Michael Hess is a business founder, entrepreneur, exceptional communicator and creative leader with over 20 years of business building experience, and a sterling reputation for creating and growing businesses and the relationships that drive them.
As a young(er) guy he made his walking-around money any way he could – from pumping gas to flipping burgers, to working as an EMT on an inner-city ambulance, and everything in-between. These jobs gave him incredible perspective, an extraordinary work ethic, lots of stories to tell, and what may be the largest collection of name tags in Western New York.
In 1990 Michael joined his family’s well-known photo/imaging equipment manufacturing and distribution business, The Saunders Group. Saunders had just purchased a major branded photo accessory company, and from 1990 through 1994, Michael focused on managing all facets of that new division. He designed new products and lines, managed an in-house factory and established an overseas sourcing and manufacturing base.
Under Michael’s leadership, the division grew by more than 300% over a 4-year period.
He went on to become Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of the parent company and its 15 branded product lines. In that position he led dramatic, multimillion-dollar growth through new product development, brand marketing, and public relations. Michael also grew exports to nearly 30% of the company's owned/manufactured product sales.
The family sold the 50 year-old business—which it had grown from 5 to 100 employees—in 1998.
After aiding in the transition of the business to new ownership, Michael left at the end of 1999 to start RoadWired, the carrying case company which later became Skooba Design.
Michael also founded the online luggage and travel accessory retailer Journeyware, an ecommerce site developed to help travel goods manufacturers sell directly to consumers while minimizing channel conflict. He later sold Journeyware to a leading international luggage manufacturer.
Most recently, Michael launched Hotdog Yoga Gear, a new brand of unique accessories for the fitness market, which quickly developed a following among leading instructors and celebrities, and became a recognized brand virtually overnight, entirely through word-of-mouth, social media and PR.
In 2014, Michael sold Skooba Design and Hotdog Yoga to Norazza, Inc., a major distributor to the consumer electronic and mass market channels.
Michael serves as consultant and advisor to other entrepreneurs and small businesses, and has been interviewed numerous times on television, radio, print publications and online media. He writes the weekly "Business With Class" column for CBS News Moneywatch, the "Hard Knocks" column in Entrepreneur Magazine, and is a Certified Expert on several business advisory sites.
Michael has a B.A. in Political Science, and is also a graduate of the intensive Executive Management program at the industry-leading Philadelphia College of Textiles. He has traveled extensively, developing close, long-standing relationships with factories and customers in over twenty countries. In addition to the companies he founded, Michael has assisted, managed, advised and helped to grow many other products, brands, and companies over his career, and has worked with, and for, companies ranging from startup to Fortune 500.
Michael resides in the Rochester, New York area with his wife and two children.