DTC POD #325 - The Art of Modern Retail: Kellen Roland on Strategy, AI, and Mentorship
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Why don't you tell us a little bit about your background, how you kind of found yourself in this consumer commerce creator sort of landscape.
Kellen Roland 00:01:31 - 00:02:20
Yeah. Thank you for the introduction and happy to be here and appreciate the opportunity. You know, I think like everybody, we all have our own version of our story that happens, you know, ups and downs and I don't think we all wake up or were born and we had this clear plan on what we want to do. You know, after I went to college, I came back to LA where I was born. I'm born in LA. I've lived here my whole life. And I went to college in Wisconsin and I came back to LA and I wanted to work in the entertainment industry, do something that involved sales and interacting with people. And I ended up finding myself at a trade show working for a company called Agenda.
Kellen Roland 00:02:20 - 00:03:07
And it was an art, music and fashion trade show that started off as a challenger brand to a much larger trade show. And it was really where small, young entrepreneurial brands would go to meet buyers and to grow their distribution. And this is in like 20 06 20 07 20 08 so there's not really a heavy focus on online at all. There's no real social media as we know it today. There's MySpace and Facebook, but it's not a means to create. And I came back and I ended up working with agenda. I worked with this guy named Aaron Lavant, who was a child lead best friend and still one of my best friends to this day. And I started off by representing a company called Fresh Jive, and it was an iconic streetwear brand.
Kellen Roland 00:03:08 - 00:03:59
And I really fell in love with the creative side of the business, but also merging that with strategy and execution. So working with brands and figuring out how do we grow, how do we get our product in front of people? And I remember I had this very, like, aha moment early on in my career. I was walking down the street in LA on Melrose. This is a very hot shopping street at the time. And I see this guy walking down the street and he's wearing a fresh dyed t shirt. Now, the aha moment for me was, I remember when that shirt was created by Rick Klotz, and then we sold it to a store on Melrose called Barracuda. And this guy bought it, and he was wearing, and it was just this 360 moment of like, oh, wow, this is really cool. Like, she's getting enjoyment out of wearing this t shirt.
Kellen Roland 00:03:59 - 00:05:01
I saw the person create it, and then being a part of that transaction to get that shirt in the store and get that distribution was such a fundamental lesson, because ultimately, you can't build a business, you can't build a brand, you can't hire people. You can't impact change without brand awareness and distribution and having people be able to access the products that you make. So that was the early part of my career. I loved that, and I kept on hustling. I worked really hard at becoming an exceptional salesperson. And a lot of that was learning my products, loving the brands, and also loving my retailers. My buyers were my best friends because I had to build those wholesale relationships. And we had the pleasure of working with amazing up and coming brands that became huge companies, whether it was fresh jive or primitive skateboarding native shoes, or Komodo watches and many, many others.
Kellen Roland 00:05:01 - 00:05:53
And eventually, we started working in a company called Herschel Supply, which ended up being a globally recognized success. So I really loved that side of the business, and it kind of got me to where I am today. And we can get into the details of what I've been doing since then. But I love brands, I love consumers, and I love figuring out the calculus and how those two connect. I'm looking forward to talking about how do we do that in 2024 with AI Internet and social media when, you know, I remember back in the day, you would have to write your orders on a piece of paper that had a carbon copy. No one knows what I'm talking about at this point. And you had to mail the orders to the home office so that they could put the production order in to make the clothes. So I'm dating myself.
Ramon Berrios 00:05:53 - 00:06:23
Yeah, no, I love that. And I think, you know, as you mentioned, AI, like, the timing right now is very prime for a specific brand that adopts it at the right time, creates the perfect plan. It's just going to explode unlike anything we've seen before. And I feel like amongst you know, what you mentioned about your journey, Herschel seemed like it was also sort of the perfect storm. I'm sure you know Herschel. Everyone knows about Herschel. Most people I talked to about Herschel say I had a Herschel backpack. We've seen that.
Ramon Berrios 00:06:24 - 00:06:49
We saw it in every high school. It touched multiple demographics, not just one. It was like an explosion. And I'm sure it was sort of a perfect storm type of thing. So how. How did that all come about? What was the perfect storm that you think happened there? Aside from the talent, the network, you know, the classic overnight success, it was the network and the skills you had built up to that point, what were sort of the elements that created this boom with Herschel?
Kellen Roland 00:06:50 - 00:07:57
You know, it starts with an idea and a vision. And the founders of Herschel, Jamie and Lyndon Cormac, they were so clear on what they wanted to do, and they had really great backgrounds in building other brands for other people. And when they built Herschel, they identified a moment in time where people needed accessories. People were wanting to express themselves with, whether it was their headphones or socks. There was this category that was completely kind of untouched, meaning an aesthetically designed backpack that was aspirational but yet affordable. And that was this key thing. And we used to always kind of say this, which is, it's not easy to design something that's really, really expensive, but it's really freaking hard to design something that's a affordable but beautiful and very functional. So when you look at the timing of when they started the brand, you know, independent retailers were blowing up all across America, and there was a huge need for accessories.
Kellen Roland 00:07:57 - 00:08:51
And there was a trend happening with menswear, you know, whether it was denim and boots and, you know, different types of flannels and, you know, men started to kind of, like, groom themselves in a different way. You know, there was this kind of self care thing happening, and what they did was they captured this really interesting aesthetic, which was nostalgic. It was nostalgic and it was familiar, but it was modern. And when you have those ingredients, you can really capture a consumer. And on the business side, Jamie and Lyndon, they were very focused on showing up properly. We have beautiful lookbooks, incredible samples, and opportunities to go out there and sell. Where we came into the equation was we represented them for the US. And they called our office to do the trade show.
Kellen Roland 00:08:51 - 00:09:39
They were going to do an exhibit, an agenda, and we identified this brand and thought, wow, they have something here. Like, it would be amazing if we could represent them in the US. So I called up the brothers and made my pitch. And after weeks of going back and forth, we ended up agreeing on a deal where the network agency would represent Herschel for the US. And we just hit the ground running. And, you know, one thing that happened, you know, in hindsight, everything makes sense. But at the time, we really went out there and we did business with the best retailers in every category. So whether it was scape or it was modern, or it was contemporary, or it was like unique distribution, we wanted to do business with all the best retailers.
Kellen Roland 00:09:39 - 00:10:35
And I think that allowed us to really grow our footprint rapidly. And over the years, we really built solid relationships with our buying partners. And we would go into each deal with our retailers and ask ourselves, how do we treat a waiting environment? They're going to invest in this brand, so when they invest in this brand, they have to get a return. So we got to give them the best product, incredible displays, and work on a deal to where they want to invest in the brand long term. And that introduction ended up in a ten year relationship. And we worked with Herschel up until their ten year anniversary. And in 2017, they ended up acquiring mine agency, which was called the network that I was the co founder of, because we were a really important piece of the puzzle. And it was a great opportunity to merge the company and go in.
Kellen Roland 00:10:35 - 00:11:03
And everybody that worked at network got an opportunity to go work at Herschel. And then I worked there for about three years as their vp at sales. And that was an awesome opportunity because I went from owning a company where I was the person in charge, I was creating all the strategies, and whether it's employee handbooks or how do we go to market with the incredible leadership team of the network to then going and working at a really big company where I got to learn a whole new set of skills.
Yeah. Kellen, I wanted to kind of follow up on that Herschel thing with you. Know, one topic we cover a lot on d. Two, c pot is breaking into retail looking for distribution advantages. And, you know, we talk about it a lot in, in the CPG side of things, but I'd love to. Like, if you could kind of characterize and paint the picture of what the retail landscape looks like up in apparel, accessories, et cetera. Like what's the landscape like if you're launching a brand in fashion, apparel, accessories, this sort of thing, you know, provided you've set up your shopify store, you're selling a couple of units online. Like what does that playbook look like to get to market? And what does it look, what do the deals look like with, with retailers?
Kellen Roland 00:11:45 - 00:13:01
Yeah, it's the right question to ask. And the environment is changing fast. So whenever you're going to set up a business relationship, and I think this applies to everything, strategic partnerships, firing high level employees, taking on an investor or going to retail, you have to have a unique offering. So if you're going to be a brand, it has to be a win win situation. If you're walking into a retailer and you're saying, hey, retailer, I want to sell you this t shirt, it looks just like every other t shirt, but because I'm selling it to you, I really need you to buy it, you're not going to get any traction. So first and foremost, does the market need what you're making? And if you've created a unique product with a unique selling point of view and a unique selling principles, you gotta find retailers that have your core conceit and you go to that retailer and you have to knock on their door. And if you can get a warm introduction, great. But ultimately you're trying to talk to the buyer, you're gonna explain to them why your brand exists and what you do differently than anything else they carry in their store and make the pitch that you're an and you want to be an and product in sales.
Kellen Roland 00:13:01 - 00:14:09
If you walk in and say, hey, I'm going to sell you some jeans, but you got to drop that other Jean brand that you already have an account with, you already know the rep, you're already doing business, it's not really compelling. But if you can walk in and say, hey, I have a new type of bottom, it's a different material and I'm going to allow you grow your revenue. I'm going to allow you to get new customers in the door, you're going to get that buyers attention, and then depending on the size of the retailer. So to independent retailer, you're generally going to be selling to that retailer at what would be called Keystone, which is your standard markup. You sell the product wholesale for $40, it retails for 80. That retailer is going to pay $40 for that product and you'll be on net 30 or maybe net 45 terms. Then from there, if you do business with a larger retailer, generally they're going to ask you for some sort of an additional discount that is going to cover their cost of operations. If they have 50 stores, 100 stores, they'll have margin targets like IMu guarantees.
Kellen Roland 00:14:09 - 00:15:10
They'll have discounts, they'll have return agreements so that if things don't sell, they might get sent back to the brand or they're marked down and liquidated at a low price point. And you may have to contribute some money to kind of right siding the margin. So for anybody that's listening to this, really do your homework. And when you're setting up those vendor agreements, read every detail and do not agree to anything you don't understand. And one of my primary principles in life is never be afraid to raise your hand and say, I don't understand. Explain this to me. You don't look smart by nodding along and then agreeing to something that you're going to regret down the line, or agreeing to something that. What's an example? A good example of that is understanding the nuances of a margin agreement.
Kellen Roland 00:15:10 - 00:16:04
So if there's a margin agreement with a retailer, they could say, we need a guaranteed margin of 55% at the end of the year. Well, let's say you sell them all their product at a 60% margin. If everything sells at full price, you're good, you don't owe them anything. But what if you have a bad colorway or retail goes down and you have to sell a bunch of stuff at discount? Your margin could be 50% and you have to cover the gap per that agreement. And if you have a multi hundred thousand dollar business or a multi million dollar business, you may find yourself writing a substantial check at the end of the year. So it's better to ask questions upfront and don't be afraid to negotiate. Everything is up for discussion.
Ramon Berrios 00:16:04 - 00:17:04
Yeah, I think, you know, it's, it's funny how you mentioned basically what you want to do is find a, find yourself in a position of adding value to the retailer. And one of the things that makes me think about is we've had some guests on the podcast that they waited to build such an audience that they got the retailers inbound because the value they had for the retailer is that they have a massive presence on social media and so their value to the retailer is I'm going to unlock a new demographic to you. I'm going to unlock, I already have a big customer base and I'm going to drive foot traffic to your retailer. And this seems to be something that, like, wasn't as prevalent in 2018. You know, streetwear brands were more like colts and, you know, whereas now it's like the brand itself has power to build such a presence online that the retailer wants the exposure and the brand might have more value to the retailer than the retailer to the brand.
Kellen Roland 00:17:04 - 00:18:14
The interesting thing about that is it's totally different than how we did it, but it's the exact same. And this is the way the world works. It's a lot of repeating similar patterns, but they look differently, but if you examine them, they're similar. So what that used to look like was you'd launch a brand, you'd identify the top tier boutiques in all the relevant cities, you would sell that brand to those boutiques, you would create excitement, you would have that brand carry your product, which immediately gave you credibility within their market. It also gave you the guilty by association because that brand a is next to brand b, you get to be part of that and then you would get coverage in whatever the publications were at that time and then that was your audience. So you'd, you'd be building these evangelists in those different regions because there wasn't really online. And then once you hit critical mass and you were the IT brand, the retailers would come knocking. Today that Playbook is direct to consumer huge social media, massive email lists.
Kellen Roland 00:18:14 - 00:18:47
You know, like, you can go to a retailer today and be like, I have a million people on my email list and 30% open and I sell x percent. Every time I drop a product, that retailer is going to listen because those are the metrics of today. Because we used to discover things by walking around. I know, it's shocking. It's crazy. We used to literally like, go somewhere and be like, let's walk around and kind of see what's up, because you did not have a directory of the world. Now we discovered through social. Right.
Kellen Roland 00:18:47 - 00:19:27
And that's fine. So what I would say to anybody listening to this, don't get too concerned with today's latest technology or today's latest, you know, social media or anything like that. Understand that you're always trying to get from where you are to the end consumer and whatever's in the middle. It's our job as brand builders and operators to figure out whatever that medium is and appropriately show up. So when it's Instagram, you got to show up this way. When it's TikTok, you got to show up this way. If it's about having a podcast, you got to show up this way. And we don't know what it's going to be next year.
Kellen Roland 00:19:28 - 00:19:55
I mean, if someone said to any of us five or six years ago, ten years ago, is there going to be a social media that, that dwarfs Instagram in, you know, attention and growth metrics, we all would have laughed and said, no way, Instagram has locked. And then here we are with TikTok. So, and we don't know what that is going to be in 2025. But what we do know is that something is coming because change is the only thing that is guaranteed.
Ramon Berrios 00:19:55 - 00:20:45
What is the. So through that life cycle of DTC, you know, you were retailer, it seems like we went through this like, ads crazy era. Now we're sort of making a momentum back into retailers and these sort of marketplaces again, which you could consider these trade show marketplaces, because that's what they are. They give exposure to these brands through that journey that you were going through. What were the biggest challenges you had? Because you didn't have a directory of the world, you know, you're doing retail and from the outside, everything like, looks like a huge success. But I'm sure there had to be some hurdles across your career, maybe when ads came out, having to reinvent, what does distribution look like? So I'm very curious of, like, what were your biggest challenges career wise and, like, adopting throughout that curve?
Kellen Roland 00:20:45 - 00:22:04
I think the main thing for everybody to just acknowledge is there's always going to be a problem. There's always going to be a challenge. The only variable is how are you going to show up and react? Are you going to wither away and quit? Are you going to grab your toys and scurry out of the playroom? Or are you going to take a breath and say, what's going on? When you're growing a brand? One of the biggest things that everyone should be learning and is demand planning, right? Because understanding how much product you need to make and how much you potentially can sell is a huge variable. Because when you're in a branded world, your inventory is your biggest liability, right? Like if you have a bunch of unsellable inventory that usually will lead to a brand, you know, sometimes going out of business. So I would say always trying to understand what's your demand planning. And then also we have to be agile. Our job is to serve the customer. There's only a few apples of the world where they have the liberty.
Kellen Roland 00:22:05 - 00:23:16
We make what the world wants and then the world figures it out. But I think for some mere mortals, you got to listen and be in tune with customers. When customers change their taste, the brand has to figure out, am I going to change with that taste change? Am I going to stay dedicated to my core consumer or am I going to reinvent myself and try to create a new trend? Because ultimately, in a world where we all want to be different, even though we're all very much the same in so many ways, if everybody's wearing one thing, then eventually everyone's going to want to do something different. So how do you stay agile and adapt to what's going on? And it's all curiosity. Like, you can learn anything. You know, when online became big, it was like wholesale, and online started to compete. You know, it's like, well, I want to grow the direct to consumer business, but I want to grow the wholesale business. So if I'm setting up a brand today, I'm making sure that that group of people online plus the wholesale are mutually incentivized.
Kellen Roland 00:23:16 - 00:23:52
So then everyone wins versus if online wins and wholesale loses, that has the potential to create not great energy versus how can we work together? Because ultimately the consumer doesn't give a shit. They don't care. They don't care either. They're either walking down the street, they want to buy. They're on their phone, they want to buy, they're online, on their laptop, they want to buy. They're not concerned with the brand's needs and wants. They just want their stuff when they need it at the right time, at the right price.
Kellen, one thing that you talked about, about Herschel was how it kind of came out of nowhere but captured this sort of massive market opportunity that the market really wanted.
Kellen Roland 00:24:03 - 00:24:03
And now we're talking about the shifts in the environment, how, you know, people consume a little bit differently, how retail, like, how as a brand, your strategy has to be a little bit, you know, it has to match the direct side as well as the retail side. I'm curious if you've seen any brands recently that have done, like, a really great job of, like, you know, capturing the zeitgeist, uh, of like, the modern era and launching, like, a strategy where they're rolling into retail well, as well as online well, like, what are some of the new brands that, like, we should know about and some that have, like, stood out to you, what are the things they did that made you be like, oh, wow, like, they're killing it?
Kellen Roland 00:24:44 - 00:25:10
Yeah. Um, there, there's a few brands that I really like, and. And maybe just to clarify, also grew at a great pace, but it didn't come out of nowhere. It's like it was a slow grind, but it created a lot of consumer adoption really quick. People really keyed into the brand, but it was a long path to grow to where it is today. And, I mean, it's a dog fight every day. So. Okay, so brands that I like.
Kellen Roland 00:25:11 - 00:25:39
So, number one, I'm obsessed with robot vacuums, which is completely just out of this world. And I'm constantly buying them and testing them and then sometimes returning them because they're not great. But the brand that I have my eye on today is not a clothing company. Company. But they're using what I would say is the clothing company playbook. And it's an olive oil company called Gros. And I'm so intrigued by this company. Right.
Kellen Roland 00:25:39 - 00:26:11
Category, boring, complicated, very kind of designs all look the same. The bottles all look the same. Then this brand comes out. It's lighthearted, it's in a new form factor, and it has a playful design. So it's a squeeze bottle versus the glass bottle. And they start to build a world because they take something that is kind of complicated, opaque, which is olive oil, which is. There's so many different types. And they say, you know what? There's actually two major types of olive oil you need to be aware of.
Kellen Roland 00:26:11 - 00:27:14
Olive oil that you cook with and olive oil that you use as a finisher on a salad or something like that. And then they roll out these products with, like, streetwear tactics, like billboards, teasing on instagram. They're making chips. Why are they making chips? They make a soap. Why are they making soap? They make a refillable out of their can, which I think was a great move because, you know, people are very kind of, it's sensitive topic with plastic. So to have a refillable option, but you could take everything that gros is doing and put a sneaker in the ad and you wouldn't have to change anything. So I think that's really fascinating to see CPG companies actually taking the playbooks from street wear and fashion and applying that to grocery store distribution Nguyen Coffee is another one that's doing really interesting stuff. Very active and has a great community.
Kellen Roland 00:27:15 - 00:28:14
Rocky's matcha, also doing incredible work on the higher end of the matcha market. And I'm also just a sucker for childhood nostalgia. I grew up eating craft macaroni and cheese, and I would recommend you eat that now, at least in quantities, because it could be bad for you. But there's new versions of macaroni cheese. There's one called goodles that, again, it's playful, it's fun, it tastes great. So I'm really enthralled with the CPG market kind of reinventing itself, because at the end of the day, there's a bit of a problem going on in America. Like, the health statistics are not great. There's an epidemic of type two diabetes, and there's an obesity problem, and people are dying from diseases that a lot of really intelligent scientists and doctors think are preventable through lifestyle changes.
Kellen Roland 00:28:14 - 00:28:46
So, yeah, I think we're ready for kind of a rebirth of, like, you know, what do we consume? Because, like, to me, food is, you know, it's how you feel. You know, it's. It's. It's the. It's the fuel we put in our bodies. And, you know, I'm a new dad, so, like, I want my daughter to live a really long time, and I love my neighbors and my fellow american, you know, citizens and the global community at large. Like, people just. I want people to be healthy and feel good and have access, because in LA, it's easy to have access to healthy food.
Kellen Roland 00:28:46 - 00:28:58
But, you know, there's a lot of parts of the country in the world where they don't have the access that I do, and I don't take it for granted. And I'm really hoping that there's going to be a big shift coming.
Ramon Berrios 00:28:58 - 00:29:38
When you put it like that, it just shows you how early we are in the entire CPG space. Um, you know, it's wild that people consume supplements that we have no clue where these ingredients are coming from. Where are they stored? I think we've had some guests where, like, you know, hey, it's not just like, what it has is like, how are they stored? And if they're in a container and they're not properly packaged or regulated or certified, like, they don't have the right certification. You know, things can leak from one container to another in chemicals. And, like, we just have no clue what's in these supplements. And all of this is going to change over time because the consumers get smarter.
Kellen Roland 00:29:38 - 00:30:26
Yeah, I mean, you guys had the founder of momentous on. It was an incredible interview. I'm a big customer of momentous, and it's a bit of. There's. There's a bit of a wild wild west nature to some of these categories that, you know, I think as, as humans or citizens, we consume, assuming that they're, they're regulated and they're controlled. But if you really dive in, there's not. And, you know, definitely shout out to momentous for taking the extra step and doing what is needed to make sure that what they're selling is what they say it is and that it's certified that by, you know, non, kind of like non interested parties. And I think he told a story on the show where he maybe kind of killed a whole order of vitamin D because it got contaminated.
Kellen Roland 00:30:26 - 00:30:51
And that's a really big thing for us as consumers to decide where do we want to put our money in? Because at the end of the day, when we put our money into a brand, we're voting and we're saying, hey, we agree with your moral standards. We agree with how you show up in the world. We agree with how you produce those. It was really, it was heartening to hear that because I think they were showing a really good example of how all brands can show up.
We are really excited to announce that DTC pod is officially part of the HubSpot podcast network. The HubSpot podcast network is the audio destination for business professionals. And we're really excited about being part of the network because we're going to be able to keep growing the show, bringing you guys amazing guests, and obviously helping you guys learn from the best founders, marketers and builders of the most successful consumer brands. So anyway, keep listening to DTC pod and more shows like us on the HubSpot podcast network@HubSpot.com.
Ramon Berrios 00:31:21 - 00:32:30
Podcastnetwork the common trade between these brands you're mentioning is like, you can tell that that's, that what they do is in their DNA, and they show the consumers their DNA by actions, not with just beautiful copy or beautiful packaging. And that is the very big difference between the brands that can make a brand that is everlasting is that they show up with their actions and you can like, oh, okay, that's why they would do that. And they're like, well, why would they do that? And then they do something else. And you tie the dots around and you feel like you're starting to get invested into the brand and you see what they stand for. And that's a very different strategy than just hiring an agency, that it's just going to do a beautiful packaging and you think a video is going to go viral on TikTok and it might, and it might be successful in the beginning but that's not necessarily going to build an everlasting brand, and that's what a lot of strategy and positioning that you do is about. So I want to circle back to the question Blaine asked in terms of what's different. Different? I think one of the most different concepts I've ever seen, it has been Jupiter itself. That isn't either or any of the ones we've discussed here.
Ramon Berrios 00:32:30 - 00:32:51
So you ran Jupiter with Pharrell, and I'm curious, during the pitching of this, it's a pretty wild idea. I remember reading everything, and I had so many questions about it. So what specifically about the Jupiter project made it unique in its own way and made you excited about it?
Kellen Roland 00:32:52 - 00:34:10
It was a, you know, it's such an incredible moment in, you know, my career, and I'm not afraid to kind of say when you're around really special things happening. Right. I think it's important to recognize when culture is shifting and when you're in the room where really no idea is too big. And, you know, working with Burrell was such an inspiring time in my career because he really worked with this energy and imagination and creativity that I had never seen kind of firsthand before. And ultimately, he had a vision. You know, he had a vision around being a lifelong collector and a lifelong storyteller and somebody who is constantly pushing the boundaries on culture and, frankly, creating culture. And he had this collection that he eventually felt like it was the time to part ways with it. And when he presented the high level concept of the idea, it was really my job, along with other team members and working alongside him, to really do study on the market and figure out what's the best way to tell this story, what's the best way to present these goods.
Kellen Roland 00:34:11 - 00:35:43
And I loved it because I got to learn all about auctions, and I got to learn about building a technology platform that didn't exist in the way that we built it. And it was this concept of, how do you bring the most coveted cultural artifacts to the widest audience? Through storytelling and a state of the art digital platform. Because it wasn't about creating this closed wall kind of auction environment that only a few people were invited into. It was about bringing these cultural artifacts to a massive audience. So when the company was launched, there was an exhibition in New York where his collection was on display, and it was beautiful. I think over a two day period, so many people came through and were able to spend time with these iconic pieces, whether it was a watch or a shoe or a necklace. And to see, you know, whether it was fans or people that just kind of were in New York and saw the commotion. To see them engage with these cultural artifacts was such a powerful moment for me because it really cemented the vision of the company, which was, how do we celebrate these iconic objects and then auction them in a really elegant way to where, you know, that ownership, that.
Kellen Roland 00:35:43 - 00:35:51
That, you know, the provenance could be transferred from one collector to a new collector, and then they could go off and continue to live life.
Ramon Berrios 00:35:53 - 00:36:50
One. One question I have about sort of like, you know, being in that room where nothing is, like, too out there, no dream is too big. You've had the experience of working with people like this. So you have data points. What are the traits that make people level up to be, you know, to the Kobe, like, level versus people that you can identify, like, to put it in some ways, like, are leveling up or are stuck in their own ways and the old ways, like, how do you. You have to constantly be reinventing yourself to eventually get to a level like that? So what are the traits you see in these people that it's like, man, that's exactly why they're. They are the way they are. And I'm asking this question in opes where, you know, operators that are listening to this, that, you know, might feel like they've been stuck at the same revenue range for way too long or whatever it is.
Ramon Berrios 00:36:50 - 00:36:58
And sometimes it's timing, right? Like, sometimes it's not you as a person, it's just like, your timing isn't right. So, curious on your take there.
Kellen Roland 00:36:59 - 00:38:05
Yeah. It's interesting that you bring up Kobe, you know, growing in LA. Growing up in LA, my dad was a lifelong Lakers fan, and I used to remember sitting on his lap watching magic Johnson playing. Growing up in the peak kind of Kirby era, you know, you become a fan, and I became a really big fan. And not only is him off on the court, but just his work ethic and how he showed up. You know, the one characteristic that I kind of have seen across, you know, mentors that I've had the pleasure of being in the room with, but also mentors that I've just collected through books, through interviews, is you can't give up. Right? And you can't give in to the initial knee jerk reaction of, oh, that's not going to work. And you have to remind yourself that if you're going to come up with a truly unique or disruptive idea, it's probably not going to make sense the first time you tell somebody.
Kellen Roland 00:38:05 - 00:38:52
And if your idea is so easily understood. It's probably already being done, right? So how do you dream big and how do we keep going? Right? Because, you know, I'm really into meditation, and, you know, I'm trying to be as a spiritual person as I could be and be as present as I could be. And, you know, I listened to this guy named Eckhart tolle a lot. And, you know, in one of his books at New Earth, he tells a story that I'm going to get some of it wrong, but you'll get the gist. It's like, you know, a guy is, you know, living in a town, and, you know, he ends up winning a car, and everybody is like, oh, my God, like, you're the luckiest person ever. He's like, yeah, maybe. So. He's driving his car.
Kellen Roland 00:38:53 - 00:39:09
He ends up getting into an accident. Oh, my God. He breaks his leg. He's in the hospital. Everyone's like, oh, my God, you're so unlocked. Like, that's crazy. Like, your leg is broken. He's like, maybe while he's in the hospital, a big rainstorm comes, and the house that he lives in is, like, kind of washed away.
Kellen Roland 00:39:10 - 00:39:39
He would have died. And again, people come and they say, you're so lucky. And his answer is maybe. And the reason is that it's really hard to quantify what's good or bad and where we're going to end up in life. So today may be the hardest day of your life. And I have empathy for you. And if it is, I hope that you have some friends, some people to call, some family members to get you through it. And today could be the best day.
Kellen Roland 00:39:40 - 00:40:26
But both of those people could be in completely different situations tomorrow or ten years from now. So what feels like a dead end might just be an opportunity to try something new, you know? So when I look at the most kind of elite people, you know, like, I look at, you know, like, whether, like a bob iger or people in, you know, that I've had the pleasure of working with or people that I look up to. The other thing is they're just fucking relentless. They're just relentless. If they. If you say, like, here's a great example. If you're a salesperson or an operator here, I'll give you two scenarios. If you're a salesperson and you call someone and you say, hey, I want to sell you this new product.
Kellen Roland 00:40:26 - 00:41:25
And they say, okay, all right, I'm going to call you back in 30 minutes. Okay. It's 30 minutes. What are you going to do? The relentless person is going to call that person back and say, hey, it's 31 minutes. You said you were going to call what's up? And they're willing to absorb that friction in those uncomfortable moments because they're so committed to getting the job done that that minutiae is inconsequential to them. Or let's say you're an operator and you're trying to figure out how to ship something or you need something done, and you call the customer service line and you don't get to anybody. What are you going to do? Are you going to go on LinkedIn? Are you going to message every person that works there? Are you going to dm the chief operating officer of this company? Because you can find them on Instagram. And, like, I'm not saying that I'm perfect.
Kellen Roland 00:41:25 - 00:41:49
I don't do that every single day. And I'm not just on all the time. But if you really want to win, you have to ask yourself, when am I going to give up? And if the answer is I'm never going to give up, you have a really good chance of winning. And at the end of the day, you also have to be willing to imagine something that is completely unreasonable.
Ramon Berrios 00:41:49 - 00:42:24
Yeah. And, Kellen, I think one of the common traits of these visionaries, too, is, like, it's just that, that they have a vision, too, and they know that this is a crucial step. The vision is so big and so clear that if I trip on this one step, forget about it. This is a must. Every single break, it's like, has to be laid out in order to get there. And they are relentless because they're already sold on that vision. They know they're helping you out. And you might think that this person is bothering you by trying to present this opportunity to you, but they're sold and convinced that this is actually going to play out.
Ramon Berrios 00:42:24 - 00:42:54
And when you see it play out, you're going to be grateful that this opportunity was presented to you. So, um, I want to shift, as we get towards the end of the conversation, into AI. And, like, everything that you're seeing happening in AI right now. We've talked about the evolution of everything. CPG, DTC. I've seen your post. I know you're getting your hands into AI outside of just the home vacuums. You're actually digging into these tools and playing around with them.
Ramon Berrios 00:42:54 - 00:43:10
So, like, what, what do you see as the next phase of. Of CPG? I mean, is it going to catch us all by surprise? Like, what should we be doing in, like, integrating it into our workflow every day. I know you're even integrating into your productivity. Like, what's. What suggests.
Kellen Roland 00:43:10 - 00:43:52
Here's the thing. It's. It's. It's a tool like any other tool. You know, Google architect from the forties. It's like a bunch of dudes in, like, a room, like, drawing shit on, like, these giant tables, right? Like, that was Photoshop, right? Like, that was like, think of the printing press. So when technology comes around, it's your job to dive in and try to learn as much as you can. And for us, we're so fe lucky, because if you have the luxury of an Internet connection, you can learn anything on YouTube, Twitter, whatever.
Kellen Roland 00:43:52 - 00:45:04
So when I look at AI, I am beyond excited, because it is not only fascinating to see how fast it's changing, but it's really helping me on a day to day basis with my workflow and growing my consulting business, and then also just learning things that used to take months takes weeks. What took a week can take a day. So on a very practical end, I have an AI virtual assistant that does all of my schedule. So if you email with me and you're talking to Clara, that's an AI, and I'm talking, like, reschedules back and forth since times. And, you know, that was a big time suck, right? So there's one area. The other area of it is what you need to solve, like, a problem, you know? And I think, Ramon, what you're referring to is I messed my email up because I moved my website from Squarespace to WordPress. I had no idea I needed to update all of these DNS settings. So I just went into cha GBT, told them what was going on, and it pointed me to a solution, and I just copied and pasted the whole page, put all the information on it.
Kellen Roland 00:45:04 - 00:45:52
It told me every line of the DNS that was incorrect, and then I fixed it. So to me, I look at it, AI has a force multiplier. It turns one person into ten people, ten people into 100 people, and I love it as a get starting. It's like. It's like rocket fuel. I want to write a pitch, I give it a nice, solid, concise paragraph, break this out into a slide deck, and then all of a sudden, I have ten slides. What should the intro be? What should the body be? And then I have to go in and edit. And I think that's really important that people realize is that there's always going to be a need for human intervention, at least in the near term, to polish these things and make them personal.
Kellen Roland 00:45:53 - 00:46:32
Right? Like you want to write in your own voice, you know, you want to show up in your own voice. But to specifically answer your question when you're running a business, I'm super interested in AI, how it can help with customer service. To me, lowest hanging fruit. And if. If I'm doing it, I'm going to build maybe my own LLM or maybe I think they're new. There's one called the Laura, which is like a local, it's like a smaller language model. And I'm going to put all of my product information, weight it dimension, the gene, all the stuff on the labels. I'm going to load that into a chat.
Kellen Roland 00:46:32 - 00:48:15
Majority of people that hit up customer service are looking for a tracking number or they have like a, hey, what's the dimension of this box? And to me, that is going to take what used to be maybe ten to 15 people and reduce it down to like three people. Now, does that mean that it's about having less people on your payroll? Not necessarily, but then what it does is let's take those three people and because they're no longer doing the administrative side of customer service, let's up level our customer service. Let's have those three people engaging with our top customers, calling our customers, really getting in there and understanding how can we be a best product for this consumer group. So I love that. I think what you guys are doing with cask magic is super interesting in how do you take one type of content and, you know, periphery proliferate that type of content across Twitter, email, etcetera? And then the last thing I'm going to say, well, maybe not the last because I get talked for a long time, but I still think email is the most undervalued asset in this whole world because that is the direct line of communication to your customers. And if you can use AI to build a better and stronger email relationship with your customers, I think you are definitely very, very intelligent and I think that spans out to text message. And I would say the other very, very, very untapped ground is WhatsApp. Because once you go global, the usage rates on WhatsApp are mind boggling.
Kellen Roland 00:48:15 - 00:48:25
So there's a lot of. There's still white space out there, everybody. It's not as. It's not as saturated as the headlines may want you to think.
Yeah, that's Cal. That's a great point. And on the WhatsApp, a lot of times when I'm like buying from e commerce brands in different countries, like their sequences and follow ups are all, like, orchestrated through WhatsApp. But you're right, that's not something that we see a whole lot in the states as we kind of wrap up here. The one thing I wanted to get into is, what are you up to now? Tell us about, like, the consulting thing. You've had all these experiences across, you know, retail and consumer products and CPG and investing and working with Pharrell at Jupiter. So, like, what are you up to now? And how are you basically taking all these skills and putting them into, back into the world?
Kellen Roland 00:49:04 - 00:49:43
It's been a great ride, and I've had the honor of having an incredible career and working alongside talented people from day zero to today. And along that, I've learned a lot. I've learned a lot about building small companies. I've learned about fundraising. I've learned about creating revenue projections and financial models, and, frankly, how to win at retail and how to also show up as an executive. And that's through trial and error. Right? Like, I've showed up in a way that I'm so proud of. And I've also showed up in a way where I'm like, oh, I could have done that way better and I had to go learn.
Kellen Roland 00:49:43 - 00:51:05
So when I look at the consulting business that I'm building, number one is I like to find businesses and entrepreneurs that can really benefit from coaching in the perspective of how do we get this person to realize their team tab? Because, you know, Ramon, the other answer to the question you said earlier is lacking of belief. People that have a hard time succeeding don't believe in their ability to succeed, and that's you're done. So as a coach, how do I get you to break through whatever that story is that you're telling yourself so that you can then reach the next level? Because I truly believe that every day you can grow, you can get better, and you could show up. And the other thing I love is to help people plan how to grow their business. So working with brands and, you know, consumers and other folks on, I don't even grow. If we've gotten to 10 million, what's the plan to get to 15 million into 20 million? So revenue growth and coaching, and it's been great. You know, I get to meet a variety of new people. It also allows me to stay really sharp, and it challenges me to adapt to the new situations that I'm being kind of faced with.
Kellen Roland 00:51:05 - 00:52:04
And also, I mean, look, I'm still an entrepreneur. I'm 41. I'm not, you know, I'm far from done, I feel like my career is just getting started. So I'm also learning, how do I build a consulting business? Right? How do I get my game out there? How do I attract new clients? You know, I've been a company band for 20 years, you know, whether it was at the network agency or Herschel or imother or Jupiter. So, you know, now as a consultant and an advisor and a coach, I'm out there every day, you know, pitching people to take on, like, my services. So I'm also really grateful to you guys for giving me this platform and opportunity just to tell my story. This isn't, you know, a big sales pitch on why you should work with me. It's more of a, can you get value from this? Because ultimately, my entire career is peppered with people that were willing to help me listen to me and to be a part of me figuring things out and to become successful.
Kellen Roland 00:52:04 - 00:53:01
And I really believe that we all need more mentors, more people that we can call. And I think it's also kind of tough right now, because if you go online, if you go on LinkedIn, if you go on social media, there's a lot of copy and paste culture, right? It's like, hey, do these three things and you're gonna be successful. And it's like, maybe, but, like, maybe not, you know? Like, I don't think that you can just copy and paste. I'm gonna shuffle your revenue growth in two months if you do everything I say. I don't know. I mean, it works for some people, but I would imagine, especially as an entrepreneur, if you look at that, it could make you feel, like, inferior in the sense of, oh, my God, I don't have it figured out. And I think the big maybe truth that we all need to be way more upfront about is even the most successful businesses fucking struggle. And I mean struggle.
Kellen Roland 00:53:02 - 00:53:35
Like almost going out of business, almost running out of money. Like, look at any great entrepreneur story. Like, read any book. There are so many moments of near death. And once you realize that your heroes almost failed to, it should give you the confidence that is, keep going, keep fighting, keep searching, and keep learning. You know, to me, I'm most excited every day because I get to wake up and learn something new and I will never stop learning.
I really love that idea. And I think the simplest charge you put it in were like, you know, how badly do you want to get your answer right? Like, okay, if customer rep says no, like, where do you go? How many people, right? And it's that kind of idea that, like, if you want it bad enough, if you want to find a way to, like, find success, you'll be able to figure it out. You just keep going until something happens. And a lot of that, a lot of failure just comes from not having that level of persistence or commitment to it. So, um, I'll kind of leave it there, uh, for anyone who's listening and wants to connect with you, Kelly, where's the best place to find you? Why don't you shout out your LinkedIn Twitter? Like, where.
Kellen Roland 00:54:16 - 00:54:43
Where do we. Yeah, I mean, look, it's Kellen Rowland. It's, uh, I'm on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn. You could find me very easy. And then the website for the consulting company is KRMC Co. And I'll be sharing this podcast with my network. And yeah, if anybody wants to talk, I'm more than happy to meet anybody. And if I can be valuable to you, it would make me not.
Kellen Roland 00:54:43 - 00:55:03
It makes me very happy to help people be successful because I truly believe that without people mentoring me and being there for me, I could have had a much different life. And I'm very grateful for the lives that I've been given. And I'm going to continue to fight to work hard, add value to others. Sweet.
Well, thanks so much for coming on the show, Kellan.
Ramon Berrios 00:55:05 - 00:55:06
Thank you, Kellard.
Kellen Roland 00:55:06 - 00:55:08
Thank you guys. Appreciate you both.
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