S3E11 - GAME ON WITH JACKSON STUART - GUEST ROB KESSLER, Co-Founder of goTIELESS & Inventor of Million Dollar Collar
Podcasting from the Chicago End Area this is Game On with Jackson Stuart. Where we discuss men's lifestyles focusing on sex, fitness, relationships, business, and more. We'll be interviewing the best of the best. The hotshots and the rising stars in the world of modeling, fitness, cooking, and more. Influencers who are discussing keeping it sexy while on the top of their game. I'm your host Jackson Stuart, Welcome to the show, and welcome to the game.
Melody: This is Melody and you're listening to Game On with Jackson Stewart.
Jackson Stuart: Makes the game, or breaks the game when the right time comes along a true player jumps at the opportunity and makes it his own. Our guest tonight knows all about that. Rob Kessler is the inventor and co-founder of Million Dollar Collar, a relatively simple solution to fix what his company dubs Placketitis, the sinking, wrinkling, and folding of the placket of a casually worn dress shirt. Prior to Million Dollar Collar, Rob built a screen-printing and embroidery business from a spare bedroom in his house to over $1,000,000 in revenue before selling the company.
Although the company was never intended to be a screen-printing company word soon spread about the high quality, great pricing, and never miss a deadline guarantee. Rob's sales experience in a number of high-dollar industries including diamonds, real estate, and automotive sales provided a unique blend of backgrounds to transition him into the fashion world. His ability to look at the world through a different set of lenses than most people lead to his success in every sales job and both of his own businesses. In addition to being an entrepreneur and businessman Rob is also our guest this evening.
You have heard the introduction and bio now join me in welcoming to Game On the brilliant, the critical thinking, and the wild card himself Rob Kessler. Rob, how are you doing?
Rob Kessler: That is a good summary, I like that.
Jackson: Glad you like it. So let's kick off. Can you tell the audience what platform they can find you or website and by what name they should look for you?
Rob: I think the best spot is our newer website called goTIELESS.com so we invented and designed the first shirt designed to be worn tieless featuring my technology that I invented. goTIELESS.COM we're building up our social media now, our shirts are in stock I would say that would be the best spot.
Jackson: Where are you from and where did you grow up?
Rob: I was born in Detroit but I only lasted about a year there and then my parents moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin so I lived most of my life in Milwaukee until 2015. I took my wife to LA for a premiere for her birthday and a year later we were driving out to LA to live there so we lived in LA for almost 6 years and now we're in Atlanta, Georgia.
Jackson: So you're a Midwest guy?
Jackson: I knew I liked you, I'm a Chicago guy so it makes sense.
Rob: Oh man I don't know if we can be friends you're Chicago and I'm Milwaukee.
Jackson: We both like beer and it's in the blood if you like it or not and we're both not afraid of cold weather.
Rob: I thought being 12 or 13 hours south of Milwaukee it would be a lot warmer in Georgia but it gets some cold winter nights that's for sure.
Jackson: Now it's in the bio but if you guys have not read Rob's extensive bio please check it out because it has some wild ups and downs and some obstacles in there. What I really like is how you got into the business. The story behind why you developed the tieless technology and the shirt design is because there is a lot to take from that so if you can explain that out for people.
Rob: The long and the short of it is we got married on the beach in Jamaica in 2013 I had a brand new, freshly pressed Express 1MX and I thought I would look great on my wedding day, and whether it was the humidity or whatever my shirt was a sloppy, crumbled mess. I remember tugging at my collar all day trying to get that thing straight. We actually brought the photographer with us because he was a friend of ours and so the next day we were looking at the 2500 photos he took throughout our wedding day and my shirt was just a mess. You could see my undershirt, it was just bad.
I came home from Jamaica and started internet searching everywhere I could find to see if there was anything that reinforced the front of the shirt where the buttons and the holes are which is called the placket and there was nothing.
Everything was some collar stay whether it was those magnetic ones or... There's even a guy that took the girl's 80's inch wide plastic headband and you stick that up on your collar and that was supposed to hold it up. All that stuff was not really the solution.
So I took a piece of cardboard and cut it out. I cut open a dress shirt and I shoved it down the front. I showed my new bride and she instantly saw what I was trying to attempt and what I was trying to fix and so it started with that piece of cardboard and it took 2 1/2 years to patent and perfect. I ruined 100 shirts in the process because I washed it, dried it, ironed it, and everything was good. I sent it to the dry cleaner and whatever high-heat plastic I was using wasn't high-heat resistant enough because I melted so many plastics to so many shirts that I finally had to pull a guy aside and how hot are you guys using because they say these temperatures on these plastics are plenty hot enough and they weren't nearly.
They flash press your shirt at the dry cleaner between 400 and 450 degrees. Most high-heat plastics start to fail at about 275 so we weren't even close. I tracked down an international plastics company and told them what I was trying to do and worked with them and we developed the material that is Million Dollar Collar. It's almost twice as heat resistant as what the dry cleaners use.
I call it this magic material because it's literally soft enough to be sewn through, yet it's still rigid enough to hold up the weight of the collar. That's the problem: the collar has so much bulk in it that it is just collapsing the front of your shirt. It's soft, it's lightweight, it's super flexible, it's rigid. It's like this weird miracle material. That took 2 1/2 years to patent and perfect.
Jackson: Placketitis, what I really like about your story is that every guy that put on a dress found something that they didn't like about it. I love the picture on your website, your wife is looking at you, and you and she are looking at your dress shirt in disgust. You took a daily problem and you did something about it. You not only did something about it but blew it up into a giant business. What's the number one takeaway? Given how you have an obstacle and you create a solution? I think a lot of people hit obstacles and just stop. What is the takeaway you can give people to hit an obstacle and go over it?
Rob: I think people get overwhelmed by the process and it's literally a piece of cardboard and I didn't even care what the design was. I just wanted to see if a little bit of structure in that part of the shirt would change the look and it did. Clearly, I can't sew cardboard into a shirt and expect that to last, so what do I do next? You try something and some of it works and some of it doesn't, and you adjust the part that doesn't.
If you look at the way that my product developed over those 2 1/2 years you would think I was drunk because the final product is so thin and streamlined I had these anti-roll tabs and I had one that was super bulky on top, I had a big hole in the top so that you could put the buttonhole through that and it was a nightmare. I was doing all kinds of stuff, but that is just part of the process. I've come up with other ideas I wanted to patent and I've played around it a little bit but never took it very far. I was really fortunate my wife was very supportive in me pursuing this, that helped obviously. Just take one little bite at a time and just learn a little bit about each step.
Jackson: Who were some of your influences whether it be creating the product or sticking to it or the business? Who has influenced you I should say?
Rob: My dad's been a big influence, the reason we moved to Milwaukee is that he wanted out of Detroit and it's a really amazing story. He got to Milwaukee and couldn't find a job. He actually left my mom and me in Detroit and tried to get settled before we came.
Nobody would hire him so he finally walked into a jewelry store one day and said look give me 30 days if you don't love me I'll walk away, just give me 30 days. He didn't know the first thing about jewelry but 30 days later the guy hired my dad and fired his brother-in-law. 10 months later my dad left that guy because he had a bad gambling problem and started a jewelry store with a partner and grew that to $35,000,000 a year in revenue and the 3d largest independent jeweler in the country.
To have him go from doing everything to having 150 employees in 7 locations in my lifetime. It was great to watch, it sucked growing up because he was never around even though I am the 3rd and he's junior, that's his firstborn, his first child, and his first love. It was great to have him, I still have him to be able to ask questions and put ideas up against and say we're thinking about doing this and he helps keep me in check. His favorite saying nowadays is, You have to earn the right to grow and so we're trying to make the steps possible that get us to the next level, and get us to the next level. He's been huge, I've had a couple of aunts and uncles that have had their own businesses that I talk to from time to time but I always love reading business books and motivational, Tony Robbins and stuff like that.
Jackson: It sounds like resilience is in the blood. A lot of guys whether it be business or personal or fitness or whatever it's have a great idea but not just seeing it to the end you see those obstacles you get the naysayers, you have those people who say it can't be done. How do you stick to it, how do you keep going until you see something completed no matter what?
Rob: I never really paid too much attention to what other people did. I had a screen-printing business and everyone else had all these automatic presses and all this other crap and I just didn't do it. I hated being nickel and dimed, I used screen printers and they would say it was a $20 setup fee for this color and that color and then there's this fee and that fee. I would think dude, this is so obnoxious just tell me what the price of the shirt is I don't care.
I just did it my way and I always looked at things from the customer's perspective so I don't really pay too much attention to what other people say or do. Fortunately, I don't have any competition in this market just yet, hopefully, people start jumping in which means I am definitely on the right track.
The no's that I get the most are from these brands that we are trying to license to and they think that their shirts are figured out. So many of them say they don't want to offer this in some shirts and then make my other shirts not as good. I was like Apple comes out with a new phone every year because they are improving it. You guys haven't changed the way dress shirts are made in 100 freakin' years it's time, nobody wears ties, there's no structure in the placket, 90% of the market is going tieless almost all the time so you don't have a product.
That's why we started our own dress shirt brand because we had people say no so many times. Screw it, I'm going to prove that the brand can be built around the technology and that is what we're doing now.
Jackson: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about starting their own business?
Rob: I always say this, you better be passionate because if you are just chasing a dollar and looking for an opportunity you're going to easily get distracted and go see what the next shiny nickel is. If you're passionate about solving a problem, if you're passionate about creating something that is going to last, that's what's going to get you through. Believe me, there's been plenty of days I have been sitting on the couch thinking, what am I doing with my life? Why have I gone this route?
Fortunately, my wife Linda Kessler, will be on a high with her business, she's a badass stuntwoman if you don't know. She doubles Taylor Swift and she's on Fear the Walking Dead and Jenna Elfman on Crazy Crazy People, big movies, and all kinds of stuff. She'll be having a great time and she'll bring me up and there are days when she's like I don't know what I'm doing, I am bruised and battered everywhere and tired and I'll be on a good streak. We balance each other really well that way.
Jackson: Just for people listening there are days when hot-shot businessman Rob Kessler thinks why the hell am I doing this? That's one thing I want to get through with guests. I think a lot of people see you, they see influencers and they see models and they think you guys wake up to perfection, live with perfection, and go to sleep with perfection and that's not the case so you have doubts right?
Rob: Oh of course, look we're 7 years in we've sold half a million units, and we're at a million in revenue which is pretty slow growth but I know that tomorrow Macy's could call and say we're going to put this in all our stores and we'll do a million this year and that is what keeps me going is knowing that I've laid the groundwork and I've planted so many seeds everywhere that's impossible not to be ready when that thing happens. I am thinking 9 steps ahead, I've got production ready to do a million units a month. We've got all these things and that's how I plan and my partner is really good about getting in. He got us all these meetings with all these brands about licensing and all things we've been discussing. It's a good balance between him and I. There are definitely days that I say, what the hell?
Jackson: You mentioned reading is important, reading business books, reading motivational information. It's important to you but how important has it been for you in your process of business? Some people are like I don't read, all those motivational quotes don't do anything but has it made an impact on you as a business person?
Rob: Yeah, and I get it firsthand. My Dad was 11 years into his business and was ready to hand the pink slip to his competitor and just said I can't do this anymore. He was so lost, he wasn't growing and he went to Tony Robbins and walked on fire and came home from a 3-day Tony Robbins and had a whole new perspective on life and grew double digits for 20 straight years and went from $300,000 in sales to $35 million in sales.
If you don't have somebody else and you're not willing to learn, you can't grow. I just listen to everything I can. I hate reading, the second I open a book and read the first line I'm yawning and I'm ready to go to sleep. There's a way to consume that information whether it's reading if you like reading great. Every book is available on audible, there are podcasts. I listen to a lot of Gary Vee, he'll say I know you've heard this a thousand times but look it's not that hard, do this and this and this, it's not that hard.
Do what makes you happy. You hear that enough times and that helps me think outside and get out of my own way. Watching my Dad grow like that because he was in his own way and that is why he wasn't growing. He just put his foot down and made some serious decisions that had never been done in the jewelry industry and so he said I don't care if it's never been done, I want to do it the way I want to do it and it turned out to be incredible.
Jackson: So one of my favorite questions, the question that every guest cringes at - In keeping with the theme of sexiness, what is the sexiest thing about you?
Rob: My wife will tell you that I can do pretty much anything. I have this weird ability to look at something that I have never done and say "I can do that." I built a two-tier 70-foot long 10-foot high retaining wall last summer in our new house which was absolutely back-breaking work but I built the retaining wall. I have an absolute new respect for a retaining wall. If you drive past a retaining wall and say that's just a wall, dude that is intense.
I built her a small 12 x 24 tack room for her horse so she has a tack room and a feed shed and I'm building a two-stall barn. We put in a beach. I learned how to drive a tractor and a front loader and I drove an excavator the other day and drove bobcats. I just can figure stuff out, it may not always work as smoothly as a professional. The fact that I can grind my way through and figure it out. I'm doing a 13,000-piece puzzle right now and it will be 2,000 pieces of the same color sky but it goes back to my stubbornness to get it done and see it through.
Jackson: What makes a person sexy in your opinion?
Rob: Confidence, I would say confidence is the sexiest thing you can wear and it doesn't matter what you look like or who you are as long as you are a good person and you're confident to me that's sexy. I've watched my wife do some pretty incredible things and now we're 13 years together and she gets more beautiful every day because of her ability and willingness to just take on anything.
Jackson: Alright folks it's time for the part I really love, the quick game. I'm going to throw some rapid questions at you Rob and I know you're ready because I think you're ready every day any time of the week. Here we go, I carry this question forward from last week but I love this question. Should pineapples be on pizza?
Rob: I don't mind a pineapple pizza, I love a little Hawaiian pizza once in a while. It's not a go but yes, I'm down.
Jackson: What is your favorite time of the year?
Rob: I like it hot, I'll take the summer.
Jackson: How can you be a Midwest guy and you're all about the heat? Come on now what about the cold, what about the fall?
Rob: That's why we left, I hate the cold. We went right to the beach in California. We're not doing this cold anymore.
Jackson: Can you name 3 of the seven dwarfs?
Rob: Sleepy, grumpy, sneezy, is sneezy one?
Jackson: Yes sneezy is one. Over 2 years of doing this only 4 guests could get that right.
Rob: I was also on a Disney Cruise which is something if you don't have kids, I don't recommend.
Jackson: Star Wars or Star Trek?
Rob: Star Wars.
Jackson: What is your favorite cereal?
Rob: I don't eat cereal. It was probably Apple Jacks.
Jackson: Oh Apple Jacks is good.
Rob: Or Frosted Flakes.
Jackson: When I hear Apple Jacks I think about my grandmother. She made us live on that stuff and it was great. Do you eat oatmeal?
Rob: Not typically but I want some apple in there if I'm doing oatmeal.
Jackson: Sunshine or Moonlight?
Rob: I like the sun, I like being outside in the sun.
Jackson: If you find a spider in your house do you kill it or do you take it outside and let it go?
Rob: Depends if my wife is near, if she's not it's dead, if she's around she will make me put it outside.
Jackson: One of my favorite questions, if not the favorite question, who inspires you?
Rob: I think my dad does, I have this weird goal to out do him so we've always been competitive since I'm the Third and he's a junior we've butted heads because we're really similar. At the same time, we're family and it's all good.
Jackson: Good people, sexy people that wraps up our interview with the brilliant, the critical thinking, and the wild card Rob Kessler. Rob, thank you so much and we will see you soon.
Rob: Sounds good, thank you.