“I’m not the best artist. I’m terrible,” Jackson Aw said with an embarrassed laugh.
It may seem ironic, given that the 32-year-old is the founder and CEO of Mighty Jaxx, a Singapore-based design toy company.
But for Aw, recognizing his shortcomings helped him turn his start-up into a multi-million dollar international toy business.
“It’s that realization that … I should choose people who are a lot smarter than me. I collaborate with them and work with them,” Make It told CNBC.
“If this artist has dedicated his career to building that craft, then it’s better than I could ever be.”
How it all began
Mighty Jaxx, founded in 2012, has partnered with some of the biggest global brands and visual artists, producing trendy collectibles that incorporate pop culture and design.
Since then, it has sold “millions” of collectible toys to people in more than 80 countries, Aw said.
It all started when he started watching many “how it is” videos on YouTube, which he found “fascinating”.
“Those videos that tell you how chicken nuggets are made, how hot dogs are made … the process that goes with it. As I watched them, I looked at my shelf of collectibles that I have,” she said.
“Could I create something physical, with my hands and make it?”
Aw, who has been an avid toy collector since he was 17, decided to book a one-way flight to Shenzhen, China, where he visited factories to learn about the toy manufacturing process.
His curiosity quickly turned to amazement as he learned techniques such as hand sculpting and stamping.
“I thought there were only going to be a couple of machines that would spit (toys). And that was honestly very naive,” she said.
“I was shocked when I saw hundreds of people … creating and painting only on that one piece, on what our perception will be a mass market product.”
Inspired by what he saw in China, Jackson returned home after a month to create his design toy with Singapore-based graffiti artist, Clogtwo.
Together, they created Mighty Jaxx’s first collectible, “Hell Lotus”. With the help of a $ 20,000 loan, he produced 200 pieces of the toy, which he launched at the Singapore Comic Convention in 2012.
Aw sold the inventory in six months and there was no going back. “It’s like we never felt that fear again. So we took the money and threw it (with).”
Over the years, Mighty Jaxx has continued to collaborate with visual artists around the world to create one-of-a-kind limited edition collectibles, while remaining “positive cash flow,” Aw said.
“We never took outside money until much later,” he added.
The situation for the company really changed in 2015, when Aw secured its first licensing partnership with Warner Brothers’ DC Comics.
He remembers sending an email to Julian Montoya – who at the time was vice president of global toys at Warner Brothers – on a whim, hoping to “makeover” Warner Brothers. creative intellectual property such as DC Comics characters.
“His secretary replied, (saying) we have 30 minutes this Friday, you can drop by and chat with us.”
He flew to Burbank, California, where he showed Montoya potential 3D designs and prototypes of DC toys. “In the end it was just, ‘Okay. We’ll rock,'” Aw said.
“I walked out of the room, I thought, ‘Nah, this can’t be real.’ The next day, they sent out the contract and it was for a global deal. “
That deal, which Aw said was “a huge leap of faith” on Montoya’s part, quadrupled the top line for Mighty Jaxx.
According to Aw, his company earned $ 1.7 million in 2015, four times more than the previous year.
“And that’s when, (I get it), holy shit, something is going on,” he said.
From DC to Netflix
Since then, Aw has doubled down on collaborations with renowned brands to reach fans around the world, from Adidas, Hasbro and Nickelodeon, to Formula 1, Sesame Street and Netflix.
Such collaborations have allowed Aw to produce collectibles on a larger scale and at lower prices, making them more accessible to fans.
DC collectibles, for example, sold for $ 10 each. It’s affordable compared to other Mighty Jaxx toys produced in much smaller quantities, which can cost as little as $ 1,200.
In 2020, Aw also started producing blind boxes, which contain figurines or toys unknown to buyers until unpacked.
He collaborated with the American designer Jason Freeny, known for his anatomical art.
“We’ve applied it to many of our licensing partners and they all love it because it’s such an alternative look to things … And now it’s become a baseline for us.”
Aw’s keen eye for what’s trendy it has certainly paid off. According to Mighty Jaxx, the company’s revenues grew at a compound rate of 71% from 2019 to 2021.
To date, Mighty Jaxx has raised approximately $ 40 million, valuing the company at over $ 200 million. Its investors include the Chinese conglomerate Tencent, KB Investment and East Ventures.
Aw also made Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Asia list in 2018, at the age of 28.