This may sound ironic, considering how the 32-year-old is the founder and CEO of Mighty Jaxx, a Singapore-based designer toy company.
But for Aw, accepting his shortcomings has helped him transform his start-up into a multimillion-dollar international toy business.
He told CNBC Make It, “The realization is that … I should choose people who are smarter than me. I collaborate with them and I work with them.”
“If this artist devoted his career to building that craft, he’s better than I could ever be.”
how it all started
Mighty Jaxx, which was founded in 2012, has partnered with some of the biggest global brands and visual artists to create trendy collectibles that incorporate pop culture and design.
Since then, it has sold “millions” of toy collectibles to people in more than 80 countries, O said.
It all started when he started watching several “How-It-Made Videos” on YouTube that he found “fascinating”.
He said, “Videos that tell you how to make chicken nuggets, like how to make hot dogs… the process that goes into that. As I looked at (them), I looked at the shelf of my collection.” what I have.”
“Can I make and sculpt something material with my own hands?”
Aw, who has been an avid toy collector since the age of 17, decided to book a one-way flight to Shenzhen, China, where he visited factories to learn about the toy production process.
His curiosity quickly turned to astonishment after learning about techniques such as hand-carving and casting.
“I thought there would just be some machines that would spit (toys). And she was honestly very naive,” he said.
“I was in for a shock when I saw hundreds of people … just crafting and painting on that one item, our belief would be a mass market product.”
Inspired by what he saw in China, Jackson returned home after a month to create his own designer toy with Singapore-based graffiti artist, KlogTwo.
Together, they created Mighty Jaxx’s first collectible, “Hell Lotus.” With the help of a $20,000 loan, he designed 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 turning back. “It’s like we never felt that fear again. So we took the money, and we rolled it (together).”
Over the years, Mighty Jaxx continued to partner with visual artists around the world to create unique, limited-edition collectibles, while remaining “cash flow positive,” Aw said.
“We never took outside money until much later,” he said.
The tide really turned for the company in 2015, when A forged its first licensing partnership with Warner Bros., DC Comics.
He recalls emailing Julian Montoya—who was Warner Bros.’s vice president of global toys at the time—in hopes of “reviving” Warner Bros. Creative intellectual property like DC Comics characters.
“His secretary replied, (saying) we have 30 minutes this Friday, you can come and chat with us.”
He flew to Burbank, California, where he showed Montoya the possible designs and 3D prototypes of DC toys. “At the end of it he was just, ‘Okay. We’ll move on to this,'” O said.
“I walked out of the room, I thought, ‘No, this can’t be real.’ The next day, they shipped the contract and it was for a global deal.”
The deal, which O called “a huge leap of faith” on Montoya’s part, quadrupled the top line for Mighty Jaxx.
According to Aw, his company made $1.7 million in 2015, which is four times more than the previous year.
“And that was then, (I realized), holy crap, something is happening,” he said.
DC to Netflix
Since then, AW has doubled down on collaborations with well-known brands to reach worldwide fandom, from Adidas, Hasbro and Nickelodeon to Formula 1, Sesame Street and Netflix.
Those collaborations allowed Aw to produce collectibles on a wider scale and at lower prices, making them more accessible to fans.
DC collectibles, for example, were sold for $10 each. It is inexpensive compared to other Mighty Jaxx toys that are produced in very small quantities, which can cost as much as $1,200.
In 2020, Aw also began production of blind boxes, which contain figurines or toys that are unknown to buyers until they are unpacked.
He partnered with American designer Jason Freeney, who is known for his creative arts.
“We’ve implemented it on a lot of our license partners and they all love it because it’s such an alternative look to things… and now it’s become a mainline for us.”
Pay attention to what’s trendy Definitely paid. According to Mighty Jaxx, the company’s revenue grew at a compounded 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 Chinese conglomerate Tencent, KB Investment and East Ventures.
Aw also made it to the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list in 2018 at the age of 28.