Two radio and television arts graduates tell the Eyeopener’s Nick Spector how they took a budding niche market and turned it into a profitable business venture with style conscious students in mind
Phil Adrien and Gavin Seal were tired of all the “tits and ass” they saw in men’s lifestyle publications.
Frustrated with the lack of real and down-to-earth coverage of men’s lifestyle topics, they launched The Modern Gentleman (TMG) instead.
Since this past spring, TMG has catered to an audience of young men; some are students, others are professionals, and many are transitioning from the former to the latter. Though there are plenty of women’s lifestyle websites for the younger crowd, TMG targets a niche market that conventional lifestyle publications like GQ and Esquire tend to ignore.
“It just seemed like everything was catering towards these guys that went out and had wild sex every night,” said RTA grad Phil Adrien, TMG’s founder and CEO.
“They drink the most expensive champagne, wear the most expensive suits, drive the most expensive cars and it’s like, when you graduate and you’re making a salary for the first time in your life. Those are not realistic expectations.”
What sets TMG apart from big sites like GQ, Esquire and Details is more than just its younger demographic, but also the way it approaches its audience.
“I think with TMG, we wanted to create a site where people who didn’t know what to do or what that end goal was or how to get there could come and just have a conversation,” Adrien said.
And so the website lives up to its name, informing the young, chivalrous man on how to deal with situations he’ll encounter during the transition from student to young professional — all while looking affordably stylish and up-to-date with the most recent technology.
“We met up and started talking about things we were experiencing in that stage of our life; that transitional period between education and the real world; between studying and working,” said RTA grad Gavin Seal, content producer and host of TMG.
The pair focused on less obvious issues, like whether or not to add your boss on Facebook or how to develop professional relationships.
As a result, TMG has grown from 1,000 visitors per month at launch to the 6,000 it’s averaging now.
Although there is some competition, it pales in comparison to what’s available for female audiences. Women’s lifestyle sites are a fast-growing market, but there are few options for men and even fewer still for the younger crowd.
“I think women are much more open about their feelings and are much more apt to share that in an online space,” Adrien said.
“I think it’s much more challenging for a guy to go ‘let’s have a real conversation about money,’ which is a very taboo subject but it’s something that we all think about right?”
But most importantly, it’s the open nature of TMG’s contributors that has helped it stand out from other men’s lifestyle websites. In an age where every publication has a Twitter feed and a Facebook page, Adrien and Seal said that appearing connected only goes so far; an actual connection is what makes the difference.
“What we feel is our greatest accomplishment is the user response. We’ll go to sites like Ask Men or GQ and we’ll see articles that have no re-tweets or no comments and with our site we are getting some incredible feedback,” said Seal.
“To us that’s the difference between people that just skim your articles and people who are actually dedicated readers.”
Tips for the modern gentleman
As a heavier fabric, tweed waistcoats or suits are good for the transition from fall to winter.
“Men fear bags,” says TMG, but a canvas messenger, leather backpack or modern doctor bag can help keep gear out of your pockets.
Luckily, beer is still the drink of choice for many modern gentleman — but that doesn’t mean your go-to discount brand is going to cut it. Craft, premium and import brews are a great way to expand your alcoholic knowledge.
Did you only make it to the gym three times this week because of a long day at work? Or did you pass on the pub for pushups instead? If you want results, you’re going to need to make some sacrifices.
Photo: Lindsay Boeckl