The Inventive Journey
Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Be StubbornBe Stubborn. I never ever quit. When it looks like this is a terrible idea or you hear no for the thousandth time you just have to preserver and keep going an pushing because it only takes the one time. You can quote Edison, Colonel Sanders, and other people but it really only takes the one time for it to blow up. If you stop then you will never find out that one time.
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The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
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be stubborn uh i never ever quit when it looks like this is a terrible idea or you hear no for the thousandth time you just have to persevere and keep going and keep pushing because it only takes the one time i mean you can quote edison and all these other people and you know colonel sanders but it really only takes the one time for it to to blow up and if you stop then you'll never find out that one time [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that has founded several startups that are now into seven and eight figure businesses as well as the founder and ceo of miller ip law where we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks and today we have another great uh guest on the episode uh on the podcast and his is rob kessler and uh rob has been in sales his whole life so he started out all the way at 16 selling some soccer and volleyball equipment and uh was and then he uh basically had the guy that was running the store turn over the keys to him tell him have a good time and he did a great job at it then went through school came out and worked after college worked with his dad i think he said for diamonds for a bit of time and then business wasn't good moved over to doing some car sales house sales and then came into uh then married a stunt woman which is an interesting i i always just find it interesting when there's a stud person involved um and then as they're getting married had an idea for a product that was in r d for three years plus and now is uh doing that as his business and having a great time at it so there with that much is of an of an introduction welcome on to the podcast rob hey thanks so much good night good to be here so i gave kind of the 30 or the five second quick run through of everything but maybe now take us back in time and tell us a little bit more about your journey and how it all got going for you yeah well um so you know it started with uh i started working probably whatever you can 15 and a half um and uh the only way to get a car in my house was to have a job so i could pay for the insurance so found a job i was playing soccer or found a job at a soccer volleyball store and uh yeah like you said day one the owner gave me a key to the store and a code to the uh to the alarm system like the other employees and he just put his full faith in all of us and it really made us feel like owners from day one and i was you know 17 years old so you really gave us the confidence and the support to follow our path within the business and try to help it grow and um it was an amazing foundation for me so started there uh went off to college was gonna quit after two years of college because i was making fourteen thousand dollars a year and thought i was listening i never know what to spend all this money with twelve hundred dollars a month holy cow um so about two years in i said you know what i'm gonna do this uh i'm a real goal oriented guy so i hunkered down i took summer schools and everything i could to catch up and graduated college in four years first person in my family to graduate college um and uh did that while i was working for my dad my junior and senior year i was working full-time in the jewelers store so found time for classes found time for work and um yeah that was did that so kessler's diamond center is uh the third largest independent jeweler in the midwest uh or in the country um seven stores now so i did that i helped him open up one of his first stores out of town he was in a really small town in wisconsin and uh just didn't really like the small town life so um my dad is the business is number one and he didn't have really anywhere to put me into one of the other stores so he said you know what if you're ever gonna work here your whole life and you're gonna run this company someday you should have some outside experience so i had a passion for cars so i went and sold cars for a while jumping in on that really quick so was that did you take that so there could be a couple ways you could take that right it's dad fired me now i gotta go find a job or dad loves me he wants me to grow so which way did you take it or how did it turn out was it that dad fired me now i got to find another job or hey that was so kind of him and i appreciate him looking after me no that was that was totally my decision um i didn't want to live in that town anymore and he wasn't going to just you know make an arrangement for me because i was a son in one of the other stores so there wasn't a position for me and so it wasn't a firing at all it was just like i really had to get out of that town i just hated it so um did that and uh sold cars for a while um and then i moved over to los angeles for about a year with some friends since i worked full-time through college i didn't get to do any of the uh spring breaks or summer breaks or every time that there wasn't work i was or it wasn't class i was working so um i kind of lumped it all into one nine month party in los angeles and uh came home and got into real estate which i loved i've i had my license for 15 years uh did lots of real estate there with the biggest firm first weber group um and then while i was doing that i started a screen printing business uh because i was getting i was working on a condo project uh graphic tees were like the hottest thing you know if you remember uh ed hardy and all those you know 125 dollar graphic t-shirts i'm like uh i knew from my script my soccer and volleyball days and we did all the jerseys and stuff a little bit about screen printing so um i started a little clothing line uh the screen printers were charging me way too much so i figured out how to screen print and started a little screen printing business which overtook the clothing line business and yeah sold that uh five years ago so my wife and i could move out to los angeles and uh in the started that little screen house and bought a 6 000 square foot building that my wife moved her gym into and i had my screen printing business in and sold all that stuff um got married one question before we go off the screen printing and it has nothing to do with screen printing so you didn't mention your what your wife was a stunned woman right so what uh what how did you i guess first how did you meet a stunt woman i know it's completely not your journey but it's just interesting because i you know stud whip it always sound her son anybody sounds interesting so what how did you meet her and then what did she actually do is it as interesting and as exciting as it sounds or is it a lot more boring so she did that um that happened after we got to los angeles which was we got here five years ago and we've been married for eight years in february so um we she was a a corporate person when we met and i encourage her to follow follow her passion and fitness so she started training people after work in in the summer one year and by the end of the summer she quit her corporate job because she had so many clients we bought that that commercial building we sold all that stuff uh sold everything we knew and and moved to a town we knew nobody in and she just happened to meet a guy uh the one person we knew had a dog uh one of the leasing guys in our apartment building so we were walking our dogs one day and she didn't know what she was gonna do and he's like there was a stunt guy that used to live here do you want to meet him and she's like hell yeah that sounds great so she met him and she did everything that he suggested and he introduced her to all the right people and she was in captain marvel as one of the scrolls she uh she doubled taylor swift in a music video she's working today on uh reno 9-1-1 so she's been all over the board she's worked more in the first four years than you know most done people do in 10 because she's got a business degree and she understands how to hustle on the business side so last question on that is being a stunt woman or a stunned person is exciting as it sounds when she's working she just called right before this and she goes we're stuck like they're doing all this stuff over here and we're just sitting around and it's kind of boring and so when there's you know she could spend a 12 hour day on set and work for 45 minutes so it just depends on you know at what point of the day she's in when she's working she loves it like it is she would do it for free if we could afford to live in los angeles without uh oh i don't know that you're ever gonna find a way to live in los angeles for free all right well that was a complete aside it was just one that i'm like i've never met somebody that did you know that was a stunned person or knew any but there's some people so i thought i would at least have to dive into that slightly so now getting back to your journey which is so now you you you know you guys moved to los angeles she was doing the stunt woman gig you were running the screen printing gig and then i think that then from there you kind of you shifted or you made adjustments so how did you where did you go from the screen printing so you back up a little bit we got married in 2013 uh in jamaica uh i hate wearing ties so you know it was a beach wedding i had no shoes before i could even say i do in my brand new freshly pressed shirt it was just a sloppy mess and it made me crazy so i came home from jamaica after looking at the wedding photos from the biggest day of my life and said i gotta fix this there's nothing i googled everything i could find there was nothing out there and uh so i started working on it uh we paid we we stepped into the ip realm with our first i think it was two thousand dollars to do the uh the patent check um you know and that's the beginning of our multi-thousand dollar checks that we were right writing to get this patent but um so we started doing that there was nothing out there and i just dove uh headstrong into it like you said three years of r d to get it right and uh now we've been selling for about five years and uh it's been crazy yeah so that three years of r indeed isn't is always as simple as you let on so you know when you're doing the r d you know first of all were you what were you was this your full-time gig were you doing it as a side hustle all the time or how did you kind of make ends meet so to speak why are you doing the r d in order to get the product up and going so that was in the screen printing days so i had the screen printing business doing all day and then you know when i had time i would work on a million dollar collar um i had fortunately had a lot of friends with old dress shirts that they were willing to give them to me so i tested every plastic i could find on the market everything melted at the dry cleaner so yeah i ruined about 100 shirts figuring this out and if you see all the i have a picture of like all the different designs that i had come up with over the years it's like how did you ever think that was going to work because it worked in one shirt one time would have looked really great and then it's like well there's you know um but fortunately i found out really quick that dress shirts are all made essentially the same and they've got a lot of similar characteristics and enough that i could make a universal design for my product now one of the other things i thought was interesting we talked a little bit before the podcast so early on in your journey you're doing the r d and i can't remember exactly what you said but originally you kind of thought hey we were going to make our own shirts and you did i think a kickstarter campaign they reached half your goal and you know so obviously you didn't reach a whole goal you don't get the money at least not on kickstarter i think indiegogo is a little different but you did that and you said okay but one of the feedback i think you said was hey you know people are saying why sell the whole shirt when you can just steal the part that fixes the collar so maybe dive into a little bit about how did that go or how did you decide to make that pivot yeah i mean when we first got into this we thought well let's just make a dress shirt i mean it makes sense right um so we did the kickstarter we got about halfway to our goal like you said but the unequivocal feedback was why are you trying to compete with all the other brands why not just license the technology to them and why can't i upgrade the shirts i already own so change the design of the of the product to fit and be universal after that and listen to what people's feedback was and um you know when people are willing to give you money it's a lot more honest feedback than you know asking joe blow on the street that doesn't have any vested interest in or even worse asking family which they're never going to give you an honest answer because they don't want to hurt your feelings yeah exactly i mean you know these people put up eighteen thousand dollars of our forty thousand dollar goal and that was their feedback so we listened and followed what they said so we have an aftermarket version now uh we've sold for you go beyond so when you're listening because one of the things a lot of times was you're a startup or small business or anybody but you know you start to drink your own cool later you buy into your own idea that hey no this is the best way to do it and i know what i'm talking about and you know you can get a bit of a blind you know a narrow vision in the sense that you don't take an input or you don't take feedback you're saying oh they haven't spent as much time or they don't know the market or anything else so you know how do you avoid you know as you're getting that feedback from kickstarter and you're saying hey we've you by that point you put in some time and effort you obviously have a pr you know an idea and a concept and a product you're doing that and you know how is you know how was it to actually say okay i need to step back and i need to pivot was it just as simple as hey i've hit i missed the mark and i'm going to adjust or did it take you a bit of time or how did you actually take that feedback um it was pretty obvious to us i mean this was right at the time kickstarter was as hot as it ever was probably 2014 i think we were really early in the process um and a hoodie company had just raised like 10 million dollars we're like dude we can do a dress shirt for 40 bucks 40 000 bucks so it was pretty a pretty good slap saying you know what you're not on the right track if we couldn't hit our goal uh that was so much lower than what we were thinking that we would be able to get to so i think if you watch any episodes of shark tank you'll find that a lot of entrepreneurs especially inventors get in the way of their own product and their own success and i wasn't going to fall down that path at all so so all right so now no i think that's insightful and i think that you know i think that's a good thing when you're in a business you just need to realize hey we may need to adjust we need to pivot and it's not that somebody's trying to be rude or offensive or anything else about because they don't have any skin in the game they're just trying to say hey this is what you know my feedback or what i would do or why i would buy the product or if i were going to give you money so i think it's a valuable skill is to say hey we need to listen to the feedback in the market and i think it's also kind of in the heyday of kickstarter kickstarter i used to think it was really cool and now it's kind of evolved into more of it's hey we're going to launch a product you know it's almost a pre-sale thing as opposed to helping people get their company going which kind of loses the appeal to me but back in that day you know kickstarter was really people just wanted to help out businesses they wanted to get something up and going and so i think it's a good good thing to the other thing is is to get that feedback early right you don't want to earlier you can get the feedback you can get people that are willing to give you money or that feedback the better rather than waiting too long in the process and by that time you've now run out of time you've run out of money and you can't do it anymore so you got that feedback you made the pivot now how was it taking it from the idea of making the pivot redesigning it to actually getting into manufacturing and selling it uh yeah i mean it was back to the drawing boards on the r d front so had to get that design to be universal and then we had to figure out how to explain to people how to get this put inside of their shirt so unlike a collar stay that goes in and out really easily mine is sewn into the shirt there's always two layers here in the placket there's always two layers here in the collar band so you have to go to the dry cleaner or tailor open up a couple stitches slide it and sew it back together so that is a process and an extra step that almost no other product has i mean think about any other product on the market you buy one place you have to go somewhere else just to use it there just isn't that out there so that was the next task that we had to overcome but it opened us up to instead of selling you know a thousand dress shirts you know we're selling to tens of millions and what turned out to be in 2019 a billion dress shirts were sold in the u.s so it opened us up to a lot bigger market so and i could fit twenty thousand dollars worth of inventory in a shoe box instead of you know an entire warehouse of dress shirts and sizes and colors and fits and i mean it's it's a logistical nightmare to do dresses i think that's a good point hey let's make it simpler because otherwise you have to deal with all the different skews of every you know every size of an individual and how big or small and what size their neck is and how long their arms are and if you can say take the same idea and make it much more universal it's i think it's it was a great probably a much more beneficial pivot to you guys this company so well so it helps to you know keep the you got to think about costs if you're only have the money that you're putting in you know it was a it was definitely a deciding factor and let's just keep that overhead low and see what we can do about the marketing and getting it out there that way yeah no absolutely so now you guys have you know you finally got through the r d you made your pivots you got it up and going you've got a manufacturer and you guys are you know a real boy so to speak and and today they know business now what's the next you know six months to a year look for you guys where are you headed and what's the next or where what's the next plans so uh we launched in january 2016 online direct to consumer we've sold about 315 000 units uh worldwide um so we're really focusing now on that licensing deals uh we went day one uh my partner works for worked for salesforce so he knew how to get into the biggest corporations and work his way up that corporate ladder which was nothing i ever had to deal with so he got us into meetings with all the biggest brands we talked to all those guys early on and they said it seems like a good idea but we just don't know if our customer wants it or needs it so we went direct to consumer to prove the concept and we've done that now and now we're going back out to those guys and saying look it's time especially in the days of covid where you know you really need to stand out to get somebody to part with their money just a standard old regular old dress shirts not going to do it anymore and we have the one innovative thing that's going to help these brands stand out so we're really working towards uh the mass and getting it into a ton of brands and uh into a lot of shirts well hey that's cool that's awesome so well all right so now we've talked a little bit about your journey i'm going to jump to the two questions i always ask is after we get or get towards the end of the podcast so first question i always ask is you know during your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what did you learn from it so we were going direct to consumer uh we were about two years in and it was going pretty well like really well and we had decided that dry cleaners were was going to be the way we wanted to sell this is going to be our distribution model so we went to the clean show which is a dry cleaning trade show in las vegas and we got such unbelievable reception at that trade show like dickies massive dickies brand was down the aisle from us with a huge booth we had this little 10 by 10 booth and they were like dude what are you guys doing over here why is there people spilling into the aisle trying to get to talk to you guys we had all the attention on the show and we had gotten the contact information for the owners of like 1500 to 1700 locations of dry cleaners across the us that were like this is the greatest thing ever we're going to make a fortune we're going to love it at that show we decided to turn off basically our direct to consumer advertising because we thought that these guys were all going to pick this up instantly and we're going to go and it really threw off our cash flow for quite a long time so that was not the best decision ever but if you were there at that moment and seeing these people lining up handwriting out their information giving business cards giving us anything they could to contact us uh you were like dude you guys hit the gold mine so so you in other words you turned off what where your cash flow was on the online and then did you ever get the sales that had ever come to fruition or did it not end up working out uh those guys uh have good intentions not always the best decisions best businessmen i think they know what they know and they don't know what they don't know um we're in about 650 dry cleaners so we're not you know we've got into a lot of guys a lot of those businesses and our customers and their customers that take advantage of our product really love it uh we try to make it as easy as possible for the customer to get the product so um it's it's working out it's just a little slower than working out but not not it didn't catch on fire in this hockey stick quite as quickly yeah no no no all right i think that's a good lesson to learn is hey don't turn off your cash flow until you've actually got the purchase orders in hand and the money coming so okay second question um if you're talking now to somebody that's just getting into or just getting started with a startup or small business what would be the one piece of advice you'd give them uh be stubborn uh i never ever quit when it looks like this is a terrible idea or you hear no for the thousandth time you just have to persevere and keep going and keep pushing because it only takes the one time i mean you can quote edison and all these other people and you know colonel sanders but it really only takes the one time for it to to blow up and if you stop then you'll never find out that one time and i'll give you you talked about edison that do you know i assume you've used wd-40 right do you know what the 40 stands for no so wd i think wd is like water dissipating or water something like that but the 40 was it took 40 different formulations before they actually got on the right formula so it took him 39 or failures of figuring out what was the wrong combination in order to make what now is wd-40 which everybody uses so it was just like that is another one of those kind of stories of you know how you know almost to your point of keep at it you know it's not going to be easy but if you don't give up too soon if they've given up on you know 39 or 38 or whatever then they would you wouldn't have wd-40 so i just like that because now you can actually every time you see the 40 it's a it's a reminder i love that that's uh i might have to go on my wall back here and build out uh all right inspiration i could help you now with your decorating you can get a big wd-40 side i don't know why do you have a wd-40 cam interesting story so all right well now as people want to they want to buy your product they want to be a you know one of your distributors they want to be an investor they want to be an employee they want to be your next best friend they want to reach out to you or any or all of the above what's the best way to connect up with you uh we're with all the social media so million dollar caller uh you can get us an instagram or facebook uh directly rob at million caller.com all right and then i think your website is just million caller.com as well if they wanted to purchase it right yep i mean who doesn't want to look like a million bucks look at this never fold it'll never fail look like a million bucks all day long everybody wants to look like a million bucks so it's a great diagram for your shirt man it's viagra for your shirt all right well i appreciate you coming on it's been a pleasure it's been fun to hear your journey and everything that you have going on now for all of you that are listeners and if you have your journey to tell and you want to come on apply to be on the podcast feel free to go to inventivejourneyguest.com and apply to be on the show if you're a listener make sure to click subscribe so you get notifications as all the new awesome episodes come out and last but not least if you ever need help with uh patents or trademarks feel free to reach out to us at milleriplaw thanks again rob it's fun fun to hear your journey and i wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thanks appreciate it hey if you enjoyed this episode of the inventive journey make sure to go and check out startups magazine they're an awesome magazine and podcast centered over in the uk and if the magazine is a digital and print magazine where they focus on tech startups and entrepreneurs and they also have a focus on female founders and women in tech so if you want to check out their magazine neither digital or print it's startups magazine startups startupswithnessmagazine.co.uk and you can also look up their podcast which is called the serial entrepreneur so go check them out they're awesome and definitely if you like this episode you'll like them you English (auto-generated) All Recently uploaded