Rob Robles - Podcast Show Notes

Emily Flanagan


Mar 07, 22

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Guest Highlight 

When it comes to Name Bubbles I wear many hats (literally and figuratively). However, my primary role is Software Development. I joined the Name Bubbles team after graduating from RPI with a Bachelor's in 2009. Name Bubbles was a very promising player in the personalized label market and I was fortunate enough to be a part of its growth and evolution throughout the years. Besides all the great personalities and unlimited stickers, Name Bubbles’ focus on teamwork and creativity creates an awesome environment anyone would be lucky to have. My other hobby is being an amateur at anything I can get my hands on like snowboarding, mountain biking, dancing, theater, karaoke... this list can go a while.

Show Notes

Welcome back to another episode of From the Basement Up! This week, we are joined by Rob, Name Bubbles employee 01. After nearly 13 years with the business, what has Rob learned, experienced, and how has he grown? Strap in - it’s been a wild ride.

What’s most interesting about Rob’s story is how he has literally been with Name Bubbles every step of the way. It is a rarity to get in on the ground floor and grow your career with a growing company. There are many benefits to entering on the ground level, but even Rob notes that it was a big gamble.

It was a gamble in many ways, but especially a young Rob began his job during the aftermath of the 2008 recession. And then, imagine, you’ve just packed up your life to change careers and pull up to your office which is actually a residential home. This is where Rob found himself over a decade ago.

Michelle and Rob also get to discuss what kept him on the team for so long. Listen to the heartwarming ways in which employees take care of each other, and how the team continues to get through the pandemic’s trials and tribulations – together.

How the Name Bubbles Team accomplishes this is by always showing up, never giving up, and showing support in whatever way necessary. Join the pair as they discuss all of this and more. We can’t wait for you to learn more about the history of Name Bubbles.

Ep. 7: Rob Robles Transcript

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Hi, this is Michelle Brandriss and I'm here with From The Basement Up. Today's podcast, I get to speak with Rob, who is my longest... He's been with me the longest. He's been with Name Bubbles for over 13 years, which is remarkable. Thank you so much, Rob. I'm so glad you're here with me. Rob is my problem solver and he knows the company inside and out. I wouldn't be able to do what I do if Rob was not here. So thank you, Rob. And he can actually share so many stories, funny stories. We can sit there and laugh about what's gone on for the last decade. So you'll see some of the company culture and really a lot of learning curves. So Rob, welcome.

ROB: All right, well, I'm Rob. I'm the software engineer at Name Bubbles, but over the course of the years, I've definitely worn a lot of hats, but that's the role that I have now. And yeah, just streamlining everything we can to try to make the process as fast and efficient as possible so that we can have a great turnaround time for the customers.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: So, Rob, how many years have you been with Name Bubbles?

ROB: I would say, I think it's 12 years and change now. August of 2009.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Yes. It's amazing. So I feel like, in some ways, we've grown up together. I mean, it's a lot. And there have been times when we didn't get along too well, but I'm sure you couldn't stand me.

ROB: Every relationship has its ups and downs.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: But I remember when Rob first walked in and he was dressed up in a really nice suit, he looked very fancy, and we're pretty casual in Name Bubbles and always have been. But I just want you to talk about that first time we met.

ROB: Still remember that first day when people ask me about. It was a time in my life where I was trying to find work, and right when I graduated, we might have hit a dip in the economy or something. There was a bit of a...

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: We were having a recession at the time.

ROB: Yeah. And people weren't hiring all that much so I was having a bit of trouble finding work. And when I got the call to come up state to work at a label manufacturing company doing some design, figured, okay, foot in the door, right? And I literally packed the car up at my parents' house and just left. The first chance that I got, to get away from home, I took it and I left. I left the job that I was at. It was a very mind numbing job, just sitting and watching an assembly line go past, doing QC work, making sure that the product's okay. But I knew that I needed to get out of there because that wasn't what my degree was in. That wasn't what I wanted to get stuck doing and I just needed to go. So packed the car up the moment I heard about this opportunity. And then when I came in for the interview... It's funny. I put on the best clothes that I had, it was a suit that I wore that I got, Italian suit, and I had my little folder with my resume printed and I was excited. It was my first real opportunity and it was back in the area that I went to school in. And when I got to the address, it was this house. And I walked through the, just the walkway, and I was just wondering," What am I getting myself into? What did I just do?" And then I opened the door and I see it's just somebody's home, and some printers in a living room, and people in PJs working at computers. And I see Michelle, excited to meet me, and I'm shaking hands and trying really hard not to break my smile. So I'm in my head thinking," Oh my God, what did I do?"


ROB: But I was already in it. So just pushed forward.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS:  So I didn't realize he had already committed at this point.

ROB: Yeah, it was quite the gamble. It was quite the gamble but glad I took it.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Yeah, I'm very glad you took it. So Rob went to RPI, which is a fantastic school here, locally. It's more of a technical college, but just high end, great. You did computer programming, graphic design. So Rob is my problem solver and you definitely need a problem solver when you're start a company. Really, again, starting the company from nothing. And Rob would always come in and he just will look at things as a puzzle and start figuring things out. So he has done that from day one. He does it with the printers, then he did it with the website. So as the company's grown, Rob steps into those roles to try to figure out how to streamline the process and how to make things work and function more efficiently. So I feel very grateful that Rob has been here all these years.

ROB: And it's been fun. It's been fun. I mean, like you said, I mean, problem solving is... it's fun for me. It's one of those things I excelled at in grade school and RPI definitely proved a bit of a challenge on that respect. But just being able to put my mind to a problem and just fixing it or figuring out alternative solutions. It's a lot for me. It means a lot for me.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Yes. So all of you small business owners out there, or people who are wanting to start a business, you've got to find your fixer. And that's Rob, he's my fixer.

ROB: Yeah and what was great too, is that just starting from that living room, you got to see all kinds of problems. So it wasn't just that you got pigeonholed into fixing a printer. It was, how do we make this process faster? How do we fix this piece of equipment? Or how do we get newsletters out to people? Or how do we get our site away from Flash? Things like that. It was a lot of problems, and there were different problems, so it was definitely...

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: It's big problems too. It was really, on a manufacturing side and then also on an e- commerce side, so you got to see both of it and the whole thing. And then, where we really need help, or have found that we needed help, was when the orders are coming in, then how do you get them printed? And that's really where Rob is just making sure that that web- to- print side of the business is working and functioning. So, I mean, you're all over the place. Rob's our technical expert in house, so everyone's pulling him around, but that is the area that I think is so extremely valuable as we start exploring other divisions. And we have a few things coming up, but you're always in there, how do we make this work? And then working with other third parties to make sure that whatever they're creating for us, it's going to make sense, and then it's going to work in our process, and that's been extremely valuable.

ROB: Yeah. It's one of those things that I would recommend everybody pay attention to if you're starting a business, or even if you're already established, just be very introspective with all your processes and how you manage your data or even your employees. Just, how do we do this efficiently? How do we do this effectively? And how do we do this minimal overhead? A lot of questions to think about as you're doing it. Or even just reflecting on what you have and how to make it better. And I love it. It's engaging. It keeps my brain going and I love it.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Good. Good, good. Okay, I'm going to get to a fun question now, and this is the one I love hearing what people have to say. Okay, if Name Bubbles was an animal, what would it be and what characteristics do you see between the animal and the company?

ROB: See, I feel like that's a hard question because I feel like seeing its evolution from the beginning, it's gotten so many characteristics from so many different animals. The first one that I thought of was a pit bull. This is weird, but the first thing I thought of was a pit bull because, all prejudices about pit bulls aside, they protect their family. They're very protective of their own. And when we had the COVID lockdown and things like that, it was really cool to see the boss handing out gift cards for groceries and making sure that everybody was still getting paid so that... You took so good care of us at that time, and even more so internally, we all took care of each other. Making sure everybody was okay. Every day we do that, we just look out for each other in that way. And anybody that's a threat to the company, we all just get together and face it together. But even before that, when we were just a fledgling company, we were trying to struggle to fly and I kind of see us as a bird back then. We were fumbling around on the ground a little bit just trying to figure out how to get up in the air. And when we did, it was great. Seeing the orders come in, seeing our process so streamlined, and, yeah, I mean, I feel like we're all kinds of animals.


ROB: Yeah.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: That's great. I love it. I love hearing that. So I've heard chameleon. So we had chameleon.

ROB: That's a good one, yeah.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: And I think we had gecko, the ones that lose their tails if someone holds their tail, they let go of their tail and they keep running.

ROB: Yeah, yeah, that's a good one too.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: That was funny. So, yeah, but I love that. Thank you for that. That was really, really nice. You've been here for so long and you've heard so many customer service stories, I'm just curious, which one is your favorite?

ROB: Oh, that's a hard one. I mean, I've heard a lot of the good ones. And then you hear some of the bad views too. I have a hard time remembering anyone specifically, so that's a hard one for me.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Okay, we'll skip that one. And so, Rob, is actually not in customer service except when someone needs to speak Spanish.

ROB: Yeah. Yeah.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: And then we'll pull Rob in, and thank you for that, you've been so helpful. So Rob will come in and help out in customer service if we need someone to help out with the Spanish speaking people. And we did have quite a bit of shipping issues down in Central America, so thank you for handling that for us.

ROB: Oh yeah, definitely. Of course.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: And I'm going to actually just jump to a fun one, then. If Name Bubbles was a superhero, what would its power be?

ROB: Oh, that's an easy one. I would have to say... Well, I don't think the superhero exists, but if I had to make one up, it would be Captain Endurance. I think, as a company, we've had to go through so much stuff and just being able to still push forward and progress as a company, it's amazing to me. And it was one of those things that kept me going here. It was the promise of what this company is capable of. And whether it was a pandemic or we had some internal restructuring or some outside vendor wasn't giving us what we needed, we still managed to truck through all of it. And I think endurance is a really great quality to have in this type of thing, this type of industry. Any industry, really.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Well, yeah, I agree. On the startup side of it, for sure.

ROB: Yeah, definitely.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: I agree and I think everyone here... I think the one thing is, and there have been times where people have burned out and I'm a pusher. I push. And I don't mean to but I can see that I have to. So I do push. And it's tough. So I have to make sure I'm not going to be burning people out and where's the line that you need to pull back. And so, I think that the team is pretty amazing.

ROB: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, the team is really resilient. And I'm just going to touch on this real quick, I think one of the things that I learned here was balance. You talk about how you push people and you push people, but I think there is a push and pull in both directions. And as an employee, too, you have to realize how much you can give and by overexerting yourself and overwhelming yourself, you're not doing anybody a favor. So just being able to be mindful of the balance of what you're giving the company. Obviously do your job, do it well, but make sure you're balanced. Give 110% when you can, but don't constantly stretch yourself too thin.


ROB: It's an exercise, every day. And if you're mindful of it, work becomes less work. You're focused, you come in, you do your to- dos, you get out and you come back the next day and you just keep pushing forward. And that was probably one of the biggest things that I learned. And I try to let other people know too, just stay balanced. Just stay balanced.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Well, I like how you have a full social life and you do a lot of fun things outside of the office. So it's always fun to check in with you and see how your weekend was or what you were doing. So Rob always has a variety of things and they all sound like a blast. But I do like that, I think that's very, very important, and taking that time away since COVID... And I think that you've taken advantage of this and done a great job. Rob has the spaceship office at home. So Rob gets on with his... He's got computers all around him and he's got his headphones on. SO, COVID really allowed us to learn about working remote and being flexible. So if people want to work from home and it's not going to affect anybody here, I'm fine with that. It makes sense. So I think that that has also helped out a little bit. You don't have that commute either way, a couple times a week, if you want to work from home. So I think that that has been a really eyeopening thing for myself. I would not have liked that before COVID.

ROB: Yeah. It's one of those things where it's so heavy on the honor system. People have to be able to go home and actually handle their responsibilities. I know a lot of people that do, they work remotely, but then I got some friends that don't really work and they're remote. So as long as you are focused on the things that you have to do when you are at home, then yeah, it's no problem. Stay home and save yourself the half hour, hour commute, whatever you commute, and get your stuff done. Unfortunately, the nature of what I do, some of it I have to be here for. Whether I'm testing software or somebody needs help with something tech related, probably helps that I'm here on site for the most part. But there are days where you'll see a lull in a lot of this stuff and I need to be laser focused on a thing so that I can get it done as fast as possible. I can save myself the hour of travel, be in my PJs, and just laser focus on it for however long I need to that day. And then come in the next day and do what I have to do here.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: So I'm curious, for other business owners out there who are thinking about allowing employees to work from home, what would you suggest and how have you been successful at this?

ROB: I feel like I'm lucky. I have to say that, I feel like I'm lucky because I think the pandemic, you try to find the silver lining in it. And it gave me the opportunity to just become a lot more organized than I was. And see it as a... It was almost like a problem in the moment. We're all not together, we all have projects on our plate, we all have to communicate. This has become a problem because we're not meeting in person. We're not collaborating on stuff as well as we would like to. And I thought to myself, you know what? This is a good time to step it up. Even in this dark time that we had. And for me as an employee, it was great because I got to reach out to a lot of people via Slack or emails. Just organize myself a little bit better in that regard. Be a little bit more inter- communicative with people. And I grew a lot, I want to say, that year in that regard. Because we couldn't let this create a vulnerability for us. We had to keep going. And just by making sure everybody was still talking to each other, everybody was still communicating, all of our to- dos were still getting done, we can still push forward. Obviously operations had to take a bit of a hit, but at least on our end, we were able to do as much as we can from home. But as far as employers, with dealing with the work from home situation, just make sure everybody's accountable for what they're bringing to the table. We're learning that now, with our leadership team. It's just making sure people are doing what they're saying they're going to do, with a reasonable turnaround time. And yeah, and just everybody just keeps talking to each other and making sure there's a transparency too, behind everybody. What is it that you say you're going to do? Have you brought it to the table? No? Okay, well, what are the issues that you're running into? All right, well, let's fix that so that you can progress and, yeah, I mean that's it. I mean, I feel like working from home should be a benefit that, if you can afford, I think you should allow employees to do because gas prices are only going up.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Yeah they are. Well, I mean, good point. And it really is something that... I mean, listening to Rob, I realize I'm very fortunate. And so, he's an awesome employee and a very responsible guy. And I feel like the leadership team is like that, you guys have all stepped up in major ways and everybody has stepped up. So listening to you, I'm kind of going, well, I can tell I'm pretty lucky. So I don't know if other people are going to have that.

ROB: I think the feeling's mutual, yeah. It was so great to be a part of a new company that I got to grow with. And not a lot of people can say that. So when I got the opportunity and obviously, you mentioned it before, we have ups and downs in the process, but again, what kept me going was the... I saw a future in the company. The company had growth. The people were great, for the most part. And if you see that potential, it almost would've been a shame to not been a part of it. Especially having been there from the beginning, just to see where it goes. And yeah, so I was just very lucky.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: No, I feel lucky. So, I'm glad you're here. So, thank you. But do you have any questions for me or anything that you would want to add out there for other potential business owners?

ROB: I mean, I think the best advice I can give... And I mean, I'm just coming from my perspective. I don't know what it means to own a business. I mean, I'm sure there's a lot of factors involved, things that I haven't seen, I don't know if I'll ever see. But if I had to say one thing, it's just... I don't know, maybe an awareness or just being immersed in the company. Because I feel like, if you're in tune with all of the elements, you can feel the same pain points people feel. Or you can even share in some of those little victories that they have. I don't know, I feel like just being in touch with every aspect of the company helps. Maybe helps, I don't know. I wouldn't know. But maybe helps an employer or business owner just be more aware of the on- goings of their company. I see a company as a body, like a human body. You got the mind, you got the heart, you got the veins, you got all these other organs that do their own... that have their own responsibilities. And one of the things that they teach us in real life is to just be in tune with your body. Just feel what your body's telling you. Do you need more water? Do you need more rest? Do you need more exercise? That type of stuff. And that involves just taking a moment and just meditating on each part or even just feeling it out. And I think the company's the same way, in my opinion.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Well, I agree. Where I feel like Name Bubbles is its own energy now. It has its own personality, it's its own person.

ROB: Definitely.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: And everybody, even the customers and people who come back, and their kids started with the product when they were babies and then they're buying labels for camp, and you hear from the customers. So it's interesting to watch that happen.

ROB: Yeah, and just one more thing, I kind of want to take it right back to the beginning again. So it wasn't just seeing the potential in the company that kept me going. I'm going to be honest, I remember this story that you told me, it was at the Colvin office, and I can't remember if I asked you or somebody else. But why did you on labels? I remember asking. And I remember you telling me that one of the competitors, you ordered from them, and you were worried about your kid. He had allergies and you didn't want him to go to any school without them knowing what he's allergic to. And there a sincerity in everything that you were telling me. You wanted something better for them, maybe even a cuter design, and the packaging was shoddy, subpar. And you just you knew that you can do better. And I felt like, I can get behind that. It was a clear mission. You wanted to be better than the competitor because you had a love for your kid and you would do absolutely anything for them. Even if it meant creating a whole other company to make better labels for his allergies.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Well, it's interesting that you said that, because when I saw the labels come in, when I had ordered the labels, I was immediately going," Oh my gosh, this would be so cute with a train or a fire truck." I just started immediately thinking about other designs. So, yeah, it was something where, I'm ordering a product from Canada. And the other product I saw was in Australia. And I'm like, the ones in the US, they looked terrible. I didn't like them at all. So I actually was like," This is something that there's an opportunity here, for sure." And the parents get so excited when they go online and they get to pick their design and they're picking their font and they're picking their icon and they're making it cute. And it's made with love.

ROB: That's what I'm talking about. There was a passion behind you making this because you saw what was available to you and you said," This isn't enough. We can make it better." If not for organizational or cute design purposes, but to protect our kids and all their stuff. And I thought that was a deeper message. And I was like, this is great. This is definitely something you can get behind.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: So something that, I'm just going to let everybody know as well, I put hearts on every printer. And the reason why I do that is because I want the child to feel like they were loved. Every single time they see their name on any of their items, I want them to feel the love that their parents had when they went online and they made that order. So I'm like, I'm trying to infuse love into every label that goes out there.

ROB: I do see the hearts on the printer. It is cute.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: So Rob has been very kind all these years with hearts and bubbles and everything else around. But one thing I do want to end on, if possible, is a funny story. Because you've had so many, I don't know if you have any off the top of your head, of really funny stories. But you hear Rob sing through the office and he's always laughing through the office. So I just kind of figured you might have something off the top of your head, because you're usually in the mix with everybody. Something going on, if it's a ping pong tournament or whatever.

ROB: Yeah, that's the thing is, there's so many different personalities here. It's great to interact with all of them. And I can't think of anything that just... Nothing immediately pops up at the top of my head, but yeah, every day here, it could be a gas sometimes. Whether I'm talking to Brad or I'm talking to Joanna or whoever in the moment. There's a joke here or there's a funny story from the weekend, and it's just, you have to have that. You have to have that otherwise work is monotonous. So it's great to have those moments and just be very interactive with everybody. I don't know, we have had a lot of funny moments, I just can't remember anyone specifically.


ROB: I just know that I have had a lot of laughs.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Oh yeah. So Rob's office, Rob has his own office, and part of that is just... He's a singer, and it's a great thing, and he's a good singer. But he also, he wants to be able to focus.

ROB: It could be a problem. I've had some complaints about whistling and singing and stuff, yeah, in the old office. So it has been a problem, but I've managed to tone it down a little bit. Or now that I have a door, I'll close the door if I really need to belt it out for whatever reason. But, yeah.

SPEAKER 3: inaudible. Talk about how that complaint went.

ROB: Oh, it was... Who was it? I can't remember. It was somebody from the marketing side, back at the exit 10 office. They came over and they were like," We really appreciate that you love Bruno Mars." That's what it was, it was Bruno Mars." And we like your singing, but we really need to focus and we can hear you across the way." I'm like," Oh, I'm so sorry." Yeah, it was hard because a little bit of terror came over because sometimes you think you're singing to yourself, you don't think anybody's listening, and they are.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: But it's okay, and it's fun, because when it's all hands on deck in the summertime and we're all out there packing orders, and Rob's got his headset on, he's just letting it belt and he is packing orders. So it's pretty good, it's fun. But after the exit 10 building, I think you... Because Rob is near the operations team, so you are the only one that has an office. So double fold. So he can focus.

ROB: It's nice.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: And he can sing as loud as he wants.

ROB: I don't know about that. They still hear me through the door sometimes. It depends on how I'm feeling that day, I guess.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Oh, but that's okay.

ROB: Yeah.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: But Rob, thank you so much for joining us.

ROB: No problem. Thanks for having me.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: You have great insight, I love it. And really, I mean, I can't even tell you, Rob has been so instrumental through the years. I love having him here and-

ROB: It's been great being a part of it. It's been great being a part of it, definitely

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Name Bubbles would not be where it is today if you were not here.

ROB: I appreciate Name Bubbles, definitely.


ROB: Yeah.

MICHELLE BRANDRISS: Thank you, thank you.

EMILY: Please don't forget to leave a five star review, tell us how much you're enjoying the show, and hit subscribe to be back every Thursday with us and a new special guest.

Emily Flanagan

My name is Emily Flanagan, and I am the Project Director of From the Basement Up Podcast. As a recent graduate from Indiana University- Bloomington with my BSPA in Law and Public Poli...

Read more from Emily Flanagan