Member of Quote 500, 4000 employees, owner of 420 shops, women lover and father of three children. Roland Kahn is the founder of fashion brand CoolCat, owner of America Today, Sapph and MS Mode. The Aureus Blog Team went to the headquarters of ‘Cool Investments Group’ in Amsterdam East to ask him about the secrets of his success, his daily habits, how he spends his money and his best tips-and-tricks for young entrepreneurs.
What was your first success in retail?
“When I was 16 years old, I started working in a small clothing shop. Overall, the clothes were selling well but there was one set of clothes that was unsellable; grey striped suits, violet shirts, yellow socks, just very ugly. One day, I was standing in the shop when five band-members came in. I showed them the terrible outfit and to my surprise, they absolutely loved the clothes and bought them. They walked away with a big smile on their face, but left me with an even bigger smile. My boss also gave me a small bonus at the end of that day. This relatively small success made me realize my passion and love for selling clothes.”
How did you come up with the idea of your first brand: ‘CoolCat’?
“Back in high-school I thought, wouldn’t it be great to start a fashion brand with cool and relatively inexpensive clothes for teenagers. With this idea, I started CoolCat in 1979. After the first store, we expanded quickly. We were the first ones to focus our marketing on children, who would force their parents to buy from CoolCat.”
Can you describe your personality?
“I’m passionate, I have a lot of drive and I can laugh about everything. I take my business bloody serious and at the same time, not at all. I’m more creative than organized. I can be very emotional, more than rational; In the past, I could be very angry but as I realized that anger is a very unproductive energy, I try to keep myself calm. Somehow, I have a winner mentality, I always want to win.”
And when you lose?
“Then I’ll start over again. I don’t mind losing a match, I do mind losing the competition. I will never lose the competition.”
“Everybody around me said I couldn’t do it and laughed at me”
Which of your characteristics has contributed most to your success?
“I’m a big dreamer. I really believe that if you can dream something, you can do it. Of course, I cannot dream to beat Floyd Mayweather and become the new world champion of boxing, your dreams should be realistic and based on your qualities. At the age of 15, I already dreamed of having 12 shops and I told everyone I would be one of the biggest retailers of The Netherlands. Everybody around me said I couldn’t do it and laughed at me. These negative responses only gave me more incentive to succeed.”
When is someone successful?
“Success is the moment you look out the window and realize how beautiful the day is. Realising that people love you, being able to enjoy life on this little planet to the fullest. That is success! I see a lot of successful people that are actually not successful at all. They make a lot of money but can’t enjoy the things that really matter. All the important things in life have nothing to do with money. On the other hand, I’m not very Calvinistic when spending money. I don’t spend all of my money but I spend a lot of it. I love beautiful clothes, watches, buildings, cars, and art.”
A few years ago, you said the revenue sales of your companies would be 8% e-commerce, do you still think that?
“My opinion completely changed, I’m certain clicks-and-bricks will be the future, e-commerce will be one-third of my business. For two years we lost a lot of money because we were way too slow adapting to e-commerce. But now, we’re getting there, I believe that next year we’ll make a profit again. You don’t run away when things go wrong, you have to be there even more.”
What is your current role at Cool Investments?
“Right now, I’m in charge, but I’m giving more and more control to others, especially my two sons. Within the next two years, they will take over and I will be the consigliere.”
Sorry, but what is a consigliere?
“Consigliere is another word for adviser. In every mafia family, the boss has a consigliere, it sounds fancy right!”
“It’s not about what you think, it’s not about what you know, it’s not about what you say, it’s all about what you do”
Haha indeed. Other than the mafia, what has been your biggest inspiration?
“Definitely the failure of my father. He was a dreamer like me but he didn’t realize his dreams. He kept talking without actions, which is what most people do. It’s not about what you think, it’s not about what you know, it’s not about what you say, it’s all about what you do. You have to do things! If you do it, it can go right or wrong, if it goes wrong, you make it right. But if you do nothing, nothing happens!”
Great advice! This must be the advice you give your children?
I’m always curious about habits, what gives people the energy to run a business day in, day out. What are your habits throughout the week?
“Four times a week I do fitness and boxing. Every Sunday, I do yoga and I try to swim as well. Also, I meditate around three times a day. Even better than any of these habits, sex in the morning is an energizing habit, haha.”
If you don’t want me to put this part in the interview, no worries!
“No, no, you can put everything in the interview!”
Great! Besides your morning exercise, what keeps you going in life?
“Actually, I think I’m just a very fortunate person! I have an absolutely great life, I enjoy everything I do, I have three magnificent children, I made love with the most beautiful women in the world… at least if you look at them physically, haha. I encountered the biggest gold-diggers in the world as well.”
Haha, so are you seeing any woman at the moment?
“I’m now seeing Xiomara from French Guiana, she is as beautiful from the inside as from the outside. She likes me and I like her, I’m very grateful!”
Sounds nice! One final question and then I promise I’m done. What advice would you give business students?
“Find your dream!”
But how? A lot of people are trying to find their dream, without results.
“Stop trying, do it! Some people find their dream early, some later. Look for the things you really like to do, because if you do something you really like, you’ll get energy to do it, and you can be successful in it!”
Do you want to hear more of this inspiring entrepreneur? Then sign up for the Speaker Series with Roland Kahn on Wednesday the 26th of October!
Written by Sem Kotek