Grab Your Atlas

Getting Started

Establishing the Mindless Reaction brand in the United States took big money, smart marketing strategies and lots of late nights at the office. Expanding the brand was the company's first step. Creating surfwear alone would not take Mindless Reaction to the top, the owners decided-the market was saturated with surfwear companies that were already household names and had millions to spend. After reconfiguring the clothing line to what Senteno calls "Grand Lifestyle" (higher-scale clothing that reaches beyond the surf category) and changing the logo to make it more globally recognizable, Senteno felt the brand was ready. "We definitely have more freedom in design and more freedom in marketing [with the expanded line]," says Senteno, the company's sole designer.

Mindless Reaction began to advertise heavily in top magazines catering to men in general and surfers in particular, such as Detour and TransWorld Surf. Then they took to the road, hitting any and every trade show within a reasonable distance. "We wanted to show people by our marketing, our advertising and our product who we were," Mallos says. "Big trade show booths, solid advertising across the board for an entire year-people just saw us come out as a major player."

Indeed, image can be everything when trying to attract both domestic and international attention, says Frank Penski, a partner at New York City law firm Nixon Peabody LLP. which specializes in international dispute resolution. "Why is somebody from Europe going to look at this product and say, 'That's the one I want to sell'?" asks Penski, who assists business owners with international law and overseas deals. "It's the different way the thing is being marketed, the packaging it's in, the image it creates to this person coming [from overseas]."

The success of the trade shows and abundant advertising sent domestic business booming nationwide as the company landed such high-profile clients as Fred Segal, Limbo Lounge and Ron Jon Surf Shops. Mindless Reaction was finally ready to open the door and step onto the international fashion scene.

Lawyers And Trademarks
Don't leave the States without 'em.

When the time's right to head overseas, don't just think profits-think protection. Trademark protection, that is. "The first thing to do before you go international is get lawyers who understand your market, have dealt with other companies and can hold your hand," Mindless Reaction president Keith Mallos instructs.

Mindless Reaction learned this important lesson the hard way. Last year when the owners decided to expand into surf-crazy Australia, they were shocked to find their product was already being sold there. At one of the U.S. trade shows, Mallos explains, a thief liked what he saw in Mindless Reaction so much that he took the product and its logo into Australia as his own. "We had to buy it back," laments Mallos.

It was an expensive lesson for the eager young entrepreneurs steering Mindless Reaction. According to Frank Penski, a partner at New York City law firm Nixon Peabody LLP who specializes in international dispute resolution, the mistake was in not getting the trademark registrations completed for each country they were interested in selling to as the brand became popular.

"The price of getting [a trademark] back can be high," says Penski. "People make a living off it-not just stealing the trademark but also stealing people's ideas." In some countries, he adds, you can never get a stolen trademark back.

"Trademarking is the key," echoes Mindless Reaction designer Rudy Senteno. "Protect your brand, and don't let it out. Protect it as if it was your child."

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This article was originally published in the March 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Grab Your Atlas.

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