About Robert Courtney

Robert Courtney is an innovator of disruptive business strategies, and a builder of the community through digital marketing, branding, and service. A desire to invest in the development of people and their personal brand has been a vision of his for over a decade. 

In 2008, he founded UNEEK, a barbershop turned global fashion line and events company that has seen the likes of over 500 events and sales in Austria, Australia, and various parts of the United States. In 2013, Robert began consulting people to help establish and define their brands. One year later, following the death of his father, he decided to give more time to this aspect of his business. 

Months leading up to his passing, many conversations they had centered on the importance of philanthropy, and that has become the resounding theme of Robert’s life. Helping people achieve a better presentation of themselves personally and professionally has become one of his main goals. A practical understanding of how to accomplish these things over social has created tremendous success in this regard. 

Robert Courtney & Associates is based around helping companies and individuals market and brand their ideas. The company teaches aspiring business owners on how to articulate their brand stories and successfully communicate their ideas on social media and many other cost-efficient platforms.

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00:00:00                               As so many teenagers find themselves, uh, or, or, or people who are now in their, in their early twenties, but as teenagers they were just lazy and they, and I think kind of, you know, don’t have that push or, or don’t have certainly the drive that you have now at this point. Talk to us a little bit about that background to give other people an idea of, of, you know, there’s no, I think there’s this idea about entrepreneurs that we somehow are birthed at from the womb and we’re just immediately this way and we’re driven the way that we are. And for most of us, uh, most entrepreneurs, that’s just not the case. And I think you’re kind of your, your story is reflective of that also.

00:00:51                               Let’s do this. Let’s do it. We are excited today here at the Jerry Breezy podcast because we have a special guest, Robert Courtney. Uh, Robert Courtney is the founder, uh, of social media and he is the, excuse me. Let me try that again. He has a company founder and a social media and brand strategist. Uh, the founder of Robert Courtney and associates, a marketing and branding agency. Uh, also the founder of unique collection, a lifestyle apparel brand and events company. Uh, you can go check that out at where? w e a r u n e e where Robert Courtney is an innovator in disruptive business strategist and a builder of community through digital marketing, branding, and service. He has a desire to invest into the development of people and their personal brand and has been a vision of his for over a decade. In 2008, he founded unique, a barbershop turned global fashion line and Events Company that has seen the likes of over 500 events in sales in Austria, Australia, and various parts of the United States.

00:01:57                               In 2003, Robert began consulting with people to help establish and define their brands. A year later, following the death of his father, Robert decided to give more time to this aspect of his business months leading up to his passing. Many conversations that had centered on the importance of philanthropy and that has become the resounding theme of Robert’s life. Helping people achieve a better presentation of themselves personally and professionally has become one of his main goals. A practical understanding of how to accomplish these goals over social media has created Temet tremendous success in this regard. Robert Courtney and associates is based around helping companies and individuals market and brand their ideas. The company teaches aspiring business owners how to articulate their brands and successfully communicate their ideas on social media and many other cost efficient platforms. You can find out everything about Robert Courtney at www, and with that said, it is my pleasure. We’re very excited to have him on a Robert. How are you doing my friend?

00:02:59                               I’m doing good. I’m just sitting here trying to like make it through that bio so hard listening to someone read it.

00:03:07                               Yeah, we read about what you did. Yeah. What you’ve done. Yeah. Yeah. Well that’s the good part. That’s the best part about being an entrepreneur is staying humble. I don’t know about you, but it makes me real uncomfortable too whenever anybody’s introducing me. Yeah, yeah, that’s exactly right. So, uh, this podcast is all about entrepreneurs getting started. How does that work? What do we do? And so, um, with that being said, take a few minutes and kind of introduce us to you and give us some background on you. I’ve got some questions, particularly about a, going from a, from cutting hair to having a, uh, uh, the unique brand, uh, and what, and, and, and, and kind of how you got into that. We talked about this a little bit earlier. Uh, so give us that background and kind of tell us about yourself and where you come from.

00:03:58                               Yeah, for sure. So I’m from the Metro Detroit area. I, um, as mentioned, I started my path and the entrepreneurship in about 2004, 2005 I was laid off from a, from a, what I thought would be a job that I would retire from and basically kind of went through this, um, mental, I guess, you know, um, period where I decided that I wouldn’t allow a company or someone have so much control to where they can kind of rip my life away from me. And, uh, it, it put me in a position where I had to figure out how I would provide for myself at the time. And so looking at my options, it just felt like entrepreneurship, which, you know, I didn’t, we didn’t really use that term entrepreneurship in 2003, 2004, but you know, something where I would be in control, something where I would be in, in, in control of the amount of money that I’ve made in my future, um, is what I decided to do.

00:05:07                               So the thing that I kind of fell back on at the time when I lost the job was cutting hair. Um, it was a skill that I knew I could do well enough to where I could get people to actually pay me for it. And so, um, made a few calls, ended up finding a friend who knew a friend who allowed me to work into in their barber shop and started going to school to cut hair. And within two years I was part owner of the barbershop and then a year following that I bought the current owner out. And the idea was that I would use that barbershop and then possibly franchise that shop around the current, the area that I was in, um, had no background in business at no marketing degrees, no business degrees. I went to school, um, in 1999 to actually be a graphic designer on a basketball scholarship.

00:06:09                               So business was not in my blood. Um, I did always as a kid, just kind of, you know, think about what I would do with businesses differently. Like if it was my business, like how would I change the logo or what would my tagline be or how would my jingle go? And I did that a lot. And I would joke around about, you know, opening up, um, um, franchise or businesses for my family, however, never thought about running or owning a business per se. And so that venture often to buy a barbershop was strictly on impulse. It was strictly based out of adversity and something that I felt was necessary for me to create any type of, uh, happiness or any type of feeling of success at the time. And so started the journey there and then realize real fast that owning the barbershop required an awful lot of time.

00:07:10                               And so, um, as I thought through what would be the best for me based on my personality and my skill sets and the things that I did well, um, I decided that, you know, I wouldn’t open up any more barbershops and that I wanted to do something that would allow me to work remotely, be able to move around, be able to travel. And so the name unique always kind of stood out to me as, um, a cool name for a fashion brand. And again, had no experience with fashion, no experience with clothing, retail, merchandising, any of the, any of those things. However, I just had a real kind of burning determination to succeed at the time. And so just kind of followed that itch and dive into the clothing arena. And at the time it was 2008 2009 anything that you really try at that particular time with the economy, the way it was, you know, was taken a chance.

00:08:14                               Like everything was a big risk at that point, you know, so dived into that and here we are, you know, 10 years later almost. And those three, four years probably I would say is the cornerstone of everything that I am today because I birthed my entrepreneurial desire. I, you know, experienced not working for somebody I experienced. The flexibility of controlling your day and putting in is much time and energy into something to get the results for you and your team and your family and not doing it for someone else. And from that point, you know, I kinda think I opened up Pandora’s box to some degree because I’ve been in this whole this rabbit hole ever since. Just, you know, whatever I feel is something that I want to go after. I’ve, you know, attempted to go after it successfully and unsuccessfully. And those, that path ultimately has led me to my current situation, which is my marketing company, which probably occupies 75 to 80% of my time while my partner kind of mans the fashion brand. And I have other partners that I’m controlling and monitor the barbershop, all of which you still are still active in and fully operational. My personal endeavors and concentration is mainly at this point on growing and building our social media agency.

00:09:51                               So let me ask you a question going back. Uh, uh, and I love this story. So going back though even a little bit further, uh, the, the, I think you’re hitting on part of the issue that I hear all the time about entrepreneurs, which is, well, I have no experience. Uh, and then also kind of where people come from. And you told me a story, I think you started cutting hair when you were nine or 10 years old for money in the, in the basement, but that you weren’t a very driven kid. And I don’t want to put words in your mouth as, as my note was that, uh, that as so many teenagers find themselves, uh, or, or, or people who are now in their, in their early twenties, but as teenagers, they were just lazy and they, and, and I think kind of, you know, don’t have that push or, or don’t have certainly the drive that you have now at this point. Talk to us a little bit about that background to give other people an idea of, of, you know, there’s no, I think there’s this idea about entrepreneurs that we somehow are birthed at from the womb and we’re just immediately this way. And uh, we’re driven the way that we are and for most of us, most entrepreneurs, that’s just not the case. And I think you’re kind of your, your story is reflective of that also.

00:11:01                               Yeah, absolutely. Oh, and I love that you bring that up. I think as a kid, I think our conversation, um, I was kind of telling you about how, you know, I was based on, based on my upbringing, I was an extremely lazy kid based on the definition of what lazy was, you know, in terms of being x to clean my room in terms of being asked to cut the grass or you know, run an Aaron or wash dishes. I absolutely hated, absolutely hated these things. And so my recollection of my childhood is that, you know, I would be called Lazy, you know, from peers and parents and aunts and uncles and things like that. Um, even in school for s for subjects and for classes that I didn’t care, I got super average grades, even below average grades. However, the things that I cared about basketball are in drawing.

00:12:05                               Um, you know, these things I was super passionate about. If you, if you call me to play basketball at 5:00 AM 6:00 AM in the morning after no sleep, I would pop up with no problem, you know, and go to the basketball court. So, you know, those are things that I feel you need people in your life that understand that wiring and how to put you in the right position so that you can kind of leverage those things. And what I was speaking to you about also was the fact that at 19 years old I was making anywhere from a hundred to $150 a week. I’m cutting hair. Nice. And, and like I think about it now, I have a nine year old son. Cutting hair at night would just be like, it will be mind blowing. And also it would be like, I couldn’t imagine walking around with that type of money in this pocket. Did you have,

00:13:01                               did you have some concept of what 100 bucks was when you were nine years old?

00:13:06                               None at all. And I would go to school and I don’t even know if my parents know this, so they might hear this and actually get a kick out of it. But I would literally go to school. I would have 70, $80. And I remember, you know, there’ll be girls that I liked and I remember, um, buyin honeybuns and Hershey’s and juice boxes for like three, four different girls. And it just was like, I think about it in hindsight, like, like, what was I doing? I have money in my piggy bank under my mattress, you know, and it just, it wasn’t a big deal and I would go spend it and then not even think twice about it, but I’m just thinking back on it, it was like, I have so many entrepreneurial tendencies. It’s just you need people to make, to allow you to understand how you can use those tools and how to put you in the best possible positions to use those tools to be successful.

00:14:04                               Right. And, and I would add to that, uh, we all seem to have a, regardless of where we come from, we all seem to have a a moment that we can remember. That was kind of our, our, our, our push into entrepreneurs. There’s this, there’s this belief again, like I said, that, that, uh, I think, uh, uh, there’s some guys on social media that talk about that either you’re born an entrepreneur or you’re not, you know, and, and I don’t agree with that. I think that you can be made. And I think that most entrepreneurs, at least in my experience, and I know many, many, many of them have, uh, a moment that they can remember that that was the impetus for them to get started, uh, regardless of how much they knew about the business, about business. And so in your case,

00:14:52                               uh, you had a job, I think you were in your early twenties, if I remember right. And you were going to retire from that job. And what happened? And you know, I went into this job after working several quote unquote regular jobs are nine to five type of jobs from FedEx to General Motors to home depot. Um, you know, I worked at Verizon Wireless, I worked at a ton of these jobs constantly running into the same type of timeline where it was like six months to a year. And then I get fidgety, I get bored. Um, you know, oversleep, hang out too late, whatever the case may be, knowing that these things can result in not having the job no more. But the job in my mind was like, it’s nothing. They go out and get a good job. Like I did it so much to where like whatever, if I lose a job, I’ll go get another one.

00:15:51                               And then I got this job that I would eventually get let go from where the money was. So good. The benefits were so good. 401K you know, um, vacation time, my own vehicle, all of the perks that, you know, most people would feel is the job that the dream job that you would never want to, uh, you will never want to leave. And so no, everything was fine. Everything never missed a day, never was written up or disciplined. Um, you know, I even went above and beyond to try to be more on my p’s and q’s because of the fact that this was such an incredible, um, situation. And on a random normal day, I went in seven o’clock in the morning and had a note that I needed to report to the supervisors office, which absolutely never happens, you know, so immediately there was this feeling of something’s wrong.

00:16:55                               And when I w when I, you know, knocked on his door and opened his door and looked into his eyes, like I knew it was over and he never, he didn’t say a word to me and I could just tear like, I don’t know, he, I’m sure he wasn’t crying, but like, he just had like a misty, like he didn’t even want to break my heart getting ready to, and you know, I’m a, I’m a 22 year old kid, essentially. Literally just bought, like my truck was probably two weeks old. My house was probably eight months. Um, it had been about eight months since I had purchased it. So I had a brand new mortgage. All of this being completely new. I went through about a year long process to get approved for this mortgage because I had just bought the car, which, you know, my debt to income ratio. Yeah. Blew out the water,

00:17:50                               which I had no knowledge of. Right. I remember brought the car in the first place and so it just was, you know, it was like your, we finally figured things out and things are finally feeling really good. Like this feeling like is on track and then all of a sudden, you know, you walk in and I mean, I’m just completely derailed. And, um, I just remember leaving, not even remembering the drive home, getting into my parking lot and I probably sat in my car in my driveway for three, four hours, just like, what the heck am I supposed to do? Like what just happened? Like somebody waking me up and let’s start this day over. But that’s to me, like that was a defining moment like that at that moment it was fight or flight, you know, and where, how do you bounce back? You know, going home is not an option.

00:18:45                               Um, um, I come from a very competitive background, you know, like in my family, like we’re, we’re very quiet and reserved on the outside, but on the inside, you know, we are killers. Like, we don’t lose, you know, come, especially when it comes to anything competitive. And at that moment, life became competitive. Like, you know, succeeding, became competitive and you know, it was the, it was the switch that I personally needed that lit the fire. You know. And although for the, at that moment the reasons was about showing this company that you’ve just made a huge mistake, like I was the wrong person to let go. That was the motivation at that moment. But yeah, it, it fueled me, I think to realize my true potentials, you know, and, and to realize that there was so much more for me and I had no idea and I would have never known if that day didn’t happen

00:19:45                               in the, I’ve had many people over my lifetime in business as I’ve had, you know, 10,000 employees over those over my last 20 years. Um, and I’ve had them, but in that number, I’ve probably had four or five that were in management positions or high level positions in the company and they just weren’t a good fix or I’m sorry, they just weren’t a good fit. And these are people in their early or in their probably late twenties, early thirties on average. And it just didn’t work out. And I ended up having to let him go. And like I said, over all of those people though, there’s been four or five over 20 years that have come back to me years later and told me essentially what you said, which is them getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to them. And it allowed them once they got over.

00:20:35                               And the thing that was different about almost every one of them was the, the time period that they took blaming me for firing them and for, you know, the, the, the way they were living and the impact that had on them in the short term. And, and some of them were very quick to get over it. And, and to understand that there, there, there’s, there’s other places for them to go and lessons to be learned that will help them get there. And then some of them, you know, uh, one of the guys told me it was probably two, two and a half years and he, you know, just had a nightmare existence going from job to job to job blaming me the whole time, uh, because I had fired him. And then once he woke up to the realization that really he got fired for a reason and he had to learn that through doing all of these different jobs. Uh, he said that’s where it really, it was just like rocket fuel and he turned that around. How long was that for you, uh, in that experience or did you feel the same way when they, uh, when they let you go?

00:21:33                               Um, I definitely blamed the company, like without question, just because based on what I knew, based on the reasons that we’re in my mind as to why a person would get let go from a, from a job, I didn’t fit any of those reasons, you know? And so, you know, anytime things don’t make sense to you in that moment, you know, the knee jerk reaction, like something has to get blamed. Like, somebody has to take the blame, you know? So for me it was the company, but the process of me resolving that internally, I would say once I started to experience what entrepreneurship felt like, and I started to realize that I was actually on a path that wasn’t for me and working for that company, I quit like the blame, like very quickly went away. And um, you know, I was, I was raised, my dad was, uh, my dad was, um, an employee for General Motors and he worked for them for almost 30 years.

00:22:42                               And so I grew up in a household where my dad would get up at 3:34 AM and he would work nine, 10, 11 hours a day, come home, eat dinner, play with us for half a second, go to bed and then repeat the cycle. And I remember watching that as a young kid and always just thinking like, man, my dad works extremely hard, was one thought. And then when I was 17 years old, he actually got me a summer, um, a summertime job at the, one of the plants that he was working with working in at the time. And I did the same schedule. Like I would get up at three 34 we would go, I would sleep the entire way. So I would work during the little we get, we would get three breaks during the day. And one lunch I was sleep every single break cause I was just exhausted.

00:23:35                               I would eat, you know, and then try to get a nap in during the lunchtime. And then on the way home I was asleep the entire way home, you know? And so stay up way too late. Well, no. Like I would get home and pass out. Oh. Like literally for like I blink in this time they do the same thing over again. Right. Oh, within two weeks I had a snapshot of my Dad’s life and I was just like, no way. No. How is this the life that I can see for myself? I didn’t know how I was going to necessarily get out of it, but I’ll say that to say I was built thinking that adulthood was about working hard in adulthood, was about not having a life. You weren’t supposed to travel, you weren’t supposed to enjoy your family and your friends. You were supposed to do what was necessary to put food on the table.

00:24:29                               And sometimes that required you working around the clock doing things that you didn’t necessarily want to do, but that was a part of adulthood, you know? So that idea of bled over, um, into me. And then the only reason that pattern got stopped was because I got fired. And when I went to work in that barbershop, I mean literally the first day of working a 12 hour day and making decent money and not realizing that I had worked 12 hours doing 90% of that day, not being exhausted, not feeling like the day was over. It was like, wait a minute, like, what is this? I just made a decent amount of money and I worked hard and I enjoyed it like best, really possible. It almost felt like I was cheating, like I was, you’re not supposed to like your job and enjoy your job and this is obviously 2000, you know, five.

00:25:25                               So entrepreneurship isn’t really being talked about. It’s not like a mainstream thing where you have examples like Jay z and puff daddy and build, you know, like all these, all these, um, moguls who are out there kind of creating the blueprint for how life could be, you know. So it was just, it was Kinda like for me it was more or less a learning curve. Um, and once I figured out that, you know, I don’t want to, I didn’t want to do that anyway. It wasn’t for me anyway, that blame completely left my body. And you know, I got, I’m still friends with the supervisor. I still, you know, talk to them every blue moon. Um, no bad. I have no bad or ill will toward that company at all. They were, uh, again, that was your impetus. That was kind of your moment that uh, that pushed you to where to where you are now. So now you, did you say you still own the, the, uh, the barbershop or you sold it yet? Tell us about buying it. Because I always talk about, for myself, you know, I come from a very, very poor background. And for me, I didn’t even know I bought a house when I was 21 years old. I didn’t know I bought it because I thought, yeah, that’s what I saw them do on television. Right? I didn’t know what interest rates were. I didn’t know

00:26:43                               what a mortgage was. I didn’t know about refinance. I mean, there’s not a person on the planet, I think that knew less about business numbers. I have no education. I was living on the streets as a 17 year old. So I mean, I knew absolutely nothing, but I had that ability to work and that ability to learn. And so for you, uh, now you’re in the barbershop, you kinda realizing this, hey, I enjoy this. This is something that I would like to do. Uh, and the opportunity that presented itself for you to buy it. Tell us about that.

00:27:16                               Yeah. So, um, like I said, very first day I realized that, you know, I can make a decent living doing, um, being a barber. And then I had through the, the two, a little over two, almost three years, I worked for the company book I pipeline. I had my 401k plan and then I had saved, you know, a little bit of money, but I’m working in two years. Like I was way ahead of the curve. Now I also had my house, I was so I had to get creative. I started renting out. I rented out two of my rooms. I’m moving my sister in. So I had my sister and two roommates. I was living with me at the time, you know, so I’m generating revenue that way. So long story short, I ended up saving up a decent amount of money. I had my 401k that I tapped into and I borrowed the rest of the money from a couple of friends and family members on because the lady that was owning the barber shop at the time, um, she just, she was burnt out and she decided that she didn’t want to be an owner anymore.

00:28:24                               So I really was just Kinda Sara serendipitous, like the situation just kind of presented itself. Um, and my timing was just good. And

00:28:34                               how did you make the decision that you wanted to go from, or did you even think about going from the employee or a contractor or whatever you were there at the barbershop to being the owner because the, you know, as you know, there’s a lot different being the owner than it is just showing up everyday

00:28:53                               cutting hair. I didn’t know at the time, like honestly in my brain it was like this is my opportunity to own something and completely controlled. Like there was a lot of things that happened in the barbershop cause I didn’t agree with, but it wasn’t all in there, you know, so I didn’t have control over those things. Um, so in my mind, I just seen it as opportunity to do things differently in ways I felt like the barber shop will be successful. Very similar to what I would think about as a kid. You know, like I will see a business and it would just, you know, kind of pop into my brain like if you had your sign this way or if you use these type of letters or this type of font or you know, if I’m remember specifically wanting to run a myspace campaign for the barbershop, you know, is 2007.

00:29:42                               Right? We were in a myspace campaign and the barbershop owner was one you were saying completely against it. And I just couldn’t wrap my brain around why she would be so against doing on my space campaign. So I did it myself and I, I generated so much business for myself. And I think that was actually for me, like the thing that made me say, you know what, I’m tired of having to act like I just want to be able to do it, you know? And so, um, I went into it, but I didn’t realize the responsibility that would come with ownership, property taxes. I knew nothing about, um, you know, keeping up with the licenses and the regulatory things that I would have to do. The inspectors that would come through to barbershop every six months, dealing with the landlord that refuse to fix things. Like all of these things that no one tends to talk about. You know, it was kinda like getting married, everybody to tell you about the good stuff. Nobody taught you about the best, you know? So, you know, it was, it was, um, a huge learning curve. But the more I learn, it never, it never, um, you know, it never discouraged me from wanting more, you know, it was just another hurdle to overcome. And once you overcome it, once you see something once, like you’ve seen it a million times,

00:31:11                               no, no. What for me, it was almost like a, like a drug. Um, when I started to gather information, um, and I did it mostly through experience and then I got, I read everything I could get my hands on. So, you know, Fortune magazine, which as far as I was concerned, was the monopoly man, right? I mean, I had no context for fortune or Forbes in particular, those two. And so since I was 22, 23 years old, I would read those things religiously, uh, and started my business when I was 28. But that information that you would start to gather was like a drug for me. I could not get enough of it. So even though it was like you said, dealing with the inspectors and, and, uh, you know, unemployment and all of the other things that you have as a business person, I was never really intimidated by it because I looked at it and I didn’t realize, I didn’t think this at the time, but looking back on it, it was really a challenge.

00:32:06                               I was like, hey, there’s something else I can learn. And I, I figured out that I can play this game of business. I just need to learn how, right? Like you, I played basketball six days a week. Uh, I referee tons and tons of basketball. I was really comfortable on the court. And so when business started, I was really uncomfortable on the court until I figured out, Hey, I can play on this court. I just, I got to keep playing. And the more I played, the better I’m going to get. And the better I get, the more I can compete. What’s that?

00:32:38                               Game Down? The

00:32:40                               game slows down. That’s exactly right. And the, so I think that’s important. I, I stopped you at that point because I, you know, we encourage here on this podcast, people every day to just go out and try and no matter how, uh, insurmountable it may seem, it really isn’t. In fact, for many of us, it’s the opposite of that because once you’re in it, yes, it’s challenging and yes, it’s stressful. And you know, the, the lady who owned the place before you got there sold it because she was just burnout and you can kind of understand that. But for me it was that day in and day out, I was learning something new every day and it was just, you know, I couldn’t wait to go in the next day. It sounds like, I don’t want to put words in your mouth. Did you experience that the same way rather than, you know, being woe is me and this sucks and this wasn’t what I got signed up for. I never have thought that no matter how ugly things got or how frustrated I might be by the things, I don’t know.

00:33:34                               Right. Yeah, no, I agree with you. Um, for me it was like, I think that’s a little bit of what people mean when they say that. You know, a lot of people aren’t born entrepreneurs. I think the ones that are kind of like Mitt for entrepreneurship have w me you have, and that’s this, this kind of like urge for more of this yearning for more where it doesn’t become overwhelming. Like we don’t get overwhelmed because there’s challenges and because you know, there’s adversity, we accept the adversity and then we are, um, we are problem solvers. We figure out how to solve the problem and then we keep the ship moving and, and once to me, like every time I, every time I experienced something, you know, I think about the first time challenges happened and how, like for example, you know, DTE bill was way higher than I expected it to be early on as an owner.

00:34:41                               When the winter time came around Detroit, it gets really cold, you know? And so I went in, my ownership started in like June, so it was, you know, it’s warm and this hot and then all of a sudden January, February hit and the, the employee, I have seven barbers, they’re keeping the heat crank every day. We never cut it off, but it’s a lot. I never even thought about controlling and monitoring the heat and all of a sudden I get a 1700 $1,800 gas bill and there’s no way I can, like with a, on top of all the other bills that I have, it’s going to crush me. Like I don’t, you know, and it’s like, how do you overcome this situation? I don’t know about budget wise. I don’t know about calling DTE and working out a payment arrangement. Only thing I can think of is I have a huge bill and it has to get paid.

00:35:33                               I don’t know who I’m abroad from. I don’t know where I’m gonna get the money from but have to figure it out because the doors can’t shut, you know? Right. Have all these people who are responsible for their and their families in the worst thought of any barber shop owner, new barbershop owner is the electricity going out, you know, early on. So anyway, like I think about those fillings now, like how much anxiety those scenarios, cause you know, as a 25 year old kid, a 26 year old kid trying to figure things out and now I think about that and it’s just like, I don’t know, the last time I felt that feeling of anxiety, like it’s probably been seven, eight, nine years because you just process it differently. You know, it’s like, you know, you’re, you’re, you, we are, we are built to absorb issues and problems and have a poker face and literally just kind of, it’s a part of it. You don’t have issues. You’re not like alive, right. And you have to, you have to live through it.

00:36:37                               And this will transition me into my next question for you. You have to live through that kind of adversity at that level to be able to kind of, uh, to be able to navigate the adversities that are going to come later that have more zeros attached to them or have much more responsibility. And it’s funny how those can seem not nearly as, uh, not nearly have nearly the effect on you that the $1,700 heat bill for instance, you started your brand and make sure I got it right. Unique collections, uh, and as I, if I remember the story right, you started it and you had a, was it a customer or some, a supplier, um, that went with your comp competition, right? At a left field. You weren’t even sure what these contracts were about or how that works. So you transitioned from the barber shop and you started this, uh, this clothing line and immediately took a big punch in the face.

00:37:31                               Yeah, it’s, yeah. And you are absolutely right. Like we are unknowingly laying foundational pieces and the building blocks for the things that we would have to deal with. But yeah, like the first major nauseous, I second our first big deal was with a company called Dr J’s, which went phenomenal. We went on to do oh, a little over a year and bit of business with them. And there was a phenomenal relationship until the lady who orchestrated the deal went on to do her own thing, which is the only reason that the relationship kind of fell apart. But our second major deal was with the licensing company called ASCAP out of New Jersey. And, um, you know, they signed us to a licensing deal, which is very hard to get, especially when you’re a new company. And it’s very common for a brand to get a licensing deal and to get show notes.

00:38:27                               They experienced brands know that anytime you broker a licensing deal, you either need a big, a big, um, lump sum up front that would hinder the manufacturer from ever shelving your product because they have money kind of like skin in the game or they’re going to give you a huge royalty or they’re only going to take like certain categories, which would give you the flexibility to sale other categories. So category would be in like t-shirts would be a category, hats will be a category, shoes would be a category. And you realize you’re licensing your designs for the clothes or your licensing logos. What are you licensing? What’s the deal you had with them? Yes. So we did three categories. We did our t-shirts, we did our hoodies and we did hats, which were our three main moneymakers. And so they basically, we’re in charge of manufacturing and helping us create all of our designs.

00:39:28                               They wouldn’t negotiate our deals with retail outlets and, um, you know, other potential opportunities. And then we would handle the marketing and promotional side. So that’s typically how most in general, how most licensing deals work. Um, then they present other opportunities. Like you know, if they have a backpack that they’re creating, they could throw your logo on a backpack because you get, you’ve given them permission, then you would collect royalties from that, from that deal. And so it was going great for about six months. Tons of opportunities coming through the door. And then in about the ninth, 10th month, all of a sudden we s we started noticing a dip in sales. And um, it’s interesting you compare it like the barbershop scenario where I fell all that in society to this scenario and I mentioned that $1,700 and it’s awesome that you picked up on it because as I think about it, it was a literal drop in a bucket.

00:40:28                               Like it was, you know, I all this anxiety and literally feeling like life is over over nothing. You know, the scheme of things in comparison to what we are about to lose in this license and deal and all this apparel that we would have been selling at the time. We are old. We were in over 40 retail outlets. Wow. Prior to this deal, they were making the clothes for all of these outlets. And then slowly the output started to decline. And these stores started cause you know, we converted all of that activity to them and as they weren’t getting their shipments and they weren’t getting, you know, the, the, um, the new designs and things like that, then it was us, them directly contacting us, trying to figure out like, Hey, what’s going on? We haven’t seen anything new. And it’s just, it turned into a literal nightmare where they, where are they shelved? You actually let me come back to, to that point where either where you’re shelved and have you

00:41:34                               explain that. But one of the points that I just thought of was I say on my podcast all the time and in my Instagram that, uh, if you could look through my eyes for five minutes, you, you, you would be blown away by what is possible because you’d be able to tap into all of those experiences that I’ve had. I say to Billy and I say to everybody, you know, I see more, uh, potential [inaudible] in others than they see in themselves because I know what we’re capable of. And I think that that rings true with your story of 1700 bucks. You have to learn that lesson. But now that you learn that lesson, the next person comes along and says, Robert, I got $1,700 heat bill and I don’t know what I’m going to do. And you’re going to snicker at him and you’re going to be able to cancel him and you’re going to say, dude, it’s not that bad. And here’s some of the reality of it, because you’ve got that experience then to go back on. And that’s what I talk about when I say, if somebody could look through your eyes for five minutes, they’d have experiences that, that, uh, that would only benefit them even though the experience may have been a negative one for you.

00:42:39                               Right? Absolutely. Um, I think you’re, you’re dead on. I mean anytime that, anytime that you been able to, you know, live certain things like it always, um, you don’t know what you don’t know, you know, so anytime you’ve been able to experience things and, and see it firsthand and actually like deal with the roller coaster, the ups and downs, the emotional process that you have to go through dealing with it, then your outlook immediately changes. And so yeah, I agree with that statement. 100%

00:43:13                               not being scared of what you don’t know. Right. That’s, that’s an embrace. What you don’t know. Uh, because pretty soon what you, what you don’t know, now you do know and you’re a hell of a lot more comfortable with it.

00:43:24                               They also like experienced entrepreneurs, like we develop, um, our systems or dealing with adversity and process and challenges, you know, so immediately when a problem presents itself, then you just go through your system that you’ve internally kind of put in place to resolve or rectify that situation where if there’s, if it’s a person that’s new or hasn’t experienced anything, he doesn’t have that system in place. Right,

00:43:52                               right. I, I agree.

00:43:55                               Your reaction for that is always in society and you know, being overwhelmed and knowing how to handle,

00:44:01                               yeah, that’s exactly right. The uh, uh, before you tell us about shelving again, let me, uh, we’re talking to Robert Courtney. You can get him at a book. Robert Uh, look up his website, Robert Courtney and Uh, he is the founder of the unique brands. Is that correct? Unique brands? Is that what

00:44:23                               Yup. Where, where is the website. Unique collection is the actual brand. Now, where are you unique as a hub for our brands as

00:44:32                               well as other up and coming brands that we give the platform to see what their products are. Where unique you n okay, so go check that out everybody. Uh, and as you can tell his story is a good one and there’s a ton to learn from him. Uh, I’m enjoying the conversation very much cause I love entrepreneurial stories. Now you got shelved, which I’m assuming means what we all think it means. They just kind of shut it down. They’d already paid you and now you’re getting nothing from it. Is that essentially what happens?

00:45:02                               It is. Um, partly so you get paid quarterly through like most licensing deals and so as, as the sales happen at the end of that quarter, you would get your check cut for the length of the timeline that you’re with the, you know, the manufacturer that you’re with. In any situation, you would normally have one brand that’s responsible for, you know, whatever category and this situation, they had multiple brands that they were carrying for the same categories, which would be your competitor in you. Exactly. So it will be like if you own a clothing store and you need tee shirts and you’re coming to me as a manufacturer or a supplier and saying, hey, what do you have? You could either say I have line a or have line B, you should only have a what? Because you have two lines. You’re going to do what’s going to be more profitable, what’s more popular for you?

00:46:01                               And so being that we were up and coming brand and they had an opportunity to grab a brand that had a lot more skin in the game, I guess you could say they chose to promote that brand in the majority of those cases, unless someone specifically asks for our brand. So effectively what? Yeah, what’s that do to you effectively to your brand? What happened then? It’s just, it shut us down, you know, just like that, dislike that. So in that scenario, we’re not allowed for two, for 14 more months. We were not allowed to make our own clothes because that’s a breach of contract. At the same time, they weren’t selling our brand and ship into our stores and the retail stores that we were in. So that’s kind of what birthed the events company. That’s also with burst the Brandon and marketing company, because we had to get creative in generating revenue without having an actual product to sell. Wow. And so from that,

00:47:01                               then again, there’s a recurring theme that is entrepreneurship from that adversity comes something greater. Uh, and so tell us about, uh, now you are, you have these event companies, you have this marketing company, so fill us in on that. Tell us, we kind of got your back story. It tells you still own the barbershop. Did I hear that correctly?

00:47:20                               Clean still on the barbershop right off.

00:47:22                               And that’s turned out to be a good deal. Obviously. It’s been

00:47:25                               what, long time now? Yeah, 15 years. Wow Man.

00:47:30                               That’s, that’s amazing.

00:47:31                               Thank you. Thank you. So with the situation that happened with the likes of saying, um, we decided to start throwing events to keep our brand name relevant. Social media was starting to, you know, become a thing and we found that we were extremely successful. Anytime we would do a fashion show or, um, we would sponsor a musician or you know, anything like that. And so we decided that we would start generating revenue by traveling the country and doing, um, hosting music and charitable initiatives and any type of events where we could get people together. It would be unique collection presents and we would show pictures of the clothes. Like, we would do videos that would, you know, create lifestyle, um, kind of give the brand like a lifestyle feel. And then we switched everything that, like all of our messages switched to a lifestyle company as opposed to it being specifically

00:48:38                               driven by clothes. So where’s the, uh, where’s the idea to go do events? Where does that come from? Is that something that you had seen somebody else do or you know, how to, how did you come to that, that you’re going to go out and travel the United States doing these events?

00:48:51                               I think that came from our, the network. Like we, we had to, we, we needed to figure out in what way could we best leverage our current network and kind of find classes path to getting our brand in front of people. And so we would, you know, we would often travel to different venues and cities and things like that and you know, go to nightclubs and lounges. And so those relationships kind of afforded us the opportunity to say, hey, we want to come in and we want to host an event. You know, we’re going to drive x amount of people. And I think it was kind of like our foot in the door and then we were big early on before it became a thing. We were really big on cross promotion and partnering with other companies for like a common goal. And so, um, those were really like early brand deals, like early brand ambassador marketing influencer deals before it kind of, you know, became title and people started actually calling it debt. We had, we kind of started that instinctively just because we were just trying to figure things out. Right? We wanted to do it. It was because we had an it [inaudible]

00:50:02                               would you [inaudible] your,

00:50:04                               yeah.

00:50:05                               How would you then monetize that? How would you monetize presented by unique and you put on the show or were, or the charity or whatever it is

00:50:13                               actually came the planners, like we were the event planners. So we would, we would do ticket sales, we would charge it, come to the events, we would do door covers, um, sponsorship packages. Um, as a matter of fact, in 2012 we, we raised about $90,000 and, and sponsorship money to put on a music tour to literally just travel around the world or around the country, I should say, not the world around the country so that we could do events at venues within the cities that we wanted our brand to be president.

00:50:51                               Wow. So yeah. And so you do the event and then you’re, you’re, so you’re again, in a way, you’re cross promoting because you’re doing the event and the event planning and that’s its own business. But at the same time, I’m assuming you’re trying to build that lifestyle brands so that you can sell a product.

00:51:08                               Yeah, yeah. The idea was that venues one one at people and they would normally work with, um, nightlife groups or promoters to bring out the people.

00:51:20                               And that’s typically how all nightlife’s driven, um, economies work. So our end would be, listen, we have a network of x amount of people. We had a formula, like a, a very failproof formula through our social media channels where we knew that we invited 10,000 or 20,000 people. We could guarantee that 200 to 300 people would come out for any event that we would do. So we would create Facebook pages, Twitter pages for every city that we wanted to go and promote events that, and so we had unique la unique, um, Atlanta unique Miami, unique Vegas. We had all these different Facebook network set up that would be kind of like the foundation of our promotional activity. And then we would contact the businesses that was in that city and say, hey listen, we have a built in network of people who follow our brand.

00:52:25                               Natia mentioned that a big part of our brand, the word unique is the acronym is Stanford unifying nationalities by encouraging education and knowledge. So we, we basically leveraged that and built everything around all ultimately this message of bringing people together. So like even now today, like our brand is more known for bringing people together because of that huge push from probably 2000 was in 11 to probably 2015 this huge push to build ourselves as a lifestyle company and encourage diversity and bring people together from different backgrounds. I’m doing these events, traveling around the country is harder than any other time.

00:53:10                               And your timing seems like w was fortuitous in that, uh, they’re during that same timeframe that seemed to be, that message seemed to start to resonate and if, if memory serves me, we started to see that probably more than we had ever done before. Uh, and you guys then, good timing had the product ready to go and then were able to capitalize on it. Would that be fair to say

00:53:32                               100% and know, I mean it was, it was, the timing was also good because like social media was becoming a thing, you know, Winslow the power to my space though, right? Yet my social media evolves and being able to go direct to the consumer and sell online as unpopular as it was back then. And experts would tell us that selling product and align would never be a thing. You know, it was, well, you could literally, if you are in it, you could see the wheel starting to turn in our opportunity basically like creating itself and as everything progressed, right?

00:54:17                               That’s uh, and, and again, knowing what you did know, but, but studying enough or paying close enough attention to be able to see what the experts, the opposite of what the experts tell you, uh, is probably critical thing in business as much as anything. And for me, that’s, that it’s just been instinctual for me. You learn as much as you can. You have all this experience and then you’re like, wait, I don’t think this is right. At least that’s how it worked in my head. I never thought, I don’t think this is right. I’m going to do it and I, and I may lose. I never thought about that. I always thought, I don’t think they’re right. I’m going to do it now. I didn’t win every time, but I never doubted it. Was there a point during this whole period that she ever doubted what you were doing?

00:55:02                               Uh, I would be lying if I said I didn’t like, I have moments where it just was like, you’ve got so many things around you not going the way that it plays on your head, but right. What I didn’t realize then is that I just wasn’t looking at things in a big enough window. You know, it’s like we want success to happen so fast and it’s like you put yourself onto this own kind of like time clock of, you know, you start today within the next six months, within the next year, like within the next two years. You’re expecting to be at a certain level when in all actuality like you may be on the right path. It’s just, you know, just taken a little longer than planned for it to take. So, you know, now my motivation and my reason for doing things is a lot different, which eliminates time. You know, it’s like when you’re getting satisfaction from how you make people feel and like the daily interactions that you have throughout the course of the day, I feel like it erases the timeline. And so if it happens in a year, if it happens in 10 years, it doesn’t matter because my side distraction is coming from different places.

00:56:15                               Sure. And that, that timeline, uh, [inaudible] is probably one of my recurring complaints about the Internet and entrepreneurship is that we put out an Instagram post yesterday that essentially said one day, one week, one month, one year, and I could have said multiple decades equals success and success. Again, measured always by what I, like you said, monetary success or making a different success, changing people’s lives. Success, however we want to. You want to, uh, w however you define success in your life. But it doesn’t happen overnight, does it? I mean, there’s no getting rich quick. There’s no two hour a day programs that are going to make you $10,000 a month and all of that. Right. It all takes time.

00:57:03                               Yup. And that’s just the grind is to grind. Like I like dad would probably be if someone said, what’s your biggest lesson in all these years of entrepreneurship is just that everything just takes time. You expected to happen in a year at five, six years to it. If you expect to happen in six, seven years at, you know, another seven years to it, that’s just the reality of what it is. And as you have conversations with people that spend successful, you always find out that they’ve been doing it for 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, you know, so you know, you gotta just be patient and, um, attach your motivation to the journey in the process of, um, what you’re going through as opposed to the destination, which is super cliche, but it’s the reality.

00:57:50                               Yeah, no, I think that’s a, I think that’s that. That’s true. Um, as we’re winding this down and we’re running, uh, we’re running up against it here. Tell us though, I didn’t want to let you go without, I, I saw on Instagram that you guys, uh, and I believe it is your, um, it is your marketing company. Had a big event and it looked like we had a ton of people come out. And what was I did I wanted to talk to you about that before I let you go. What was that all about?

00:58:17                               Yeah, so we started three years ago, we started the, um, kind of like a, it’s a platform for individuals up and coming brands, brands who’ve been around to basically learn ways to build their business without having to pay a ton of money. And as a matter of fact, with this particular event, it’s free and it’s called Brandon for beginners. And the idea behind it is okay to get individuals who I have experience who’ve had success come together on a panel and do exactly what we’re doing, have conversations about their challenges, the things that they’ve done, and then some of the tactical, um, things that’s worked for them that they could share with the audience. And so we partnered with, um, an initiative called Detroit startup week here in Michigan, and they provided the venue and then we get all the marketing to invite people out. And obviously as you can see with the crowd, there’s a big, um, desire for people who are looking to build businesses and get some tips and information on marketing and branding and things like that. So, um, it was an incredible turnout, great event. And um, you know, it was so supportive. Very well.

00:59:37                               So part of that is you passing along there and paying forward, uh, your experiences, uh, and then at the same time, should somebody want to, uh, to access your business and what you provide? They could do that at the same time?

00:59:54                               Absolutely. Yeah. So I mean, the idea initially started because when I first started my marketing company, um, I didn’t have a big team. It was me and one other person. And so I just didn’t have enough bandwidth to service the amount of inquiries and the people that I would, that I was getting, um, the inquiries I was coming through. So I invited all the people to come to one place so that I could share all this information with them at the same time. And the thought process was whoever was serious would, you know, move forward with me and whoever wasn’t serious would, you know, contact me in the future whenever they got to the point to when they were ready. So, um, it grew from there. We did the first one and then the one you seen was number 10, then Brandon for beginner events in on the last two and a half years.

01:00:47                               And it looks like there’s hundreds of people at this thing.

01:00:50                               Yeah, we actually had 460 people.

01:00:52                               Wow. Congratulations man. Then that’s a, again, I saw that on, on Instagram, which is Robert Courtney Collins. Is that correct? So, uh, take a minute or two or 30 seconds or however you, however long you want here. What message, um, would you like to give to anyone listening, um, either about your business or about your life or, you know, go ahead and take three 30 minutes or 30 minutes, 30 seconds, a minute, two minutes, and just kind of, what do you want to leave with the audience? What do you want them to know about, uh, about you?

01:01:27                               Um, I would say my, I will leave them with what we sell all of our brands and customers and people that um, our clients that we work with, which is that they are trying to build a brand. They have to remember this acronym is called a tech a for audience t for trusts, a for attention, C for content and C for consistency. If you use those acronyms in that order, it’ll probably give you the biggest chance for success online and building your business if you’re just getting started. In terms of just life advice just in general. Um, I think it’s very important like we just mentioned just to be patient, um, is also important to just get started. Like I think getting started is probably more important than anything and then being about the process. And then last but not least, um, what I’ve uncovered with all the clients and the people that I’ve dealt with over the last couple of years is that a lot of everything that we do is really more about getting out of our own head and like our internal self belief that we’re capable of doing it. And just being confident about who you are as a person, you know. So I think none of the x’s and o’s, Moses strategy, none of the tactics work if there’s not a core belief in the value product or service that you’re trying to put out.

01:02:55                               Yeah, that is a well said. I couldn’t agree with that. More a well done. Tell us how to get ahold of you and all of your socials.

01:03:03                               Um, you can follow me or find me, Robert Courtney Collins on every platform, um, to find a unique brand. That’s where, um, the checkout, the uh, marketing company, that’s Robert Courtney and and um, you know, feel free to leave a message on needle’s platforms. Feel free to email me and uh, I love to interact. I love to connect with everybody I possibly can. So I’m looking forward to chatting.

01:03:33                               Very good. And I really appreciate you doing this, whether it’s I that at that hour as they tend to, uh, with a good conversation flies by. So I love the story by it and I really do appreciate you coming on.

01:03:44                               Yeah, I appreciate you reaching out all at anytime you want to do it in the future. Just let me know.

01:03:48                               That wraps up this episode. Thanks everybody for tuning in and checks out. Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, iTunes, Google, reddit, and the old Spotify. Fuck you Daniel. Jerry brazy on all of them. Send it your questions. Two Go check out the new website. It is up and it looks good. Dan. Danny, what are the hell did I come up with that Billy? I was just talking shit at Daniel a Billy did a nice job putting that thing together. A watch for our blogs, which will be coming out. I think we have two, three part blogs. Uh, argue. Motherfuckers better go read it cause I wrote them, uh, and it took time. Um, but it’s going to be out and what are we going to do at every a couple of days I think is what we’re going to do to try and do something like that. Uh, and so check that out. Remember people just as you heard Robert talk about, and you’ve heard me talk about for years now, opportunities are everywhere, but you got to go get them peace people peace out.


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