S2Ep89: Turn a Million Dollar Idea Into a Business

In today’s episode, Allan welcomes Rob Kessler. Rob is the inventor of Million Dollar Collar and Co-Founder of goTIELESS. Rob shares how he took his business idea, executed it, and turned it into a profitable company. Over the years he improved his company by focusing on the solutions, not the problems.

For more information about Million Dollar Collar, visit




Podcast Transcript:

Allan has started and grown several multi-million dollar businesses. His mission is to help you do the same. Welcome to The Business Growth Pod, building the future one entrepreneur at a time.

Hey, everyone, Welcome to the Business Growth Pod. I’m Allan Draper. Today, I’m excited to chat with a gentleman who found a problem that a lot of men deal with. And he found a great solution. Those are the best business ideas. So I’d like to welcome Rob Kessler. Rob is the inventor of Million Dollar Collar. And he’s co founder of goTIELESS.  Welcome to the show Rob. We’re glad to have you. Thank you appreciate it.

So you know, I get this question a lot, like, Hey, I am an entrepreneur, I want to start a business, but I don’t know what to do. What would your advice be? If they asked you that? I’ve always just followed my passions, you know, I have done real estate, I love cars. So I sold cars for a little while, you know, I wasn’t really passionate about screen printing. And you know that, but that actually turned into a really great business. I’m passionate about giving really great customer service and exceeding people’s expectations, even on something as simple as 10 or $12 graphic t shirt, or something that they buy for, you know, branding or whatever. So I mean, we started in the time I’ve had million dollar collar. My wife and I started a yacht charter business in Los Angeles, we’ve grown that to three quarters of a million dollars in revenue, we’re about to sell that and but we’re passionate about boating love it. So it’s just crazy. When you when you’re into it, it makes it so much easier, especially for those times when you’re like Dude, what the hell am I do with my life? It’s like, I’m on this path. And I know what I’m doing. I know what my like reason is. Gotcha. I like that question. Because, you know, there’s people that answer it in different ways. My first non real estate business was a pest control company. I’m going to be honest with you, Rob. I love the industry. I’m not crazy about bugs, you know. So when you got into kind of like menswear, right in the clothing industry, was it something you were passionate about? Or was it you noticed a problem that was affecting you personally? Or was it kind of a combination of both? Not really overly passionate about clothing, I found a problem. So when I started my screen printing business, which was actually my clothing business, was called nude stood for nothing else will do and Ew, D. And you know, this is a time when Ed Hardy shirts are coming out and they’re selling for $100 graphic T shirts. And I had a little bit of a screenwriting background from the soccer and volleyball story worked out, you know, we do jerseys and little logos and stuff when we subbed it out, but I understood the concept. And so I said, Well, I’ve got a bunch of friends that are artists. I was dating a model at the time. And I was like, Well, what if we did something with this brand name? NUDE clothing? Like how cool is that? Let’s get a lot of fun with it. And so I partnered with these artists, they said, you know, instead of making a $5,000 painting, why don’t we take that same art, we’ll throw it on like 50 T shirts, do a limited run, and then you can promote yourself and then make a little bit of extra money while you’re trying to sell that big piece. While the shirts turned out great. They were graphic they were on point for the time but artists are terrible self promoters so they didn’t sell any shirts and I had all this inventory. So I was paying a ton to get these shirts printed which frustrated me because I’m kind of guy it’s like I can do just about anything. I just show me how and I’ll figure it out. And so I met a guy two weeks later we bought all the screen printing equipment he taught me how to screen print and then I grew nude custom printing to about a million dollar price sold that from a spare bedroom in my in my house to my basement to a 6000 square foot building and ended up selling it to one of my clients and he took ran with it so you know I the timing just kind of all worked out. It was just weird. I was doing real estate it was kind of looking for something else to do in my in my spare time and just kind of happened. So you know it’s interesting

Because it sounds like you’ve had various progressions with your businesses, how do you make those decisions early on about, like, whether to small things like, do I get an office? Or do I start to in an extra bedroom in my house? Like, do you create visions? Like do you create, like these ideas of where you want to take the company? Or is it more of a passive thing? I mean, I always think that there’s, you know, everything’s million dollar idea, and I always want it to be something big. But I bootstrap everything, you know, I don’t have a ton of cash, I just, you know, scrape and, and scrounge and just try to make something happen. So, I mean, the screen printing equipment was like, 2500 bucks, and we ended up splitting it, you know, so it’s 1200 50 bucks. So, you know, he knew how to do it, I split it, we started, you know, doing it. So. And then when it comes to the name of the company, you know, I never want to use my name, because I always want it to be something bigger that I can sell off to somebody else. So I never used my name in anything. And so I have the vision that I want it to be big, like million dollar collar, I think can be a pretty big exit, which is why it’s been just this longer. You know, I’ll be an overnight success and 10 years and the next effect, you do it in the next two years. So it’ll get there. But you know, it’s a lot of run for that one. So tell me a little bit about that. What you guys do, where you got the idea and how you executed on the idea and actually turned it into a company. So got married in Jamaica, on the beach, toes in the sand. I’ve always been super casual. I hate wearing ties. So before I can even say I do my brand new freshly pressed one MX dress shirt was just terrible. It was all crumbled. You can see my undershirt. I was adjusting it all day long. I just hated the way it looked on the biggest day of my life. So I came home from Jamaica, I cut open a shirt, I shoved a piece of cardboard down the front, because I always thought that this was the problem. This is what makes you look sloppy. I mean, college days were invented in 1888. I wouldn’t need to fix that. But everything on the market at that time was around the collar. So I came up with this, I took the next three years to patent and perfect the material. That was the hardest part because I’d wash it, dry it iron it, you know all those things, those were fine, but then I’d send it to the dry cleaner. And it would totally melt whatever plastic I had or material I had would melt the shirt. So it took me two years to figure out and develop the material that is million dollar collar because of the high heat that dry cleaners use. And it still has to be soft enough to be sewn through. It still has to be flexible and lightweight and rigid. And it’s got all these crazy features. And it just worked out. So that’s what took the longest. And so we went out and started we were going to make our own shirt. We were going to do a Kickstarter. This was a time there was like a sweatshirt company that did like $12 million in the Kickstarter. I’m like well do too big and sold $12 million for the sweatshirts. We can do a you know $40,000 Kickstarter, we couldn’t we did about 20,000 in sales. But the unequivocal feedback was Why are you trying to compete with all the other brands? And why can’t I upgrade the shirts I already own. And so I went back to the drawing board and said well, instead of us making the whole shirt and right competing with the 1000s of other dress shirts that are out there, I made the aftermarket piece that is sewn into any dress shirt. It’s looks insanely simple, super flexible, but it’s rigid enough, it’s just rigid enough to hold up the shirt so it never collapses and it folds and it’s sewn into any shirt you already own cost about 10 bucks to get sewn in. And then once it’s in the last leg of the shirt, so you’re selling just the actual piece, you’re not selling the shirts with it. So we’ve done the shirt, the pieces, the aftermarket kits for the last several years. I recently got a wholesale accounts with a couple brands. So I have Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole, Michael Kors, like really nice brands. So if you know those brands, and you know those shirts that fit in your size, you can just order that with million dollar collar already in. I’ve got a mail in service where you can mail me five shirts, and we’ll install it in full them and send it back. And then in about a month we’re launching our own shirt. Finally, because we’ve been trying to license this for years just going to these brands and say, Look, this is differentiate yourself. 90% of shirts are worn without a tie 90% of the time, you have nothing to market today. While we’re doing this, these guys are coming out with stretch collars. Like who cares about a stretch collar for a tie, nobody’s wearing ties. And so we just said fine. If you guys aren’t going to take it we’re going to make our own shirts. So we launched that’s what go tireless is it’s our own brand. And we’re going to make our own shirt. We’re basing it on one of the best selling shirts in America, we’ve made some tweaks and additions and made it a little better and it’s gonna be 40 bucks and it’s gonna knock your socks off. It’s a great shirt. wrinkle free stretch. We start with black, white and light blue, extra small to three XL slim and standard. And if you can’t find a size that fits, you got a weird body and I’m sorry, but go get a tailor. You know what’s interesting about your story is all the pivots that you’ve made

Over the years, it sounds like where you have an idea. You test the waters, you find out what works, find out what doesn’t. That’s something that a lot of early entrepreneurs really struggle with is sometimes they hold on too long to what they think, should work, as opposed to testing things being open, being flexible, and having this mindset of evolving and just figuring things out because things change, what is allowed you to kind of embrace that you sound like it’s just a natural part of your personality, where it’s like, yeah, we, you know, we’re doing insurance, and then we decided to do this. And then we shifted gears again, what is it that allows you to do that without, you know, this holding this death grip on to ideas that you previously had? I don’t think that I’m that smart. So I don’t think that I have all the answers. I know, I don’t have all the answers. And I’ve always been one to try to find the path of least resistance. And if I’m going out and saying, I’m going to make my own shirt, people are saying, Why are you making your own shirt, then? Okay, well, I thought that that was the way to go. Another huge thing, we spent probably 60 grand, going to dry cleaning trade shows thinking that, look, if you care enough about the way you look, and you dry cleaner shirts, and you spent three bucks a week on that shirt, why would you spend 10 bucks to get this put in. And that’s a revenue bump for the dry cleaners, all the guys are already going there, you’re already dropping the shirt off, most of them have alterations, I thought this was going to take us to 100,000 units a month, and 60 grand and dozens of trade shows later. And we I mean, we’re in 650 locations, which has nothing to squawk at, but it’s not gotten to what I thought it was. And so it’s like we put in a ton of effort. And it’s like, well, fine, if you don’t want to do it, then I’m not gonna force you. So let’s go find someone else. So when you have, you know, a pivot, you have a different idea. You have a business, whether it’s a marketing program, or a product design, or whatever it is about whatever aspect, it is about the business, and you realize, hey, we need to shift gears, we need to pivot here, do you go into it with the mentality of, okay, I’m going to take one idea, and I’m gonna put all of my eggs in that basket, we’re going to test it to the full extent possible, and then determine whether it’s viable or not. Or do you try kind of a few different techniques, and not put all your eggs in one basket, I get pretty hell bent on an idea. So I feel like if I get a vision that something could work better than, you know, let’s go try it. I mean, you know, put one toe in the water is not really gonna get you the results. quick enough. You mean you if you go half at it, you know, it might take you twice as long or three times as long to find out that that’s not going to work. So you know, I just, I mean, I was telling the story earlier. But no, my company started as a brand when nude started as a brand. And then I started doing all the screen printing, I was like, Well, I have the equipment. So I would tell friends like Hey, I got this equipment, if you need anything, let me know. And that business picked up and I was like, Dad, I don’t want to be a screen printer. And he said, look at your finances. You front out 25 grand and product and hope it sells or someone comes to you and places an order for 1000 bucks worth of product and you are paid three days later for that product. Like don’t be an idiot like the money’s there. And so, you know, I after fighting that decision. Now I just let them come to me. You know, it’s like if it’s going to work, it works. If it doesn’t, doesn’t, I’ll put in all the effort to try to make it work. But if it doesn’t, it’s move on find something else. I think your personality reflects a little bit about some internal beliefs you have about failure, right, which a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with, they feel like any mistake they make is going to be detrimental to their business like is the nail in the proverbial coffin? Am I getting that right? Am I getting that sense, right? That you’re like, hey, yeah, this is I’m learning. I’m growing. I’m trying to improve my business by figuring out what doesn’t work. If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying. I mean, look, you can’t do anything new in life and not fail. Like, if you don’t screw things up, you’re in your comfort zone. And I’ve gotten so far outside of the comfort zone, I don’t care. Tell me I failed. I don’t care. At least I’m doing something. I mean, all the people, all these negative comments I get on Instagram on our posts and stuff. It’s like, what are you doing, dude? Have you done anything with your life? You’re sitting on a computer commenting on somebody else’s product that you’ve never even tried? Like, what are we talking like, Thank you for helping the algorithm because you’re engaging with my posts will see it, I appreciate that. But you’re an idiot. If you spend time commenting on somebody else’s thing, and you’ve done nothing with your life. Nobody above me is telling me that I’m an idiot doing dumb things. People above me that are way more successful me are like, Dude, this is the most brilliant idea I’ve ever seen. And so I listen to those guys, the guys that are below you that are trying to throw rocks. Don’t listen to those guys. That’s a really good point. I always say that. If I’m not going to go to somebody for advice, then I’m not going to give a damn when they offer it freely. Right? If I’m not going to go to this internet troll and ask them, Hey, I’ve got this money to invest, where should I invest it or I’ve got this issue

do with my business? If I’m not gonna go to that person, then why would I listen to them when they’re hating on me? Right? Like, especially when it comes to making business decisions. And one thing a lot of people that aren’t entrepreneurs don’t understand is how much we put ourselves out personally, when we start a business, right. And I’ve noticed that with your brand, your image is all over, right? And so it’s not your name, right? But you’re still, to some extent, put yourself out there. But you just have, I mean, it’s very impressive, to be honest with you this, you have this Cavalier type, in a good way, type attitude towards failure and making mistakes. And I think that’s impressive. There’s not a lot of people that get that naturally, I think the common reaction is people, they don’t evolve over time. And they’ll just kind of dig into their original ideas. And there was this quote, I don’t know who is attributed to, I think, Jeff Bezos or somebody, but the principle holds. And that is, if you have more than, like, 60% of the information about something, then you’re too late. It seems like you follow that with your business where you’re like, hey, we’re gonna try this out, and see if it works. And I do. I also like your strategy of, hey, if we’re trying to move fast, we have to like, both feet in, we’re not just dipping our toes in the water. We have to figure this out. And the only way to do that is to throw a lot of resources at it. It seems like you have a high risk tolerance. I do. And I think what the big difference, you know, even listening to your analysis of me is I focus on the solution. I think most people focus on the problem I got in a car accident, I got a scratch in the car, the refrigerator today, okay, fine. That happens. It’s out of your control. It’s done. It’s over with, how do we move forward? Why spend an ounce of time thinking about something you cannot control? So my mom is going through some stuff right now. And she’s like, I’m so anxious about this. And I’m like, you’re making up a whole story in your head and you’re freaking out about something you know, nothing about? Like, why would you throw yourself into a tizzy like that over, you know, like, you just said, you don’t even have all the information. So, focus on the solution to the problem, because problems are going to happen. stuffs gonna go wrong. So focus on how do you make it right and move forward. You know, I liked that mentality. And I’ve shared this analogy before. But there was a story once about this whitewater raft or like, guide, right. And there was a certain spot on a river that the guide needed to avoid. And it was a new guide. And so he pointed out to like his crew, like, Hey, see that area over there, we have to avoid that. If we don’t, we’ll flip over, it’s no big deal. But then we have to get back in the raft all these things. And for whatever reason, they kept going right to that spot, right? Get flipped over time. And time and time again, he goes to a more experienced guy, and he’s like, What do you do, man, I noticed that you always avoid this pot. And he’s like, Well, first of all, I don’t point that out to them, I don’t let them focus on that. I show them you know, this big oak tree on the other side of the river or whatever. Right. And that’s our focus, our focus is the oak tree on the opposite side. And I think that’s a little bit about that goes to what you’re saying a little bit, like, don’t focus on the problem, focus on the solution. Because I agree 100%, you end up where you’re focused. And if you’re focused on the problem, then it’s going to be really tough to get out of it versus having this positive mentality. Hey, let’s just figure it out. We’re gonna figure it out. might take some time. But let’s do that. Did you go through any, like, I’ve heard of people, you know, going through gratitude practices or positivity, positive affirmation, whatever. Did you ever go through any of that, what has been your development and kind of, you know, coming up with this mentality of, let’s focus on the solution that’s focused on the things that we can control and leave everything else behind. I mean, I got to go see Tony Robbins as a graduation gift. And I love his books. And I get a lot of inspiration out of that my dad is a big Seven Habits of Highly Effective People in there, it says, you know, a circle of influence circle of concern. And so, I don’t know when I if I consciously ever was trained to do that. I just like to hit my head in the wall enough times and then eventually learn and just say, you know, I’ve gotten so much further ahead by just focusing on what the solution is then the problem. I mean, my wife I love her to death, but she spends a lot of time on the problem and it’s just like, Okay, well, it’s wasted energy to me and I only got so much energy in the day so I’m gonna put it into the things that I can control and I don’t have a lot of time for things I can’t control. Awesome. I love that. So Rob, tell us where you’re headed. Where’s million dollar color headed? Where’s go tireless headed, you know what’s next kind of on the horizon for you? So I’ve got a goal of 1000 shirts and

may not seem like a lot, but when you change the duration between those 1000. So it’s we want to sell our first 1000 shirts of go tieless in a year. And then I want to sell them in six months, and I want to sell 1000 in a quarter. And then I want to sell 1000 in a month. I want to sell 1000 In a week, and I want to sell 1000. And today, and when all of a sudden you’re doing 1000 shirts a day, you’ve got a $15 million $20 million company. And now we’ve got something real and we can either take that and say, we can finally go to one of these major manufacturers and say, look, what do you knuckleheads doing, we built this brand out of nothing out of this technology, same old shirt, one technology difference, and we built this 10 $12 million company. And then we can get into these other brands or we can sell it to somebody. One of the other fun things that we’ve doing, I’ve combined my screen printing life and that to our shirts, where I can literally digitally print any logo onto fabric. So this is not sublimation. This is not screen printing. It’s digitally printed in there. And we can make shirts, if you’re looking to brand your company. It’s a 50 shirt minimum. They’re 60 bucks apiece, they’re super high quality for Turkey. Like we’ve done jewellers, you can see the Cisco shirt, I’ve got samples made for champion Porsche the number one Porsche dealer in the world. So any kind of branding any kind of thing you want to do it’s something totally different instead of that traditional you know left chest embroidery. So if you’ve got a hotel or restaurant where you want to have that upscale look with our technology million dollar collar inside and a little nice subtle classy branding on it, we’ve got that so that’s a fun thing that we’re doing on the custom side of dough tireless. Our branded shirts when those come out, we’ll just start moving more and more products so you know just trying to get it out there as much as we can. Very cool. Where do you want to send somebody if they’re interested in learning more about what you’re doing personally with your businesses? Or with Million Dollar Collar or gotieless? Where do you want them to go check you out? We sell the Gotireless shirts on Million Dollar Collar because that brand is so much more established. So everything moves got to gotieless.com If you’re interested in the custom, www.milliondollarcollar.com is the best website we’ve got the Instagram million dollar collar, I’m pretty active on that. You can see me ribbon these knuckleheads back that I tried to give it back to check that out. I got some people comments like oh, you’re trying to be professional and you’re so not professional your comments and like did Hey, you can’t give it you know, well, the way you give it so yeah, do that go tireless and million dollar collar and those are the best spots.

Awesome. Love it. Well, thanks for joining us today. Rob. wish you nothing but success in the future and just keep killing it, man. Appreciate it. Thanks, talk soon.

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