SET IN MO­TION

Mike Con­cep­cion knows where he’s headed

Northern Living - - FRONT PAGE - TEXT OLIVER EMOCLING PHO­TOG­RA­PHY RALPH MENDOZA

Mike Con­cep­cion has been very busy for a while, es­pe­cially with the open­ing of New York-based Mighty Quinn’s in Manila, where he is the mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor, right just be­fore the hol­i­days. But then again, hasn’t he al­ways been oc­cu­pied? “2016 was a year of many hats for me: be­tween work­ing for my re­tail group Wel­come World­wide and man­ning the mar­ket­ing ini­tia­tives of our hos­pi­tal­ity group The Stan­dard, you would find me jump­ing from store to store on most days,” he says. Busi­ness has been tak­ing so much of his time that Jess Con­nelly, Con­cep­cion’s girl­friend, hates how much he works. “She’s been su­per pa­tient and [she] sup­ports me 100 per­cent,” he says.

Con­cep­cion has been work­ing this hard since his col­lege days. “The big­gest mis­take I saw my class­mates do back then was not know­ing what they wanted to do,” he says. “They spent four years in col­lege work­ing their asses off only to grad­u­ate and not re­ally know what they re­ally en­joy do­ing.” Though youth is a gift ac­com­pa­nied by the curse of un­cer­tainty, he had fig­ured his fu­ture out at a young age.

At 17, he ven­tured into sell­ing T-shirts with a cousin. “I was a big sneak­er­head so I also started re­selling sneak­ers I would find on­line.” The busi­ness ven­ture, al­though it didn’t flour­ish, helped him learn the ropes of re­tail. “Back then, I didn’t have a con­cept in mind. I didn’t know where to start, but I knew what I wanted to get into,” Con­cep­cion says. “From there, it was pure tun­nel vi­sion: I be­came ob­sessed with every­thing about re­tail.”

When the op­por­tu­nity of­fered it­self, he didn’t think twice about bring­ing Com­mon­wealth to the Philip­pines. “I saw a gap and felt there was room for my busi­ness to be able to dis­rupt and in­no­vate,” Con­cep­cion says. “Ul­ti­mately, it comes down to sup­port­ing the brands and con­cepts that I be­lieve in. The prod­ucts you see in our stores sit right with my per­spec­tive and nat­u­rally com­ple­ment my life­style.” Just last month, he flew to Hong Kong to check the new col­lec­tions for Com­mon­wealth.

Change is con­stant in any fash­ion-re­lated busi­ness, Con­cep­cion ac­knowl­edges. “My busi­ness can be ex­tremely fickle: what’s pop­u­lar to­day could not be the same to­mor­row.” With the mar­ket in Manila

“I’m mo­ti­vated by the idea of do­ing some­thing that has not been done be­fore, sail­ing through un­charted waters to dis­rupt and in­no­vate.”

be­com­ing more “dis­cern­ing and aware,” he has built a plat­form with brands that can cater to the tastes of a grow­ing mar­ket. “It may seem like a boom now, but that’s largely thanks to the new ef­forts that brands and lo­cal shops have made to make a va­ri­ety of prod­ucts be­come avail­able. It’s a very ex­cit­ing time for Manila, and I’m lucky to be able to con­trib­ute to that.”

Con­cep­cion, more than a re­tailer, is a sto­ry­teller. He al­ways men­tions how good sto­ry­telling drives a busi­ness to thrive. His eye­wear store Ron­nie and Joe, for ex­am­ple, was in­spired by his grand­fa­thers, thus it was named af­ter them. Now that he is dab­bling in the food in­dus­try, the story he is telling isn’t much dif­fer­ent. “It’s im­por­tant to us that our cus­tomers truly un­der­stand what we do and what we are of­fer­ing them,” Con­cep­cion says of the work The Stan­dard is do­ing. With the con­cept of Mighty Quinn’s not as fa­mil­iar to many Filipinos, sto­ry­telling has be­come vi­tal for the newly opened restau­rant.

With his ex­pan­sion from streetwear to food, Con­cep­cion, to­gether with his dad John, prac­tice a holis­tic ap­proach to­wards run­ning busi­ness. “With my back­ground in re­tail and my dad’s vi­sion for the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try, we are able to make our group a true life­style com­pany. A per­son who would buy a pair of sneak­ers at Com­mon­wealth might also eat at one of our restau­rants. The com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor is,

both of­fer some­thing of qual­ity and value,” he says.

At 25, Con­cep­cion has it all fig­ured out. Part of his suc­cess may be at­trib­uted to his dad’s ideals, how their din­ners have turned into im­promptu busi­ness lessons or, now as col­leagues, into ca­sual meet­ings for new con­cepts and ven­tures. “Now that I’m older, our work­ing styles have changed and we work more col­lab­o­ra­tively, which is an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence.” But be­yond the shadow and in­flu­ence of his dad, Con­cep­cion has also cre­ated a busi­ness DNA that is solely his. He’s fairly young in the busi­ness, yet his of­fice, where all his busi­ness con­cepts are born, al­ready asks for ex­pan­sion. As the young boss cre­ates more con­cepts, his team is also grow­ing. “We’ve been rough­ing it these past few years, and I’d like to re­ward our guys with a good space,” Con­cep­cion says.

“This is it. I love work­ing in re­tail,” he de­clares with cer­tainty, de­spite the of­ten swift changes that he en­coun­ters in the in­dus­try. “I’m at a point where the real chal­lenge is to pull through and take my busi­ness to the next level. I’m mo­ti­vated by the idea of do­ing some­thing that has not been done be­fore, sail­ing through un­charted waters to dis­rupt and in­no­vate.” The waves are huge, but Con­cep­cion is ready to sail through them.

“My busi­ness can be ex­tremely fickle: what’s pop­u­lar to­day could not be the same to­mor­row.”

Mike Con­cep­cion is also a dog lover. In this photo, he is with Diego, a fam­ily pet for 10 years.

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