“Jon is the most bad ass investment banker you’ll ever meet. I got to know him after college when I moved back to the Chicagoland area. Jon and I immediately connected over a mutual love of similar artist, musicians and designers. Throughout the last few years Jon has been there as a constant source of support to me and an awesome example of what friendship should look like. Jon recently moved a block away from our studio in the West Loop, Chicago and we’re all pumped to have him as the newest addition to our neighborhood. I’m thrilled to introduce him to you today and hope you have the opportunity to meet in person before you die.” -Jacob Fulton
1. First off, congrats on your new spot in the West Loop! Welcome to the neighborhood, where should we go to eat?
Thank you, it’s good to be here. As some might say, it’s about darn time. In regards to food, anywhere but my place - unless you want cereal and yogurt.
2. People may not know this but you’ve mentored a number of folks – primarily high school students – over the years. Who were/are some of your mentors?
I’ve certainly been blessed by several mentors over the years. Some have shaped my life spiritually and personally while others have shaped it professionally. One of the things I’ve come to realize through it all is that these opportunities come in all shapes and sizes and often arrive in ways I least expect. To this end, I’ve tried to become increasingly aware of the chances to mentor as well as to be mentored and have found that some of the greatest opportunities to teach are also some of the greatest chances to learn (or relearn).
3. How did you end up in the industry that you work in?
I graduated from a small liberal arts college about 10 years ago where I played soccer and was incredibly active with various leadership roles on campus. I studied pre-law and was dead set on going straight to law school upon graduation but couldn’t get in to save my life due to a below-than-average LSAT score. Consequently, I sought advice and took a job with a startup investment firm out of Chicago.
I now work at another startup where a few friends and I decided to leave more lucrative positions to join a mentor and attempt to build something totally from scratch. We have worked diligently at the onset here to design financial products with specific purposes and the end investor in mind – a stark contrast to our experiences on Wall Street.
4. Which designers/artists inspire you most and why?
I appreciate consistency, authenticity and accessibility. I need to trust the people and the process. I also appreciate an artist’s unique ability to navigate the tension that results in producing something both new and timeless. In my mind this can take shape through the artist’s story, his or her process, or both. I appreciate specific and meaningful purpose in this way. Ultimately for me though, I need to be able to know and engage with the brand. Relationships trump most everything in my book.
There are several makers and artists who do these things well in my opinion. More recent favorites include: Oak Street Bootmakers, Billy Reid, Imogene + Willie, Justin Townes Earle, Shinola, Andrew Belle, Sleeping At Last, Otis James, Judah & the Lion, Tyler Sjostrom, Apache Relay, the Alabama Shakesand of course, yours truly Bare & Hatchet.
5. If you had one wish from the preverbal genie, what would you ask for?
A clean tattoo or two (or three), a cure for diabetes and another shot at Heartbreak Hill in Boston (all in a single wish).
6. What’s the first thing you think about when you get up in the morning?
Who and what can I impact most greatly today (usually on a post-it next to my bed).
7. Where will Jon Aagaard be in 10 years?
I hope to be somewhere that uniquely combines my heart and experiences. I say “somewhere” instead of a specific vocation or location for two reasons. First, I’ve learned no matter how much I try to plan or perfect, I am not in control. Second, and as we all know, this game of life can be more about the collective journey than it can be about a specific destination. Ultimately, because I’m never the smartest guy in the room, I think my road will pivot primarily on the basis of relationship. I hope to enable, develop and strategize with creators and makers via my experience and heart.
8. If you were forced to wear one outfit for the rest of your life what would you have on?
Head to toe? Detroit Tigers ball cap, a clean pair of eye glasses, a t-shirt and leather jacket, denim and a broken-in pair of boots.
9. If you were able to pick a theme song that played every time you walked through the door, what would it be?
Shine a Light, the Rolling Stones
10. Any Last Words?
Sure do! Foremost, I’m beyond flattered to be chatting with ole B&H here. I vividly recall sitting with you Jake, as you talked and whiteboarded about this idea in an abandoned warehouse in Wheaton (I believe a skateboarding video was playing in the background). I remember your initial sketches around various products, the first B&H studio - your bow and arrow and the number of events you hosted there. I recall your avid support and encouragement of other artists, specifically a young and squirrely Judah and the Lion. I remember the first photo shoots.. our trips to Nashville to meet with other makers.. the list could go on and on.. You’ve accomplished a lot in short order Jake. And it really has been a special event to be a part of.
Interview & Photo by: Jacob Fulton