Michael Roloff is the Chief Executive Officer of Rental Pal. As a former amateur skateboarder and young entrepreneur, Roloff is an expert when it comes to sports rental equipment. Roloff spent over 16 years as a skateboarder but his career was cut short due to a knee injury. He is an avid sportsman and has rock climbed, played baseball, football and Jiu Jitsu. Roloff graduated from the College of San Mateo with a Business Administration and a Computer Science degree. He has dedicated time to the sports community by teaching skateboarding lessons. Prior to founding Rental Pal, Roloff was a product manager for an app called Media Monster. He also made rented out snowboards, surfboards and various of my sports equipment on sites such as Craigslist and Facebook. Roloff 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.
How did you get into the industry?
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 in the sport. 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.
Any emerging industry trends?
Going mobile is definitely an emerging industry trend. In my business, mobile 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.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
The biggest industry opportunity and/or challenge is to always innovate and understand your consumer. Our consumers want the ability to rent sports equipment worldwide, so ensuring the app is functioning in every state across the US was important, along with partnering with businesses that rent sports equipment. Sharing our vision with sports enthusiasts and business owners is key and critical to our business model.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
When I was skateboarding, my career was cut short due to a knee injury and decided then while I couldn’t compete, that I would take everything I had learned and applied it to business. 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.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
We have started scaling to the islands in Hawaii and now working with shops in both California and Hawaii, and the app is available in all 50 states. We are continuing to grow the business and scale to other shops in additional cities as well.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
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.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
Back when a friend and I were making clothing for school sports teams, we decided to ship a box and it ended up at the wrong address. Unfortunately, we had to refund them and they did not have practice long sleeves for the basketball game, they still wanted to work with us because we have excellent customer service and sent them another order ASAP.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
Rental Pal is a mobile marketplace for users to rent sports gear and find lessons in the sport they are interested in area of choice. Users are also able to lend or host sports gear and lessons. If the individual owns a sports business, they have the option to have a verified profile that allows them to appear higher in search results allowing them to convert more sales.
How do you motivate others?
I motivate others by example. 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.
Career advice to those in your industry?
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
What do I do best?
As the CEO and founder of Rental Pal and a young entrepreneur, I am a natural born leader. My traits in leadership have grown over the course of this venture. My ability to maintain vision and passion has helped not only myself but my team at Rental Pal succeed.
What makes me the best version of myself?
I believe that to succeed in anything in life, you have to try multiple times and sometimes initially fail. Therefore, I believe that challenges have gotten myself and my company where it is today. If I didn’t experience a few challenges along the way and not succeeded at first, I would have not learned the correct ways things needed to be done. Although you never want to fail in anything, learn from it and move on.
What are my aspirations?
Professionally, the ultimate goal with my company is to create an easy way for people to participate in sports worldwide. Personally, 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 in the sport before my career was cut short due to a knee injury. I have 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 take my love of sports and apply those same goals and passion towards my business.
My Biggest Success?
My biggest success is scaling Rental Pal to the Islands of Hawaii. There is such a huge tourism industry there, with many people looking to learn how to surf, participating in water sports and more.
My Most Challenging Moment?
When I first heard of the idea of participating on a higher level in motorcycle road racing, I was skeptical. Essentially, I had no idea what flat track was. After seeing more information on it, I immediately was hooked. After I made the decision to participate in media services, my whole team was hooked. Participating in media services for American flat track racing has created new roles in my company for creatives, photography and social media.
My personal motto has always been “Go big or go home”.
My Favorite People/Role Models?
My favorite people are Nick Woodman. I love the idea of GoPro and the ability to capture experiences and Elon Musk for his innovation and space technology.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
My favorite places/destinations are Oahu, Hawaii, Santa Monica, CA and Laguna Beach, CA
My Favorite Products/Objects?
My favorite products are GoPro, Macbook Pro, Skateboard and of course Surfboards.
My Current Passions?
My current passions are business, sports, and travel.