Stop Trying to be the “Best” and Team Up With People Smarter Than You: With Michael Roloff, Founder of Rental Pal
By Yitzi Weiner and Casmin Wisner
“You can’t do everything on your own to succeed. Bring in a team of people more knowledgeable in different areas of business to ensure you have everything covered.”
Michael Roloff, Founder of Rental Pal, former amateur skateboarder and young entrepreneur, that includes 16 years in skateboarding and an expert when it comes to sports rental equipment.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your backstory?
I have always had a love for sports and I am a natural born athlete. I was a former amateur skateboarder and spent over 16 years as a professional skateboarder but his career was cut short due to a knee injury. I am an avid sportsman and has rock climbed, played baseball, football and Jiu Jitsu. After my injury, I used to dedicate my time to the sports community by teaching skateboarding lessons, as well as renting out snowboards, surfboards and various of my sports equipment on sites such as Craigslist and Facebook. I also had a previous start up called Easy Target Design in which clothing was designed for high school sports teams and clubs and eventually led to being purchased by an art group in Los Angeles, California.
I started Rental Pal because a lot of people have good quality sports gear laying around that is just collecting dust or it is a seasonal sport and is not getting used. Before starting the company, lots of time was spent working so I could not go snowboarding every weekend. I would rent the equipment to people who did not own boards and I ended up making double of what the snowboard costed. I started doing this with all my sporting equipment even golf clubs and baseball bats. That is when I felt I need to create something that offers people a secure way to make money or borrow sports gear. That is how mobile was born which now allows people to rent sports gear from all categories, along with a B2B service that helps sports gear shops have an online appearance and a way to market their gear to travelers, adventurers and first time sports enthusiasts.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
There have been so many interesting things that have happened still starting the company but one is we partnered with SDI Racing, owner of the Indian Motorcycle team and promoter for American Flat Track/Harley Davidson racing events taking place in Northern California. We are also pointing our focus in helping sport shops in communities to assist them with social marketing and giving their business a verified profile on the Rental Pal marketplace allowing the shops to show up higher on the search engine functionality within the app.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are very active in the sports community. We promote sporting events, and also help to set up mobile store fronts for sports gear shops in the local neighborhood to give sports enthusiasts a digital store front connecting to a different market of customers. We want people to have a chance to start their own business and make use of their sports gear and then also get an additional income stream. We are one of the only companies that rent sports gear all through geotargeting with a mobile app. It is also extremely simple to use as all you do is find the gear you want, take a picture, set your price and upload it to the product alley. The person renting the equipment will request the dates they want to pick up the sports gear and you get paid as you confirm.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who has helped get you to where you are?
Ever since I was young, my parents have been very supportive of my love of sports and they are my biggest inspiration.
Both my parents have been supportive since I started my first business. Growing up, I did it all and started skateboarding and surfing at age nine, so they typically drove me around and was there for me encouraging me to be active. Nowadays, being a young entrepreneur can be difficult with potential new challenges and they are the rock that grounds me if I feel overwhelmed. It helps to have a good foundation. They have also encouraged me to follow my dreams as I have been an entrepreneur since my senior year of high school.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I want to make the world aware of all the benefits there is in regular sports and extreme sports and tell them that they can do anything they put their mind to through effort. Dare to think outside the box and try new things, but most importantly be active. With that mindset, I encourage activity from a young age. I also encourage entrepreneurship and teach people how to make an extra income stream with products they already may have. However, trying new sports can give you a sense of accomplishment, learn new skills and improve physically. Rental Pal has been deeply involved in many sport communities especially the skateboard community. We have been hosting skatepark clean ups and bringing new ideas for skateparks in cities that are without and sport enthusiasts can even find sporting lessons hosted by local enthusiasts through the app.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my startup,” and why?
- Be detail oriented with your development team. If your team does not have a full understanding of your product or idea, it could lead to many issue in the development pipeline. There were a few times when I was just starting out that I would explain how the product works but without anything visual, it can be very hard for your team to visualize your idea ultimately causing product delays.
- If you fail, fail quickly. There has been many features we have added and some were kept around longer then others. If something is not working or is a mistake, it is better to move forward from it then to prolong the issue.
- Be patient with your business, it will take longer than you think to gain success. Building a business is going to take time. Even though there will be frustrations, try not to get discouraged along the way. Be patient and watch your company grow in the long run.
- Don’t focus on just selling a product. This is probably one of the most important points. Companies that succeed are not just selling a product. They are providing value to their customers. I can’t stress this enough.
- Always team up with people smarter than you. You can’t do everything on your own to succeed. Bring in a team of people more knowledgeable in different areas of business to ensure you have everything covered.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Elon Musk. His ability to innovate and execute ideas is incredible. I love how his ideas are not necessarily intended to monetize right off the bat but to change the world. However, others that have influenced me include Kevin Systrom, Mark Zuckerberg, along with Rob Dyrdek and Steve Berra from the Berrics as I love the community they built along with Paul Rodriguez who launched a primitive skating brand.