What is good everyone this is your host Deanna Kuempel with Label-Free podcast. To live your best life you must live label-free. I have a really cool guest, all the way from the LA area. His name is Rob Kessler, he is the inventor of the Million Dollar Collar. The co-founder of goTIELESS and a captain of Bella Boating, a 50-foot yacht out there in California. It's for sale if you know anybody let him know. Rob thank you so much for joining me, please introduce yourself and tell the audience a little bit about your background.
Rob Kessler: I think you captured it. I've done all kinds of stuff and the current state is we're in California, my wife has been in Georgia for the last 5 weeks and we close on our house in a couple of days and we will be relocating to Georgia. So the boat business is for sale, we're going to close up that chapter and move on to Georgia rural, 5-acre living.
Deanna Kuempel: That will be cool though, what a difference! I've traveled the whole country with my late husband in my previous life but I love LA, the traffic there is terrible but I also love ATL, really cool, great southern food. There's a lot of great people there and you're really close to Florida so if you wanted to job on your boat, you could just drive down there. And also you drive, I am not sure what it's called, it's not too far off the coast either, you drive a certain way in Georgia, you hit oh my gosh, I'm drawing a blank...
Rob: Isn't there a big lake out there or something we can check out and some hiking and trails. It's just a new chapter so she's been there and been exploring. I literally never been to Georgia other than flying through the airport and driving through once to go to Panama City for High School spring break so .... Other than that I've never really stopped in Georgia or thought about it, we'll see what happens.
Deanna: Culture shock for sure but sounds like you guys can adapt pretty quickly. I really liked your story. I think it is one that needs to be talked about and shared because I think a lot of people especially in this day and age after last year are experiencing some of this themselves. You actually sold everything and started a new life in LA. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how that journey began?
Rob: My wife and I met about 10 1/2 years ago, we just celebrated 10 years of knowing each other and we were both dating other people when we met and we just knew instantly we were not in the right relationships. We just started hanging out, we broke up with those people, went together, there was no overlap. From the instant we got together I just knew people and our first date trip was I brought her to the Grammys, my buddy was a voting member of the Grammy's so that was my first trip to LA together.
Then every year we would come out once or twice and every time we would come home we would be like, "God we just met the most incredible people, we gotta get out of Wisconsin. Let's do something else, let's challenge ourselves."
In the meantime, we bought a 6,000 square foot building to run our businesses. She had started a gym, I had a screen printing and embroidery business at the time and I brought her out here for a major birthday milestone, again my buddy was the Director of PR for FX so we went to the American Horror Story Premiere Party which was her favorite show at the time. We came home from that trip and she was like, "Dude this is it, let's do it." I said, "Okay fine, when?" She said, "By my next birthday."
In one year, 362 days to be exact, we sold our house, we had a little ski boat and we sold the boat. We sold our second car, all of our furniture, everything we had. We basically knew nobody here and left, it took 10 days to drive across the country, while we were driving my patent was approved for Million Dollar Collar. Everything felt right, the only people we knew were like the leasing guys in our apartment building who were about half my age. They had dogs and I have a Rottweiler and so their German Shepherds and my Rottweiler were hanging out and Linda didn't know what she was going to do, whatsoever. She had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. She just knew she was ready for the next challenge.
We're out walking the dogs one day and he was like one of my former residents was a stuntman, do you want to meet him, maybe that's something you'd like? She was like, " hell yeah, let's do it." They hooked up, we went and worked out with them one night and he told her all the horrible things about being a stunt person and she goes, "cool let's do it." Literally, like in the first three, four years she's worked more than most people do in 9 years. She has a marketing degree so she's got this business aspect, she's really, really driven. She took off doing her thing and my Million Dollar Collar and goTIELESS are going and it's just been like crazy. That is how we got here.
Deanna: That's a great story. Your wife sounds awesome, maybe I should have her on my show.
Rob: Definitely, she's a super badass. She's 5'9" she just got the two biggest things you can do in stunts are a helicopter and a car hit. Those are you've made it as a big stunt person and just got her helicopter thing she's going to be in the Dominican Republic for two weeks in April doing some helicopter stunts, so she's insanely excited about that. She's done big stuff, she doubled Taylor Swift in a music video, she was on Captain Marvel and Tennant, Grey's Anatomy, and she's working on Marvel stuff right now in Georgia. She's super amazing. The two of us together...
Deanna: Sounds like when you two came together that energy just combusted and created all these dynamic things in your life so it was definitely meant to be. Talk to us about the Million Dollar Collar because I was in fashion for a little while and that is really tough so I give you a lot of credit. Tell the audience a little bit about that, please.
Rob: I'll tip my camera up just a sec so if you can see in the top corner here this is actually an actual wedding photo from our wedding day. My shirt is a sloppy mess and that was before I could even say I do. We got married on the beach in Jamaica so it was a real casual chill wedding. It was brand new, it was freshly pressed and I was just tugging at it all day and I just hated it. To me, a dress shirt is a thing that a guy can go to in his closet for almost any occasion. I can wear it dressed up, I can roll the sleeves, I can untuck it, I can wear a tie. It's very, very versatile and to me it was not designed right. Well for today's time, there's no structure where the buttons and the holes are because it was always intended to be buttoned all the way up and worn with a tie. 90% of men, 90% of the time don't wear a tie so shirts have never changed.
So I came home from the wedding, I cut open a shirt, shoved a piece of cardboard down the front, and showed my new bride. She instantly said, "Oh my God, I get what you've been gripping about all these years." I'd still be sitting there ironing my shirt trying to get it to stay in place before we go out and she's ready to go out at night and I'm still trying to get my dress shirt to look good. Obviously, I knew cardboard wasn't going to work so I spent the next 3 years testing materials, and designing and patenting the idea, and ruining about 100 shirts in the process.
Deanna: So where can people find your Million Dollar Collar Shirts?
Rob: So we have two things going on, we have Million Dollar Collar technology and it looks like this. It looks like it's not very crazy but this was 3 years of development. It's insanely highly engineered. The beauty is every single dress shirt is made exactly the same. There are always two layers in the placket, two layers in the color band. So a tailor opens up your shirt, slides this in and sews it back together. The challenge was finding something that would go into the shirt and last forever no matter how you cleaned it, laundered, dry cleaned, anything.
We're available in about 650 dry cleaners and tailors across the country, we're available on Amazon, all over the world, and on our website milliondollarcollar.com. and we sell packs of 5, 10, 20, or 50. Depending on how many shirts you have you can do that and then we just actually came out with a DIY polo pack. So if you have polo's at home you just cut this down to length, open up a couple of stitches, slide in, you're done. You can update any of your polo's and those are selling like crazy right now.
Deanna: That is super cool. I am a little bit of a fashion person myself and I like my men to be dressed well. My late husband was always .... I always got him nice stuff to wear, because I want him to compliment me, I'm not bad-looking. You have to look good too, you're not a scrub. So I actually absolutely love that cause I really like a man in a button-up shirt and I know what you're talking about. He used to always be like ... He used to do that too, I remember, it's been a while but he would always tug at it. He would never button it up all the way. Honestly, I don't like that on a man, I like it to be a little bit more open. I think that it is sexy and masculine. I think a tie is too uptight.
Rob: I think even just one button. To me it's stuffy it's two and it's cool and it doesn't have to be Travolta Saturday Night Fever. This overlaps past this button so it really keeps it together, keeps it upright, keeps it from collapsing, and keeps asymmetry. It actually puts your head on this little pedestal. All the attention is drawn up to your face and not sitting like this. It's funny we get a lot of people commenting that I like the before better. Okay dude style is personal if you like that, I'm not telling you it's wrong I'm just telling you if you hate it there's another option.
Deanna: When you say you're available in 650 dry cleaners what does that mean exactly?
Rob: So because of the sewing process and the installation process most people can't do that at home. We figured how do we get to the customers? So the guy that's already dry cleaning 15 shirts or 20 shirts every couple of weeks is probably the guy that is already going to be most interested in our products. So we started attending dry cleaning trade shows and just started talking to these guys. I've got a product you can use, it's a service you can install into a customer's shirt, it's going to make him happier, you don't have to keep heavy starch in these shirts, walking around in a cardboard shirt.
Most dry cleaners because of the amount of labor that is involved in laundering a shirt they might only make 75 cents or $1 even if they charge 3 or 4 dollars so it's not very lucrative for them. We can sell this to them at a good price, they can install it at a fair price to the customer and everyone wins across the board and it's just great service. It takes the extra step out of our customer's life. I'm always trying to find it and make it as easy as possible. Where else do you order something somewhere and you get it in the mail and you have to go somewhere else just to use it. We have one of the only products that are like that. It's just been a challenge and we're always trying to find ways to overcome the challenge.
Deanna: I love that. So if a dry cleaner said, “I want to offer this product so they would just tell their clients that they have this to compliment their shirts.”
Rob: If you've ever been to dry cleaners you know there is probably a high school girl there that says how many shirts you have, you have any stains? I'll see you in two days. So they're not really salespeople so being salespeople that we are, we developed all the marketing materials. We have flyers and hang tags and counter mats and posters and stickers and floor decals. We came up with everything. So we have all of that stuff for them.
So when they order a big pack we can lump it in with all of this information and then the big thing is we have our map. If somebody orders from our website, one of the follow-up emails they get right away is we may have an installer near you, check our map. The person is going to take 10 shirts and walk into this dry cleaner at $10 a piece and they're going to make a $100 sale that costs them nothing but their tailors time and it takes less than 5 mins to install. So it's a really, really great product for them, and a lot of the guys we have on the map actually just to overcome they will do the first shirt for free.
Deanna: That's awesome.
Rob: You can walk in for a shirt and it says right on our map first shirt free, like an orange marker on my map. You can go in and say hey I want to try out Million Dollar Collar and here's my shirt and if you get it laundered and stuff beyond they'll charge you for that but the installation and the product they'll do it absolutely for free.
Deanna: So ingenious, I think that's amazing. It's good to expand your reach to all the different dry cleaners. I think it's a no-brainer. You have to make something for women along those lines, I don't know what it would be but...
Rob: Pre pandemic there were almost 40,000 dry cleaning locations in the U.S. They're everywhere. It's funny when people I don't know how to sew. There are 100,000 tailors in the U.S. Literally 100,000 tailors and 40,000 dry cleaners just alteration near me. Type it into the oracle and it will tell you. There are probably 25 people around you, you never even knew existed that would be happy to have your business.
Deanna: Absolutely, well I know that first hand because I was in it. So a dry cleaner would contact you and they would buy wholesale and they could just offer that to the client.
Rob: And it's a really streamlined process. The person can go in and say I need 5 shirts, $50 bucks and they could get it done. Most dry cleaners charge about $10 to install our product.
Deanna: Awesome. When we start wrapping up here you're going to have to give us your links. If you want to give me some marketing materials I'll paper my whole neighborhood for you.
Rob: For sure. We even did a home installer program. My mom taught me how to sew during this process. I was testing all these different materials and I kept sending it out and it was costing me a fortune so she actually taught me how to sew. This is the one thing I can do, the inch of stitches right here, that's it I can't do anything else. I put the thread in with no problem.
I know there's a lot of people who have sewing machines and are always looking to make a little extra money so we tried to build out a home installer network but it pulled in so many different directions so we didn't put a lot of effort behind it. Think if you knew how to sew and you sent to 10 of your neighbors and said hey I got this great service and you could make $10 bucks a shirt there's probably hundreds and thousands of shirts around you. You can make a nice little side income, it takes less than 5 mins to put in once you know how to do it.
Deanna: Everyday I'm hustling, that's your hustle game. I don't have the time to do that but I do know how to sew but I don't know about that. Maybe we'll have to circle back. Two things you have Million Dollar Collar and then you have the goTIELESS. So can you talk a little bit more about that?
Rob: So during the process of trying to get this as easy as possible into people's hands we obviously went directly to all the major brands and said hey we've got this great technology you can put it into the shirts right at production and offer this great new thing. We were this close to a deal with Express to do a sample order, they sell 30 million men's dress shirts a year, and the perfect storm of COVID their owner being tied very tightly to Jeffrey Epstein and them having serious financial issues with Victoria Secret. All happened at... We were supposed to get a PO within a month or so. Within a month it all collapsed.
Because we didn't get that deal we said let's go make our own shirt if nobody is going to take our technology right now let's prove that we can build a brand around the technology. UNTUCKit came out with a shorter shirt which is nothing proprietary of what they have and built a 200 million dollar company. We figured, let's take our technology, build a brand, and if nothing else we'll sell enough shirts or try to sell enough shirts so that we can get into one of these major, major manufacturers and they're going to have to put our product in and have to know the process. Once they do that they'll offer it to all the rest of their customers. It's always been how do I get it.
The goal is to make this thing ubiquitous, it should be in every single dress shirt, there's no reason it shouldn't be because you can still button all the way up and wear a tie, we have a lot of tie guys. You usually get that gap between the first and second buttons. When you wear a tie, we have a lot of guys that wear it all day and then go to a happy hour and pop it off at night. There really is no reason it shouldn't be in a shirt and there hasn't been enough advance in technology in dress shirts since non-iron which came out in the 1950s. Time for a revolution
Deanna: I think that you're pretty close just keep doing what you're doing. I think it's pretty awesome. I know how hard it can be but to be that close to being picked up by and getting a PO from Express. That would have been a really big deal. Hopefully, you have some funding in place if that happens.
Rob: That's always been there because it drives my wife a little bit crazy sometimes because I am always thinking 13 steps ahead. I was working on the manufacturing and the funding and how do we do this, how fast can we do it, how quickly can we get it all made. That's just how my mind works. I like logistics, my partner is more the sales guy. He can get into any company, he used to work for SalesForce and knows how to get to the C-Suite in any company and get noticed. It's a really great dynamic between the two of us.
Deanna: I would say that's pretty awesome. you've definitely... You've been on a trajectory since you and your wife connected and I think that's a really cool story. Is there anything else you would like to share with the audience before you start plugging all your stuff?
Rob: I think there's no traditional way anymore. My wife and I were talking the other day and it's like it's five years, and now we're 3 years into our boat business, we're selling that. We owned two commercial businesses with 32 offices, we sold those to buy the boat. I had a screen-printing business that I started in my basement that I moved into that 6000 square foot building we sold before we moved out to LA. We do something for 3, 4, 5 years, and then it's onto something else. She was like, "Dude it just doesn't feel .... it doesn't sound normal."
Both her parents had jobs for 30 years and retired and did that thing. It's just not the way that we are, we like to have multiple things going on to keep us engaged and excited. We loved having the boat business. It forced me away from the computer. If I didn't have a reason I would just sit in front of this thing all day. I have this obligation to take care of my family and grow a business and make sure that we're stable.
You can't always be really creative when you're stuck in the grind. Getting on the boat and doing a 3-hour charter, I'd chat with guests a little bit but for the most part, I'm buzzing around in my head and thinking about different things and see things in different ways. I think keeping your plate open and full to me has been great for us. We've always had multiple things going on so I like it. I can't work for anybody else. My dad and I are insanely close right now. He asked me to leave his company I think 12 or 13 years ago because it wasn't the right fit. It was the right decision for both of us. I can't work for anybody else, I need my freedom to move and so I've done all kinds of stuff and there's a lot more stuff to come.
Deanna: I love it. We're going to keep an eye on you. Can you plug all your stuff. If we have a dry cleaner out there or gentlemen. Over 66% of my audience are men, and from 28 to I forget 45 or something like that. I am sure a lot of you guys out there have shirts that need this special thing going on.
Rob: It's Viagra for your shirt, you cannot go wrong.
Deanna: Viagra for your shirt I might have to make that the title.
Rob: Finally, something else to stay up all night.
Deanna: Viagra for your shirt, that's awesome.
Rob: So we have milliondollarcollar.com is probably the best resource. All the goTIELESS shirts are on there. We actually have accounts with Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Kenneth Cole, Calvin Klein, Van Heusen's. We have a huge selection of shirts from all those brands that we bought and installed Million Dollar Collar and then are ready to sell. This is a brand you already know and love, you already know the size, you already know the fabric. you can just grab one if you're not into figuring out the installation process.
We've got our map on our website but the direct way to get to our map is install-map.com and that will take you right to our installation map. you can put in your zip code and they'll see if there's anyone around you and maybe there's a first shirt-free guy there you can walk in and talk to. We have Bella boating.
My wife she's working on this amazing fitness app. You can see her in the background. She's absolutely shredded, she's had six-packs for her whole life. The gym that she had was called the transformation room and it really brought together this amazing group of mostly women but the people who worked out there had really bonded over her and what she was doing.
She has now released an online version, $10 or $12 bucks a month, it's unlimited access, they're 10-minute workouts that are insanely effective because you're using 9 body parts at one time. If you're looking for that little boost during the day get yourself up off your desk, get 10 mins of good exercise, and feel great you don't even get sweaty in a lot of them it's transformationroomfit.com and you can hop in there for 10-12 bucks a month and workout with her and she has 5 other trainers. That's all of it.
Deanna: You guys are on fire I cannot wait I'm going to be following you and I will definitely connect with you on LinkedIn and all that good stuff. Rob thank you so much for your time today and being a guest on Label-Free Podcast.