Michael Hess has over 20 years’ experience in sales and marketing, product development, entrepreneurship and executive management.
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, lots of stories to tell, and what may be the largest collection of name tags in Western New York.
Anxious to spend more time arguing with his father, in 1990 Michael joined his family’s well-known photo equipment manufacturing business, The Saunders Group. Saunders had just purchased a major branded camera bag 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. That earned him “good boy” status, and he went on to become Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of the parent company and its 15 branded product lines. 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 and launched the online luggage and travel accessory retailer Journeyware, which he later sold to a major international luggage manufacturer.
Most recently, Michael launched Hotdog Yoga Gear, a new brand of unique accessories for the fitness market.
He continues to argue with his father, he just does it by phone and e-mail.
Michael also serves as advisor to other entrepreneurs and small businesses, and has been interviewed numerous times on television, radio, print publications and online media. He writes the twice-weekly "Business With Class" column for CBS News Moneywatch, and is a Certified Expert on several business advisory sites. Michael has even appeared live on QVC a few times to sell his wares… that was a trip.
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 (impressive, eh?). 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.