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SUPER HARBOR | September 2017

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The Evolution of a Creative Entrepreneur -Hickies

The Evolution of a Creative Entrepreneur -Hickies
Fikriyyah George

Kickstarter goal of $25,000 met in 3 days. Campaign goes on to net almost $135,000 more for a total of $160,000.

Who says no to that? As it turns out investors, factories, and retailers.

As entrepreneurs you know you have a good idea, but how do you convince the gatekeepers the same thing? For Hickies that process started in Buenos Aires, Argentina almost 10 years ago.

Entrepreneur  Gaston Frydlewski and Mariquel Waingarten, Co-Founders, Husband and Wife

Company Hickies, elasticized laces based in Williamsburg

Background 10 years ago Gaston came up with the concept of elasticized laces never having liked the traditional kind

It All Started with a Passion

“He loves sneakers,” said Mariquel Waingarten. “He has a big collection of sneakers. He never liked the laces. He was always tucking the laces in to avoid the bow.” That passionate dislike would lead Gaston to work on the idea of Hickies over the years investing his own money to develop “the prototypes, get patents, to pay the graphic designers and the industrial designers.”

The seeds for something else also started 10 years ago as Mariquel and Gaston met at a friend’s party roughly around the same time. They went on a couple of dates, but she wouldn’t answer the phone after a while according to Gaston.

Gaston became an investment banker at JP Morgan Chase & Co. to gain experience for this project. “He was trying to get funded,” Mariquel said. “The investors said you are too young, the idea is too crazy, and you have no experience. Come back and get some experience.” So he did and approached investors again. This time they were more receptive.

The investors were not the only thing to turn around. Years later Gaston and Mariquel would meet again. “Six months after we started dating we moved [in] together and then 3 months later we got married,” said Mariquel.

2011 was a bang up year: Mariquel and Gaston got married, received seed funding and moved to the States. They sold everything they had in Argentina and quit their jobs.

“We got funded in Argentina. But we decided to launch in the States because we thought it was a more appropriate market. New York has this thing that every country looks at what New York is doing.” There’s a revolution happening here in Brooklyn that people will speak of years from now said Gaston.

“We could feel this energy. There are a lot of startups. All of this is happening here in Brooklyn,” said Mariquel.

“We could feel this energy. There are a lot of startups. All of this is happening here in Brooklyn.” -Mariquel Waingarten

Knocking Down Problems Like Domino’s

Settled in the States “we approached 50 US factories to start our production and all of them said no,” Mariquel explained. They needed to sign a contract to order at least a million dollars in products over the course of a year for one factory. Others cited their lack of credit history.

An advisor eventually became the connection between them and a factory in China. They worked with them until they secured a US-based factory with better R&D capabilities.

As Gaston became an investment banker to convince investors, Hickies chose to crowdfund to convince retailers and distributors to carry their product. “We launched a Kickstarter campaign in June 2012 because we were approaching retailers and sharing the concept with distribution companies here, and they were very hesitant on the product, on the price point. Who is going to buy? Are they going to buy?” Mariquel recalled in her thick Argentinian accent.

Just like the first time it worked. Their goal was $25,000- the amount for the first production run. “There was another shoelace project and they raised only $600.” Hickies on the other hand reached their goal within 3 days. The Kickstarter exposure netted them not only the funds (they ultimately raised $160k) but the exposure for their first big client- Brookstone.

Hickies is currently expanding to Europe. They’ve already started selling in Japan, and Korea, and will start in China in a month, along with Chile. “We’re moving pretty fast,” said Mariquel.

When they launched their Kickstarter campaign it was just the husband and wife team at The Yard. Now they’re a company of 7 people, not including Oscar the cockapoo (pictured above) in the Williamsburg location of Green Desk, another co-working space amongst a trend that seems to be growing.

The road to getting the gatekeepers to say yes can be roundabout-getting experience through a relevant job, rallying a community and finding funding first, or the new gatekeepers might just be your customers/community.

“We knew we wanted to start this business being different,” Mariquel said. “We didn’t want to be a typical product. They [customers] don’t want to buy a product they want to have an experience. You’re not having customers, you’re their community now. And this community will then be there for you for your idea. It could be a product, it could be a project, it can be whatever you want.”

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