Great. Take two weeks, be with your family.” That goes back to my leadership style and creating that space for people. When that person takes that time and gets recharged, then they can come back and give their best.

Message To Younger Self

Last question. If you could pick one thing to go back and tell your younger self, what would it be?

I think the biggest experience for me is being able to have a higher level of confidence. It’s beyond your years. They say youth is wasted on the young. I still doubt things probably that I shouldn’t doubt, but my younger self doubted everything and was interested in becoming the best version of myself. Not that that’s changed, but it can become an obstacle to growth. If you’re paralyzed by an action because you’re not sure, you have to just take a step forward and trust that if you’re off course, yes, you will have walked further away from where you’re going, but in the long run, you’ll get there faster. I think that’s something that doesn’t touch the stove because it’s hot unless you touch the stove and feel that it can be hard to understand what that experience means. As my younger self, how would I be able to trust more and understand more without making the mistakes myself?

Closing Words

What’s that old adage? This one I’m not going to get right about. I hear, I see, I do. Experiential learning is more powerful. It just registers in your brain, and sometimes, we say this about our kids, “Got to let them learn the hard way.” We’ve all gone through those periods. I think that’s just part of life. This has been great. Been interesting hearing what you’re up to and what the company is all about, fascinating to hear about technologies that can improve lives, and glad you guys put into a broad range of applications, whether it’s, as we talked about earlier, active, exercise or recovery or sleep, or recovery from a medical incident or whatever the case may be. It’s very cool.

Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure to explore these topics.

Thank you as well. Have a good day. I want to thank Seth for joining me in this episode to discuss his company, Hologenix, their product, Celliant, his broader career journey, his thoughts on leadership and management and hiring, and some of the things that he’s learned thus far in his career. If you’d like to make the most of your career, visit Pathwise.io and become a member. Basic membership is free. You can also sign up on the website for the Pathwise newsletter. Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. Thanks. Have a great day.

 

Important Links

 

About Seth Casden

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | Seth Casden | Textile CompanySeth Casden is the CEO of Hologenix, which describes itself as The Human Potential company. Its flagship product, CELLIANT, is a performance textile that converts body heat into infrared energy and is a key ingredient in a variety of world class brands, across a range of industries including athletic wear, everyday clothing, sleep systems, health care, and much more.

Seth is a life-long athlete and has always been passionate about the intersection of sports, wellness and technology. He founded Hologenix in 2002 and has led it ever since. Prior to starting Hologenix, Seth was in private equity with a focus on real estate. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Pepperdine University, and he lives in Santa Monica, California.

 

Share with friends

©2024 PathWise. All Rights Reserved
chevron-down