From a S$20,000 loan to a multi-million toy empire, owner of Mighty Jaxx Jackson Aw tells us about the importance of having a brother-in-arms during one’s entrepreneurial journey.
According to Danielle So, head of day sales at Phillips Hong Kong, the toy collectible market has absolutely exploded in the last five to 10 years. Indeed, Jackson Aw, owner of toy company Mighty Jaxx, has been riding the wave of the collectible toy segment with global retail sales value estimated at US$2.6 billion in 2017.
It’s hard to imagine the challenges he surmounted, given the relative lack of understanding when it comes to Asian parents and the hobby of toy collecting, much less the business of toy making.
What is your ‘Mighty Jaxx’ genesis story?
I have a creative background in interactive media. When I went into collectibles, I started out with small $10 toys and then progressively got out of control, spending hundreds and then thousands across the collection. After national service, I got into a couple of ventures and as I was packing up all the toys and collectibles, I thought, “wouldn’t it be great to create something that’s tangible? Not the stuff big box stores would sell but statement pieces.”
Would you say your toys have become more art than toys?
Yes. It’s a little in between, you know, toys that walk right to the line of becoming original art pieces. Truth is, collectible toys today are just not quite attainable for people of our generation and younger; I want to make them more accessible.
As a creative, is it hard to manage the business side of things?
Definitely. I remember meeting the purchasing manager of the (now-defunct) PageOne to talk about the possibility of carrying Mighty Jaxx products and when he started talking about whether my products were priced FOB (free on board) or ex-factory, I was totally lost. The business side of things was an incredibly steep slope. I got an F9 grade for Principles of Accounting, so not wanting to screw up my own numbers, I had to go and relearn a good number of things.
Do you have a mentor or Brother-in-arms, who guided you at the start?
Yes, his name is Beng, a fellow creative. He’s the founder of Culture Cave SG. He helped me out tremendously when I was starting out by letting us use his space in a cool Joo Chiat shophouse for very little rent.
We often read about creatives who were born in Singapore but succeeded outside of it. What’s it like being a creative here and succeeding on home turf?
I’m not sure if we really succeeded in Singapore, because we initially targeted the US, where the market was more mature. The price points of our products are relatively higher for what the general public would perceive as “just toys”. The success of our collectibles in the US allowed us to then “import” the appeal back into Singapore. After that everyone else in the region just followed suit. So it’s true. You definitely have to get some kind of recognition overseas before you get verified and subsequently accepted locally.
What would the Mighty Jaxx say to the Jackson who was just starting out?
You are almost certainly going to get your a** kicked, but don’t give up.
What do you like about the Brother printer we gave you?
We like its speed, we were surprised it was so fast to be honest, it is a very efficient printing companion. The touchscreen is also intuitive and easy to navigate. As a creative agency, we have outsized expectations for colour resolution. This Brother printer was good and text quality is superb — near typesetter quality down to the smallest size (4 points) for common serif and sans-serif fonts. Even decorative fonts printed well at smaller point sizes than we usually see. When combined with ultra-high-yield cartridges that allow up to 9,000 pages of printing, it’s quite a significant cost saving for any business.
Prior to using the Brother printer, what were your thoughts about the brand?
When people get asked about office printers, powerhouse names like Fuji Xerox, Epson and HP come to mind and Brother was usually more of an afterthought. After using the MFC-L8690CDW, we think that the multi-functionality, capacity, and speed will win over more fans, especially those that require daily heavy printing with multiple users. The Brother churns out terrific-looking text, decent graphics, and photos. Its running costs are lowest among several competing colour laser models we looked at.