Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Phil Kelly, Founder of Malo'o, located in Vista, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I started Malo'o (Hawaiian for Dry) because I couldn't find a good solution to dry my wetsuit after an early morning session. Often, I head off to meetings or the office, and I don't have time to take it home, rinse it, and hang it properly. It would either sit in a plastic bin in the back of my truck, or I'd try hanging it on things throughout the day, so it could be ready for a late afternoon session. Nothing worked, and I knew there had to be a better way.
I'm also an avid snowboarder and camper, and I realized that I was always looking for places to hang my wet gear. Towels, hats, gloves, clothes, jackets, and other items all need to be aired out or dried out when I was on the go. I wanted something that was durable, portable (could go from truck to van to RV), could dry my items, didn't break the bank and was recyclable. Since this didn't exist, I decided to build it. After a dozen different prototypes, I finally hit upon one I really liked, and I filed a Utility Patent for it. Then, I got some others to help me, and we finalized the design and materials.
In late 2017 we took it to Kickstarter to see if anyone else would like it. We were successfully funded and moved on to manufacturing. In April of this year, we started delivering our DryRacks to Kickstarter backers and made them available to the public. Outdoor enthusiasts can now get the Malo'o DryRack on Amazon and Malooracks.com.
From these humble beginnings, we now have over 50 products like the Lounge Wagon, WetHoodie, and SeatGuard covers which are all proprietary. Malo'o products are sold throughout the world to outdoor enthusiasts.
Tell us about yourself
I graduated from the University of San Diego decades ago. I was fortunate enough to start my business career with Motorola Communications. I started in finance and worked my way into sales over time. Motorola gave me many opportunities, and those eventually led me to Asia, where I was responsible for North Asia. I became President of Dell Computer, Asia Pacific, and then onto my first entrepreneurship with the founding of NetCel360, a business processing outsourcing provider. After selling that business, I relocated back to the states, and it was too long before the business bug hit again, this time with Malo'o.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
As a corporate executive, it was about results, people development, and brand expansion. Success there is measured in the legacy you left behind. It is about becoming profitable and relevant in your space as a business owner. You need to develop great products, cultivate a great customer base and serve them in a replicable and enjoyable way for them and your team.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
In the early days, it was everything, from determining if you should even enter into the business in the first place to funding it and developing its product and service. The past two years have been some of the most challenging that I have seen in my four decades in business. The interruption of supply chains, the explosion of competition in the online world, inflation, and customer expectations around free shipping and the ability to return anything.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Research thoroughly the product, service, and space you intend to enter and ensure you know what it will take to succeed.
- Prepare twice the amount of funding you think you will need to break even.
- Listen to your customers. Give them a great experience, and they will help you build a successful enterprise.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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