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Growing Sales to 8 Figures in a Difficult Market - See Rescue Streamer

Dr. Rob Yonover, the inventor of the See Rescue Streamer, joins us today on the Harvest Growth podcast. Dr. Rob's product is a unique invention - it makes it easy for stranded persons to be spotted on sea or land from a distance, a feat that smokes and flares fail at once they dissipate. Still, while unique, safety products like Streamer (that prevent problems) are typically harder to sell. That is because most consumers don’t buy safety goods until a calamity has befallen them; then, they pay a premium.

Despite this, the product has become a success, bringing $16 million in sales and getting military approval. How did Dr. Rob achieve this? Join us to hear the exact techniques and strategies that have worked for See Rescue Streamer.


In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:

  • How to sell great products that have low demand.

  • Benefits of marketing to associations and groups.

  • How to thrive without scaling company size.

  • And so much more!


You can listen to the full interview on your desktop or wherever you choose to listen to your podcasts.

Or, click to watch the full video interview here!


Visit to discover how the See Rescue Streamer can help you get noticed and rescued on land or sea in a severe emergency.

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Do you have a brand that you’d like to launch or grow? Do you want help from a partner that has successfully launched hundreds of brands that now total over $2 billion in revenues? Set up a free consultation with us today!


Prefer reading instead of listening? Read the full transcript here!

Jon LaClare: In today's interview, we discuss a product that has generated over $16 million in B2B and B2B sales. Our guest shares advice that will be helpful to any product marketer. In the last 10 minutes of the interview, Dr. Rob summarizes learnings from his several decade-long journey that you really shouldn't miss.

Advertisement: Are you looking for new ways to make your sales grow? You've tried other podcasts, but they don't seem to know. Harvest the growth potential of your product or service as we share stories and strategies that'll make your competitors nervous. Now, here's the host of The Harvest Growth Podcast, Jon LaClare.

Jon: Welcome back to the show. I'm really excited to be speaking today with Dr. Rob Yonover from the SeeRescue Corporation. He's got a really cool product. You've got to see the visual. I do recommend you go to his website, which is seerescue, it's S-E-E, so be seen or see something, If you're driving, just look in the show notes when you finish. That URL is in there as well. Let's get in and talk about the product. You've got a fascinating story, Dr. Rob, so I can't wait for this conversation, frankly. Welcome to the show, first of all.

Dr. Rob Yonover: Thank you. Thank you, Jon. I appreciate it. Glad to be here.

Jon: Hey, so tell us about the product. What is the SeeRescue Streamer?

Dr. Rob: I'm a scientist and inventor. I work on volcanoes. Whether you're lost at sea or lost in land, I've noticed everyone that flies, flies right over you and they can't see you because with smoke flares, other signals, they just go away right away. I invented a long orange piece of plastic with struts in it, so it has spreader bars like a centipede. It gives you a long orange tail. It's extremely simple. As we know, simple ideas are the best, especially in the patent office so it got a very broad patent.

The navy, when they first approved it, called the only passive and continuous signaling device. You put it out there and it works forever until you don't want it, and you can put it away if the enemy comes around. The military has approved it. It's used all over the world. It sells. It saved some lives already. It's even on SpaceX now. The astronauts, it's in the seat for all the astronauts in case they get lost at sea on the splashdown.

Jon: That is cool.

Dr. Rob: Thanks. It's just one of those simple ideas. I'm a scientist by training, but I'm an inventor by heart and by blood, so I'm always solving problems. This is the one that kept bubbling up to the surface 25, 30 years ago and it never left me. I knew this was a winner. I've been in the world for years now and I have a whole bunch of other survival products that attack other problems. My whole thing is simpler is better.

If you could solve something simpler, it's a better thing to do than to get it all complex where things can fail. Simpler, it can't break. Then even the Streamer is no moving parts, no batteries, chemicals, electronics. Our fancy ones that self-deploy for the fighter pilots, those have some electronics, but other than that, it's just a piece of plastic. It's an elegant piece of plastic, but it's still a piece of plastic and it works. When you're in trouble, you can rely on it. That's important in the survival world.

Jon: Oh, absolutely. I'm sure many people, if you've climbed mountains or spent any time in the ocean, can visualize the need for this. You do a great job on your website of really showing the problem. I've climbed mountains, the ones you could walk up. Nothing too impressive, but I've been on top of mountains before and around the ocean. You think about it, but really the quick videos you see-- and I do encourage everyone to check out the website. Again,

You can see these videos where it's a camera that shows a guy on top of a mountain or a guy in the water and then quickly zooms out really high up as if you're from a helicopter or an airplane and all of a sudden you can't see him. Tiny dot in the ocean. Tiny dot on the top of a mountain. It's funny, I just read an article a few months ago about a guy that was lost. I shouldn't say it's funny. It was a tragic thing, but he was lost in a mountain in California. When you look at the high helicopter view of it, the parking lot is right down on the bottom. It doesn't look that big. How do they get lost? How did he not get found? As you show in your visuals, man, it's flying over. You'll never find him. You can't see him.

Dr. Rob: Your head is a spec and if you're in water, your head is about as big as a coconut floating in the ocean. The next time you fly over the ocean, see if you can find a coconut and next time you fly over a mountain, can you see one rock, a rock the size of your head? It's impossible. An orange, a long orange line is not found in nature. There're no orange eels in the ocean. There's no orange snakes in the jungle or in the woods, so it stands out and it basically points you to where you are.

It's just like writing help in the sand, but even that, you need a whole big beach, and that not only works in the movies. It's just a real simple solution. Our minds, I gave a talk years ago and some neurological scientists were saying, "I know why that works." They were showing slides and the slide projector slipped off and it showed the edge of the slide and the brain went crazy. I think we're pre-programmed to avoid lines like a cliff. If you're running and you see a line, you slow down. That's why a long orange line stands out.

It triggers your mind, not only the shape being elongated but the color. A bright orange straight edge it's like, whoa, what is that? It's just an obvious thing. The Streamers are really small. It's only about as big as a cell phone, so it's a nice thing to throw in your pack or life jacket. They also float when they're not deployed so that if the whole boat sinks, you can find them. It's been a struggle because people don't necessarily buy safety. If you look at the history of the US, airbags, seat belts, we didn't welcome that one well.

The Europeans led the way on that and then it was by mandate. It's still hard. My main focus is the military because they have to be safe. They don't want to lose guys, whereas Joe Boulder and Joanne Hiker, they don't care. They don't ever think it's going to happen to them. One of the things we targeted was to try to go up to the women because I think women are more safety conscious, no offense to men, but they think about these things. Guys want to buy an extra six-pack. Women are like, "When are you coming home?" and all that.

I even tried to pitch that when I was on Shark Tank and Mark Cuban didn't want the whole home run, all or nothing. I said, "We should go for a mandate." These should be required on all life jackets, flight jackets. The Canadian Air Force has them on all air-flight jackets. It's all over. The smart people use them, the people that should be using them. The funny thing is you'd pay $1 million if you needed one in real-time, so that's always been a struggle of selling safety.

I know your background is OxiClean. My brother was in marketing. He helped me name it SeeRescue, S-E-E Rescue. You have to be seen to be rescued, selling the benefit. OxiClean sells the benefit. What does it do? It gets it clean. People in naming their technologies or inventions, they always want to name it in a weird way or some snazzy, but if you sell the benefit in the name, I think it helps a lot.

Jon: Yes, absolutely. If you talk to any attorney, they're always going to tell you, "Make up a name. Something fanciful because it's easier to trademark." At the end of the day, you can trademark it, but if no one remembers it, then you it'll never matter. You won't get the sale. Getting that benefit in there is so key.

Dr. Rob: Exactly. Exactly. It's been a challenge, but it's a fun challenge.

Jon: You talked about the straight-line benefit. If you go to the website and read the whole story, you can grasp it. I want you to describe a little bit more because if you think about a ribbon, if I just made an orange ribbon, laid it out right on the ground, wind is going to blow it. Lay it in the water, waves will carry it everywhere. There's a way that you made it so it stays straight. Talk to us about how you--

Dr. Rob: Sure. I'm into biomimicry. I believe that nature has the best solution if you believe in Darwin and evolution. Whenever I have a problem to solve, I look at how would nature solve it. If you want something long and straight, you need support. Look at your vertebrae, segments. A palm tree, segments. A centipede, segments. I got these air-filled struts and I originally glued them to the Streamer so it looked like a centipede so when it twisted, it wouldn't twist because each panel is protected by the spreader bar.

In fact, the first one I tested 20 years ago, 24 years ago. My friends were saying, "Get a real job." My wife is like, "Stop playing with that piece of plastic." I threw it out on a boat and it was all bunched up, but as we drifted away, it started spinning out like a helix. Like a DNA helix, it spun its way straight. That's when I knew this was really a winner because even if a wave hits it over, it'll eventually re-equilibrate to straight because it just spins its way out straight and flat giving the maximum signal.

The other thing that's really interesting is all the money in the military goes to search items like fancy cameras and systems. No one spends a lot of time on the targets. Years ago, I was at a military demonstration where they had multimillion-dollar infrared cameras, but they had no targets. The Marines were demonstrating being lost in this field and they want to show these cameras. The Streamer was a big hit because they could unfurl them a little. They could find and then they put them away and go somewhere else and be found whenever they need to. It was a very mobile signal and reproducible, repeatable, which was really valuable. You're right about the visuals. The whole adventure was made on a before and aafter picture. That's what's on the website. Here's you without it. Your head in the middle of ocean or mountain. Here's you with it. Before and after. Before you see nothing, after you see a big blue ocean or a big, brown, green mountain with a little orange line pointing right to you.

That sells the whole thing. That's why even on some of my business cards, I can pop those out in a second, the elevator pitch, I have 30 seconds to impress you. I can show you the technology. For all you aspiring inventors, you have to have your rap good enough where you can explain it quickly and get the person to want more. Tell me more. That's been my MO for years.

Jon: I love that comparison against where we spend the money in solving problems. It's not about preventing the problem, it's about, okay, the problem is there, how do we fix it afterwards? Whether it's the military, whether it's us in our own lives, so often we do that as opposed to spending money. It's a lot cheaper usually to prevent the problem or make it easier to find than technology after the fact.

Dr. Rob: Absolutely.

Jon: There are some technologies that have been around a long time before this product that aren't as good. I'd love to talk about those just to compare.

Dr. Rob: Sure.

Jon: The old fashioned ways of doing it, they still use, unfortunately, something-- [crosstalk]

Dr. Rob: A flare, you shoot in the sky, lasts for three seconds. You can't really tell where it's from. What do I see? There it's gone.

Jon: It blows away, right?

Dr. Rob: Right. Smoke signals, smoke blows away with the wind and only limited time. Then there's sea dye marker where they put it in the ocean and it makes you a big puddle. That's only if it's perfectly calm. In rough seas, that dissipates very quickly. Then you have electronic devices. This is where everyone gets it wrong. Even on Shark Tank, they were like, "Oh, is this not selling well recently because of ePurbs, electronic locate devices?" No. Electronic locating device only gets you to the picture and they say, "Okay, he's in there somewhere."

You still need a visual. You talk to any search and rescue guy, you still need a need a visual. To have a visual on a floating coconut or rock on the mountain, even if you know the coconut or the rock are there, it's very hard. Even with the latest and greatest in signaling devices, you also can home in on those. You can fly, but in the military or to survival setting, time is money, time is your life. You don't want to sit in the water any longer than you have to. You don't want to wait till the plane keeps going back and forth and then luckily sees you.

It's surprising. One of the mistakes I made early with the military is I started bashing some of these other signaling devices. I don't know if someone was related to the sea dye marker guy, but they took offense to that. From now on, I always say take everything. You take flair, sea dye marker, smoke, an electronic device, your phone but take a Streamer too, because as I like to point out, whenever I do demonstrations, everyone shoots off everything.

I always say, "Hey, what's left now? Streamers trail behind a raft. It's working while you're sleeping." It's really the ultimate KISS; keep it simple, stupid, and no brainer. It's been a little frustrating over the years because even though we've done well with the military and decently with consumers, it's never really taken off and been a household name like it should be because it obviously solves a problem. I've always longed to get out of safety just for that. I keep inventing survival technologies because that's where my mindset is. It's hard to sell safety.

Jon: We create or invent what we know for sure.

Dr. Rob: Exactly. Exactly. That's my wheelhouse.

Jon: Over the years, we talked down your success, but you have generated $16 million in sales over the years, which is fantastic. What has worked? You shared some of the stories, what really, from a marketing standpoint, has worked?

Dr. Rob: The thing that worked was to be embedded with the military survival professionals on a worldwide basis. There's a group I'm part of, SAFE Association. We meet annually and there are smaller meetings. I get to interact with survival experts from all millitary all over the world and our military included. Again, they come in with a preset notion of being safe. They want to be safe. That's their job. They're safety officers. Then I had a licensee for 15 years. One of the things we attempted and it worked was to do some lobbying.

Basically, we put together-- the military may want the product, but they don't have the money, so we would find them the money congressionally. The congressional people liked it because in those days, you've heard of earmarks and everyone says they're bad, or pork-barrel. They can be bad if it's a boondoggle. In our case, this money was earmarked to save lives, and a senator or congressional person didn't mind putting their name to it. That was part of the law recently that you have to put your name on it.

It's not a boondoggle rip off, and they'd like to put their name to it. We got some good funding that way, and it enabled me to build a variation of the Streamer. When I worked with the Air Force, we got a grant through the earmark process to build the self deploying Streamer because fighter pilots, when they eject out, are usually injured or unconscious. I built one with the help of the Air Force. I had invented it in one specific format and got a patent, but then we built it more designed to fit the ejection seat. That is it's in a pouch that hits the water and it dissolves automatically. You know rice paper candy, that plastic that dissolves in your mouth?

Jon: Yes.

Dr. Rob: I found that material and we made string out of it. When the pouch hits the water, the pilot comes out in the parachute, automatically hits the water. They can be dead or unconscious. Within a half hour, the Streamer pouch dissolves, opening it, and it unfurls. It triggers with a magneto switch. It triggers the lights so they're armed for night time. Then they flash for three nights consecut and off in the daylight.

We got a safe to fly for the F-16s for that approval. The one on Amazon, the little one, the holster cost $95, which is a miniature version of that because we've added reflectors and chemlights. Instead of the fighter pilot, auto deploy, I just described costs nearly $1,000. $1,000 versus $95, most people want the 95. A lot of the military are going back toward the traditional one just to have it. That's working the-- I'm still going after groups and organizations instead of onesie, twosies. That works better for us.

An aircraft, flying club, a diving club, a sailing club, any club, we can work with whoever it is and give discounts to people that want them. Because as you know, when you sell something on Amazon or anywhere, there's markup and margins. If people contact us directly, we built the business on reps. I have reps all over the world and they buy it from us and resell it. There's always some margin in there. If boarding flying club from California calls us and they want 20 or 50 units, they get a better price.

I'm always looking for people that want to get involved in that manner because I've tried to stay lean and mean as a company. That's why Amazon has been so good for us. I don't have to have a whole fulfillment center and people calling and returns, all that. We just send them in bulk to our guy and they store them and fulfill Amazon orders. It's less employees we have to have. It's an interesting operation. I wrote a book called Hardcore Inventing, which was all basically about inventing and getting the ideas of patents. Also, it was focused more for licensing. Licensing is great, but licensing rarely makes you really good money.

It's more little tiny money, and they normally don't last. I created a profit sharing license agreement where I was a consultant as part of the deal, and that one lasted 15 years. In my later years, one of the guys we researched for the book was a book called Stand Alone Inventor. His whole concept is you get the patent, you build it, source it, market it, do everything yourself. That's more of where I'm at now. I always laugh with him because we argued 10 years ago when I wrote this Hardcore Inventing book, he's going, "Oh, my model is better." I go, "Yes, but I don't want to run a whole factory. I don't want to run a bunch of people." It's a hybrid between the two, but it works out.

Jon: I think it's changed, too. We've been doing product launches for a long time as well. 20, 30 years ago, it was really hard to do it on your own. There weren't as many resources as there are now where any town has fulfillment centers that can hold your inventory, pack, ship, handle customer service. You can do it almost alone or with a small team running a very big--

Dr. Rob: No, it's so true. It's everything's is virtual now, just like us having this podcast. I was the original 30 years ago. I serve a fax machine. Remember those?

Jon: Yes.

Dr. Rob: In Hawaii, after eleven O'clock, it was cheaper to phone call. In the early days of the Streamer, my brother was in advertising. He told me that there are all these editors wondering what to write about. There's Bacon's publicity checker, used to list all the numbers of all the editors of every magazine. At 11:01, I would make a one-page fax. It's like a fishing mission. I put out 100 lines, I'd send 100 faxes from 11:01 in the morning, and then I'd get a nibble. If I got the Miami Herald wrote about it first, then I took that and sent that out 100 times and just be a PR guerrilla, guerrilla marketing. I'm a positive, polite, pain in the ass. If I want you to do something, I'm going to keep calling you. It took me three years to get in Outside Magazine. I kept calling them back and finally they broke through. The other thing I've learned is to let editors and people run with it in part, let them create it. Men's Journal called, they said about the Streamer, Gillian's Island would've been one episode if they had the Streamer that was brilliant.

I didn't think that-- You let the guys work with people, let them do what they're good at and don't micromanage them and then they have a little ownership in what they've done. It's worked out that way. PR is key. It's crowded now with all the noise of social media. it's hard to get to editors and people online to get you published and it's tough. I would encourage most inventors to go for a niche market instead of the dream of getting it everywhere.

Just find a niche where you can go for that, let's say it's sailboat owners become the guy, if you have a technology, it's for sailboats. Go there, go to the sailboat meeting. I'm really big on trade shows. It's old school, but it's the only chance where I can get dressed up in a suit and tie and I used to chase CEOs into the urinal if I have to just to get that 32nd elevator pitch. You can't tell an aspiring inventor from a successful CEO at a trade show.

John: Very true.

Dr. Rob: We're all dressed up you shave, you put on your best clothes. Ideally, if you have an invention that's small, you have it on you. That was one of the nice things about the Streamer. I'd have those before and after pictures of one pocket and I'd have a Streamer in my back pocket and they're like, "Whoa, where'd that come from?" "Oh yes, this is it. You should have one." The other thing I learned is if you let people hold it and then take it away from them, something psychological about that, they want it back.

John: True. [crosstalk] [inaudible 00:21:47]

Dr. Rob: Yes, exactly. It just PR marketing, all that stuff. Of course my number one rule for any inventor is don't quit your day job. You can quit your day job. It takes twice as much money and twice as much time to do anything. People thinking, "Oh, I'm just going to invent this and I'm going to quit my job." No, you shouldn't quit your job. That's going to fund all this and if you do the math 24 hours a day, times seven hours, seven days a week, there's 120 or more hours in a week.

If you only have a 40 hour job that still leaves 80 or more hours, 40 to sleep, you still have 40 for another job. So turn off, stop scrolling social media, work on nights and weekends and keep working until you can quit your job. A lot of people make that mistake of saying, "Oh, I'm just going to start this new job." Even a business, not even just a job, just a business. You got to have a funding source, and a lot of people, even like Shark Tank, and I'm not really big on taking other people's money.

I know it's good, I'll use other people's money, but I don't want other people owning me. Even after Shark Tank and before it, I was in a startup group and then people want to give me money, but then what do I do with these people? They can call me anytime forever saying, "Hey, how's my 50,000? What's happening?" I don't want that. I'd rather get a conventional bank loan or just keep money from your job so you don't have to get in that scenario, which to me is the real risk of that.

This is why I've never done it with the Streamers because I don't want someone saying, "We're out of business, it's a garage sale, we're selling the patents and we're selling the--" No, this thing's going for life. Even my father was my great model. He started a mail order business in our house when I was like five years old. I don't know, he was 35 years old maybe, and he went all the way to 95 in life, but in up to into his 90s, he ran the same company. It's like some ways it's good to run a company for your lifestyle instead of being a worker for someone else, right?

John: True.

Dr. Rob: Again, the other thing is a niche career. Also, this is the problem I have with startups and Shark Tank. Everyone wants to be a zillionaire a millionaire. Everyone wants to swing for a home run and get it. I don't mind swinging for the fence, but a single and a double is good too. In my scenario, my wife got ill, she got MS, and was paralyzed for the last 19 years of her life while we had little kids. If I didn't have this Streamer business where I could be totally flexible, the whole thing would've fallen apart and the family was most important.

It's really great if you can build a small business that you can run that can afford you the lifestyle to keep inventing or deal with your family or whatever it is that you have to do or spend time with your family. Always, I hate the way they do it on Shark Tank where they say, oh, you're a failure, or it's a hobby business. Don't insult people when they built a nice little business. I understand that the goal of that show and startups in general is to become a Facebook or some-- but that's such a long shot. It's better to just start a business where--

The other thing is, anyone asks me, "What do you think of this?" I go, "How much can you make it for? How much can you sell it for? Do people want it?" If you can build it for a dollar and sell it for 10 and everyone loves it, you got something. It's that simple. The other thing I say is always try to invent something small, just like to show it at a trade show but storage is easy. You can put it in your closet. One of my inventions, it's an absolute failure at this point, was my water bike, which was a I got away from survival.

I have a pocket desalinating, pocket flotation device, emergency flotation, rescue board, and video search and rescue, all these safety devices. A couple years ago, I invented the water bike and it pedals, you pedal pedal it and it splashes a fin behind you. It'd be really cool. I started looking into it. I'm like, "Where am I? Or anyone else going to put these. I don't want to buy a whole warehouse and even to get 100 of them over here, you need a container. I don't want to do that. I'd rather send something in an envelope. That put on the back burner for now. It's interesting how when you're inventing something, you don't think about the logistics of it. Those are some of the simple things that if you thought of first, you might not go down that road.

John: God, that's all great advice. I'd encourage everybody to listening to rewind and listen to that. Probably an eight minute segment there. Just a ton of advice and couple up in one. Dr. Rob, I do want to ask one last question.

Dr. Rob: Sure.

John: Is there anything that I didn't ask yet that you think could be helpful for our audience?

Dr. Rob: I think you covered a lot and I did too. I have trouble to stop talking and get excited.

John: It's all great. This is super valuable. Stopping.

Dr. Rob: No, I don't be discouraged. That's what I would say. Everyone talks about it now about failure and how it's a great lesson, but it's true. The other thing is don't get nervous when you pitch in front of people. No one knows it better than you. It's your product. You should know it, you should have the confidence, and there's nothing wrong with failing or screwing up. You just laugh it off and keep going. The ultimate thing is, as a kid, you learn about the tortoise and the hair, right? The hair goes fast. I'm the ultimate tortoise.

This Streamer thing, people have laughed at me for 30 years from this, including my wife used to say, "Get a real job. Stop playing with that piece of plastic." I'm like, "Okay, that's funny," or then when I'd fail and it didn't go anywhere, I'm like, "Okay, but I'm not stopping. I'm going to keep going." I really encourage you. That's why having the day job insulates you from that. When you fail in your invention or technology, it doesn't cost you the farm. You don't have to sell the house. You just have to regroup and keep going, and that tenacity, people like that too.

When people approach me and they say, "I've been rubbing grinding on this for years. I'm not giving up," that impresses me. Unless they are hitting a wall that's saying this is not a good idea. In my case, for the Streamer, I knew it was a good idea. When I met the guys it had saved, a couple guys thanked me for saving their lives. That was the best thing at all. I couldn't believe it and even the Shark Tank guys, I told them that and I was shocked that they didn't want to invest in that to make it bigger so they could meet people that they helped save their lives. They were all about money and that's okay. That's the premise of the show.

John: That's right. Dr. Rob, this has been an absolute pleasure. I really appreciate your time today. Thank you so much.

Dr. Rob: My pleasure. Thank you, John. I enjoyed it. Aloha.

John: For the listeners, please go to to learn more. Also, be sure to check out to see other episodes we've recorded. If you like this episode and you want to learn more about how you can profitably grow your consumer product or service business, please subscribe to our show, or you can set up an appointment right from our website to speak directly with a member of the Harvest Growth Team in a free consultation to learn the process that has worked for hundreds of businesses since 2007.


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