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Founder Focus: A Product of Persistence with NAPD co-founder, A.J. Thomas

Founder Focus: A Product of Persistence With NAPD co-founder, A.J. Thomas  We all have a pipe dream. You know, that concept or creation that lives rent free in your mind....

Founder Focus: A Product of Persistence

With NAPD co-founder, A.J. Thomas 

We all have a pipe dream. You know, that concept or creation that lives rent free in your mind. The one that could change everything. Maybe you tell yours to anyone that’ll listen. (Props.) Maybe yours stays between you and your Notes app. (Same.) Regardless, everyone has at least one. The question is, what are you gonna do with yours?

A pipe dream is just step one. But we’re more interested in the second, third, and twenty-seventh steps. The parts along the way where dreams turn into realities. Where passions and purpose collide. 

We live for hearing the pivots, the challenges, and the Hail Mary moments  — the pieces of the story that usually take a backseat to the shiny end result. This week, we sat down with one of our founders, A.J. Thomas, to hear more about what the path to NAPD looked like for him.

Let’s start with the basics. Origin story, go.

I’m from Winnebago/Rockford, Illinois — most famously ranked as one of the top three worst cities to live in. Safe to say I came up seeing a lot of things. But I think my upbringing really influenced my path. I was raised by a badass of a single mother, and really only had female figures around me in the home until middle school/high school, which gave me such a different perspective on life than I think a lot of my male counterparts.

Community is such a core component of NAPD. What did “community” look like to you growing up? 

Sports, and I mean all sports. Basketball, football, track, wrestling, baseball you name it. I realized early on that if I played sports I’d have a built in community around me. And I think my mom realized that if I was playing sports I wasn’t getting in trouble. Being part of a team felt like having brothers, and as an only child I craved that.

So what was your first pipe dream? 

I kept up with football through college and dreamt of landing in the NFL and buying my mom a house (with an island in the kitchen). In the broader sense, my goal was (and is) to work as hard as humanly possible to be able to give my kids a life that I never had. To show them things I never saw and cultivate a future that I couldn’t even dream of as a kid. That feels like my responsibility to my family — present, and future.

How many pipe dreams were there between the NFL and NAPD? 

Man, too many to count. The NFL didn’t work out, so I pivoted into coaching football. Went to grad school, got my MBA. Thought maybe my path would be diving into the business side of college athletics and recruiting, but I quickly saw the darker sides of recruiting and knew it was time for a change. 

At that time I got involved in a prayer group and felt an overwhelming call to move to Nashville and pursue music. So I did. I slept on floors and couches with zero plans for what came next, but I just knew that this was supposed to be my next step. I started meeting really influential people in the music industry — fast forward to me traveling the world and DJing with Brandi Cyrus. Wild. We were gearing up to go on tour with Sam Hunt, aaand then Covid happened. And once again I had to totally pivot and ask myself what’s next.

And this is where NAPD comes in? 

Yeah, I’d been interested in fashion since I could remember. But also remember never feeling comfortable with pursuing it because it wasn’t deemed as “masculine” in my community. I dove head first and went for it. It was while working my way up at a fashion company that I got to, finally, work with one of my co-founders, Ally. We both knew we were meant for more than what we were currently accepting, so we finally did something about it. It really feels like our two pipe dreams intertwined at the most pivotal, perfect time. And NAPD was born.

I have chills. Okay, last question. Your path to get here was unique. Anything specific you want to share with the dreamers out there that feel confused or lost on their own path? 

I know, without a doubt, that everything up until this point has led me to NAPD. But I also know it isn’t easy. Since day one — of my life, and since NAPD was created — people have been saying it’ll never work. My response? Show them it will. We’re truly a product of persistence. Quitting is the best way to never make it. If you never quit, you can’t be stopped.


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