Finding a cause

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Finding a cause, Rob Stolker and Simon Severino LIVE | STRATEGY SPRINTS 192

In this episode, Simon welcomes Rob Stolker, the founder of Hummingbird Sports. Hummingbird is a sporting goods company, a creator of the first ASTM approved and SEI certified headgear for girls lacrosse. He is also the Amazon best-selling author of “It’s a No-Brainer: An Entrepreneur’s Battle to Reduce Concussions in Girls’ Lacrosse.” Listen to Rob’s sharing on how to find a cause.

3 Valuable Insights:

  • When entrepreneurs see a problem, they build a solution
  • Surround yourself with people who have passion
  • Safety is the number one requirement in making a successful sports product

(00:00) -Simon: Three, two, one. Roll the footage.

(00:16) -Simon: Welcome back to the strategy sprint podcast, everybody. I'm Simon Severino, your host. And my guest today, father of four daughters, founder of hummingbird sports, inventor of the first ever girls women's lacrosse, head gear, number one amazon best-selling author of it's a no-brainer and entrepreneurs battle to reduce concussion in girls lacrosse. Welcome everybody. Rob Sto;ker.

(00:45) -Rob Stolker: Hi Simon. Thanks for having me on really, really appreciate you having me on to talk about what I'm doing here.

(00:52) -Simon: Absolutely. And, uh, tell us what's right now that you are creating.

(00:59) -Rob Stolker: Yeah, so I, I have to go back a little bit to answer what I'm creating right now, um, to when I was on the lacrosse field for the first time. Um, I have, like you said, four daughters. They play every sport that I played growing up, basketball, soccer, softball, field, hockey, tennis, anything, uh, you know, they, they love sports. Like I do. Um, I've coached them and everything. Uh, but it was now seven years ago, this spring that my two youngest asked me to play lacrosse and I grew up in center city, Philadelphia. I didn't know much about lacrosse at all, but obviously as a father loves watching my kids play, you know, loves that they love playing sports. I said, sure. I signed them up. I didn't know much about the game. I actually, uh, got a call before the first practice, uh, from the league organizer asking me to coach.

(01:51) -Rob Stolker: And I said, I'll coach, but I don't know anything about it. And it was nine and 11 year olds and they said, you'll be great. Uh, I've coached other sports. But I took him to the fields and the boys were on one side wearing big, hard helmets and the girls had nothing on their heads. I just couldn't believe it. I went home. I thought I would buy them, you know, helmets. There was no such thing. And, uh, that's when I went to work. And so we made our first model had gear. We'd launched that, uh, three years ago, uh, basically a standard was put in for us by us lacrosse. They called for soft head gear to withstand that stick and rock hard ball impact that happened in lacrosse. And that's what we did. So it's a three layer, uh, head gear. You can see there's a hard layer inside.

(02:36) -Rob Stolker: Um, there are, uh, we met an incredible partnership with Shawn Springs, a former NFL player for his wind pack, great wind packs, protective padding inside. Um, and then the out, uh, outside is another soft layer. And the whole point is that the head gear has to squeeze. Uh, we made a ponytail holder, we do stickers or the ponytail holder in the back opening and closing mechanisms. That's an amazing patents on it. And so I had to go back because that's what we first created. But then we took that to the fields. It was a new product. The girls had, you know, obviously it was a first of its kind had years girls hadn't been used to wearing and we got feedback and we went back to work and I'd last January, we launched our second model had gear. Um, and as you can see, this one has the goggles that the girls have to wear.

(03:21) -Rob Stolker: Um, it's integrated, it's adjustable. I'm in here, there a couple of different ways that you can adjust to have it. You can see the screw there. Sit further away from your face, closer to your face. I still has the great wind pack technology, the ponytail airport there. Um, and, um, you know, that, so that is our passion was making headgear. That works. We're so happy that we were the first to make the first one. And now, uh, the second one and you know what I spent the last year or so doing was writing this book because I've heard from so many girls, families, just one single ball or stick to their pair head and the impact that does to them for years and years afterwards. Um, you know, some of them six, seven years later still say they get a migraine every day, just mostly from one accidental ball to their bare head and warmups.

(04:13) -Rob Stolker: Um, that's what I put the book together. And there's so many doctors, scientists, um, that, you know, I have done the research and the study is behind why all these girls need to be playing with their heads protected. Um, and then the last part of my answer to your question is we also want to make tons of different stuff for girls, women, female athletes. So I started going to field across fields. And the other thing I noticed was the boys were big gloves and the girls weren't wearing gloves. And I asked why that is, and the answer was, there's not really a glove that works a thin glove for girls across. They don't really work all that well. So I talked to players, went to work. We made the first ever leather gloves for girls. These have been selling grades, they're on fields everywhere. Great for cold weather grip, a strict well, uh, we made goggles, uh, the girls have to wear now, but now soon it'll just be hopefully mandated that they wear the head gear and, uh, goggles, uh, making an apparel all kinds of stuff, uh, to empower female athletes.

(05:15) -Simon: What's your assumption? Why do we want girls and women to be unprotected in the first place?

(05:22) -Rob Stolker: Yeah, I don't think there's a want to have girls women unprotected, but that's just traditionally the way it's been, the boys game is physical. Uh, checking game. The girls game is more free flowing. And so traditionally the girls didn't wear headgear. Um, having said that we've evolved the game as about, um, people inside the game, no ifs, ands, or buts anybody who's been around the game will tell you which girls are getting bigger, stronger, faster. Um, the, the game is getting more physical as it is. Um, I love that. I love that my four daughters, they all hurt, um, as passionate about sports and competitive. And I love all those parts of it. It's the only thing I say is in a stick and in a sport, played with a stick, a rock hard ball above the head full speed just takes that one accidental ball or stick to the head boys wearing big, hard helmets.

(06:15) -Rob Stolker: And also the goalies in, in, uh, girls across the goalies wear big, hard helmet. So that was the one of the first things I saw. They need these big, hard helmets. That means that the players are in the way of shots too, just because the goalie stands in front of them facing them. Doesn't mean the girls can't get hit with shots. So that was another thing that impacted me to do this, but it's really the girls' stories. It's hearing what they go through, what their families go through, uh, from, like I said, just a single, you know, head injury

(06:45) -Simon: And that's what entrepreneurs do they see a problem. They build a solution. That's what you did. And I'm so curious who you pick for the strategy award after one word from our sponsors.

(06:59) -Speaker 3: Hey, if you love what you are hearing, you will love our free master classes. Go grab them at

(07:09) -Simon: Who do you pick for the strategy award?

(07:12) -Rob Stolker: Uh, yeah, I guess I would go with a very good friend of mine. Uh, great, great person, uh, great author, Mike Mikalowitz. Um, if anybody has a, him, you can find him at LinkedIn, um, or Google him. He's written a bunch of great books, uh, uh, read them all profit first, uh, toilet paper entrepreneur. Um, he is the definition of an entrepreneur. I love talking to him. I love his energy, his passion, um, everything, everything he's doing, um, and also really, really, really good, good guy. Good heart. Uh, on a good, good friend of mine.

(07:48) -Simon: Your CEO tip is surround yourself with people who have passion. Can you unpack that?

(07:54) -Rob Stolker: Absolutely. I uh, so for what I'm doing now with this headgear and, um, basically putting head protection in a sport that didn't have it. And, um, there are some obstacles that come with that. Uh, there, it is not easy. Anybody who's, uh, you know, been around sports. If you think back to the NHL was only not that long ago, 30, 40 years ago, which you know, history, that's not that long ago, NHL players, ice, hockey players, youth players, they were playing without helmets. Um, and it took time to, um, have the science to wake everybody up and so much so that I don't know if everybody knows this, but they had the grandfather helmets into the NHL because players who were in the league, who were used to playing without how much their whole lives basically were saying, we don't want to wear them. We just don't, we're not used to them.

(08:44) -Rob Stolker: We don't want to wear them. And the NHL had no choice, but to say, okay, if you've been in the league for a certain amount of time, you don't have to wear them, but, uh, rookies coming in, everybody's got to wear them. And that was the transition to, you know, putting head gear, to putting helmets in that game. And for me, I'm doing something very similar, uh, very similar. And so I surrounded myself with people who understand the need for headgear, understand the impacts of, um, just that a single, um, accidental ball or stick to the head, um, who have seen him on the field, know what these girls, women, their families go through. It's not just the girls and the women, it's their families, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles that see their 14, 15, 16 year old daughter, niece, nephew, struggling. He's struggling with a head injury, um, you know, not, not easy to go through. So I surround myself with people who understand it or passionate about it, who believe in it. Um, and I, I kind of do that in any business that I've had. And Ron is to surround myself with people who are energetic, who come to work every day with a positive attitude and a smile on their face and can get through obstacles and, um, you know, and, and are ready for any challenge that, um, the next day brings

(09:59) -Simon: The three books that shaped you most.

(10:03) -Rob Stolker: Yeah. So for what I'm doing, um, you know, one of the top ones, uh, was definitely Phil Knight's book, shoe, dog, um, you know, starting, starting Nike. And, um, I just thought it was a great story and how he opened up about his entrepreneurial journey and what he went through and making shoes and the obstacles and the ups and downs. And, um, for me, um, you know, I, I read it again as I was making this headgear because, you know, again, this is something that's never been done before. Soft head gear that can withstand hard impacts like this, you know, the patents and claims we have are incredible, but that journey of making it was not easy. The, the ups, the downs, the times that we thought we were going to pass and failed miserably. Um, I write about it in my book. I have QR codes in my book, uh, with interviews, um, with all kinds of doctors and coaches.

(10:56) -Rob Stolker: And so definitely Phil Knight, um, and his book shoe dog was one, uh, Tony Shay's book, delivering happiness, a great book. Um, you know, what, what happens to him is tragic. It's, it's awful. I, um, it's, it's still, um, you know, as an entrepreneur and, um, the greatness that he was and had in him and his book and read it long ago and just read it again, um, you know, uh, three, three, four weeks ago, um, after, you know, what happened, but, um, just, just an amazing man and story that he has and, um, just, you know, such a, such an awful ending there. And then the third one I thought about as a tribes, um, it's, you know, a book about, um, um, following people and leadership and, um, you know, it's, it really, again, resonates with what I'm doing, which is leading this charge to get these, um, girls and women, their, their head protected. Um, so, you know, it's a great, great book, uh, uh, written by South garden. Um, so those three are the three that I would say are influencing the most,

(12:11) -Simon: One thing that you learned through the pandemic that you would not have learned otherwise.

(12:18) -Rob Stolker: Yeah. I, um, the instantly and I have four daughters, two in college, two in high school, like I said, I'll all play sports. Uh, my daughter senior in college field hockey player, she's a goalie, which, you know, field hockey, same thing, but that's the only position that the girls wear hard helmets. Uh, so, um, she, all my girls just instantly were taken off fields, and I know that that was the right decision, the right thing. I, you know, not nothing against any decisions that were made, uh, but as a father of four to watch my girls at home, not that other people didn't struggle worse and, um, you know, a tough time for everybody, but to watch my girls who were very active and taken off fields and to talk to so many coaches and parents and players of kids who, um, you know, in, in normal times should be in, want to be out on fields.

(13:14) -Rob Stolker: Um, you know, it was hard, it was hard. And again, not as hard as I'm not going to equate that to what other people have gone through. Uh, but for me and my world and what I'm doing, you know, I would talk to 10, 15, 20 coaches parents a day. I was reaching out to everybody, uh, customers. Uh, we have so many teams wearing our head gear. Um, and I've gotten to know so many coaches and I just, just talking them through, um, you know, basically us all being, going from being very active, to not being active and trying to figure out ways to keep the activeness and team participation and, you know, uh, whatever that is. But it's, you know, for me, it's good to see everybody started to get back on fields.

(13:58) -Simon: How is it shaping, um, the, the sports industry or is it just, okay, let's wait until we get back to normal or is it shifting patterns?

(14:10) -Rob Stolker: Yeah, I guess that's individual for, you know, different, it's not, it's not universal across the board, obviously a numbers for the sporting good industry or, you know, are, are way down this year. Um, but more importantly than that, obviously it's about safety and no different than what I'm doing with this head gear. It's safety first. I understand that. I get that. Um, no, I, I believe in it it's safety is the number one, 200 million thing, um, that matters here. And so, you know, even when I was talking to those parents, safety was still a conversation, you know, it wasn't, it wasn't about much else other than making sure everybody's okay. Family's okay. Players are okay, that staying safe, staying healthy and, you know, mentally staying healthy, a lot of different elements to, you know, to, to what's what's going on?

(15:01) -Simon: Who should be my next guest.

(15:05) -Rob Stolker: Um, I, uh, I didn't run, I didn't run this by him. Um, but I have another very good friend. His name is maca Tanya. Um, he, um, owns a ton of Jersey Mike's somewhere around 28 right now, more and more calming. Um, he's just an amazing, uh, person entrepreneur, very good friend of mine. Um, um, you know, he's in, in New Jersey close to me, um, and just a very good person, good soul. You, you, you learn that really quickly talking to him and he's got a great story. He's has a really, really, really great story with, um, you know, the, the fact that he was a lawyer and, um, he just is very upfront with the fact that he wasn't happy and, uh, just, you know, made a, a decision that to me was a brave and courageous decision that, you know, not, not everybody can make and, uh, he made it and a spend happier ever since. And just, uh, just a great guy, a great entrepreneur, a good, good person.

(16:06) -Simon: Is there anything I forgot to ask you?

(16:10) -Rob Stolker: Um, you know, I, I just with the movement of the head gear, um, so people ask me what the ultimate goal is and no we have sans or bots. My goal is to, um, get us lacrosse, the governing body of lacrosse, the mandate, uh, the NCAA, um, the NHS national high school Federation. They're basically following U.S. lacrosse’s lead. So when you ask lacrosse mandates that's, that's when it'll become mandatory for all girls to have their heads protected, that that movement, um, continues every single day. Uh, the state of Florida mandated every high school girl playing in Florida now wears, um, has to wear head gear. Other States are talking about mandating, uh, but for the first time ever, uh, U.S. lacrosse is starting to talk about the science of it and understanding, and actually, um, uh, they did a press release about a week ago, uh, basically, uh, saying everything that we've always been saying, uh, which is that a headgear reduces head injuries and that there's been no change in play.

(17:16) -Rob Stolker: That's the biggest fear that there's been a, there'll be a change in a play change in the girls game with head gear and the study that they released said, there's been no change in the game. So no change in the game or reduction of head injuries. Um, as my book is titled, it's a no-brainer, um, it's, it, it is a no-brainer and it's going to happen. It will be mandated. These girls will all be wearing. And, um, and you know, my, my journey will be, will be complete as far as this goes at that point.

(17:45) -Simon: What can people find more of you and your products?

(17:50) -Rob Stolker: So there's three places. So I’m writing the book, I put together my website, Rob, um, it's a, you know, just a website that was about me, the book I've gotten some amazing PR, um, you know, just, uh, uh, things like, uh, this MSNBC did a great eight minutes story on us. I CBS, uh, Fox news, um, it's all on there, our story, um, there's our company website, hummingbird sports, that he can find all our, our products and, uh, more information. Uh, there's a website, the brain safety Alliance, That's a site that a group of doctors, coaches, um, um, scientists, um, put together that shows the need for these girls who were in it, has the girls stories on there. And then the last thing I'll say is my book. Um, we kept the price to a low price point of under $10. Didn't write the book for monetary purpose.

(18:49) -Rob Stolker: I want the information out there, um, at, just go to Amazon, uh, Rob Stoker, it's a no-brainer. Um, and I really appreciate it if you buy the book, um, you know, read it, uh, you know, consider, consider, uh, what I'm doing, the journey of it, not, not easy. Um, I also get very personal in my story. I was encouraged to, um, dig deep and that was not easy. It took me a year and a half to write, but I put it all together, the journey of making the head gear. And then once we made the head gear and past the next day, it was like, okay, how are you going to get it out there? And that just obviously it was a whole new challenge was the day that we created the first ever girls' lacrosse head gear, nobody had ever worn head gear. So it was how do you get it on that first girl, that second girl, that third girl. Um, and you know, I talk about all of it in the book. And so I, you know, I, I do think it's a good read, but it's an important subject. And so anybody Amazon it's on Amazon, it's a no brainer. The reviews have been amazing for anybody. Who's read it. Please leave a review and build awareness in that way, or else just go to my website,, appreciate the time

(19:59) -Simon: Thanks Rob for being on the show and everybody it's a no brainer. Let's protect, uh, our dearest ones. And, uh, thank you so much. Keep rolling up and come back soon.

(20:11) -Rob Stolker: I really appreciate it. Thank you for having me on Simon. Really appreciate it.


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