Interviewer: Our guest today is the inventor of something called the Million Dollar Collar. We're going to find out what that is and he has built several other businesses from a spare bedroom in his house among other places. He's an entrepreneur and an inventor. Let's welcome him and let's talk with Rob Kessler. Rob thanks for your time and what is the Million Dollar collar? I'm going to guess that it doesn't cost a million dollars for me to have a Million Dollar Collar.
Rob: No. I was just thinking about it and the name kind of just popped in my head one day so I thought it had a nice ring. Everyone wants to look like a million bucks when the time counts and so that's why I came up with the name. So, basically, Million Dollar Collar is a collar stay except it goes down the front of your shirt where your buttons and the holes are so think collar stay but 9 inches long but down where the buttons and the holes are to prevent the front of your shirt from collapsing. That part is called the placket and so since nobody knows what a placket is we didn't call it perfect placket, it's Million Dollar Collar.
Interviewer: Thank you that would be for someone like myself Rob.
Rob: 97% of the population doesn't know what a placket is or a lot of them don't know how to pronounce it. We actually came up with this great -- My wife came up with this great phrase, placketitis. That's when your placket is all collapsed and that's what we cure is placketitis. Now you're just stacking on top of a word that nobody knows what it means so it didn't really go anywhere.
Interviewer: I saw a podiatrist for that last week and he gave me some ointment.
You came up with this great idea. What's the process and what's the time table from the time you come up with this great idea to when you get it to market.
Rob: It all kind of hit me really on my wedding day and my shirt just looked awful and that was before I could say I do, I had the most beautiful bride on the planet, my shirt had totally failed me. I'm not a tie guy, I actually started an Instagram, the no-tie guy. I hate them, it might be from my used car sales days that I was forced to wear one when I was 20 years old but I just didn't like them so after seeing in my pictures on my wedding day...
We got married in Jamaica on the beach so it was going to be a casual wedding. I came home, I started googling to see if there was anything fixed that I thought the problem was and everything was focused on the collar. Working Stiff magnetic collar stays or there was some other collar stay thing but to me, the problem was in the front of the shirt. That's what was collapsing, that was what was breaking down, that's what didn't have enough reinforcement. I literally opened a shirt, stuffed cardboard down the front, showed my new bride and she instantly her eyes lit up and said, "I know what you've been nagging about all these years."
When you go out at night or going somewhere special you want to look good, you put on a dress shirt. The go-to thing for guys, we don't have a lot of options. The dress shirt needs to look the way that I want to feel and it just didn't. From that piece of cardboard till patent and the perfected product was almost 3 years.
Interviewer: Wow that's impressive. So you mentioned the Million Dollar Collar and goTIELESS, is that the same product or is goTIELESS... Explain those two.
Rob: So Million Dollar collar is the technology if we want to call it that and goTIELESS was born out of years of us talking to every brand that we could to license our technology to them. Hey, you already make dress shirts, why not easily add our product to your shirt and have a better dress shirt. After years and years and years of talking with these guys nobody doing it.
We said, "Screw it, let's just do our own shirt," and show them that it is a differentiator and about a year ago we launched our own shirt. It is called goTIELESS and is the first shirt designed to be worn tieless. Actually our first version, this one doesn't even have a top button, that's how committed we were to the goTIELESS thing. We have four colors, they sold insanely well through COVID and actually had problems having more made because everyone had to make PPE so there are two separate companies and two separate entities. goTIELESS features Million Dollar Collar technology.
Interviewer: Are there other areas or kinds of things that you are looking at? Outside of clothing or anything like that?
Rob: Yeah, I'm not like a clothing guy, I just saw a problem and went after this, my wife and I actually own a Yacht Charter business here in Los Angeles. I always loved boats and when we first moved here I ended up meeting a captain that had a couple of boats and had a charter business and I just saw his business and watched the other charter guys and I feel like there is a hole in this market.
So we went the totally opposite route of every other boat that's out there. We got an express cruiser so it's a big open one level fast boat and those guys are all concerned about saving fuel, we just built it into the price and we built a very successful charter business in less than two years.
I've been a real estate investor, my wife and I own two commercial buildings with 32 offices between the two. I bought one when we moved to LA, I bought one back in Green Bay, WI where she's from. Bought it sight unseen, filled it in a year, and flipped it for about 3 times what I paid for it. I like to find opportunities.
Interviewer: Clearly. I am saying you're an entrepreneur that might be a ridiculous understatement but I'm looking at the things you've been involved in. Obviously, we talked about the Million Dollar Collar and Gotieless. You've created a successful screen printing and embroidery business, you talked about used cars, talking about real estate, and your yacht business so you created a number of companies. I am curious from a start-up standpoint if you look at them, they're all very different, creating business there are probably certain things that are common that you have to do in order to get started. If someone thinks they have an idea, what are those common things that when you start if you want to be successful and who doesn't, what do you need to do? What are those common things no matter what the business is?
Rob: To me and what I've learned from my father, and that my wife and I are really strong on is customer service. It doesn't matter if it's an internet product or a face to face product. Real estate is obviously very relationship-based, they are long processes, a long sale. In the yacht charter business, we get a booking, and then we don't meet them until the day of but we do everything we can to show them the best day possible.
My wife is starting her own fitness company right now, she's always been into fitness, and day one of that company we're talking about how we can touch the customer more times, and more personally than other businesses do. She's doing things like sending out a thank you card in the mail that someone can get that nobody is doing that. She's going to shoot a little video saying thanks for joining it's been a week, I want to see you be successful and maybe it's for the first 1000 customers but that's enough to get that base, get that word out, and really make people feel special.
I get emails all the time and I respond as quickly as I can and I get thank you cards from them saying your customer service is unbelievable and even for a totally digital online business. Word of mouth is going to go a lot further if you can just treat that guy right.
Interviewer: What is the one common adversity that I guess you've faced with the different businesses that you're a part of? The one's that you've been a part of as well, what's the one thing that you would say is very common with the adversities that you've faced?
Rob: Well, it always takes longer than you think it's going to. Million Dollar Collar we've been selling for 5 years, when I can talk to somebody and say this is what I came up with, this is what the product is they say, "This is the greatest thing I've ever seen." We're in the market for 5 years and we're still trying to figure out what the right path is and get the attention of the big guys in a positive way.
The yacht charter business took us almost 5 months to get licensed through the city of Los Angeles so they lumped us in with strip clubs and taxi's so I had to go in front of the judge. I don't know but whatever...
Interviewer: it all seems like it goes together.
Rob: In the real estate with the offices we thought we were going to rent half of one building to one guy and that was a couple of months and we decided to break that whole space down into eight little offices and then rent out each one of those individual offices and so it took a little bit longer. But once you get over that hump man it's awesome.
Interviewer: If someone is an entrepreneur, similar to yourself and they have an idea what is maybe one or two things that you would tell them these are the things you should do first before moving forward?
Rob: One is to have a plan but be able to divert if the customer says that. We initially launched a Kickstarter in 2014 while I was still developing the product. We did not get funded but the unequivocal feedback was why can't I upgrade the shirts I already own and why are you trying to keep, why not license. They said don't make your own shirt, I want to upgrade the shirts I already know and love. So we made an aftermarket universal design which is what we have now. Then we went to licensing, we went to talk to those guys.
I went from spending a fortune on inventory and shirts to only making one piece that fits into every single shirt. So you have to be able to pivot and listen to your customers and find where the market is and two is be patient and persevere. It's people that give up that have great ideas. I'm 7 years into this entire process and we're still grinding, we're still going, we're still working on it. Sometimes it just takes longer but once it does, those are the guys that are successful. You're seeing them on Instagram in their Ferrari's, that didn't happen overnight. My 10-year-old overnight success is almost here.
Interviewer: There you go, I like that. Well Rob we appreciate the info this is all very interesting. Now before we let you go can we get you to stick around and play a little game time with us?
Rob: Let's play.
Ken: It's time to play one of our favorite games, what's the price? This is a game, it will be a competition between our guest, Rob Kessler, the inventor of the Million Dollar Collar, and the City of Cleveland, the father of the month in November Ted Klopp. The idea of this game is to name the price of a product that I give a description of, each contestant will give a price of the product. The winner will be whoever is the closest to the price without going over. We will have 3 different products today, the winner will receive a very good prize today, unlimited powdery snow from the Cleveland area. You can shovel yourself anywhere from 6 to 12 inches of snow if you like and we have tons throughout the Northeast Ohio area, you can pick up your prize anytime you like and can be picked up anytime between now and February. So guys, great prize today.
Item # 1 The BigFoot Poly Snow Pusher. This is a 25 inch wide by 12 inches high poly blade cover, and it covers a wide area while resisting the sticking of snow. It has a wooden handle and features a deep grip styling. Rob, you are the guest, what is your price on the BigFoot Poly Snowpusher?
Rob: I think I had a knock off version of this and it broke the first time I pushed it. I am going to say $34.95.
Ken: I like that we're asking the guy that's in Los Angeles about [crosstalk]
Ted: I have never heard of the BigFoot whatever you said there, I'll go with $24.95.
Interviewer: Okay, $24.95. The actual price of the BigFoot Poly Snowpusher is a surprising $20.99
So you guys both were a little bit high. I both agree with your answers but a little bit high on that first item.
Rob: Maybe that was the price on the one I bought.
Interviewer: Item #2, The Toro Power Clear 99CC 4 Cycle Single Stage Snowblower. This thing packs enough power to move more snow in less time. It's obviously dependable in cold weather stops, it throws snow up to 25 feet and clears up to 1100 lbs of snow per minute. The auger router helps pull the snow blower forward when engaged, ideal on smooth surfaces. it's compact and the handle also collapses for easy storage. So Ted you are up first this time what is your guess on the Toro Power Clear Single-Stage Snowblower?
Ted: Wow, that's a mouth full. Somebody in marketing needs to come up with a better name than that.
Interviewer: Talk to Rob after the show he can help with that.
Ted: Yeah. I'll go with $399.
Interviewer: $399 okay. Rob?
Rob: I am going to go with $1 Ken.
Ted: Come on.
Ken: That's a great move.
Rob: 199 would have been my guess.
Ted: How long have we been playing this game and we finally have somebody did the strategy
Ken: Got a smart man here, there's no doubt.
Rob: I watch Price is Right.
Ken: So here is the actual retail price, this is going to blow your mind. $399, Ted you got it right on the button.
Right on the button, unbelievable. Rob, I would have gone the same as you.
Rob: Yeah, I bought my share of snow blowers though.
Ken: Ted is up 1 nill, we're in item #3, Rob you might have an advantage on this one, I'm just guessing. This is the Gitex 6 Foot Surfboard Surfing Surf Beach Ocean Body Foamie Board. This is made out of durable top foam and slick high-speed bottom, it's strong and responsive bottom skin that adds stiffness and maximizes board speed. This surfboard is designed with a free leash and transaction pad which is comfortable and convenient to use. There is also a fish tale that gives the board more hold and traction. This surfboard is ideal for kids, adults, children, beginners. It's 72 inches by 20 inches by 3 inches in length. Rob, you're up first for the Gitex 6 Foot Surfboard, Surfing Surf Beach Ocean Body Foamie Board.
Rob: That is tough, surfboards can be all over the board so I'm going to go with $99.
Ken: $99 for Rob. Ted?
Ted: Well, I know it looks like I have spent a ton of time surfing well. I will let the cat out of the bag and admit that the next time I'd be on a surfboard would be the first. I am going to go ahead and steal Rob's idea here. I will bid $1.
Ken: $1. Okay, so Rob $99, Ted $1. The actual retail price of the 6 Foot Surfboard is $189.99 so Rob you get it.
Ken: Since you're our guest, you're the winner.
You won a truckload of snow courtesy of Cleveland, pick up all the snow piles you like of snow until February. Just a quick disclaimer I would not eat the snow, it might not be suitable for eating because of the excess salt we have.
Rob: I will leave it to you guys, you can claim my price, I'll take the win but you can claim my prize. We don't even visit family during those winter months anymore. The last time we went home for Christmas it was 22 below when we got on the airplane and that was it.
Ken: Oh my gosh.
Ted: Nothing says welcome home like 22 below right?
Ted: Well Rob if we want to learn more or purchase a Million Dollar Collar or a shirt, a goTIELESS shirt what's the best way to find those products?
Rob: Everything is available on milliondollarcollar.com. We'll make it nice and easy, you can go to gotieless.com if you want but Million Dollar Collar has everything. We actually also have a huge collection of other shirts that you may already know, Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole, Tommy Hilfiger. We buy those shirts and install Million Dollar Collar and sell shirts you already know and love with our technology so you can either upgrade the shirts you own or look at our map. There's a map on there with a dry cleaner near you that already carries a Million Dollar Collar or you can buy one of our shirts or one of the ones we already upgraded. So milliondollarcollar.com.
Ted: Awesome, so thank you so much for the tie, and best of luck with whatever it is you're getting into next. Best of luck and continued success.
Rob: Thank you guys and I appreciate it, it was a lot of fun today!