In 1998,the two owners and sole employees of Mindless Reaction decided it was time to think big. Bigger, at least, than the 12 T-shirts they'd designed in their garage over the past two years and sold to family, friends and local Huntington Beach, California, surf shops. As the company's booth became a popular stop at trade shows and stores nationwide began clamoring for more of their products, high school pals Marcus Avritt, Rudy Senteno and Keith Mallos realized their passion for riding the waves and looking good doing it had the potential to turn terrific profits-not just at home, but in international markets thirsty for products with American cachet.
"There was never a doubt," says company president Avritt about whether Mindless Reaction would be a global success. "We were living in Huntington Beach where a lot of successful clothing companies came from, and we knew everybody in the industry. Maybe it was just inexperience or youth. We just kind of dove in headfirst and never looked back."
Almost immediately after Mindless Reaction began its big domestic push, international distributors came knocking on the door of the company's tiny 2,000-square-foot office. But the young entrepreneurs knew if Mindless Reaction was to reach its multimillion-dollar international potential, they had to first firmly establish their brand throughout the Unites States, and second create a careful global business plan. "We didn't want to move into [international markets] too fast," says Mallos, executive vice president. "We wanted to get more established domestically before we went overseas. Our domestic business really drives the rest of our business. The brand needs to be popular here or it won't be popular there." Perhaps, but would the international marketplace be willing to wait?
Catherine Roberts is a freelance writer in Ocala, Florida.