Like any savvy entrepreneur, Harry Hawson, CEO of Maverick by Design (MBD), saw an untapped need and met it.
"It is very difficult to think of gifts for guys," he remarked in an interview. "Guys do not like products that don't last. They like novelty that's useful and not just nonsense."
Best known for its unique apparel outfitted with electro-luminescent (EL) lights or light-emitting diodes (LED), MBD appeals to an upwardly mobile and well-traveled demographic beyond the company's initial target range of teenagers to early 30-somethings.
"We realized that [...] older guys are more open to our products too. They want to have shirts that bring out the kid inside them," Mr. Hawson said.
Before it underwent a branding overhaul, MBD formerly went by Dusk Til Dawn, a reference to how the clothes were often worn by youngsters who partied all night. The company's EL armbands also proved useful for runners and bikers to avoid road accidents.
"It was really an uphill climb," Mr. Hawson shared. "Our business started with only P300,000. We had to really be very lean and mean."
Thus, around four years ago, the start-up's limited cash flow meant limited inventory. But looking back, Mr. Hawson said, "There were [a] lot of hits and misses to figure out what our clients wanted, [so selling] limited edition items worked out. We didn't want people to show up in one party all wearing the same thing."
From the get-go, the entrepreneur took a non-traditional route to doing business; MBD offered warranties for its products and free delivery for a minimum purchase—a gutsy move when EL-decked clothes and accessories had not yet broken into the mainstream.
And instead of a brick-and-mortar commercial space, MBD opted for a home in cyberspace. "Everyone was into malls; I wanted to keep overhead low and pass on whatever savings to the clients," Mr. Hawson explained. "But since the concept of online shopping was new, people were afraid to trust us with their money."
That changed over time as the brand found more exposure here and abroad, by making the rounds at upscale bazaars and finding airtime in television programs like Umagang Kay Ganda.
Despite appearances, MBD's high-tech products are low-maintenance. The shirts and caps are battery-powered, so they only need to be turned off if exposed to heavy rain.
Prior to washing, the cables connecting the batteries to the EL panel need to be removed. The company also makes use of a special thin Velcro that makes the EL panel detachable.
"It's great to make [my] visions a reality," Mr. Hawson said of MBD's designs. "That it became a worthwhile venture is a bonus."
Illuminated shirts remain among MBD's bestsellers, but the diverse product line—which includes bags, signage, dog tags, and booths—has since expanded with merchandise outside of LED and EL, like high-end golf umbrellas.
What hasn't changed, however, is the company's customer-driven approach. "We empower our clients to choose what they want based on the budget they have," Mr. Hawson said. Thus, MBD is open to applying its signature EL and LED lighting technology to custom projects.
MDB doesn't cater only to individual buyers, either. The founder also counts high-profile players like San Miguel Corporation, Globe Telecom, Wyeth Philippines, and Republiq among the company's satisfied customers. With attention-grabbers like MBD's LED furniture and decor, Mr. Hawson said that corporate clientele can establish a positive "feel, felt, found" experience with their own audience. "In this day and age when people's attention is fleeting, you need to capture your target market," he said. "We address that."- Victoria T. Vizcarra
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