Ep #20 – Behind the Golf Brand Podcast | Nexbelt, Tom Hunsucker (Co-Founder)

Paul Liberatore Paul Liberatore
August 9, 2021

We made it to Episode 20 of the Behind the Golf Brand Podcast. Thank you for all of the comments and emails. In this week’s episode I interview my good friend Tom Hunsucker , the Co-Founder of Nexbelt. Fit and fashion are highly subjective. Many players will differ in what they like to look at […]

We made it to Episode 20 of the Behind the Golf Brand Podcast. Thank you for all of the comments and emails. In this week’s episode I interview my good friend Tom Hunsucker , the Co-Founder of Nexbelt.

Fit and fashion are highly subjective. Many players will differ in what they like to look at and how things feel around their body. If you are a golfer that has struggled to find a belt that is comfortable, looks great, and fits your exact size, Nexbelt provides a superior option with a variety of color palettes and strap materials. The ratchet style buckle system is proprietary in nature and, by far, the best closure system we have tried at Golfers Authority. The guys at Nexbelt are some of the nicest guys we have worked with, and make some of the best belts that I have ever owned.

Paul (00:00): What's up guys. It's Paul from Golfers Authority. I don't know what episode this is shocker, but I do know who I'm interviewing today. Today. I have a good friend, Tom. Tom is the co-founder of Nextbelt. Nextbelt pretty much makes the best belts around the technology is crazy. Um, I start work with them about, I dunno like year and a half ago, I just met on Instagram and uh, when I date, just kidding. Um, whenever I had an Instagram, we started talking and finds out, uh, he's the co-founder. I didn't even know that. And then we were working together and they're a great brand and I can't wait to tell you more about them. So without further ado, this is my friend, Tom from next bell. Welcome to the show. Hey Paul. Hello everybody. So where are you right now? Are you at home or at your office?

Tom (01:57): I'm in my office. Enclosed shut the door. And I'm in my office. Where are you guys located at Rancho Cucamonga, California. There's a place called Cucamonga. Was that in like that movie? What's that called Fridays? Yeah. Yes, yes. Actually they didn't feel a match manga when they found out they were going to, they wanted to film here the season. So I had to film in, uh, st. San Demas nearby. Oh gosh. Well what's that one move from the nineties to, or like it was the guy that was like a caveman. Remember that? Oh, what's it called? It was like the nineties Frazier, Brandon Frazier was, and it wasn't that where they're from or somewhere around there out. Remember, I remember that. I don't remember that one. I missed that one in case you guys didn't know retro Cucamonga is, is like LA kinda, it's like 35 miles East of Los Angeles.

Tom (02:49): Like it's on the way to Las Vegas or to Palm Springs. Yeah. So like you kind of, yeah. If you're driving in, then it's like kind of North of the freeway, right? Like the freeway to Palm Springs, if you're going to Disneyland and you kind of pass it kind of, but it's like not like close the freeway. Yeah. Sorry. That's like Arizona information because that's the way we go. We take the, I tend to Disneyland, but Disney has closed, so we're not doing that this year. But so I guess my first question. So, you know, and this kind of first one, I asked you almost two years ago, it was like, what? I always say, what's your story? Right. Like, tell me like, what is next bell? How'd you come to that idea? You know, how'd you start this brand, you know, that kind of thing.

Speaker 3 (03:29): Yeah. It was, uh, you know, um, I'm half enemies and my brother-in-law, he's married to my sister, went to the home country on vacation. I didn't go that year. And I wanna say 2009 or so, uh, my girlfriend at the time who smoked now, my wife, she couldn't make the trip. And I was thinking, I'm be gone for two weeks without her.

Speaker 3 (03:56): So basically when they were on this Island and they got off the boat and there's a vendor sitting there selling a bunch of stuff and there's that the ratchet system. And he looked at it and it's really impressive. We brought it back and says, check this out. Can we start a company doing this, uh, together. And technically we've been together as a business group for 25 years. And before that we own, uh, extreme custom trailers. We were the largest, uh, custom port trailer manufacturer, judge States, before we sold it. Oh my gosh. So we were kind of semi-retired at the time. And so we looked for another opportunity. So he brought that back. I looked at it great idea, but there's lacking in quality of the leather politics, construction, quality of the ratchet system and all that stuff. So we went and sat down and we designed some stuff on there and got a couple of patterns out of it, uh, where we signed that go in where it has hidden ball marker. And we had a bucket, it looks like a normal buckle because most of those buckles, they just looked like hideous, blobs of pewter or whatever. You know, they're not, they're not very design oriented, especially for the Western culture. So we did that. And, uh, a I wanted to, at the time we were like, which way to go. And I wanted more like towards the dress belt stuff and go after the bar could do the 1995 thing. And then he was like, come up,

Tom (05:17): Like hyper color and stuff. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (05:19): So Eddie was like, Hey, his passion is coffee. I mean, I got to get you out here and take, he can take your golf. And is that it's country club. You love it. It's red country club. And he goes, you know, my passion is golf and can we do something with that? So we stuck with that and we went out and did our, or our own sales in the beginning. But then we started saying, this is really tough. So we got a bunch of, uh, so reach out to reps, golf reps and, uh, screw it. We have about 40 reps for the United States forces and all that stuff right now.

Tom (05:49): All right. So let's rewind. So, okay. 2009, let's go back from farther. Right? I didn't know this about you. I thought, Oh, he likes to mic belt. I, you know, first of all, I've got to watch the video. This guy's in his fifties, right? Like who believes that? He told me that I was old. I am. And I'm like, I don't know, like forties, like nomad 50.5 or something.

Speaker 3 (06:07): 55 55.

Tom (06:08): Right. So mad props. I look like I'm 70, so that's okay. I should have shaved today, but it don't look as old, but you did. So really you're like a serial entrepreneur. Right. Because I didn't know this, honestly, it's the first I've heard of this. So you guys had a custom trailer company, right. For how many years did you have that? You and your brother?

Speaker 3 (06:29): 13 years.

Tom (06:32): So like, what was your background in like business or something or what?

Speaker 3 (06:35): No, actually, yeah. I was a physical education teacher, marketing advertising. I graduate from Cal state Fullerton with a degree in that, but I went in into straighten up loans. Cause that was like 1989. There was, you know, the depression recession was going on and all the advertising agencies for real job. Yeah, exactly. But I hated doing the loan business thing where we're charging people 30% rates, you know, like, Oh my gosh,

Tom (07:07): Good money. Do loan loan guys make a lot of money? No, I was just like, Oh, you're just a gopher.

Speaker 3 (07:13): Yes. So bank or something. It was like a company called Norwest financial. They got bought up, I think by Wells Fargo stuff. But yeah, that was just like, that was just like misery for me. It wasn't

Tom (07:26): Charles Keating.

Speaker 3 (07:28): Oh yeah. Yeah. Sorry. It was during that time period. Lessen savings alone

Tom (07:35): Podcast is under the age of forties. Like what are they talking about? But it's okay. It was kind of like did a bunch of fraud back in the day,

Speaker 3 (07:43): Think time. Um, but basically, yeah. And, uh, I was, uh, I remember I got fired from that company because I was working at a new location they'll location every night, yet to put money into a safe new location, didn't have a safe, you take the money out of one desk and put it into another desk and a lock on it. I was like, this is stupid. We just lock it in this desk here. We're gonna have some policy, the company. So my manager was on vacation that week. So I had to run the front of the place and we were kicking butt. Every, you had loans, loans, payday loans, house loans, dude, they did, they did seconds. And they like, they did financing for small shops that want to sell bicycles or whatever it is. So they did pawn shops. Also I was kicking ass and I always had this problem and I would leave that place.

Speaker 3 (08:30): I would forget that I'd lock it. I drive it back. I drive back after being on the freeway for like 10, 15 minutes, check it out. Oh, it's right. That week I was driving off a second. And you know, I forgot to do this. That's the time you do this every single time. And I said to myself, really going to fire you. If something happens, you're winning the loan contest. This month, Monday come in, somebody had taken money out of the drawer and I is the three people hadn't keys me. The was on vacation and the people that cleaned the place and

Tom (08:59): They were like, why would I steal money from a company that we work for?

Speaker 3 (09:01): There's 220 bucks. I said, they're gonna put the 220 bucks back in your guy's pocket. They said, no, no, no. You broke a policy. So I got fired for that. So I was looking for a job for a while. And Eddie, my business partner

Tom (09:13): Let's call it fascinating. This conversation

Speaker 3 (09:16): We'll call calling fast because he did say he designed that

Tom (09:18): We'll get it fat. We'll get to the fast Eddie part. Cause this is like the coolest thing on the planet. Like for gadget, I love this thing. It's brilliant.

Speaker 3 (09:24): So he, um, he came to me one day and said I was trying to get in the pharmaceutical industry. And he said, you know what? My dad owns a boat dealership and your sister yet, or is he was, yeah, he was. And you know, they, they were tired of the, the, the ineptness of the companies that build and trailers. And I said, I don't know anything about trailers. And he said, I don't either, but I think we could start one by the, you know, the first thing we built was in his garage, which the irony is Sarah, our first business, we started in the garage. So they all start. Yeah, we did. We did these boat casters to hold the boat, move around the shop. When we start next felt we started in the garage also.

Tom (10:01): That's where I started. That's where I'm at right now, my garage. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (10:05): So that's how it started. And I didn't know anything about it. You know how to, well, I didn't know anything regarding that. Like I knew about boats, you know? Yeah. We, uh, yeah. Do you know anything about boats? He did. Uh, but we borrowed $26,000 from a mom. And, uh, we went and bought the equipment, rented a shop. And, uh, our goal is to pay her back in a couple of years. And the goal was any work for free. And I would pay myself $150 a week to pay your bills, to pay, to pay my bills. I was living with a roommate at the time. And after the first week I was like, this is no way just going to work. I can't take any more money because we didn't have any major.

Tom (10:44): Yeah. You know, the money coming to the business. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (10:46): So we, uh, I didn't pay myself that year after that. Well, actually know the $150 dropped Christmas by Christmas presents, but yeah, we started just learning and I started learning about more about customer service, how to deal with people, because since I didn't know how to do a lot of this stuff, even made a mistake, we've bent over backwards to fix it for people. And, uh, and it's just little things that happen along the way. And we were just, just flying so flying blind, but we

Tom (11:12): Trial and error, trial and error, trial and error.

Speaker 3 (11:16): Thanks. So learning all the mistakes that people are doing, it applies to the belt, uh, what we're doing now to people in the trailer business there, the axles were underrated. Everything was built to the cheapest possible and you had warranty problems. And we looked at, and we, when we followed up, the other people were doing, there was nothing to mistakes. So we started this belt company. Initially, you follow what people are doing. And we looked at and said, no, this is not what we're about. This is not what the construction should be. So, you know, as we, if you look at, if you were the one, the first person that bought her belt then 10 years ago and look at what's now, and the change has been dramatic, uh, in the, in how we, the products, we have patents, our own stuff. We don't follow what people are doing out there.

Speaker 3 (11:57): 99% of the people out there, it's just taking somebody, someone has for China and going, copy that for and just throw a logo on it for me. And that's what they're doing. That's not what we're about. We used to sit there and design our own spot on mechanism and all that stuff. We have patents for holding the silver stuff. The only thing you can't patent is the ratchet system itself. And then there's some companies that have that. And I think what my attorney patent attorney said is that regarding the, uh, patent, uh, office is like one step above the DMV.

Tom (12:26): Oh yeah. I got friends who have trademark applications then for two years over dumb stuff. Yeah. Yeah. And you're by the end, literally you're at their will like, like you just go for the ride. Like you could just, I used to be able to get in early because you don't know how long it's going to take.

Speaker 3 (12:42): Yeah. Yeah. Those guys are overburdened, you know, and left hand doesn't know what the right hand doing, but you know, what we do with our belts is that we just go and make the best thing out there possible the price. And we have some other stuff, you know, I talked to you about the role in Thomas brand that we have, where it's a Italian leather that's being made in USA here, which is, you know, we have to train them to make it the way we want it to be made. So it's, it's, it's not something we just slap a name on there. We're not a, uh, a shipping warehouse where a lot of these companies are,

Tom (13:12): You're not like a crappy drop shippers getting stuff from China and being like, Oh, look by this belt. It's only X dollars. It's like, you guys are a real company and a real brand with your own real products. And yeah, I use some technologies that are available, but like it's taken, it's a whole other level. It's not just cheap stuff.

Speaker 3 (13:30): Yeah. We spend a hundred thousand dollars on molds. You know, you look at our, our amount of buckles of designs. We have, we spend a lot of money on that stuff and we do a lot of testing and it's just, you know, we just, we have a lot of creative ideas sometimes it's so me and Eddie, buttheads saying, what's going to come out next. You know, uh, what should we do on this stuff? Different longest time we used to fight over cheaper's that'll a cheaper part than the Buffalo. I want to show you something here. So twisted this bucket list. Can you see what happened? The customer said that to us. She said, I did this when I was drunk. I don't know how I did it

Tom (14:10): At your desk. You're like, Oh my God,

Speaker 3 (14:12): We warrantied it for them. Not a problem. Uh, you know, cause it's, it showed that our new design is having the, uh,

Tom (14:20): Thank you for showing us this, like the biggest favor in the world. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (14:23): And we put set screws on there. Nobody does set screws in the industry. We're the first to do that.

Tom (14:29): Oh, they do like, just like a, pop it into a bracket.

Speaker 3 (14:32): We'll just use pins and pencil back out over time. And we learned that, uh, in the golf industry, we applied that technology, that to make a better buckle. And so we had an engineer release and he told us, Oh, your system's not very good. You can't do it for carrying guns. And I was like, uh, this guy twisted saying this much and the pin, the screws didn't break this dude. You know

Tom (14:52): That like, he just got out of his car and they're like,

Speaker 3 (14:54): I don't know. But he said like to keyboard, he said I was drunk. And I don't,

Tom (14:57): Who knows if I swung at her out, hit somebody,

Speaker 3 (15:00): I'd hate to fight this guy. Because if he does by hand, that is just ask this. That's amazing. You should hire him. He should be fantastic.

Tom (15:09): That's cool though. Because like, at least he's like, I don't know. Here's a, like right now, you guys know, and I don't know when this is going to air, but like we're in a big contest right next Bell's with, you know, as joining us on this and you know, what's cool is like, if you guys join my email list or, you know, like I always respond and I always talk to my, to my subscribers. And like somebody had said like some actually commented on one of the brands that, uh, that was in the contest, not negative. It was actually a nice, a nice positive comment. But they said that, you know, this brand should really do this thing. Right. And it was like, I just felt, I just replied. And then I actually forwarded it to like the CEO of the company and be like, I bet you never get to see this, but this is a very good idea.

Tom (15:46): This person has. And this, there are, they already own your product and they already are a fan, but they're saying like, this is what you guys need to do, like to help you. And they're like, Oh my God, thank you so much. Right. Because hearing from the voice of the consumer is worth millions dollars. Like really know what you're doing. I mean, without, you know, I'll give you guys an example. Like today I was before the show, I was talking to Tom and I was like, Hey, I got this idea. Let me show it to you. And he's like, even his feedback to me, it was like, I wouldn't do it like that. I was like, really got all excited. He's like, I would do like that, you know? And he's explained why. And I was like, Oh my God, thank you so much before I spend a bunch of time on something that maybe, maybe I thought it was a good idea. I don't know. But I mean, that's always a big, big plus when somebody actually, so as you're like guys warranty system, then like pretty much just if there's something what's your, I guess your return not return, but yeah,

Speaker 3 (16:32): We have a one-year warranty thing. And, but if it's stuff that's freaky, it's weird. That's never seen before. We'll fix, we'll take care of it. We'll fix that. And we've a warranty stuff this a couple of years old, three years old, here's the first example of something that happened. When we were in first year business, we ordered some belts from a second company and they use some cheap, uh, the rack, the teeth system on there. And they start failing after a year and a half, they would crack and break, be pissed, warrantied every single one of those out there. And we did have our own pocket because that company refused to warranty it. So we went and did that and we went back to the beginning and said, you know, what, what was the problem? Okay. They use some cheap plastic. Everybody buys those plastic strips from the open market. You can buy them for on the pennies because they're available everywhere. But you get a bunch of people build a trap. So we wanted more control. So we went to a company that had nothing to do with the system and design that plastic company would be made out of nylon and a durable nylon. We have our own, we made our own. Yeah. And cause, you know, we want control over that stuff as much as yeah.

Tom (17:38): Right. You don't only like hidden oopsies by other brands that won't back up their product, but they buy cheap ass stuff. Like you think you have a good pro I mean, asking you about the property. You think you have a good product from this company and then they don't give it to you. Then you sell it. And then at the end of the day, you're holding the bag, right. Because somebody bought your product and they pay a fair, a fair price for it. And now it's broken. And you're like, what the hell? It's like, okay, why you can piss this person off and say, sorry, or just do the right thing. And now re-engineer and figure out, because that's like the, literally the backbone of your business, right? Like the belt, no pun intended. Right? Like that prop it literally, if you look at that, you know, is like, if that thing doesn't work, then you you're, you're undermining what you're doing.

Speaker 3 (18:19): Yeah. I mean, I tell the people I told them, the belt we have now is based on the failures of the past. Of course. Yeah. That's awesome. Yeah. We've learned so much as we went along so that this will make it better and we continuously make it better. Always trying to make the thing lighter, better, stronger. I mean, we recently came with the hybrid system for the belts because you know, we like, we love the magnet system cause the magnet will never fail. You know, the, the spring system has, uh, has a much more linear feel to it. It's not off on switch is more like smooth. And we went to combine those two together. And so it just makes it better, more reliable product. And that's just some things that we do. And it's just, we're not engineers per se, but we know how to engineer the right stuff to make it

Tom (19:02): Well, you're problem solvers. Right. But that's all it is. You're just problem solving. You're like, okay, well that's a problem, which we didn't think it was a problem. And how are we going to make this better? How are we going to make this? Right. You know? And then spend the time, energy and money doing it. Um, okay. So you guys started the boat company and it blew up. Right? So what happened when you start making some money? Why did you make more than $150 a year?

Speaker 3 (19:23): Okay. This is a butcher like company. So the first year I gave myself $300. Okay. But you started December 31st. No, I started just to check this out. I started, we started in March. Oh my God. Of 1993, worked every single day for six months doing 12 to 14 hour days, Eddie would work full-time at his air conditioning company works for that. He would come in for another three to four or five hours after work, driving from Rancho Cucamonga to Riverside. So we did that for six months straight then finally said, okay, we went to, uh, six days a week and I hired an employee. The next year we did better. I doubled my money. I made a payment. So $600

Tom (20:01): Living at this time, we were living with your mom at

Speaker 3 (20:03): That time, after the first other warehouse, I moved back home to my dad. Cause my parents were divorced. That was just the most humbling, humbling experience to be 20 years old. And moving back this day and age it's normal because the session usually had during that time period, that was like, are you kidding me? I had friends who are like making six figures at that age.

Tom (20:28): We're making 600. There's a six in there.

Speaker 3 (20:33): Yeah. So the next year I did better, uh, we did, I'd made like 18,000. The only reason I made 18,000 is because, um, and this side, this time though, I had nine employees and I had to get, I told Eddie business is growing. I need you in to help me. And he goes, why are you paid about $3,000 a year? Pay all my bills. I said, okay. And that was like, gosh, like six months into the year. So I paid 18,000 payments of $18,000. I didn't cash one. Single check of that drove my crazy, my sister crazy because,

Tom (21:06): Well, we're like all this money in the account, like, Oh, we're not rich guy.

Speaker 3 (21:13): She fills me in the office. And she says, are you cashing checks? I was like, no, I got a problem at home. She goes, you throw me off balance. She goes, cash it. And you'll, if we need the money for the company, you'll just pull it out. And so it was, it was tough. You know, one thing, here's my recommendation. Anybody's trying to grow a new business for themselves. Live a lifestyle that you could run into problems that you, I remember watching an episode on a shark tank where a guy was trying to get money. He goes, and he goes, how much they asked much about it. You knew. And he goes, well, you know, I lived this LA lifestyle. Yeah. That's not going to grow a company. You're going to have to sit there and eat, you know, you know, broth soup or, or, you know, like a ramen soup to make it happen. I was fortunate. I moved back to him with my dad. Didn't have to pay rent and make it soup. I make phenomenal Rama soup, but you know, you gotta do that. You gotta, so we learned the same thing. So we started next felt we had money, but we didn't want to go crazy. Like some company throw in a big building signs and all this stuff. We want to see how it kind of grows still. So we start,

Tom (22:16): Do you treat it like a startup? Like you treated your boat, couple of you, but now you're not worried about not paying your bills.

Speaker 3 (22:21): Yeah. So we invested our money and I didn't pay for next belt, 80 90 pairs. So for the first three years we didn't pay ourselves is what you're doing.

Tom (22:32): I roll it back into the business, whatever I make. And I'm, you know, like, or does the company, I don't make a damn dime.

Speaker 3 (22:38): Yeah. We didn't pay herself to the fourth year. And I think we paid like $3,500 a month just to get some things going. Um, so it's just, uh, it's just being able to, to tighten down a little bit and you know, just I'm in Washington when nine 11 hit. I remember we didn't want to lay off any employees in the, in the business because it's hard to train employees. So we here. So for six months, uh, when nine 11 after nine 11 to make sure we didn't lay anybody off. And, uh, that allowed us to be strongly when it, when we got through, you know, we, we had some really good employees that are in that time. So it's like, as you know, we paid my mom back in the first year. Cause we didn't want to own anybody money.

Tom (23:17): You want to own it. You don't want to be like, you're not rich. Like, Oh, we're making money. It's like, you know,

Speaker 3 (23:23): Pay the debt back. You know, to me, it's like always been raised that, you know, if I'm going to go buy a car, I have to make payments. I know when I was younger. Yeah. I got to make pimps. If I can avoid making payments done. It's just, I feel, I hate the idea of owning the money. You know, we grew up poor. So it's not like, I'm not going to say poor for we're like, Oh, we said we were Uppal upper lower class.

Tom (23:43): Yeah. I was lower. Middle-class you right there.

Speaker 3 (23:47): So we worked our asses off for that

Tom (23:49): Because like, uh, I don't know, like I'm Italian. I think, I think it's like a, what'd you call that like a it's ingrained in you. Right? Like that's how I was. My dad was an immigrant. Like he didn't speak English. When he came here, he was five years old. Right. So like, it's just the same kind of thing. I was like, you just work hard, you work hard and you figure it out. And that's it. Like, I don't know. I know things have changed a lot in the world, but still go, I know how you can successful. You work your ass off. Like that's pretty much it and don't stop or you can just party. But at some point you're going to run out of money.

Speaker 3 (24:21): We're working out the homework smart, you know, and learn from, uh, from other people.

Tom (24:25): Yeah. That's what I love about this. I learned so much for everyone I talked to, I was like the stories I hear on this podcast, man. I was like, say what? I didn't even know. I'll be straight with you guys. I knew nothing about Tom. Like seriously. I knew nothing. I might talk to Tom last times. We've been friends for like two years almost. And I've never saw his face tase the first time. Right. And then we started talking and I was like, shut up. I didn't know that really like out. I just think it's so phenomenal when you hear these. I thought Tom was like, I don't know somebody else, you know, there's the stories.

Speaker 3 (24:55): Yeah. I'm kind of hitting back. I let Eddie and my business partner be the front person. Cause you know, he's the one that goes and meets ms. Jim fear. Leishman he deals, he talks to those guys. Cause that's his passion.

Tom (25:07): Yeah. He like, yeah. You're like the puppet master.

Speaker 3 (25:12): Yeah. I'm a workaholic and I love designing stuff. And then just the creative side of it. That's the best part of this company. I'll tell you right now. It's the creative side.

Tom (25:25): Some really cool stuff too. Like, you know, every post you guys I'm like, Oh that's cool. That makes golf bells. I'll talk to that. I'll talk to them. You know? And then as I got to know you and like saw your products, I'm like, this is more than just a belt company. Like this is, this is not what I thought it was. You know, I was like being surprised. And I, I know, I think you guys, you guys could have done that too. I know what your competitors are because we've talked about them before, but I asked who they are. Cause I've talked to them myself and it's like, there's a, it's a different level. Right? Like it's like, yeah, you can, it's not, I wouldn't even consider. Yeah. They'd make the same products as you or same core product, but they're not the same product. Right. It's just that they have a different, uh, I dunno methods to their marketing. So that, that way

Speaker 3 (26:05): They do things differently. We're a little bit, we hold ourselves to it. Different not being established for real. It's such a different standard of how we do our stuff. So we tend to have our prices send a little bit higher and then other people and you know,

Tom (26:19): You pay for, that's what I tell people like, yeah, that's it sorry. Like, you know, like lollies brands will have it. Like, like I work with they'll have like an expensive product, right? Like, Oh, it's really expensive. I'm like, yeah, but it's not, you know, and especially in the golf industry, like people are used to spending money. So nothing's cheap in golf, right. I mean,

Speaker 3 (26:37): It's a pretty pricey, uh, uh, uh, presi is for, uh, Cabi. So then what year did you sell the company? We sold that company in 2007. And that was like, just when it, I mean right. Till we solely signed the paperwork. Oh, perfect timing. Three weeks later and sales dropped 50% and I was like, Whoa. And we watched the layoffs. It was tough. I would say that was really tough.

Tom (27:00): And then w w when you guys sold, did you have to stick around like,

Speaker 3 (27:03): Oh yeah, I stuck around because there's potential to grow the company. We just, uh, this almost a billion dollar company bought us out and we saw potential to really grow it. We had vision of making this second nationwide thing and then recession,

Tom (27:16): It was flowing like crazy in Oh five Oh six. Like there was money come out everywhere. Especially, I bet in that industry too, because everyone's like, Oh, free money, free money at my house. You know, I'll get a five-year, uh, arm with a, you know, I'm going to cash out and I can get money with no information.

Speaker 3 (27:34): They were thinking that money would never stop flowing. I was like, but yeah, we got out and I still, I worked them a little bit, but it was just this tough.

Tom (27:43): It used to look big company too. Right. Because if it was like a smaller company or a new guys wanted to start it up, like, you'd be like, Aw, that's so bad. Cause they're going to, you know,

Speaker 3 (27:51): I still felt bad cause you know, cause it was like, that was my [inaudible]. I described it this way. It was like handing off your daughter to the new, uh, to her husband, you know? And now he's going to mess this up. I'm gonna kill you. Yeah. But yeah, it's miserable. And we, sales dropped 95%, you know, uh, in 2008, 2009, uh, we went from 75 employees down to like seven. So, and they said, you know, what do you want out? I said, yeah. Uh, yeah. So it was weird that day when I came out of the shower the next morning at 10 o'clock and I was like, I'm retired. This feels cool.

Tom (28:33): Holy crap. I have money and I don't have to word, this is the best feeling in the world. This is what we're waiting for. I'm not a hundred. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (28:38): But it only goes so far before you get bored. Then the passion side of creating something, you know, tree. So we tried doing 3d, glad we hooked up some companies doing 3d glasses. And then when that 3d phenomenon for the movie theaters getting really big and that, and then we just, then when the belt thing fell on our lap and it's like, you're a vacation, but you

Tom (28:59): Decided not to go to because you had a girlfriend.

Speaker 3 (29:02): Yeah. Well, they didn't go actually was true, but we didn't go back to where I was born. I mean, I was thinking about how would I, if they, it goes to the same place where I was born and because it's one of those tour things. So I went back like six years ago, took my mom to my wife. And once you're there,

Tom (29:20): Vietnam, my, all my good friends just moved to Thailand, like Chiang Mai. And I'm like, I want to go check on my so bad. Um, but like, yeah, that's funny though that like, you didn't go, but then he found like, you never know where it's going to inspire you. You know? Like that's really what it comes down to if you, and it, the thing is too, it's all timing. Right. So had you guys not sold when you did it had the and flexibility to do what you wanted to do, make good choices for the first half of your career, right. With your money and your time to have, like, you probably would have seen that and be like, Oh, that's a good idea. And then he would have gone back to work at the boat company, you know, like

Speaker 3 (29:54): Tommy, Tommy is everything and you know, and it's what you make of it when it hat falls in your lap, you know, sometimes I've made mistakes, not making the right decision on things, but fortunately for the most part, we've made good decisions. Uh business-wise. And so,

Tom (30:10): So then you guys sold the company. And so then what happened, did you initially, when you started next belt, did you guys like outsource, like, did you buy stuff from China or just sort of make it from United States or what how'd you guys get that process going since these belts, this belt technology is very, I know, I know it's an Asian, it's very popular in Asia. I know that. I mean, just from my own research and stuff. So

Speaker 3 (30:31): We've been trying to make more stuff in America, but the mold fees, it's like 20 to 30 times higher. So it's just, it's really difficult. And you know, here's this expectation of price, how much you wanna spend for it and what it costs you Matt to have made America and was cost to make an Asia is two different animals. And those moles are so complex. I mean, just, yeah,

Tom (30:52): Because everyone's, I could imagine what you guys are building. It's not like you're just making a shirt with a screen print on it,

Speaker 3 (30:58): Just to give you an idea, just to make a mold for my Bumble shot, 50 grand here. Okay. 50 grand. And that's not that you didn't go through the process of once you get to made to have it chromed and all of those stuff and putting it together. So that's just 50 grand from the molds. And then that doesn't include the cost of the strap. You know? So there's hazards

Tom (31:17): The plastic that you guys had to come up with. Right? Like all these things add up and the labor, right. Parts, the labor side of it and the, and the branding.

Speaker 3 (31:26): Yeah. So what we've done is that we try to integrate the two as much as possible. We have a we'll do some customers will do a hundred percent, honestly, 90% of the customization we do here in the States, but we do, we'll put, put buckles and straps together. And sometimes we'll have parts sent in where we'll install stuff together. It's just, you know, I'm, uh, I love being able to see hiring employees come in and, and watch them grow with us. And I remember when we first started, there were a bunch of Chucky cars out there they're coming to work. And four or five years later, they're pulling in, you know, nicer cars, brand new cars, and it's like, you've done it. You've done a good thing. And helping both of us are so gross.

Tom (32:04): Yeah. They're like in there, I mean, they're part of it. It's not just being part of the team. It's like, you're part of the family. Like, you know, that's, that's the best feeling in the world when somebody cares about what you're doing. Not because of they're getting paid for it. Right. Like that's the person, like whenever I hire somebody, like, that's what I'm looking more like, do you have the same vision? And do you do at the end of the day, do you care? Right. And honestly, just start test. Or if people like that, but nothing more evident to me when I accidentally deleted my Google drive about a year and a half ago. So it was telling you it's very easy to delete a Google drive and all stuff. Um, and there's no way of getting it back. Cause I tried, but in Google socks for that reason, but that's okay.

Tom (32:45): Cause I'll have all content, whatever. But uh, but by team, like, it was the coolest thing in the world. Like everybody like stepped up, right. And like, Oh, I had a window open still. I can still access the files. I'm like seriously, you know? And like people were trying to like save what they could, you know? But I shouldn't be telling a story, but, well, I mean, you know, it's cool when you people actually care, they cared about me. Like, I feel my team like blowing up freaking Google on Twitter and trying to get response from questions you're asking. Cause you would think like you accidentally deleted the moment you hit delete. It's gone supposedly from the whole world, which is complete bullshit. I'm sorry. Because what if like, I'm like some kind of guy that's like a disgruntled employee, right? And I'm like, Oh yeah, I'm a screw up next belt. I have a Google drive. I'll miss delete the whole account. Everyone's email you just telling me that you can't get this back then and now, but they wouldn't. I'm just telling you guys now don't delete your Google drive. Um, it is possible, but yeah, but that's the best, that's the best feeling, right? When people actually care about the brand and want you to grow, what other industries are you in right now, then when it comes to belts?

Speaker 3 (33:45): Well, we do, uh, we do the EDC, like the gun belts, like police officers. I've got a bunch of friends are police officers and they were always bells a scream to off duty when they're off duty police officers, I know you're, you're carrying a gun. So we designed some really nice bells for them when they go on dates with their wives or girlfriends or they approach the screaming cop dude. So we designed a lot of belts. They can carry the weight and still blend in and that's gone really well for us. And you know, we have another line that's we're trying to, I mean, we talking about American made belts, it's called Roland Thomas. We import, uh, Italian high premium calcium, Italian leathers to, uh, United States. And we have the straps made here. And uh, I mean, they are really nice. They're pricey, but the quality look at that, just for example, on the, on the serpent. Uh it's uh, when you

Tom (34:36): Hold it up for you guys for the video, so yeah.

Speaker 3 (34:39): You gonna have to go to, uh, go to the menu and not the menu. I'm sorry. Go to the, the banner and just hit the banner and they should go to a different site.

Tom (34:49): It looks, you guys did theirs. They don't cut corners. This is bad-ass. Uh, is it? Nope. That's not it. That's your everyday ones.

Speaker 3 (34:57): Yeah. That's where day one. I guess we took the, we took the banner down to do some other stuff, but it's Roland thomas.com. And what it is, is this really gorgeous felts? Uh, here it is right here. There it is. Yeah. You can pick up on that little catalog right there.

Tom (35:10): Their catalog for Roland Thomas. There's a picture of Tom leaving his Ferrari.

Speaker 3 (35:15): How's that good looking that's in front of yours, Joe,

Tom (35:19): Is that LA or is that New York? It's like New York. Yeah. I do like quality. It's like, high-quality about, it's like, this is a, you know, like this is

Speaker 3 (35:27): Yeah. That circuit line right there. We buy the leather. And when you roll that leather, it's scales the scales come up. It's not a true lizard or a snakeskin emulate that you have the person with the knife cut in every single one of us shut up. Seriously. They do it at the factory for us. They cut all that stuff up and we cut it down to make this. I mean, they're just, they're just beautiful, beautiful belts.

Tom (35:52): That's crazy. I mean, this is beautiful. I mean like, you know, you would never know in a billion freaking years that this is a ratchet belt. You guys look at the front, right? Like I was like a normal belt. It looks beautiful and high end, like super high end. Right. And then the backer, like, Holy crap, it's a ratchet like, like nobody does that. Nobody. This is, this is awesome. The other day from Roland Thomas from Tom. And I'm like, who the hell is Thomas? I'm like, what is this? And he's like, Oh, it one of our brands. I'm like, Oh, okay, cool. Like now I'm like, Oh, this is really cool.

Speaker 3 (36:22): Yeah. The other thing we also do is the ratchet caps where we have the ratchet is technology to the back of the cab.

Tom (36:27): Where's that at? Oh, Oh really? On a hat.

Speaker 3 (36:30): On a hat. Yeah. It makes a hat. You know, when you wear those flex ads, every, when they first came out, I was playing baseball in college and ever so excited about it. But after three, four hours, man, I was getting a headache. Cause the pressure that's constantly on your head and with that hat, with a ratchet system hat, you can make it tight or loosen up two seconds. Yeah. Just touch the button, release it.

Tom (36:50): Cheesy like leather strap crap. Right. You know what I'm talking about? Like you get those cheesy, like bad leather.

Speaker 3 (36:58): Yeah. No, this is really nice stuff. And the cool part is like, when you're we have a beanie that goes with it. So for your golfing during the colder season, you want your ears to be warm, just pull the beanie over it. And the hat goes right over to the beanie, found the prompt. Cause it's like a one size fits all kind of the same philosophy we have with the, uh, with our belts.

Tom (37:14): You guys make cool stuff. I mean, look, no understate. It looks awesome. I'm always like archi

Speaker 3 (37:20): Work really hard on that. But we do a lot of stuff that's never been done before, by the way, we're the first to do ratchet ribbon belt and we're start out.

Tom (37:29): I want to see this. I like this. Like this EDC is a ribbon belt or no,

Speaker 3 (37:32): You know, if you scroll up, uh, go down. I'm sorry. Go down and good. Stop right there. See that flag that the us flag one. No, no, that one right there. It's just like a red flag. Those are, those are ribbon belts. They're really popular in back East, Northeast and uh, and uh, down South. And we're the first average to do that. We could put logos on that for people. And we're the first to do, uh, these new braided belts. That's really popular needle point belts. Yeah. That's going to be our target here, down, down the line, but we're, we do a lot of customization. So if you worked for a company that they make great gifts for people. Yeah. A logo on there. We also customize where we will put person's initials on there and we'll put it on the ball marker for them. So we're doing, we do a lot of customization, a lot of cool stuff, but our line, we have the most extensive ratchet BeltLine in the world.

Tom (38:28): Oh, this is it. You guys did this. This is cool as hell, man. What a cool shot. Who read the idea? It was brilliant. I did. I did this flag out of the real

Speaker 3 (38:36): Leather belts, uh, using blue leather, red and white leather. And I built it for our top three, uh, uh, selling stores in the United States, uh, cough shops. And they had it all framed. They loved it. I mean, I loved it. I need to make one for myself for the shop, but just

Tom (38:53): Kevin,

Speaker 3 (38:55): Kevin's a great guy. I said, Eddie hangs out with Kevin. He gets Jim. I met, Jim wants to trust myself next year. I've tried to get up at the LA opens. I try to, Hey Jim. And he goes, I'm sorry. I have to get to the next hole. I had my next belt hat on the next little shirt, the next little jacket. But I'm Tom. He didn't recognize me. I was like, and he was very polite.

Tom (39:17): Yeah. He's cool as hell. Like he is, I have a friend of mine who works with Jim and like, I mean they sell text each other, like they're their partners on a deal. And uh, he's, there's other awesome things about Jim. Jim's like the nicest coolest man, like in golf, like seriously. And he's just a good dude. I like Kevin. I follow Kevin on Instagram, dude. He just, he just is like a guy to hang out with. You know what I mean? Like he just seems like a, he's funny, he's a normal guy. Like it was a picture of him and his wife at like a restaurant in Vegas. And I was like, that's like me and my wife, you know, like, does he, I want to meet Kevin. I think Kevin

Speaker 3 (39:52): Cool. Can you speak locally? Or you get, you have more access to him, but nuisance he's moved to Vegas

Tom (39:58): Or is that I don't live in Vegas. I just thought he was just in Vegas, like at Bellagio. So it was this week. Yeah. But look at these belts. You guys, okay. I want you to my favorite belt. This is the fricking coolest belt of all time, the fast Eddie. And that's why I like calling

Speaker 3 (40:12): Go and call. It goes fast. AEs, go down a little bit further. What's this then that's the go in? That's one. It's just a ball marker. That's a zone right there. We're missing

Tom (40:23): A picture. It opened up.

Speaker 3 (40:25): Yeah. That's a big mistake. We used to have that.

Tom (40:28): Sorry. You can see how, like this is all spontaneous to show, right? Like, and I know, I know his brand, so I'm like, you need a picture of the fast Eddie, because the fast Eddie, I have a picture, I have a facet of here.

Speaker 3 (40:38): Yeah. We're doing rider cut stuff, you know, for a small company like us, you know, at the world that the, uh, we've had, uh, government grants where we've had like tiger woods filming. So they all wear our belts at these events. So for a little pictures of that, dude, we do, we do we've, we've posted it. We have to be very judicious with it. Cause we don't wanna sit that offend them or anything and piss them off. Like I'm not wearing that dude stuff. Yeah. What happens? I mean, it's like, for example, here's here's those stories. Those are mountain that's here. Yeah. Yeah. Sorry. Oh one your story. Well, Hey, I don't know if I can say the name of the golfer, a golfer on the tour. We had a golfer and the tour was with us and he started a huge contract with this company, but he wanted to continue wearing our belt. He fought for us, is he? And he uses the fast Eddie and uh, and the company said, no, we can't, we can't have, you have to wear our belt. He goes, Nope. I got to next belt. So the compromise was that we would, he would wear next belt. We would make one special ones with their logo on it for him. That's really cool. So the guy's like, uh, he's huge player. And uh,

Tom (41:47): So I have a friend I, and this is very funny because he told me this story. I have a friend who owns a golf belt company for custom belts. Right. And he told me a similar story because he was the first guy to actually like make belts for. Cause he was already a tour player and he's wearing belts on the tour and his friends were like, Hey, you should make a belt just for us. Right. And so he made a belt and the same thing happened to him where like, you know, they wear their belts for free, like Ricky, where his bell, a bunch of people were his belt. And then all of a sudden, certain brands, certain brands are sponsoring guys. And then as part of that contract, they purposely said, the belt is part of it. And they're like, but you don't make belts. Right? Like that, that's not part of the attire. And like, as they put that as contract, so those guys can wear his belt anymore. So I'm still did, but I mean, it's still kind of like kind of shady, right? Like, come on. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (42:32): That's tough. We got about 40 guys on the tour wear belts. Crap, man. I didn't know that. Yeah. This just, they just love it.

Tom (42:40): Blue belt. It's easy to put on off. Like I hate belt spelled suck. You know what I mean? When you have to like the whole, and then you get fatter and you got to put a bigger hole in it. And then you're like,

Speaker 3 (42:50): What you're looking at is our, our golf brochure. We also have the dress belt brochure where we have like, you know, like our new suede belts and dress belts for going out or the office is the men's belts. Go down to that. You can go to like, uh, go to the there's another catalog down there. That was catalog. That's right there.

Tom (43:11): Yeah. That's cool. Oh my gosh. It's so nice. I need some more next bell to you guys. Come on. I only got a couple that I wear. I'm like all the time I can be your spokesmodel. I'd be like, I'm Paul. Look at my belt with my shirt.

Speaker 3 (43:24): Yes. My nieces were working for us. Uh, I still have one, but it had like three nieces worked for us. And after work for us, they started noticing belts on guys. But they say it was such an uncomfortable feeling because they get the feeling that guys are thinking. They're looking at their crutches when they were looking at the belt. So those guys were feeling uncomfortable. Those guys are like, Oh, this girl's likes me because they're looking at my crush. Well, they're like they said, uncle Tom, it's really tough. I feel like a perv or something

Tom (43:50): There. A nice Bell's man. Ah, look, look, it's so quality. It doesn't even look like you would never know. In a million years is a ratchet belt. You would just think that this is a very nice high-end belt.

Speaker 3 (44:01): If you're not familiar with ratchet belts, I, you adjust in quarter-inch increments. So they're most comfortable belt after, you know, you can just say your stomach changes throughout the day and you just change it with, with the belt and just cook a couple of buttons and loosen it up after a big meal after go to the bathroom, back up,

Tom (44:18): Guys like seriously, next next it's a real deal like this. Isn't like,

Speaker 3 (44:21): Oh, see right there. These braided belts right here. We're the first one in the world to do that. And we've the new 2021 design. We made the tip, the leather tip even smaller and yeah. And we have some cool designs out there. Oh, and we got this news coming up. They're called belts.

Tom (44:37): This is so cool. Cause you're like all excited. This is what I love about this show, man. It's like, you could tell, he's passionate about what he's doing. And he's like, I've got these really cool belts coming out. Like this is what he loves to do. Oh, that's really cool of that. Right there. Go ahead. Sorry.

Speaker 3 (44:47): No, go scroll down and see that USA flag tip though. You're doing a variation of that. It is just drop dead killer. I'm going to get you up here when we can. All in. You're gonna, you're gonna, this will be like your go-to where, when you're on the golf course. Cause we're probably gonna give it to, uh, some of the big players to where at the championship events where the America against the world type situation. Yeah. So

Tom (45:09): I mean, look at what's cool is like they care about the PR like the leather, the style. It's not like, Oh, they're making a ratchet belt made of other look, Oh, it's just one style. It's just black. Or it's just Brown. It's like, they're making high quality, high end product with different styles of leather. Plus the belt buckle. There's like so many different kinds of customization that you can have, right. Like with the belt buckle. But I wish I could show them. So listen, they have this thing called the fast Eddie, which we're like, what does it have in it? So everybody knows. It looks like a fricking super heroes. Belt buckles. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (45:38): As a hidden ball marker. Plus it has a divot fixer. That's also a bottle opener and we call it our golfer survival tool.

Tom (45:44): Oh cool. It's like so freaking innovative. I mean, it's like the coolest thing on the whole world, but then is that what guys, what you using on a tour or is that what guys are using? Um, or using the other one

Speaker 3 (45:54): They use, they used combination of the go in and the regular dress belts. The one that's like I was telling you about the name. He's probably like top 30 player in the world. Uh, at one point he was like top five. He, uh, he uses the fast Eddie all the time.

Tom (46:08): Cool. Now are they, are they, are you sponsoring them? Or they're just using it. Cause they love rebel.

Speaker 3 (46:14): They love the use of the belt. The only one we've sponsored is gym. Everybody else, they do it for gratis because they like us. They like to build. And they like us because we would go out of their way to culminate them when they need it. And we support some of their charities

Tom (46:28): And you're good people. But see, that's the thing. Like people like it's a good relationship and that's why they do it. You know? Like they want to support you. They love your product and they want to support you. And then, you know, sometimes not always about the money. So like that's,

Speaker 3 (46:43): It's funny. The, the, the gentleman that I was telling you about, we were, we were paying them in the beginning, a smaller amount. And after the first year, he said, don't even worry about it because he loved, he liked, he'd really enjoyed working with Aggie and, and he was winning big time. And he says like, this is just like nothing to me. I, I want to support your company. And let's just, don't worry about it. And we said, okay, we'll tell you what, we'll do things we'll go and support your charity. Let's us make some bills for your charity at your advanced, all that stuff. That's great. Just do that then. So it's a, we have a few like that. So it's a, it's a great feeling when you go and somebody says to you, you know what? You like you as a person, that's just continue to go on this path and not worry the other out. Yeah. It's about a transaction,

Tom (47:30): Right? That's, that's kinda, that's how you and I met it. Wasn't about a transaction. It's more about like, Hey, I like what you're doing. And I like, you know, and as I got to know you, I'm like, Oh yeah, he's my friend. You know? And that's really what it is. I mean, that's the best part about what we're doing together. So, I mean, next belt, you guys are much, much, much, much bigger than just the bell company. I feel like. And I feel like you're touching so many, the bell is such a, a universal product that you don't have to just be like, Oh, we're the golf bell company. It's like, no, we make golf belts. Yeah. But we also make all different other kinds of lines. So I mean, I think, yeah, you guys are awesome. You guys make cool stuff. I mean, look, there's technology, you guys like this, this is so cool.

Tom (48:07): Like, you know, they use a stainless steel had this and steel screws. Here's the little ratchet part that you pop it on off. And then it just goes in these little clips and that's a little for you guys watching on the YouTube. Like, here's that thing you was talking about where they end up just redesigning it themselves and making it because the brand that was making a forum was not doing a good job. So I mean, that's what kind of company does that? I mean, nobody. Right. So definitely you guys need to check out next belt. They're awesome. And Tom is, you know, I really appreciate you being on the show today. I know you're very busy man. And I know. Right. All right. Cool. Well, thanks for being on the show and uh, let's catch up soon. All right.

Paul (48:50): Thanks for listening to another episode of behind the golf brand podcast, you're going to beat me like stay connected on and off the show by visiting golfers authority.com. Don't forget to like subscribe and leave a comment. Golf is always more fun when you're winning, stay out of the beach and see you on the green.

Paul Liberatore

Paul Liberatore

Founder of Golfers Authority

Amazon Associates Program We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Golfers Authority