The Profit Effect

When Trevor Jones' mother passed away from breast cancer, he lost more than just a parent -- he lost the key figure behind Flex Watches, his charity-based business. The stylish wristwatch company, which he'd co-founded with childhood friend Travis Lubinsky, was created with her as its charitable muse and carried a suitable mission: 10 distinct watch styles with 10 percent of proceeds donated to 10 charities.

But after her passing, Jones found it hard to continue telling his mother's story and largely abandoned the brand identity that had brought Flex success. Without that guiding light, Flex became unfocused and began to spiral into an unremarkable, me-too luxury watch brand. Sales soon drastically dropped. But a visit from The Profit's Marcus Lemonis was all it took to get this charitable company back to its roots and back in the black.

In 2016, when Marcus first arrived at Flex, he was puzzled by the absence of the colorful watches and charities that had initially attracted him to the business. It soon became clear to him that Trevor, unable to cope with his Mother's death, had steered Flex away from its successful branding model. He also isolated another major flaw in the business: Travis, with his eye fixed on cutting costs, often rushed out unfinished and cheaply made products.

To get Flex back on track, Marcus had to do more than just "rebuild the brand using social media, using packaging [and] product development." He also needed to help heal Trevor's emotional wounds. And that he did in a touching heart to heart that convinced the young founder to reignite his passion for charity and embrace his mother's legacy.

As a result, the '10 colors, 10 charities, 10% donation' model was reinstated. Marcus even overhauled the look of Flex's in-store displays, packaging and watch designs, putting the company back on the path to success.

Today, Flex is flourishing once again with a renewed focus, diverse designs and additional charities onboard. "We're excited to expand on not just our ten causes, but more causes and introduce the cause per month. And get more and more people involved and really make a difference in what we're doing," says Brad.

And, due in no small part to their performance under Marcus' watch, the tiny team of three has now been folded into a new company under his umbrella: ML Creative. The company, which functions as an e-commerce and digital marketing agency, works alongside a portfolio of Lemonis' brands like InkkasDiLascia, among others, to help with their campaigns.

"Marcus really recognized our skill sets and our ability to sell product online and create cohesive campaigns from the top of the funnel to the remarketing to the conversion," says Travis of the Flex team's new agency life.

Thanks to Marcus' talent for spotting creativity and passion for backing businesses with a cause, Flex continues to expand, giving the company ample time to carry out its charitable mission.

The Rise of Social Entrepreneurship

When my brother and I started working on Mission, we knew we wanted to give back from day one, not based on if it was smart from a tax standpoint. When it came time to name our new project, we hashed out several names, but then my brother said, "Why don't we call it Mission Belt Co.?" It made immediate sense to both of us and we officially formed our business.

Social entrepreneurship isn't a new thing by any means but it is progressively becoming more and more popular. Tom's shoes was one of the first companies I remember hearing about that had a direct giving aspect associated with every sale. I loved the idea that it was something that would happen regardless of them surviving or making money as a company. Their one-for-one program was inspirational for many.

Tom's has given a pair of shoes for every pair sold. It's a great success for them, for the customers and the people who get free pairs. That's what social entrepreneurship is all about. It's about win, win, win.

Last year I wrote an article entitled "Time to Flex", where I wrote about Trevor Jones and Travis Lubinsky who saw an opportunity to create a niche watch collection that represented great causes. The company took flight after they brought the idea to MTV and ended up creating a deal to integrate the guys and their watch on a entire series of the show Real World.

Flex Watches is committed to its mission of fighting hunger, as is evident with last week's partnering with the Los Angeles food bank to donate over 2,000 Thanksgiving meals to homeless children in Los Angeles. The company aims to bring new light to their causes through making fun affordable but cool watches.

I think we will continue to see new businesses with social benefits. I am so glad that there are so many people out there that not only form these companies, but also buy these products. It's truly a win, win, win.

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Travis Featured On

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Imagine this scenario: you are sitting in a bar, look over, and see that there is a film crew recording a group of people who are casually ordering a round of drinks. What would you do? Ask for a selfie? Try and position yourself into the frame? Or maybe you would do nothing and just tell your friends about it later.

Well when one ambitious entrepreneur was presented with this same scenario in 2012, he did what any hustling entrepreneur should do: he started selling. As fate would have it, the camera crew was there for MTV's hit show "The Real World". The San Diego-based cast had stumbled into a bar on a Sunday morning and sat next to entrepreneurs Travis Lubinsky and Trevor Jones, founders of luxury watchmaker Flex Watches.

If you watch the episode, you see Travis immediately reach out to the cast and begin showing off his products. This lead to an entirely new element being introduced to the usually raucous show: charity. One of the cast members had been affected by a friend's suicide and so decided to partner with Flex Watches to make a custom line of watches with a portion of the proceeds going towards suicide prevention.

And just like that, a product licensing pro was born. After the success of that line, Travis has gone on to create product licensing deals with brands such as Last Kings, WWE, Special Olympics, Anaheim Ducks and Stand Up To Cancer. As well as dozens of high profile celebrities such as Tyga, Paris Hilton, Xzibit and Daymond John. He has become a master of product licensing and he sat down with me to share his top 8 tips for entrepreneurs looking to lock in licensing deals with big name partners.

Start small.

While locking in a 6-figure deal with an A-list celebrity might sound glamorous, things are never that easy and it's best to start at the bottom and slowly climb the ladder. Lubinsky says, "Obtaining Greek and collegiate licenses has proved to be a great starting point for many entrepreneurs, including me."

Target your product.

Make sure you are hyper focused on who actually needs and will use your product. Otherwise, you are just wasting your time and money. Lubinsky says, "Your product needs to be targeted at a specific demographic that will pay top dollar to own it."

Make sure it is popular.

"It is important to ensure that the brand you are looking to reach a deal with is established, respected, and most importantly, popular. If they don't meet that criteria, there is little benefit in partnering with them."

Do your homework.

If you are trying to do a deal with an established brand name, you better come prepared and have a marketing plan that will sell the product. "Demonstrating that you have a plan can alleviate concerns that these big brands have in working with young entrepreneurs," says Lubinsky.

Make sure you have sales.

The more sales you have, the more influence you can have on the licensing negotiations. Brands like to be linked to successes; showing that you are already successful can greatly increase your chances of a successful licensing agreement. On his success, Lubinsky says, "I quickly learned the biggest factor to a successful licensing campaign was distribution and sales."

Stay organized.

Getting your first licensing deal can be exciting but it also opens up an entire new set of operational tasks that must be done. Brands will expect to receive regular reporting as well as their royalty payments in full and on time.

Always look for new opportunities. 

The entire goal of one licensing deal should be to leverage that to get another deal. Lubinsky says, "Use each license as a stepping stone to the next biggest thing." With forward momentum you can constantly get bigger licensing deals with bigger brands.

Be willing to negotiate.

Sometimes the deal you want just won't happen. Because of the complexity of licensing agreements, no two agreements are ever the same and the product, terms, and most importantly profit margins, can vary immensely.

Successful product licensing done properly can open new doors and elevate your idea to an entirely new level. While it can be challenging, complicated, and stressful, it is a skill that any determined entrepreneur can learn and master.