We had the good fortune of connecting with AJ Aiello and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi AJ, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking.
In the movie Gattaca, there is a scene where Vincent out-swims his genetically superior brother Anton in a game of chicken at the lake. Vincent had spent his entire life being told that he will never be able to achieve anything at the level Anton can. Vincent responds to his brother with a line that relates to how I feel about life and risk: “I never saved anything for the swim back.” Assessing and managing risk has been a part of my professional career for over a decade now. I spent the last 13 years working as a financial advisor for my clients. Helping them save money for retirement and making sure they can make it last once they are there. When investing money I know that risks are unavoidable, especially if you want to experience substantial growth. At this point in my life, that knowledge is a part of my spirit. Before personal finance, I was an art kid. I loved comics, art, music, and design. Those things have always been my passions; the things that really drive me. I’ve spent countless hours of my life just drawing and listening to music. When I was semi-aimlessly attending college, all my favorite classes were art and graphic design (with a special shoutout to my mental health courses). By chance, I met a recruiter from a major investment firm that saw something in me, and before I knew it I started building a career as a finance guy. I learned about sales, marketing, and managing risk. I learned how to manage not only time, but a small business and employees. In 2017, I met Dustin McLaughlin, now my great friend and business partner at Twelve Midnight. He’s an annoyingly talented photographer, videographer, and storyteller. He also had a background in commercial branding. Not only do we personally align with our tastes and passions, but we also both knew our skillsets could complement each other in a business setting. We both love music, art, and design but also have business backgrounds. We spent months talking through business ideas where we could utilize the the skills we loved. Although there was risk involved, we wanted to chase those dreams, work for ourselves, and hopefully leave behind our current careers. The final concept we landed on was creating an agency that is a partner to brands needing to create consistent quality visual content. We strive to be more than a production company. There is a need in the market for visual brand partners. We do that, and we do it with intent and passion. Ultimately, we knew we had to take the plunge. Twelve Midnight was formed in October 2018. Through hard work, creativity, and relationship building it has turned into something even greater than we initially imagined. What we refer to as a “visual agency” has taken off. Twelve Midnight has already partnered with incredible brands like Visit Fort Worth, TX Whiskey, Bumble, Dickies Clothing, and Abraham Alexander. I think that risk can be subjective. There is always risk in life and in your career. The risk of a business failing. The risk of being laid off at your “safe” job. The risk of spending your life doing something that doesn’t make you happy. In my opinion, the risks we’ve taken trying to build Twelve Midnight are not risks at all. We are passionate and willing to work hard, and I believe we can overcome any hurdles that come our way. Even on our worst days, this work does not feel like work. I’ll gladly chase the risk of happiness. We will continue pushing forward with the things we are passionate about. After all, life isn’t just about money, and risks will always be there either way. For me, taking risk is about fulfilling my personal destiny, swimming hard to push the limits of what I can achieve, and not saving anything for the swim back.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
We call ourselves a visual agency – we consider ourselves a partner to brands needing to create consistent quality visual content. We strive to be more than a production company. There is a need in the market for visual brand partners. We do that, and we do it with intent and passion. We can ideate and create anything from a full-scale commercial video production to visual social media content. We work really hard for our clients, and try to think ahead and think outside of the box as much as possible. That helps us create intentional visual campaigns that have an impact.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I love Fort Worth. There’s an energy in this city that is pushing the city forward in ways that have never happened before. If we are spending a week exploring Panther City with a friend, we are going to the local museums like The Modern, The Kimbell, and Fort Works Art. We are going to explore the Trinity Trails and park on foot and on bikes. We are going to The Usual and Thompsons for cocktails, and we are absolutely hanging on the patio at Taco Heads. We’re going to get a cut and a beard trim at FW Barbershop. We’re going to food pop-ups with Cook Drank Eat, and music pop-ups with Abraham Alexander and Leon Bridges.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have had so many people support me on this journey so far. My parents, Gary and Romy have always been available as resources and mentors. My wife, Amanda who has always trusted my instincts on big and sometimes “scary” decisions. My ridiculously talented and driven group of friends who are constantly inspiring me to push harder, to be better. Our partners and friends at organizations like Visit Fort Worth and TX Whiskey who gave us some early opportunities to work together on so many fun projects. There’s too many people to list and be thankful for.