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RT Custer | Trusting Your Gut as an Entrepreneur

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Hosted by
Mike Ayala

On this episode of Investing for Freedom, Mike talks to RT Custer of Vortic Watches. Vortic Watches is an amazing company that converts old timepieces into amazing new watches that can be worn once again. RT talks about the challenges he went through on his journey to success and gives some tips on how he managed to keep going, despite people telling him to stop.

“I’ve had a lot of struggle being fully present with my people or my business or whatever I’m doing on a day-to-day. I’ve been trying to say this to myself, and then I’ve been saying it to a lot of other people, just be present, be where your feet are, and that’s worked really well for me recently.”

HIGHLIGHTS:

0:00 – Intro
2:16 – RT’s father has had the greatest impact on his life
3:02 – RT’s lack of limiting beliefs has had the greatest impact on his success
3:40 – RT explains his biggest setback and what he learned from it
5:10 – RT shares the advice he finds himself giving the most
7:16 – Mike asks RT about his business, Vortic Watches, and what they do
10:51 – RT talks about some different looks you can get from the different types of watches
12:38 – The art of watchmaking is dying out
14:35 – RT talks about a non-profit which teaches veterans to make watches, which inspired him to start setting up a school for watchmaking
17:15 – Mike asks RT about the military edition of the watch, which releases every year on Veterans Day
20:50 – If someone has a watch as a family heirloom, they can send it to RT to convert it
24:51 – Mike asks RT what has kept him going through the whole process of his lawsuit
29:34 – RT talks about his Christmas tree farm and the family history associated with it
33:38 – RT shares some advice on how to keep going in difficult circumstances
38:18 – It’s really hard to look your partner in the eye and say no to their advice of giving up
41:00 – R.T. shares his final thoughts

FIND RT:

Vortic Watches Instagram: @vorticwatches
RT’s Instagram:  @rtcuster 
Vortic Watches Website: vorticwatches.com

FULL TRANSCRIPTION:

Mike Ayala: Thank you for joining me on the Investing for Freedom podcast. Today, I’ve got a recent good friend, RT Custer, and I think you guys are going to be super inspired by this guy’s story. I mean, even, I just learned something new about him before we started recording here. He is a testament to the ingenuity and just the passion that I think entrepreneurs bring to the world. And I think as we unpack this and you see everything he’s been through and the fight that’s in this guy and just the creativity and what they’ve built, I think you’re going to be super inspired by it. So RT, I appreciate you joining me on the show, man.

RT Custer: Yeah. Thanks so much for having me, really appreciate it.

Mike Ayala: So we met recently, you guys probably saw this. If you follow me at all, I went to an event in Pinehurst, North Carolina with a good friend of mine, Kyle Depiesse and RT was one of the guys that was at the event. And, you know, I talk a lot about the network and just, even on a podcast, we were recording this morning. One of my mentors always says your network, your network equals your net worth. And I think there’s a lot of truth to that because when you have the right network and the right people that are abundant-minded you know, they tend to connect and just interweave, and you just never know where the relationship’s going to go. And I think a lot of times people come from such a scarcity mindset, they don’t want to be transparent. They don’t want to think abundantly. They don’t get into groups like Kyle has put together. And for me, I just can’t even imagine it because the minute that I met RT, you know, over a two-day event, like I feel like we have been friends forever and we get to, you know, we’re on a zoom call last night with the group. It’s just amazing. So as a side note, you should check out Kyle Depiesses’ event, it’s called the Reaching Beyond Experience, but enough of that let’s get into RT. So RT who’s had the greatest impact on your life?

RT Custer: That’s a great question. And it’s definitely, always the same answer for me. And it’s my dad. My dad is the person in it to my recollection that created the lack of limiting beliefs that I have. Which is my answer to, I think, one of your future questions that I would call my superpower is he taught me from a young age that I can do anything I put my mind to. And he mentioned, I mean, anything. So definitely my father and all the things that he’s taught me so far in my life.

Mike Ayala: That’s cool. If you could narrow it down to one thing, that’s had the greatest impact on your success, what would that be? Is it that?

RT Custer: You know, I think that that’s the mindset or the lack of limiting beliefs. I just, I have a really strong ambition and I don’t feel like there’s anything between standing between me and what I want to do besides me. And I just, I’ve never had a thought of like oh, I can’t do that or I shouldn’t do that. You know, I just, if have an idea, like the social state where you’re talking about, just like, alright, cool. Let’s do it.

Mike Ayala: Make it happen. That’s cool. Yeah. I love it. What was your greatest setback and what’d you learn from it, RT?

RT Custer: So in May of 2015, we got sued by the world’s largest watch company called The Swatch Group. And that has now we’re five and a half years into that legal battle, basically. We won the trial in February of 2020, I went to, I took them all the way to court. And in September we actually got the word from the judge that we won.  But it was a massive setback because I mean, for five years, we were trying to grow a company with a gorilla bullying us the whole time. And, you know, not only was that a huge waste of legal dollars. But also it was this massive weight of anxiety of like, I wonder if this thing that I’d spent my entire adult life building is illegal or is wrong. And thankfully the federal justice system protected me and us and what we do is not wrong. And my gut was correct the whole time. And we won but unfortunately, they’ve already appealed and we’re in for another six figures worth of fighting financially and probably another 12 to 18 months of talking to attorneys and C-level executives that don’t speak perfect English. So it’s interesting.

Mike Ayala: I definitely want to circle back to that and unpack that, but let’s get to the fourth question. So what’s the piece of advice you find yourself sharing the most?

RT Custer: My good friend, Chris Goodman told me this the other day, and I don’t know who he gives reference to, but it’s be where your feet are. And I’ve had a lot of struggle just doing that and just like accepting, like see the here and now, and being fully present with my people or my business or whatever I’m doing on a day-to-day. And so I’ve been trying to say that to myself. And then I’ve been saying if you’re a lot of other people, just be present, be where your feet are, and that, it’s worked really well for me recently.

Mike Ayala: I put up a post a while back, a lot like your, I don’t even know if I came up with it or where I heard it or what, but the saying is, you know, getting trapped in the future is just as bad as getting trapped in the past. And really, it’s coming back to the same thing that you’re talking about. I’ve been practicing just trying to be present, right. Because when we spend so much time in the future, which, you know, especially visionaries, business owners, entrepreneurs, like we’re always thinking about the future, right. And we don’t even know if the future is going to exist and all that really matters is today. Right? And, but then there’s a lot of people that are stuck in the past too. And they’re always talking about the best years of their life being 10 years ago, 20 years ago. So I love what you just said, be where your feet are, because that’s a practical way for me to think about being present and that’s going to stick with me. So I really appreciate that. So let’s get into, I want to get into the business a little bit, because what you do is freaking amazing. The first time I saw your watch. Like, I mean, I literally, I got the chills right now. When I saw your watch and I had seen your watch actually, before we even met, because we’ve got a mutual mentor, Chris Harder that shared your watch at some point in time, six or eight months ago. And I started following you then, and here’s the crazy thing. I’ve always wanted a pocket watch. Always wanted a pocket watch, but anytime I’d ever look at a pocket watch, I’m like, I’m actually not going to carry this pocket, watch around. And so tell people what Vortic Watches is because I’m in love.

RT Custer: Yeah. Thanks. So Vortic Watch Company savages and restores antique American pocket watches and turns them into one of a kind wristwatches. Everything inside the watch is about a hundred years old. It’s a piece of American history that we completely restore and make functional again. And then mount inside of our custom piece of engineering that turns that old pocket watch into a wristwatch.

Mike Ayala: And it’s so cool because just watching the process, I mean, you guys got to go follow, what’s the Instagram, you got an Instagram page for the watches, right?

RT Custer: It’s just, Vortic Watches and same URL www.vorticwatches.com.

Mike Ayala: And I’m pretty sure it was on that Instagram page. Maybe it was, yeah, I think it was like, you’ve got videos on there showing like you literally take these watches apart and clean them, strip them down, refinish them, refurbish them, and then build it into a wristwatch, right?

RT Custer: Yeah. So, I mean, these old pocket watches to your point earlier, it’s like, people don’t really wear pocket watches or use pocket watches anymore, but millions of them were manufactured in America a hundred years ago. And you know, a lot of people, it’s crazy to me, how many people have one, you know, grandpa’s pocket watch, great uncle’s pocket watch, whatever. And they get passed down generations and people end up just taking them to pawn shops or something. Cause they, you know, it’s like grandma’s old jewelry, right? It’s like, what are we, what do we really do with this? It’s not in style. It’s not functional anymore. And that’s how we get them, you know, pawnshops scrap the gold or silver case. And then the inside is what we then restore. And so there’s probably 200 little gears and Springs and screws inside these pocket watches that have to get completely gutted, refurbished, and then put back together. It’s similar to restoring an old car. It takes a very specialized skillset to do that. And it takes a lot of work and a lot of love. And that’s why we don’t make very many watches. We make three to 500 watches a year. And that’s also why they’re amazing. And they’re conversation pieces.

Mike Ayala: You were telling me about one of your customers that has like a bunch of watches. Like he just keeps buying them. Like when you guys see this watch, like you’re going to get it. Like, you’re going to understand that. It’s amazing. It’s really cool.

RT Custer: Yeah. I would definitely recommend, you know, we have no inventory right now. I think we just sold our last watch, but I would recommend to scrolling through our Instagram and seeing all our past work. For most of this year, we did a watch every day, we called it the watch of the day. And every day we would post a new watch that was for sale. Most of them lasted six to 10 minutes before they sold. But we plan on doing that again, as soon as we catch up with production. And definitely our Instagram is almost like a gallery. And that’s what we try to do. The coolest and most important part of all that is every single watch is one of a kind. And that’s what makes it really fun for me is I’m always selling watches. I’m always talking about watches, but every single unique item is totally different than the last one. And so they all have their own story. They all have all kinds of other ancillary stories. It’s never, it never feels like the same thing for me or my team, cause we’re always doing a new project every day.

Mike Ayala: Yeah. And what’s really cool, so two things, when I look at this watch, when I look at the backside of the watch, it’s clear, right. You can see all the inner workings, which is super cool. But then what I think is cool when I was looking at the faces of all these different watches, you literally could have the same style of pocket watch, and the faces are patina different in the way they’ve aged. And talk to me about that a little bit.

RT Custer: Oh, for sure. I mean, so let’s take the one that you got is a Waltham. So Waltham was the, I would say it’s the second-largest watch company. They were just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, and today Waltham, Massachusetts is still called watch city. And this factory still exists. They made 40 million pocket watches in that factory from I think, 1862 to 1959 if I remember correctly. And in that hundred years of production, you know, just like any company now, if they probably made a thousand pocket watches with the same dial or face as the one that you chose, but to your point, it’s been a hundred years. So those thousand, first of all, 500 of them probably don’t exist anymore. They were taken for parts or thrown away by some who knows what, right. And so of the 500 that are left kind of in the world, some of them were left on a dashboard of a car. Got totally sun-damaged. Some of them were underwater for a little while and got totally rusted out. Some of them were kept almost perfect by a collector, in a safe and are literally in factory conditions and everything in between. And so that’s what makes it really cool and exciting because even when I find something, yeah, they made a thousand of these a hundred years ago. So there’s probably other ones out there. I still, every single day, I see something that I’d never seen before. And that’s, what’s always awesome. That’s cool. I want to circle back because you said something, the other thing that makes this really unique, I mean, it’s not like you can just ship these watches out to India and have these refurbished. You were telling me about like the watch, the true watchmaker is kind of like a dying skill set.

RT Custer:  Literally. Yeah. So the average age of a watchmaker in the United States is 68 years old. And that is a huge problem, similar to really, I mean, they call it the skilled trade gap. And it’s a problem in the entire United States. There’s all the skilled trades, right? Plumbers, electricians, etc., etc. People don’t realize that you can go make a ton of money doing those services. And you don’t have to go to college. Sometimes you barely have to do like one or two years of school. It’s like a tech school. And you come out of these tech schools and you made just as much as I did with the four and a half year engineering degree from a big school. And so you know, it’s kind of a shame, but at the same time, we’re really trying to fix that problem. It takes, I mean, that’s a massive problem to fix. And it takes a long time, but that’s one of the coolest thing that, my business partner Tyler needed to do as young men, we get to hopefully inspire other young people to get into watches and realize there are huge opportunities in the watch industry. If you want to be a watchmaker and refurbish old pocket watches or fix up, you know, even modern Rolexes, actually those are really fun jobs and make a ton of money if you do that. And then, you know, all the way to CNC manufacturing.  We start with a block of titanium and mill it down with all kinds of different, you know tools and equipment, and to turn it into a watch case and everything in between is lots of very highly technical, specialized jobs, none of which you need to go to college to do. And so you know, I think we’re a small part, but we’re a part of creating that opportunity for our next generation.

Mike Ayala: That is so huge. Did you tell me, maybe I’m dreaming? Did you tell me you’ve got some kind of nonprofit or something you’re working some kind of school system that you’re working on or something?

RT Custer: Yeah, so a couple of years ago we partnered with one of the only schools in the country for watchmaking. It’s called The Veterans’ Watchmaker Initiative and they teach us military vets how to become watchmakers. Amazing, amazing, a non-Profit run by just truly awesome humans. I was really inspired by them. And I sat down with Sam who runs that facility. And I said hey, if I wanted to start another school and try to expand on your work and train more people. But if I wanted to focus less on military, because you got that covered that niche and more on young people, fresh out of high school would you help? And every person I’ve asked that question to, you know, would you help there? Like, I mean, yeah, like that’s a great idea. You’re going to change the lives of the next generation. That’s really cool. And so, it’s all still just talk, you know, it takes a long time to start up a nonprofit and especially started basically a university. That’s what we’re working on. But we call it the Vortic School for Advanced Manufacturing, and we’re going to train people on how to be watchmakers because if you can be a watchmaker, you can be a high-end electrician. You can be a high-end technical service person working for, you know, designing and assembling Tecla’s. Or one of the guys just got a job offer from NASA to assemble all the little things that they have to mess within the cockpit of a space shuttle. You know, if you’re working with tiny little parts and it has to be perfect every single time. And some of these veterans at that school, you know, they were bomb technicians. So it’s very similar. It has to be perfect. It literally can blow up in your face. So they’re used to that stuff. But our vision is to teach watchmaking and other forms of manufacturing, like CNC machining, advanced manufacturing, 3d printing to young people who may college isn’t right for them. And they want to go to a trade school for a couple of years and learn a skill. That’s our vision.

Mike Ayala: That’s really cool. So I don’t know why, but for some reason I’ve got a lot of military people that listen to my podcast and maybe it’s because, you know, I don’t know why. I’ve actually had calls with some of them. A lot of them are building funds around helping military families achieve financial freedom. Big military following. You have a special edition. We probably should have done this podcast before, but you sold out anyway, so it doesn’t matter, but you have a special edition watch that launches every year on veteran’s day, right? Let’s talk about that a little bit.

RT Custer: Yeah. We call it the military edition. And it’s real simple. You can find all kinds of information at www.vorticwatches.com/military. And the military edition was inspired by, I’m wearing the prototype. So I can show you, I talk about it, but this pocket watch inside of this wristwatch, it has a 24-hour dial on it, black face and white hands. And this was a pocket watch that was flown on all the bee bombers in world war II. It was called the master navigators watch, and it was mounted in a little gimbal system with Springs all around to protect it from the vibrations of the aircraft. And it was a tool used by the navigators to know what time it was when they’re in the sky. And it was manufactured all through world war II and used by basically all the people in the US Army Air Corps. And this company it’s called Hamilton Watch Company. And they were in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and they made 140,000 of these for the military. And we’ve been collecting for years and we can actively get our hands on about 50 pocket watches every year and we restore them and then remake this amazing military-inspired case. So the black case, the crown, we even added a red case tube this year. So there’s a little red ring around the top inspired by the red accents on the Bee bombers. And then of course a military canvas strap. This canvas was actually cut from a bag that went to Vietnam. And so we tried to honor the legacy and history of this amazing, you know, piece of military history, call it the military edition. And then we donate $500 from the sale of each watch to the veteran’s watchmaker initiative to literally give back and help them train military vets to become watchmakers.

Mike Ayala: That’s so cool. Is there, so again, I mean, obviously they can’t get their hands on this watch this year, because it’s sold, right. I mean, you sell out on veteran’s day essentially, right?

RT Custer: Yeah. We sold so we make 50 a year. This year we made an extra 15 that were an even more special edition, very limited in 15. So we did 65 launches this year. And we sold, I think almost 60 that day. And we’ve been selling one a week since about, and so as of right now, we have one left, but by the time this comes out, it’ll be gone. So, we have a waiting list. You can sign up and wait for the next one. And we literally, I mean, we can’t find enough pocket watches. It’s all about how many of you find 50 a year is a lot for us. And so we can’t, it doesn’t matter how much you want to pay or whatever. We literally cannot make more.

Mike Ayala: That’s crazy. So how do people get on that waitlist since, since we’re talking about it.

RT Custer: Yeah, it’s www.vorticwatches.com/military. There’s a sign-up form on the top and you know, all kinds of other information there. And then, you know, if that product isn’t right for them or for anyone that has served, we do a 10% military discount, which is code military any and all products all the time.

Mike Ayala: That’s cool.

RT Custer: It’s the least we can do.

Mike Ayala: That’s awesome. Just thinking about this if someone has that particular watch because their grandpa was on a bomber or something, could they send you that watch, and have you build them something out of it?

RT Custer: Sure thing. Yeah, we’ve had that conversation with several people, and we reserve a couple of the 50 every year to do that for. I think we had three people who had a family heirloom that we converted. It’s still the same amount of work, so it’s still the same, you know, price and process and everything. But yeah, then obviously that piece of history inside their particular watch is still there. So that’s even more special.

Mike Ayala: Yeah. That’s cool. And you could actually do that if my grandpa to say, it’s not the military edition, if my grandpa gave me a watch like I can reach out to you and have a custom watch made, right?

RT Custer: Yep. And if you want to do that, it’s as simple as Googling, convert your watch. And we own the SEO for anything around that. Cause we’re the only company that takes a pocket watch turns into a wristwatch. Search convert your watch and we’ll convert the pocket watch into a wristwatch as a service, lots of information on that page.

Mike Ayala: So cool. So obviously this story is so inspiring. I want to back way up and unpackage this. So, because you know, just sitting with you at the bar at Pinehurst and hearing this story, like you guys came up with this in college, right? You and your buddy.

RT Custer: Yes. Tyler and I were playing golf one day after class at Penn State. And I think we were, I was a junior, he was a sophomore, something like that. And we had a bunch of ideas around watches. One of them was this crazy thing that basically, if you turn the knob of the watch, you would tighten the band around your wrist, similar to like the boas, you know, ski and snowboard boots. That was the first idea. We actually own a patent on that idea. That’s where Vortic comes from, vortex and TikTok are kind of turning something on your wrist. But we, we pitched that idea to our college professors and like started working with a patent attorney on that first idea and realized it was going to cost a fortune to develop. And we still haven’t developed that product yet. And we may or may not do it. But in the meantime, we stumbled upon the history of these old pocket watches and really started learning about the potential of the movements inside those pocket watches. And we did that because we really wanted to make whatever we made. We wanted to make a watch, but whatever we made, we wanted it to be made in USA, like as close to a hundred percent made in America as possible. Not for any particular reason other than we just, it was a challenge, you know, nobody was doing that. Nobody seemed to focus on that. It was all Swiss-made or made in China as far as watches are concerned. And so we learned about the history of these old pocket watches and realized if we salvaged those and made everything else about the wristwatch in America, that it would be a hundred percent made in USA and only one of its kind. And we just got really passionate about that idea in this pocket watch conversion idea that we do now. And we said, okay, well, let’s start with that idea. That can be our first product and we’ll see how that goes. And then maybe we can come out with these other products later. So, we had this, it was one of the best ideas we’ve ever had, and we were doing all this research about, you know, made in America. How can we make the watch in America, all this kind of stuff. And we said, okay, well, why don’t we just start with this pocket watch conversion concept? And then we can get back to, you know, making maybe the other products later. And so we put that it’s called the American artists and series our current product on Kickstarter in 2014. And as you know, since then we’ve sold every single watch we ever made. We can’t make them fast enough. It ended up being a really good idea and we’ve never actually had time to make any of the other products that we conceptualize in the golf course back then, because this idea just really took off.

Mike Ayala: Such an amazing story. And I want to circle back to, you know, obviously, a lot of stuff happened in that journey along the way, but let’s talk about the lawsuit a little bit, because I think sometimes, you know, RT got this amazing idea and it was all just, you know, roses and everything else. And I mean, it’s blood, sweat, and tears, right? I mean, you guys have put a lot of time and energy into this, and then the lawsuit specifically, you know, you were saying it’s just such a waste of time. And the thing that I want to point out, we were just having this conversation the other day, because I’ve got another friend that’s getting sued and it’s frivolous. The problem is that anybody can Sue anybody for anything and, you know, drag your life through the mud for forever. So what has kept you going through that whole process?

RT Custer: Yeah. Fantastic question. I would say two things. One is I just, I don’t have limiting beliefs. And I just, I believe in myself so much, and I know I can do anything that I have, you know, use that mindset to just push through. And even in the really hard times it took my friends and family to express concern to me and say hey, you know, I know you feel really confident in this and I know you can do anything, but you’re being sued by the world’s largest watch company. And you’re losing money hand over fist. And, you know, your total potential revenue for your company is not much higher number than what they could even Sue you for and stuff. So it’s like, is the juice worth the squeeze? It’s kind of like how my dad and my girlfriend at the time were telling me, it’s just like, you know, are you sure you want to keep fighting? And it was a huge roller coaster case. Sometimes I thought we had figured something out with them, and we were going to settle. You know, cause throughout five years of the lawsuit, there’s a lot of backend conversations that I can’t talk about. Cause they’re protected by the legal process. But you know, we can talk about the idea that, yes, I, of course, sat down with some of their executives at this big company and said hey, I could do this, you could do this, we could do this, you know, and try to figure out a way to settle it, mildly amicably instead of going to trial and doing all these big legal stuff. And unfortunately, none of those conversations ended well. I felt like some of them could have but you know, long story short it’s David and Goliath. They didn’t give a single shit about me. They didn’t care about my story. They didn’t listen, when I said, I think if you let me, the stories that I’m telling about your brand will actually help your company. And I think we could sell a ton of watches together. Like I don’t really, I never understood why they came after me so much, especially after I had a chance to explain myself and share like who I am. Like, I’m not a bad person. I’m not just out here to make money. You know, at that point, all those conversations, I hadn’t made money at all. We were a startup, we were losing money. There is no profit for them to take if they won this lawsuit. So I was just so confused on every level. But yeah, I mean, basically it’s all about trademarks to them. So the company at stake here, the trademarking stake was the Hamilton watch company. Hamilton was in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They made millions of pocket watches. They were kind of like the Rolex of America back then, made really high-end really great stuff. And they went out of business in the late sixties and the trademark was purchased by The Swatch Group in the early seventies. And so they own the trademark on the word Hamilton, which I never contested. I don’t know why I would, but we take Hamilton pocket watches and turn them into wristwatches. And since we restore them all original, it still says Hamilton on the face of what we made as a wristwatch now. And they simply don’t like that. They don’t like the fact that I make something that has their name on the front, which I understand at first glance. But once I, you know, all I kept saying was hey, you tell me where to fly. I will come to you anywhere in the world anytime, I’ll put my product on the table in front of you, just give me like five minutes to show you what I do. And I think you’ll love it. And they never gave me that chance.

Mike Ayala: It’s interesting, and it’s a learning experience, I think because I’m just sitting here thinking about, you know, entrepreneurs in general are, so I mean we’re just crafty, we’re creative. And what you did is took something that nobody’s ever going to use again and turned it into a product. But I could see where this could be a beneficial learning experience, not here to talk about the right and wrong because obviously, you won the lawsuit, but there’s other things that I’m thinking out there that, you know, people could find themselves in a potential situation. And so I think it could be a valuable learning experience just to be aware of. So I appreciate you sharing it. It’s been, so I’m interested about the tree farm because you put a post-up the other day that I thought was brilliant. Like you said, you’re betting the farm on yourself. So tell me a little bit about the farm and the family history there.

RT Custer: Sure. So I grew up on a Christmas tree farm just outside of Redding, Pennsylvania called Delong Christmas Tree Farm. My great grandfather, Charles DeLong started in 1941 and it was the side hustle of the family for all of those generations. He and my grandfather both worked for the state of Pennsylvania as foresters. And they had this farm as their, you know, that’s where they lived and how they made more money than just their government salary. And at a certain point, my parents took it over and I’m the only child. And I grew up farming trees. So I would trim the trees. I would cut the grass between them. I would help sell the trees, you know, during Christmas time and you know, tie them on your car, all that stuff. And that’s how I grew up. That’s how I learned my work ethic. My parents, you know, both had full-time jobs, but they came home and my dad after work would mow the grass. And my mom after work would work on the finances and some of the advertising marketing stuff with my grandparents and the farm was our family business. And unfortunately, you know, my parents got divorced in high school. My mom owned the farm at that point. And unfortunately, she passed away from cancer in March. And I inherited the farm. As a 29-year-old living in Colorado now thousands of miles away. And I couldn’t, you know, I can’t run a Christmas tree farm that far away. It’s not feasible. And I have a couple like mantras or things that I try to live by you. And my number one thing is, would my mom be proud of me? And so, if I’m faced with a hard decision, I just ask myself that question. And if it’s, yes, then I do it if it’s, no and I don’t, it’s that simple. And my mom was actually planning on selling at least part of the farm, like splitting it up because it’s 42 acres. It’s really, I mean, it’s for one woman, even if she has some help, it’s impossible to maintain. And she was already kind of in process to sell it. And so I said, you know what I think I’m going to sell the farm. And I asked myself that question and yeah, she would be proud of me if I did something really great with that money. And so I’m selling my family farm on December 28th and I’m putting all of that money into my businesses here. I am going to use some of it obviously to help, you know, keep protecting myself from this lawsuit because they already appealed and it’s lots of time and money left to go. And I’m going to invest the rest of the money into a building here I’m buying a building Fort Collins, Colorado to put Vortic Watch Company. And my new, I just started an advertising agency is like a little spinoff. So I have some really great advertising marketing associates. And so my two companies are going to go into that building. And my mom will be insanely proud of me, because I’m actually going to name that building after her. So, I am literally betting the farm on myself and I’m going to turn that money into a new legacy for my family.

Mike Ayala: Man, such an amazing story. I appreciate you sharing all that. So just for some advice, you know, you’re going through this lawsuit, you’re having challenges in the business. You lose your mom, who you’re obviously very close to. How do you keep mentally, emotionally, I mean, I get that you don’t have limiting beliefs, but that doesn’t mean you’re not human. What keeps you going? How do you work through that? Because people are suffering right now. And I think what you’ve been through, you know, you’re coming out the other side of this, just still guns blazing. What advice do you have for us?

RT Custer: Yeah, I think one of the big things I learned was to ask for help and, you know, I can do anything. I think if I put my mind to it, I can work through it. But I haven’t done any of this stuff alone. I have a team of not just my employees, I have 10 people that work for me, but I have my family. I have two little boys that, you know, just there, you know, hugs and screaming, daddy, daddy, daddy, when I get home, like just that obviously raise you upright. I have other people in my life that helped and are professionals, right. I have a therapist, I have a coach, a business coach talking to them and asking for help. Every time I got to a point where I didn’t know what to do, I could have probably just figured it out and work through it. But the times when I sat down and said, you know what, I’ve never done this before. Let me try to find someone I can buy a cup of coffee and see like they did this before, and I can just see how they did it. And the most relevant example is when we were basically out of money, I had lost this about a year ago. I had lost a couple of employees, like key employees over basically just something stupid that I did or said, I wasn’t treating them as well as I could have. And we were, you know, we were losing money from the lawsuit and just, you know, the business wasn’t doing as well. And I thought about, you know, with the advice of my family, it’s not about filing for bankruptcy and the pros and cons of that basically shutting the whole business down. Cause if you filed for bankruptcy and heretically, the lawsuit goes away. You don’t have to worry about any of that stuff anymore. You just close the business. And you know, I was 28 at that point. So it’s like, okay, I’m only 28. I can just kind of shut this down and do something else with my life and you’ll be fine. And I sat there on my phone and I Googled Colorado’s best bankruptcy attorney and this guy Rob Lance, who I found through a quick Google search he wasn’t the right kind of bankruptcy attorney. He wasn’t like the guy that you call to like help. He’s a litigator. So if you file for bankruptcy falsely to try to get out of debt or something, he’s one of the team that comes after you and tries to uphold the laws around bankruptcy. So he’s one of those like bulldog litigators. And he told me that, he said, I got bad news, the good news, bad news is I’m not the right kind of attorney that you were looking for. Good news is, I can help you. Cause you’re being bullied. [37:00 inaudible] someone like me to stand up to these corporate behemoths. And he believed in me and I asked for help. The only reason I got there is because I asked Google for help. And I found this amazing attorney who took it all the way to trial. I didn’t pay him a cent between that time and when we went to trial. But he believed in me and he knew we could win, and we did. And so that’s the advice is don’t be afraid to ask for help. I try to take that advice as much as I can cause, I mean, every day I have to ask for help. Every day I delegate dozens of projects to different people, which is asking for help. So I try to embody that as much as I can.

Mike Ayala: That is so amazing. And I remember you talking about this at breakfast and basically like everybody around you was telling you, you know, quit, give up, like, and you were just, you’re feeling this close. And then like so many times in my life, I can think back to this too. But your story is so inspiring because I mean, you could have never known that you were just one Google search away from the guy that was going to, you know, come alongside of you. And, you know, I don’t want to get woo woo here, but whether it’s God or the universe or whatever you believe in sometimes just that tenacity and fighting through, you’re just this close to a victory and you don’t know it. And I think so many people give up at the 11th hour and you plowed through that. And it’s because we can’t see the way, right? Like if the way was obvious, it would be so much easier, but it never is because there’s got to be some level of faith in our ability and the universe’s ability to help us figure this out and other people’s ability. Like you keep, there’s this theme you keep talking about like asking people for help. Like if we go in our own minds and we live in our own world and it’s a rat nest up here. But surrounding yourself with people. And then even sometimes like, I loved what you said, like everybody that, you know, and trust at times is going to be telling you to give up. And you just kept going, man.

RT Custer: Yeah. Which is hard. It’s really hard. It’s hard to look at your spouse or your partner in the eye and say, I accept your advice. I hear your advice, but no, I’m not going to give up. That’s very difficult. Same with, you know, I started this whole podcast with you saying my father had the most impact on me and, you know, he never meant it in a bad way, but he asked the question of like hey, have you thought about other options? And it’s, you know, and my mom and my grandmother, you know, who I talked to a lot more at that point were saying the same thing. Like nobody said, we don’t believe in you anymore. They were just saying hey, are you really sure you want to ride this car off the cliff? And I was like, I got a parachute. I’m good. And some people look at that and they’re like oh, you’re crazy, and it does, entrepreneurship takes a little bit of just lunacy sometimes. You just have to go. And if you believe so much in this idea or this thing then, yeah, I mean, listen, ask for help, listen to the feedback. But sometimes if you still disagree, just you kind of have to trust your gut. And it’s those moments where I look back and those are the moments when I’ve taken the most risk. But I’ve also gotten the greatest reward just because I trusted my gut on the thing. But I didn’t make a rash decision. I literally Googled, like I should search for this. And I should just explore what bankruptcy is like, like I made a very educated decision after a lot of research and a lot of asks for help. And so, you know, it’s like when you summarize it, it sounds all awesome. But that process, you know, was years of stress and hard conversations leading to that one moment where we won.

Mike Ayala: Yeah. It’s so inspiring, man. You know, and I think a lot of times we try to avoid pain and suffering and even with our next generation children and all that kind of stuff, but the reality is you are a much more amazing person. You’re much stronger. You’re much more wise because of everything you’ve been through. And you know, at the end of the day, I just love the story around. You’re just so passionate about your vision. That no matter what’s coming at you, you got a 100,000- or 10,000-pound gorilla coming after you. And you’re betting the farm on yourself. And I just love that tenacity. So man, I appreciate your time. Any final words that you want to share with the audience?

RT Custer: No, man. This has been awesome. Like I said, I’m just trying to embrace this kind of stuff more. I feel like I’ve always been kind of behind the scenes and just working hundred-hour weeks and punching the clock and stuff. And now that I have an amazing team that does all the day to day work for me, I feel like my job can be this. I can be an evangelist for my company. Just like, you know, my mom was a preacher. And again, like, what am I doing to make my mom proud? You know, preaching about my business and my people and my passion makes me proud of myself. So I’m sure it would make her proud.

Mike Ayala: That’s so awesome, man. I really appreciate your time. It’s an inspiring story. How about finding you, we’ve talked all about Vortic Watches. Is that, can we find you somewhere?

RT Custer: For sure, yeah. Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. It’s just RT like Robert Thomas Custer, C-U-S-T-E-R. So @rtcuster.

Mike Ayala: Cool man. Yeah. I appreciate your time and energy, man. It’s such an inspiring story. So keep going. My watch is on the way, so I’ll share it with you guys on Instagram, as soon as I get it. I’m so excited. Maybe I’ll just share it the day that the podcast launches, but amazing product guys. You got to go check it out. So thanks for your story, RT.

RT Custer: Thank you. Talk to you soon.

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Episode 92