This is a follow up story for Million Dollar Collar. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published almost 5 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
I’m Rob Kessler the inventor of Million Dollar Collar, the world's only placket stay, which is similar to a collar stay but goes down the front of your shirt where the buttons and holes are. Most dress shirts, most of the time are worn without a tie, and after my shirt completely collapsed and looked terrible on my wedding day, I decided to find a cure to what we’ve deemed Placketitis. The placket has no reinforcement, therefore cannot support the weight of the collar, that is why it crumbles.
It took me 3 years, and 100 ruined shirts, to patent and perfect the highly-engineered material that makes up Million Dollar Collar. It is lightweight, soft enough to be sewn through, yet rigid enough to support the collar, and heat-resistant to nearly DOUBLE the insane temperatures dry-cleaners use on your shirts.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
We have had quite a journey so far, with a lot of ups and downs. Because the product needs to be sewn in, there is a weird extra step that most people are not used to. So, we’ve tried to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and figure out every way we can to make it as easy as possible to experience the confidence boost Million Dollar Collar provides, firsthand. 2020 business was down a little bit, but we’ve looked really hard at our expenses and we’re still profitable even with the decline. We’ve also jumped from ad agency to ad agency due to their not being able to perform, so that was with virtually zero ads run last year. We have an amazing new agency now, and they are just hitting a stride, as Apple throws a wrench in the whole thing, so we’ll see how they come out of it.
Actually, we just launched our Polo Pack, with instructions for a DIY install into any polo you have in your closet at home. We’re really excited about this as it opens up a really big new opportunity, not only in the number of polos out there but also the easier installation that does not require sewing.
Ask your customers questions, and LISTEN to what they have to say, they have shelled out money to pay for your product or service, they have more of an opinion you should listen to than anyone else.
I have recently taken over our social media posting and commenting, and that has been really good, I can see the engagement going up and that can only help our brand long term. Twitter was never a platform we used, but we have stepped up our presence on Pinterest. There are a lot of brides and planners out there looking for inspiration, and we hope they can find us. We are also investing in our email follow-ups as we have a pretty substantial list we haven’t used much. That is just rolling out in the next week, so I can report back next year.
For PR, we have focused mainly on the PodCast route. I am a much better talker than a typer and if it is video, it really helps to show how great the product looks. The people I talk to have such amazing backgrounds and we always find a way to connect and have a great conversation. Once I have done a podcast, I ask for an MP3 and have the whole thing transcribed. Once that is done, I set it as a blog post and link back to the podcast website, which all helps to strengthen our SEO. SEO is an easy and free way to drive traffic to your site, with a few little pointers, you can make a big difference in your SEO results, this is just one of them.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
We’ve been chasing the shiny penny for a few years now, always looking for the next opportunity, while we should have been focusing on one thing and exploiting it fully before moving on. Now we are focused on landing a big deal with a brand. If anyone thinks they can come out of the Pandemic with the same old same old products they had before, they are sadly mistaken. We have the one product that will truly differentiate a brand. Studies show up to 90% of dress shirts are worn without a tie most of the time. That means our product is going after the vast majority of the market.
Our production is in line and has been tightened up. We are ready to deliver any amount of product, within a reasonable timeframe, anywhere in the world. That has been a bit of a challenge over the years since we didn’t have the volume, but I am excited to say, now we do.
As I may have shared in the last update, I am also a 50 TON Master Yacht Captain. Believe it or not, that business was off the charts in 2020, since no one was really traveling and people wanted a safe activity they could do out of the house. We did exponential growth in that, which was amazing and also exhausting. It is the slow season now, but we are already ramping up for another epic year on the water. This business actually introduced me to our current business adviser. What an amazing guy and it would have never happened if we hadn’t put ourselves out there to stack opportunities.
Every day, we just stick with the grind, making incremental progress. We are confident we’ll make big strides this year towards our goals as we have spent the last several years just planting seeds.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
We are leaning hard into the brands. After over 325,000 units sold mostly to end-consumers, we know this product works and would have serious demand. The next step is to make a great partnership with a major brand. We already have a few factories installing at production for their clients, but exposure is the name of the game in 2021.
Shipping has been a nightmare since COVID, so we have partnered with companies all over the world to offer local ordering for customers, meaning faster shipping and quicker upgrades. It also means spreading love and learning from what works in different parts of the world.
In 5 years, we plan to be locked in at all the major manufacturing plants, and Million Dollar Collar is a mostly standard option on all dress shirts as it should be, there is literally no downside to having it built into the shirt at production.
Short term, we continue to tighten up the operations and expand awareness of the problem and solution. Since I live in Los Angeles and my wife is a badass stuntwoman, I talk to a lot of customers and our product is showing up on more and more shows, which is really fun.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I have been listening to a lot of podcasts. As soon as I start reading anything, I start yawning. I listen to business, motivation, political, relationship podcasts. Everything. I never want to stop learning. I’m also knee-deep into Cardone University Sales Training, as we roll out new opportunities, I want to sharpen my skills.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
- Stick with it. Take a step back and try to look at the business from a different perspective. And then try new ways to expand your business. Ask your customers questions, and LISTEN to what they have to say, they have shelled out money to pay for your product or service, they have more of an opinion you should listen to than anyone else.
- Learn. Whether you are consuming podcasts, or books, or videos, keep learning. Get inspiration from what has worked for other people and try to implement it in your business, but in your way. If it isn’t authentic, it will not work.
- Find a Mentor. Someone has been where you are and where you want to go. Most successful people are willing to share that information, as long as you listen to them and take the appropriate actions. Successful people have bought time, do not waste theirs by not following through from the time they gave you.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We will be looking for outside salespeople soon. We are working on a really fun, new product for the industry and it will be all hands on deck to make it a reality. There is so much opportunity in this space we can all be successful.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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