"...how did you come up with this crazy idea?"
The History Of The RUGged Man Advanced Hair System
We have been asked so many times regarding history of this revolutionary product, The RUGged Man Advanced Hair System. Get a nice drink and get comfortable, because this might take a bit of time. This is a history lesson you are going to enjoy.
It all started when my father, Ed Korbyl, needed a humorous hat for a company barbeque. You see, for many years, the family business invited staff, customers and friends to a Canada Day BBQ which was held on July 1st. Mom and Dad had always had a good sense of humor and decided that the guests would enjoy a theme related party. Thus, in the summer of 1993, Dad came up with the idea of a “crazy hat” theme where everyone was invited to bring their funniest, craziest and most outlandish hat. To inspire the guests, a prize would be awarded to the winner which was promoted as a exquisite dinner for two with a view of Edmonton’s river valley including executive transportation. Everyone immediately thought of a fancy dinner at one of Edmonton's finest hotels, The Chateau Lacombe, which overlooked the river valley. Of course, the potential winners envisioned being escorted in a limousine. After finding out about this "big prize", guests got to work to find their craziest hats. Leading up the July 1st BBQ, customers would come into the shop and explain to both Ed and Richard, his son, what they were working on to win that big prize. (Remember, it was a family business). Admittedly, it was hard for both Ed and Richard, to keep a straight face when the clients proclaimed their excitement for the crazy hat BBQ.
Little did they guests know that they were competing for a picnic basket filled with hot dogs, buns, condiments and bus fare coupons. But, you are still wondering how The RUGged Man came to be. Well, my dad, Ed Korbyl had left his crazy hat design to the last minute. There was no way he was going to show up empty handed seeing that he wanted the crazy hat theme. The day of the BBQ, he still had yet to find a hat worthy of a being crazy. Sure a cowboy hat spray painted green was sort of funny, but it still lacked something. The weekend prior to the BBQ, my parents were removing some old shag carpet from the basement and it was still waiting to be taken to the dump. My dad looked over and said “...that’s some pretty fine shag carpet, I think I’ll wear a piece of it as a bad toupee.” Both of us just started to howl when he came up with the idea. Mom had some loose elastic in her sewing room and just like that, dad had a great crazy hat. You see, my father was bald and very proud of it. But today, dad was gleaming with pride for his newest design.
Well, we got to the BBQ site and started setting up before people arrived. One by one, people arrived with their creations. Let me tell you, the creativity of our guests was astonishing. Some of the guests spent some serious time on their hats which included accruements and trinkets secured to their creations.
The vibe was incredible as people started arriving and showing off their hats. Strangers became friends and they all started to laugh when they all compared each other’s hats. Dad had not shown his bad toupee yet, as he wanted to keep it under wraps. Dinner and drinks were served and people were really enjoying themselves. The band I played in was also present to provide dancing music to the guests throughout the night. We called that segment "dancing in the dirt" as it was a campsite. Shortly after the band’s first set, we decided have the judging of the crazy hats. We asked people to parade so our judges could admire and rate their wearable art. Dad decided to do a small speech thanking all the staff, clients and friends for attending the annual Canada BB. Dad quickly took off his original hat and placed on his bad shag toupee. The crowd instantly irrupted with laughter and applause. Of course, like those giveaways and competitions you see on television, family members were not permitted to compete in the competition.
After some debate and discussion, the champions of the crazy hat contest were decided upon and awarded to Al Zygun and his lovely wife. Everyone, including our winners, just laughed when they found out what the real prize was. Both Mr. and Mrs Zygun were great sports.
What was interesting was throughout the night, people wanted to try on my dad’s shag toupee. He kept getting requests to have his photo taken with others. People were simply having a great time with my dad’s toupee. Well the party ended with firecrackers and the celebration was completed. While cleaning up the site, I told my dad that we have to do something with this toupee. We were both amazed on how many people wanted to try it on and get pictures of it while wearing it. Not only was funny and crazy, but it was non offensive. I told my dad that I was going to try to create a gag gift around this idea, and hence RUGged Man was born.
I called some buddies up and told them of the idea. We brainstormed over a whole bunch of beers, and came up with the concept, wording and photos. I then designed a box, logo and instructional manual for this gag gift and then decided to produce a small run to see how people would react to this product. We then went to the Western Canadian Gift Show in Edmonton in hopes of attracting retailers. Among the elaborate collectibles and figurines, The RUGged Man stood out.
The three amigos, (Terry Syvenky and Dean Danilak and myself) all particpated during the trade show. It was great to be able to call up friends and get their support. I wish I could say that the trade show was an incredible success, but it wasn’t. Unfortunately, due to the small run, the product was a bit expensive and was retailing for almost $20 which hurt our sales. We did feel that it was a great experience, but it wasn’t the huge homerun we were all hoping for. Well, immediately after the trade show, we shipped out the product to our new retailers and let the world experience The RUGged Man Advanced Hair System for the first time. A bunch of retailers even re-ordered their stock and told us how well the product was being received. We even got repeat orders and some valuable feedback from our retailers.
Well, you see our province was booming in economic greatness. Everyone was busy, and so were we. Unfortunately, we put the RUGged Man on the backburner and decided to concentrate on the family business. Years went by and we had really shelved the RUGged Man until a fateful night where I attended a friend's birthday party. As usual in the Korbyl fashion, I left buying the gift until the last minute and I though that my friend, Dave and his slightly receding hair line would love The RUGged Man as a birthday gift. When people saw The RUGged Man gift, the room erupted with laughter. Everyone wanted to try it on and get a photo with it on. People were laughing while reading the box and kept passing it around. This was the night in which The RUGged Man flame was reignited. (Happy birthday… Dave W. I hope you enjoyed your gift. Thanks for the inspiration!)
A few months later, I found out that the popular Canadian television series, The Dragons’ Den, was coming to Edmonton for auditions. In this show, budding entrepreneurs would “pitch” their product or idea in front of 5 wealthy financers (i.e. The Dragons) in hopes of getting some of their cash. Well, I called my buddy, Terry Syvenky. Terry also was a fan of the show the show, but more importantly had always been a huge supporter of The RUGged Man. It was decided that in 5 days, both Terry and I would go to the Dragons' Den open audition.
That day, at the CBC studio, in downtown Edmonton, there was a nervous energy of 50 – 60 different “pitchers” who wanted to be on television. Among that group were The RUGged Men. Terry and I were quite nervous, even though we had worked on our presentation prior to this day. Well, we caused quite a storm when we wore the advanced hair systems while waiting in line for over 3 hours. Because of the popularity of this show, the local media was there to cover the action. They all wanted to talk to the two guys with rugs strapped to their heads, and really, who can blame them? They could see the confidence that both Terry and I had while eagerly waiting for our turn. In fact, that afternoon, we were interviewed by various television stations, newspapers and even did a live radio interview while waiting.
We went into the audition and gave it our best.
We got a call about 6 weeks after the audition and were asked to fly down to Toronto for filming in front of the actual celebrity Dragons. Both Terry and I were extremely excited, but also a bit nervous. How were we going to pitch this crazy idea in front of 5 weathly Dragons and be potentially in front of 2.5 million viewers?
In fact, over 4000 "pitchers" auditioned in Canada for Season 6, and approximately 300 were selected to go to Toronto for filming. From that 300, approximately 140 would actually make it on tv. You see, not everyone who films in front of the celebrity Dragons will make it to tv. Both Terry and I wanted to be in the top 4% of “pitchers” that made it to television. Thus we decided to perfect and rework our presentation. Anyone who has seen The Dragons' Den show can attest to, those Dragons can be fierce. There was no way we were going to look silly in front of 2.5 million Canadians with our revolutionary hair system, The RUGged Man. We worked with financial advisors, bankers and vast array of people who helped us tighten up our pitch. We even worked with our comedy coach, Paul Sveen. Paul Sveen is one of Canada’s top comedians who both Terry and I had the pleasure of taking a Stand-Up Comedy course from. If you ever get a chance to take something like this, I highly recommend it. Not only will you learn about stand up comedy, but more importantly, you will learn about yourself.
Paul helped us with our timing, our material and essentially how to tighten up our pitch. In addition, we even did 5 separate presentations to different business groups who gave us feedback and insight. It was wonderful how total strangers wanted to help The RUGged Men. I guess, with The RUGged Man, anything is possible. Thanks again to all our “advisors” who were in our corner.
On May 13, 2010, we walked down those famous stairs into the Dragons’ Den and “pitched” The RUGged Man. Because of the confidentiality of the show, all we can say it that it was a great experience and hope to make it television during the 2010 – 2011 season. It was very surreal how the day played out. We were in the morning group, which meant that we were to arrive at the Toronto CBC studios at 6:45 a.m. Once we walked through the entrance doors and signed in, everything went by extremely quickly. We met with our producer, Michelle MacMillian, who was assigned to help us and coach us. She was great resource and made a very nerve racking experience, enjoyable. We got to wait in the green room for about an hour or so, and then we were called for makeup and audio. This was our last chance to rehearse with Michelle. The next step was to walk down the stairs and face the Dragons. You can see on Season 5, Episode 18 which was aired on March 9, 2011.
While in Toronto, we had the opportunity to meet with our national distributor, Kevin Misch or World Wonders in Waterloo. Kevin was extremely helpful as he provided us an insight into the novelty gift industry and what we could expect in terms of sales, inventory and logistics. Kevin offered us some valuable advice on how to improve the new packaging and what we should include.
The rest is pretty much history. You are either a proud client of The RUGged Man, somebody who was intrigued by our product or you are here by mistake and are extremely confused. Or maybe, you are one of the several people we “shagged” with a RUGged Man decal.
So… Thanks for your interest in our product and its’ unique history. If you have any questions, suggestions or feedback, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Richard KorbylPresident and actual user of The RUGged Man Advanced Hair System