Nathania Gail Go and Jennifer Horn are out to “funkify the planet” with the bold, proudly Philippine-made products of Punchdrunk Panda. From laptop sleeves to shoes, Punchdrunk Panda makes unique, functional products that show off Pinoy creativity.
Ms. Go and Ms. Horn started selling laptop sleeves in 2007. Instead of a traditional storefront setup, they sold their products online on Multiply. And at first, the pair would do meet-ups to deliver products to customers, before settling on sending the products via courier.
They also outsourced the production of the sleeves, as Ms. Horn explained in an interview, “That really helps home-based businesses in general when you outsource, because you don’t really have to have a factory.”
Why laptop sleeves? “Back then, the only available options in the market were black plain sleeves, and they were envelope types, where you had to take your laptop out of the bag,” Ms. Horn explained. Punchdrunk Panda’s laptop sleeves, which allow the use of the laptop without having to take it out of the sleeve, provided a more practical alternative.
To give the sleeves designs that stood out, the entrepreneurs scoured places like the markets of Divisoria and Kamuning, as well as malls, for unique fabrics.
Instead of traditional advertising, word-of-mouth helped the new business gain customers.
At that point, the founders did not have long-term plans for the business. Nevertheless, they still wanted to give it a distinctive brand. “We tried to think of an icon that wasn’t overused at the time, so we felt like a panda wasn’t. We were also thinking of balancing out the cuteness of a panda with ‘punchdrunk,’” Ms. Horn said. And thus, “Punchdrunk Panda” was conceived.
Ms. Go and Ms. Horn were working as an account executive and a copywriter, respectively, for different advertising agencies and thought that Punchdrunk Panda would stop after the third batch of sleeves. They saw, however, that the business was beginning to sustain itself.
They thus started to consign with LapDance Bags to increase their customer base. Then, in 2008, Punchdrunk Panda went up from sourced fabric with a new batch of sleeves featuring original graphic designs.
One year later, the business was incorporated and became an official company. “It wasn’t just a racket anymore; we [realized we] can do this full-time,” Ms. Horn said. “So, we decided to quit our jobs.”
To transition from Multiply to brick-and-mortar stores, the founders looked for distribution outlets and joined bazaars. “Eventually, you want your own domain, so we created our own online shop and found consignees,” Ms. Horn said. Aside from LapDance Bags in the TriNoma mall, current consignees include Analog Soul, also in TriNoma; Team Manila in Rockwell; and The Ramp in Shangri-La Mall.
In 2010, Punchdrunk Panda branched out from laptop sleeves and started making shoes and camera straps. “We saw the potential of creating graphic design shoes,” Ms. Horn explained. “We’re always trying to look for graphic design canvases that haven’t been used before.”
Giving designers unconventional outlets for graphic design slowly became the focus for Punchdrunk Panda. The company has since teamed up with different young Filipino graphic designers and artists for their latest batch of laptop sleeves. “We wanted to highlight the artist more, so with a purchase of the sleeve comes a postcard with a message from the artist and a description of the design and the artist,” Ms. Horn said. In 2011, they also promoted the artists in their catalogs. Some of their collaborators include Tof Zapanta and Trina Samaniego.
Punchdrunk Panda has certainly grown since 2007, but Ms. Horn acknowledged that it’s not easy to predict what will happen in the future. “Everyone dreams of worldwide success, but we’re just taking it step by step and seeing where things go.”- Eush Tayco
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