Welcome to the Hustle Sold Separately Podcast -- We are with doers, creators, entrepreneurs, CEOs, artists, hustlers, people in and around the world that are doing their thing. They are on their vibe, you guys that are all listening, you do things differently. None of us are following an exact blueprint because the world is not so linear, our journeys are not so linear and all of our guests that come on will be the first to agree with you that you have to figure it out your way, what makes the most sense for you.
I am grateful every week we have the most amazing guests, creators on the planet. They're figuring it out, whether it's their first venture, their fiftieth venture. It's not overnight there's so much that is happening in the middle no matter where you're at, no matter how many times you've done something before. What are some of these underlying themes, how do we humanize this entrepreneur journey? We have the same experience just in a different capacity if you will.
Today will be no different but for those of you who are new, I am Matt Gottesman host and founder of Hustle Sold Separately. You can follow me on Instagram.com/Mattgottesman for my other ventures if you want to get in the conversation on the intersection of entrepreneurship, creativity and culture you can go to HDF Magazine and of course you can follow Instagram.com/hustlesoldseparately. I appreciate each and every one of you.
We are going to be talking about the not so glamorous side of entrepreneurship on the way to making a business work, and thrive. I have Rob Kessler. He's an entrepreneur and an inventor and investor who is the inventor and founder of Million Dollar Collar and goTIELESS. Very cool I was actually watching a few of the stories, the videos online and I actually am an avatar, I am a demographic for him which we will talk about here in a little bit.
He came to a very interesting revelation, he had this beautiful pressed shirt from Express. I am going to wear this on my wedding day. Then he came home from Jamaica, it didn't work with the collar as you guys know. For any of the men out their collars like on your shirts, they do not stay stiff and propped up for a very long time. Even if you go get it pressed it instantly after one wears it's done. When Rob came home from Jamaica, with a very passionate drive to ensure that no other man had to suffer from Placketitis, we're going to talk about this and it's a curable condition
that affects all dress shirts as many men know this. When they're worn without a tie Million Dollar Collar is the world's first placket stay and it's similar to a collar stay but for the buttons and holes part of the dress shirt. So at the very, very top so it stays propped up and doesn't just start to fold over.
You can tell I have been dealing with this for a while. It's a simple alteration that permanently adds reinforcement to the focal part of a casually worn dress shirt. He has now made it easier to look good with a shirt and he recently released a dress shirt with his patent and technology built-in. We're going to talk about the process of getting a patent. He released that on goTIELESS where he aims to define business casual with a first shirt to be designed to be worn without a tie. Rob also got his BS in Marketing from the University of Wisconsin, School of Business in Administration.
Matt Gottesman: Welcome to the showman I appreciate having you on.
Rob Kessler: Well Matt that was a heck of an intro I love that, that's great.
Matt: Yeah, you know... The funny thing is and I said this before with other guests as an entrepreneur you are always going, going, going, going. It's hard to look back sometimes because we're so forward-thinking. So every now and then we have to take a breather and there were some things that happened along the way. I appreciate having you on the show, I love what you're doing but I want for context sake and you can go as far back as you want. The first question is the same for anybody.
What was it that got us here? You can go before starting this venture, what was the process of coming to today? Then I want to talk about is some of the lessons and other things. I already sensed from when we were emailing each other and then conversation before we started, you can sense that there's the not so glamorous stuff that's happening and I'd love to talk more about that too as well. But first, how did we get here today?
Rob:I was a pretty rambunctious kid so I think my brother and I would be horsing around all the time. My Dad had a rule nobody in and nobody out when he wasn't home. So we were basically jailed at home. My brother and I used to screw around a lot and tried to had to find things to do at home. I would often break things around the house and instead of getting in trouble I would piece things back together and nobody found out what I did. So, I think that started up tinkering, entrepreneurial inventor kind of side. It was not worth getting in trouble because my Dad was pretty scary. It all started there, little figurines and stuff like that. I came up with a bunch of ideas over the days.
In High School, it was the time What Would Jesus Do - WWJD was everywhere when I was in high school. At the same time Bill Clinton was with Monica Lewinski I'll say. So I came up with the idea of a shirt that was WWCD - What Would Clinton Do and I had all these resources to do all that and I ended up talking myself out of it because I was 17, I'm too young to be in business why would I do this nobody is going to buy these. So I kind of talked myself out even though I had all the resources at the ready, even at 17 years old. From there I have also the ideas coming up. I'd try a product and I would look at it and I would say why does it work like this. If I worked like this it might be easier and it's just how my brain works.
That leads up to where we got to and just never really liked wearing a tie. I sold cars for a while and you're forced to wear a tie. I was in my early 20's and it always had a bad stigma with me. Very rare to find me in a tie since I got married 7 years ago. I think I've only worn a tie once or twice outside of being at a wedding.
Matt: How did you finally decide that you were ready. Now I feel like based off of time, experiences, I want to venture out on my own, I want to work for myself, I want to just do... I want to build something from the ground up. When did that start? How did that happen?
Rob: So, I was always in sales from 16, 17 years old. I sold houses, cars, and diamonds so when you're in real estate you pretty much work for yourself. I was under a big label in Milwaukee called First Weber Group, it's the biggest one in the state. I worked at that agency and it was all on my effort and my things so it was kind of my own business but still had a little bit of protection I would say. While I was doing that I was working on a big condo project it 2005, 2006 and the condo's were selling well but I was stuck in this triple-wide trailer on the site of this condo project.
I knew a bunch of people who knew art and had some great designs and I said wow instead of an artist having to sell a $1000 or $2000 painting what if we took that art and put it on the t-shirts and those artists promoted their art with little t-shirts instead of these massive paintings and things they had to do. Ed Hardy at that time was hugely popular and selling $150 graphic t-shirts. So, I started doing that little business it was called NEWD, stood for nothing else will do, N-E-W-D. So I had NEWD clothing, I started out trying to do the graphic t-shirt line and the screen printers were all .... It was nickel and diming me and I just had that in life. I ended up meeting a guy and 2 weeks later we bought all the equipment and he taught me how to screen print and I built a million-dollar screen printing business from that random meeting.
I kind of always have done my own thing, my Dad is an entrepreneur, my aunts and uncles. It kind of made sense to me. I didn't think of anything else I guess.
Matt: I like the fact that you were always kind of getting out of your comfort zone. I'm doing this over here but what else can I learn, what else can I apply and how else can I be strategic. What else can I market and see if it works? Not being afraid to do it that. A lot of times I think people just talk themselves out of it all the time. Listen nothing none of us really know until we start trying things and look at the end of the day sometimes it doesn't look pretty publicly we get that. Other times we're figuring it out. In the process of figuring it out, we figure ourselves out as well too. There is definitely a bit of a journey and discovery and what not.
So now fast forward what year did you start, what year did you start goTIELESS and Million Dollar Collar? By the way, I love the concept and you can talk about the emotion of what happened. It seems like not a big deal to a lot of people but men know this, men definitely know this. The shirts, especially some of our favorite shirts I know after a while we can't wear them or even no matter how much we press them because up at the top the way it gets too flimsy or gets bent out of shape. Our collar is a big deal on the shirt, so that is actually what I appreciate with what you're doing. I'd love to hear more about the emotion behind when you were like, "that's it, this is going to get solved."
Rob: So, I am not a big dress shirt guy, I'll be the first one to say but when I put on a dress shirt and not a tie I'm doing it because I want to look good. I'm not going to say that I have clinically diagnosed OCD. There are certain things that just drive me nuts and it won't make me happy till I get it fixed. I really hone in on this one little detail. I remembered before I got married, my wife and I would want to go out and I'd be ironing my shirt and touching it up. One side would sit good and the other would flop, then the other would sit good and the other would flop. I'd be like this is so stupid, so I went down to Jamaica and got married and my Express shirt, brand new, freshly pressed. That was 7 years ago, three days ago my anniversary was just a couple of days ago.
Every year we watch our wedding video and I just saw it again 3 days ago that I'm standing there waiting for her to show up and my shirt was already crumbled, less than 30 minutes after putting on this freshly pressed shirt. Sure it was a little humid in Jamaica but still, it just looked terrible. I remember adjusting it all day long on my wedding day and after hundreds and thousands of photos. We flew the photographer down. He took 2500 or 3000 photos on that day, he's nuts. I had all these photos and my shirt just looked terrible and I remember just adjusting it all day. There are spots in the video you can see me pulling up the collar and trying to adjust it.
So, I came home and I started looking at shirts, I cut one open and shoved cardboard down the front and I showed my new bride. She's like, "oh I get it, I get what you've been complaining about all these years." I guess I could never really articulate it and like you said guys just accept it as a thing. Oh it's just going to be like this and I'll just deal with it. The reason it's like that because dress shirts were designed to be worn with a tie. You button it all the way up, you throw a tie on and it doesn't need any structure in the front of the shirt.
The problem is most shirts, most of the time, upwards of 90% are worn without a tie and nobody addressed the problem until we came out. We have the only one that is sewn in. We're guys so we're always on the run and forget stuff so I wanted something that was permanent. doing an aftermarket kit was really easy because fortunately all the dress shirts are made the same. There is always two layers where the buttons and the holes are, there's always two layers where the collar band is. Your tailor opens up a couple of stitches, slides in my product, sews it back together and it hides right inside the shirt and makes it look amazing. Right at the top, right at the front.
Matt: That's awesome. It's so true, I`m not a suit guy. I like three-piece suits when it makes sense, but I'm a streetwear kind of guy, I'm a t-shirt and jeans guy. There are some nice shirts that I have that are collared shirts that I like wearing but that happens and so I'm with you brother, I'm completely on it. I like making an aftermarket product for something that was just accepted, you're right we just accepted that's just the way it is. We would be willing to do something about it if there was a solution, which you came up with.
I like that you were telling me, there's a lot of stuff that was going on behind the scenes. You can share as much of it as you want to, as much of the pains. I would love for you to talk about the process of actually doing something like a patent, did everybody get this along the way? What happened when you went to the market and things like that? If you were to ever vent what you were really, really feeling this would be the time. This a business therapy podcast in a lot of ways. Obviously, we always are respectful but sometimes it's our world we're talking about. We're having a coffee conversation for the rest of the world to hear.
Say what you really want, I would like for people to get the idea that cool, even though he came up with a great product and he's on the market and I can go to his website and I see all his end result stuff there's a lot that goes into it behind the scenes and figuring it out. I would love it if you would just expand on some of those areas.
Rob: Alright, sit back, and here goes the ride.
Matt: Here we go, here we go ladies and gentlemen.
Rob: So the patent process is insane, it took 2 1/2 years, my patent attorney when we first met says yeah it's a great idea. It starts out with a patent search which was $1500-2000 bucks. Let me tell you from the second you write that first check you are not going to stop writing $1000 checks for a long, long time. so, we did the patent search, nothing was out there. Started the process and he said it was probably going to be around $20,000. This guy was $575 an hour and going into the process I figured if I was going to invest my life into doing this I need to find the best attorney I can and make sure that I'm protected as I go through this process.
I've never done it before and I just want to make sure that I'm taken care of and I am protected. We got into the process, it took about 2 1/2 years going back and forth with the government. The first thing he's going to ask you is do you want to expedite this process? The way that patents are written is they write it as broadly as possible to cover as much as you can so that you can get the best patent.
The patent office on the other hand wants it as defined as possible so it's this battle of back and forth. Well every time you go back and forth you can either wait 6 months for a reply or you can spend $3500 extra dollars and wait 6 weeks for a reply. We did that to expedite the process so there's another $3000 gone and then it's just back and forth. Every time my attorney touches something 30 minutes is $300 so the bills added up really quick. We are now into the patent for a little over $100,000 so if you try budgeting 20 and the bills are 5 times more expensive that screws with things. It is part of what it is so I deal with that. We pay them when we have bills and just take care of it and it is part of it.
There's a really sad story, you know those fidget spinners, those three-sided things. A lady invented that for her daughter and got a patent and there are the annual maintenance fees on the patent. She got this patent and couldn't afford the $1500 annual maintenance fee and lost the patent and then all of a sudden somebody found it and it's a billion-dollar industry of these fidget spinners and she got nothing and she lost out on her entire patent over a $1500 maintenance fee.
You gotta dig deep down and find money sometimes even when it's not there because losing it at this point would be catastrophic.
Matt: I really appreciate and respect that you said that. You didn't come this far to come this far is the famous quote out there. It's really true, you believe in it, there's an energy there, there's time in it and money that's been spent in it. Just find a way, find a way, find a way. No matter how dire the circumstances are for exactly reasons just like that but also because that happens, that definitely happens. That's commendable, I appreciate the respect your ability to be like, you know what it costs more than we thought but we're going to keep going if we get something. You have to believe in it first before anybody else. The more you're baking it, around it and understanding how the product or service you created works the easier the product or service that you've created works the easier it is to sell. By the way, what a blessing you come from a sales background, it's not hard to sell anything that you actually believe in.
Rob: Yeah exactly. I think I'm on those lines that you're saying you really have to be able to pivot to and listen. As a good salesperson, you have to listen. What we did early on was do a kick starter. We thought we were going to make our own dress shirt in the beginning. They were going to cost a ton so we tried to raise $40,000 to make 2000 shirts so they were $20 a piece or something and we only raised about $17-$18,000 of our goal. That was our first what are we doing thing but unequivocally the feedback from people was why are you trying to compete with all of the brands that are out there? Why can't I upgrade the shirt I already own?
We took that feedback to heart and went back to the drawing board and tweaked the design and made it into the universal thing that it is and came to market with that. Put our own dress shirt thing on the back burner and listened to what the market was saying. Why can't we upgrade the shirts we already own? Okay, if you know what shirt you like, what fits right, why compete with that. Why not just sell you a kit to upgrade that. It worked out on the inventory side because I can fit $20,000 worth of inventory in a shoe box. I love saying it. Now that I have dress shirts it's a whole other story.
Matt: Really what you did there are so many valuable lessons in there. Number one, you went from competing to complimenting an industry. No matter who the maker is, there is a whole... You can do partnerships with different brands, there are so many different things that can happen in that but then also I love that you mentioned we listened to the market and made a pivot.
Often then not people are so vested in one way that's just because you're invested from an emotional standpoint but your goal if you remove you from that equation is to serve a market, listen to them, just ask them what they want or present things to them, see how they play with it or want they want tweaked and changed and turned around. If it's in alignment with making sense with what you're capable of doing and even propelling you make the tweaks, service them, show them that you actually care and the reward is they come back even more and refer even more. It's just getting out of your own way and you guys clearly did that.
You made a pivot. What other kinds of challenges have you faced in going to market, from a product standpoint? We live in a digital world so there is the physical world in the store in retail, and there is digital retail as well and those are two different behemoths. Whether it's working through the retail partners or going direct to consumers, what are some of the lessons you learned or with the product launches and what not?
Rob: The biggest thing that we say that our challenge was is that there wasn't really a road map for us in that we have one of the few products that you buy one place and you have to go somewhere else just to use it. We sell Million Dollar Collar in packs of 5, 10, 20, or 50 on our website. Consumers get those in the mail and then they have to go to the local dry cleaner or tailor or whatever to get them installed.
First of all Americans don't typically do a lot of tailoring for the most part. In Europe everybody's tailoring everything to make it fit perfectly. Here people just want to buy it off the rack and it should fit. So, we had that challenge to overcome and then just the stigma, the name is called Million Dollar Collar because it makes sense. It put you in the right part of the shirt even though we're not in the collar whatsoever. People's gut reaction is I already have collar stays well we're not a collar stay, we don't go in the collar whatsoever. Nobody knows what a placket is unless you're deep inside of the industry and so calling our company Perfect Placket I think created more challenges because nobody knows what a placket is so we had a little challenge with the name.
We had a challenge with the product itself and so we ended up spending years building an installer network. We have about 600 dry cleaners and tailors that right now carry Million Dollar Collar and know how to do the installations. We have a map on our website to direct people to that but that took going to a half a dozen dry cleaning trade shows which are not the most exciting thing in the world. Getting into the industry with the people who are in business for business and talking to those guys that's been our biggest challenge. Probably our biggest challenge is that and educating people on what it is, everybody thinks collar stay as I said.
We are the only thing that goes in the placket of a shirt, right down the front where the buttons and the holes are. We've tried to get cutesy and do these other things and we always come back to the before and after photo. A before and after photo is our number one best selling thing because it shows exactly what we do and then you'll find all these internet trolls out there to tear everyone else down because they can't do anything on their own and we have to fight with that constantly. It 's all part of it, if nobody knew who you were then you wouldn't have haters. I love that Grant Cardone always says.
Matt: Yeah he does. What are internet trolls even saying about it? Obviously, they hide behind their computer screens , their phones and I see it on my accounts too. Either it's a teachable moment or you have to go. Trolls are trolls, what kinds of things have you seen and heard and...?
Rob: A lot of people just try to poke holes in whatever you're doing. Recently I had a guy that said, learn how to wear a shirt and so my response is do you teach a class on how to wear a shirt? The fact is it's not about learning how to wear a shirt just shirts weren't designed to be worn without a tie.
You get a lot of people who say that's what starch is for. Well, dude number one, starch is 500-year-old technology, number two it's for wrinkles. I talk to thousands of dry cleaners, starch is not to prop up the front of your shirt, it's to prevent wrinkles in your shirt. Starch is not the thing, collar stays isn't the thing. Everybody thinks they know everything and they start spouting off.
There's humans behind this, there's time and passion and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Just because you think you know what you're talking about and you don't, the balance is do I make you look like a jackass and go back at you, or do you try to play it cool and say make it an educational teachable moment like you said. Sometimes you're such an idiot I have to go after you!
Matt: I usually put it into 3 buckets: this a teachable moment, Nah the community of mine will probably go at him anyways or you're gone you're cut. The teachable moments part is interesting like the one to wear a shirt.
Rob: How to wear a shirt, he just learned how to wear a shirt. I put it on one arm, then the other and button it up is there something more I should know.
Matt: It's funny when people do stuff like that I use as great moments like have you been able to wear certain shirts beyond a certain amount of time? For me, what pisses me off is when they do this, this and this. You pull them inadvertently and they don't even realize that you pulled them right into your side. They're like yeah actually. Well, that's what I was talking about and they go oh. People are so quick to .... you're right they don't know what goes into things behind the scenes, they don't understand the $100,000 patent, they don't understand you having 600 dry cleaning outlets. It's so small yet innovative and if people were busier they would have less time to make comments like that. That's what I always say.
Rob: Yeah, that last guy said do you get paid by the minute or by the word. I'm talking about my company you're the one out randomly attacking somebody and try to tear them down by what reason. It's your time you're wasting, I'm just proving my point time and time again. Every time you say something so you can keep going on all you want. People will read and see my side of it.
Matt: Yeah, it's been a very fine balance of what deserves a response, which is mostly none of it and where does it deserve one. I totally get it and that in itself is community manager of the brand. Besides being an owner you are managing the brand right on scale.
We talked a little bit about something's you did from an advertising stand point and that was an interesting lesson. Do you want to talk about that at all?
Rob: Yeah the challenge again because our product is different and it's one place and then you have to go somewhere else just to use it. We hired a bunch of Facebook people, different ad people, I hired an Amazon guy.
I built our Amazon store totally organically to $11,000 a month. I got to a point. Let's go bigger and I go to look to hire somebody and this guy ran the first Amazon ads we did, he spent $1500 on ads the first month, our sales tanked from $11,000 down to $7,000. Then I had to pay him $1500 for his service and then it's taking me months and months because I didn't know what I had done to build it to where I was and I didn't know what he changed so all of a sudden I hired this guy for $1500 and I'm out $5-$6,000 a month for the next 8 months going forward trying to recoup and figure things out. That seemed to be what happened to us from time and time again.
We had another Facebook guy that said if we just run a ton of ads then your sales will go up, we hired that guy for $5,000 and he ran $5,000 worth of ads one month and our sales went down from the previous month. So Million Dollar Collar has spent and been burned for close to $85-$90,000 dollars on top of the patents. So, you have $200,000 out the door that you weren't expecting and so now we're insanely slow to hire, almost everything we do is going to have to be on a performance basis, we've given people a lot of chances.
We had a lady claim she was part of Daymond John's Shark Branding Network and she was going to get us on to Shark Tank and do all this and get us a meeting with the guys with UNTUCKit and she stole $2,500 bucks from us.
You do everything you can to vet these people but there's shysters' out there everywhere. I'm a glass half full, I want to believe people are good because I'm good. Thank God I have my partner and he really digs in but still no matter what diligence you do somebody is going to find a way to get through. We just believe in what we're doing and trying to take it further and people take advantage from time to time. That was just a Million Dollar Collar.
We just had another deal with goTIELESS recently and we hired a big agency, spent $30,000 with them. goTIELESS is the only shirt designed to be worn without a tie, Million Dollar Collar built-in. It's not like we're creating a new market like Million Dollar Collar was. goTIELESS is a shirt selling a shirt to guys. We launched in late October of last year, right before Christmas, $30,000 these guys managed to sell 4 shirts over Christmas. Some of the ads were even, hurry before we sell out, we sold out in 3 days. We hired a company for $5,000 a month thinking they knew what they were doing and we could push this off and didn't have to deal with it. No matter what you do, you just have to babysit people, it's crazy.
Interview: By the way thank you for sharing all that and being open about that. Anybody else listening, this happens to everybody. I am probably well over $100 K on multiple things. For the record, as a background in tech both from a software side through to front end like marketing, UI/UX, all this stuff I've had to literally find resources. It's amazing when you do stuff yourself. I always had a resource people, it was always one thing when I was dealing with bigger brands. Even then making sure to manage budgets which is funny because they just want to spend the money anyway. When it's your own thing I really like diving into the details but just like you there's been a couple of times I hired the resources and you got it up to $10K a month and they screw it up. I'm down to $2 K a month and you have to go back...
That's entrepreneurship for anybody listening in my opinion. It's like you're being able to dive back into the details and be like how did I get it to here. Knowing what I know lets me use that me ask if there are any other exports or I have to keep managing this until I do find somebody. I do believe "Hire slow, fire fast." It's just ridiculous. You're seeing this upsurge as well between the online people making it look a certain way, people using malicious marketing tactics. I will not associate my brand with certain brands even if they are really great software. I get it, I don't care at the end of the day, long game thinking I'm Gary Vee and doing the work.
I really appreciate you talking about that because I feel like that is the way you figure out the lingo, what's missing and then when you go to resource somebody you can say, look, guys, we built this on Amazon to here, I see all these different things tell me what you are going to do differently but also show me very specifically how that effects and I need some results and I need to see some data. I need to see this, this, this, and I need 5 references. It gets to a point where I need to see that this is in your DNA otherwise we can't work together.
Rob: Well, then it begins a whole another job bringing that person on so when it's just a partner and I trying to run Million Dollar Collar and now goTIELESS. There's only 2 of us doing 2 companies worth of work already so to take time out to really baby step somebody through that process where we thought we were hiring this professional company that should be able to onboard pretty easily cause they've done this a thousand times. Dude, we were willing to spend that kind of money because we thought we were hiring an agency to handle this. It's super frustrating.
Then people get my product and good engineering makes a complicated thing work and looks simple and so people look at my thing and say oh it's just a piece of plastic. Dude, it is not a piece of plastic, it took 3 years to develop the material that could handle double the heat of dry cleaning. I ruined 100 shirts drying to figure that whole material thing out. It's not just what you see, I have a $100,000 patent, you have to pay every single one of those products I sell. I have to have some money to pay for that patent.
I have $100,000 from people who stole from me. I have to pay for that. By the way, I would like to make a little money for myself and my family and feed my dog that is 130 lbs and eats a lot. You can't just look at just a product and say, this thing looks like it should be this expensive. Dude, there are so many other things that go into it so... It's interesting.
Matt: Everything you just said though, that right there that's the content I like. Guys, you have no idea let me show you what just happened. Here is shirt 1, here’s shirt 13, here's shirt 55, here's shirt 100. Guys this is what I have gone through to get this and this is what I learned about the processing. Here's what's going on with it, here's how I figured out price point. I think that is why I'm such a big proponent of the whole Gary Vee like just document. Hey here is what's really going on. You guys want to know, I'm happy to walk you guys through the entire process. Here is what I'm doing for this. Here is what I'm doing for that. I've noticed that it not only bumps up price points but it shows people wow I'm not just looking at any product I'm looking at this person's life blood. You know? I see what they're going through and I'm like you know what you have ladies saying I don't need your product because I'm not in the market but I'm going to buy that for somebody right now. I see what's going into this and somebody has to buy that, somebody's got to need that, I know somebody.
Rob: That's the thing, you said earlier guys now this, guys see it. It's actually the ladies that see it too.
Matt: I'm sure.
Rob: We have a lot of wives and girlfriends that buy it. dude, I don't want to go and get all prettied up and you are walking around with this sloppy ass collar looking all shaggy. I want you to look good like I look good so they're buying it for their guys and just getting their shirts done and they love it too. It does work for women's shirts too but they have many more...
Women can have a thousand other options other than a dress shirt to put on so we just haven't focused a ton on it cause it's 90% men's dress shirts maybe 10% women's. Guy's the go-to thing for a guy is a dress shirt. Put on a dress shirt, you can wear a sweater, you can wear a suit, you can tuck it, untuck it, roll the sleeves. It's the most versatile thing we have but women have 55 million other things to pick from so that's why our focus has been mostly on men.
Matt: What's it been like, you mentioned prior to the show, about being told no a million times. Because you're introducing a complimentary product to the market, was it hard? Was it hard for some people to see it?
Rob: Was it? Still is, still to this day every day. We got the patent in late 2015 and early 2016 we were in the offices of Ralph Lauren and Perry Ellis, Calvin Klein, Proper Cloth. We went to talk to all these guys. They were like I don't know if it's really a thing, I don't know if our customers are really complaining about it enough to make a change… and we had no sales at that point because we just launched in January of 2016. We had no sales, so we went back and did our end consumer sales. We pushed and tried to prove the concept and now we're coming up on 300,000 sets sold in 115 countries. Our average customer buys 16 or 17 sets at a time. they're committing to it their whole closet fully.
So we still hear no, I'm trying to get in Men's Warehouse. To me, and all the business people I know say that' the perfect, they have salespeople, they sell dress shirts, they have tailors in 2,000 plus locations. This is a perfect fit product for them to upsell to all their customers and I hear them. The guy just this week said we're not really interested right now. Dude, I'm not going to stop until I'm in there because I know it's the right product for your company and mine. If you're not the right guy tell me who I need to take to you. You can't just say no without even having a conversation and not knowing all the opportunities.
Matt: That's so well put. I need the chief decision-maker, let's just talk data. Here's my testimonials, here are my sales, here are the places we exist, here's what people have told us, here's all of it in action, here's all the data. Numbers don't lie, I`m presenting you with the numbers and this is who that can be tweaked for your numbers and mine numbers going forward. It's a simple conversation but if you're not the decision-maker, I need you to point me in the direction of the person who understands what I'm showing with all this data.
Rob: Yeah exactly. I've got one of the only products on the planet that requires you to go into a location to use it. So, I can literally send people in the front doors of bricks and mortar stores and these guys are no, I don't know if I need any more traffic. What are you talking about? Everybody needs more traffic.
Matt: They may not be built for scale and that's where you start to see the differences between small businesses and entrepreneurship. Do they have the systems to handle more than their current capacity? That's a very well differentiator. It's like I can actually drive actual foot traffic, physical foot traffic. Leaning on that all day long, what do you mean you can drive people to my store, you mean not just online. Actually give them a reason to come into the store even if they are an online purchaser. To me, that's a differentiation point right there. You only have to find one person that finds it right once.
Rob: Yeah, right. Their stock price was $70 a share and it went down to $7 a share. They should be open to every possibility out there and listening to every opportunity out there to turn that thing around. That kind of stuff just drives me crazy.
Matt: Be sure to let me know when you guys get in there.
Rob: Another big one is 2 1/2, 2 million units which would be unbelievable. Stay tuned on that one, it will be built into 2 million shirts this year eventually if we can get this thing done. Overnight success and it only took 7 years and a couple of weeks.
Matt: What I love is you aren't going back at this point. When I hear 6 years, 7 years, 8 years, any day now. It's A you're not going back, and B you're so far along you've already been climbing Mount Everest so I've got the snow down. It's now just about refining the processes and the approaches and all these things. It's cool to see and you have all these other experiences and your hands in other things. It's cool that it's keeping you very driven in it. What do you have coming up next? Any plans, anything for 2020 that you want to share with the audience?
Rob: Yes, the focus goTIELESS as well. About a year ago I heard a podcast about the UNTUCKit guys on Kevin O'Leary's channel. Right around my birthday which is in December of 2018. I happened to hear this podcast and I was listening and I was like God their story is so similar to ours. These guys have now built $200-$250 million dollar a year brand on a nonproprietary shorter shirt. Okay, we heard that I heard that and I was like we have to make our own shirt. I had a couple of other people in my ear that said you have to make your own shirt.
Within 2 weeks of hearing that podcast, I had a prototype shirt in hand. My partner and I, Steve, went shopping at Nordstrom Rack or the mall that was nearby. We tried on a bunch of shirts and bought a bunch of shirts. We like this, we like that and went out then and said we are going to sell 200 memberships to try to get these founders who would have a vested interest in our success. We offered 200 shirts and sold out of those in 72 hours. Then we took the feedback from those 200 shirts and listened to what actual people had to say and then we came out with 3 new colors.
Those launched late last year. They're incredible. We got a light blue with navy, we have a black and white, gingham with black trim and then we have this gray with black trim. and they're just really clean. All of them have 3% stretch. The gray one has a little bit of poly in it so it's a wrinkle-resistant shirt, awesome colors. We have a new Facebook guy that's running ads. He is long outsold with that $30,000 company did in December as of this month.
We're lining up our new production which is going to happen in Turkey and we're going to be able to launch a ton of new colors. We're talking to some brands and we’re going to be able to do custom liners so that we can digitally print anybody's logo within the shirt. You could have your own branded shirt if you're a Marriot or a car dealership or real estate firm and you want your logo inside the shirt on the left chest like a trade show guy would have. We're going to have a whole new line of shirts available that were designed to be worn without a tie and look amazing all day and all night long and your logo could be built into the shirt. We have some really, really cool stuff at goTIELESS coming out.
Million Dollar Collar like I said we're in negotiations right now with a gigantic company to do a 2 million unit test. I am fighting to get in Men's Warehouse, we're talking to a couple of other big brands along those lines. Trying to expand out the places that offer it so it's easier and easier, and easier to get your shirts upgraded. We have a VIP mail in service so if you are busy and don't want to go to the dry cleaners you want to go somewhere local I'll literally mail you a bag that you can throw 5 shirts into ship them to us. We'll upgrade them, fold them and ship them back to you. It takes a couple of weeks to get it all done and we have that service. I have a wholesale account now with a couple of brands, we have Tommy Hilfiger and Kenneth Cole and Calvin Klein shirts on our website on MillionDollarCollar.com which are already upgraded with Million Dollar Collar. If you don't want to screw with it at all and if you like any of those brands you can grab one their shirts are already done and ready to go. We're trying to make it as easy as possible and let everybody now we even exist.
Matt: I think everything you said was awesome. First of all, the tenacity of being like I will mail you a bag for the shirts you bring them back to us, we will do them for you. If I have to build brick by brick, one customer at a time I will do whatever it takes so it's that side of it. Then there's the flip side of expanding your product offerings knowing what you've seen these last 7 years. That's the stuff that some people don't understand that looks like the markets have been giving you so many signals for so many years and after so many interactions and so many relationships and customers and all these things. This makes sense, that doesn't make sense, this one does, this one does, that one later on. The only way we know these things are from the journey. It's exciting times you guys have going on, there's a lot of really cool things starting to flow together into a stream. It's cool man. How can people get a hold of you?
Rob: So I don't really do social media that much. I have one but I don't do much. My email if anybody has any questions about patenting or anything like that it's Rob@milliondollarcollar.com. Our websites are milliondollarcollar.com and gotieless.com. Everything is on those two sites and we have all the social media handles for both of those companies so if you got some positive fun things to say I would appreciate it. Our reviews are...
We were told by a company we had to put up low reviews just to make it seem real so people would believe us. The only one-star reviews we get on our website is it hasn't shown up yet or weird things that have nothing to do with the products. Literally had to put those in so it's not 5.0 once people try this, once one looks at somebody else walking around with their shirt not looking the way the Million Dollar Collar looks you will never unsee it. It will be one of those things that stands out. My friends always say thank you for making me acutely aware of a problem I never knew I had. Now that you know you have it it's just a game changer.
Matt: I'm part of that crew that knows it's a problem. I even iron at home if I don't take it to the cleaners. I'll iron at home and I'll use starch at home. That's how far I'll take it at home and even then it doesn't stay. I know exactly what problem you're talking about and it's true. It slouches and it doesn't have that nice V I totally get it.
Rob: The perfect V within DC.
Matt: So I totally get everything. I appreciate man and I appreciate you sharing the not so glamorous stuff too man . I know that resonates with the audience. I have a very loyal awesome following. They're very supportive and very cool, they're very engaging. They might reach out and if they do they're the type they might compliment you on your brand and say this is cool thank you I"ll try it out. They're good. I love my audience. I have a relationship with them and I appreciate having you on the show for real you're welcome back later on. Obviously it's a journey driven podcast so a year from now you might say we just did the biggest acquisition in history and here's the headache I just learned from that or whatever it might be.
Rob: I'd love to have that conversation.
Interview: Thank you, I appreciate you for being on the show.
Rob: You're awesome Matt, thanks so much this was a blast.
Interview: For everybody listening Rob Kessler, Million Dollar Collar. Go to milliondollarcollar.com or gotieless.com. You can find him on social media as well and you can also email him at email@example.com if you have any questions. Reach out this man will properly literally will come to your town and properly sew them in. He's dedicated to the product so show the support back and reach out and ask any questions and please feel free to do so.