Phil Kelly
Phil Kelly

Phil Kelly: For an Outdoor Products Company, California Is Wonderful

Phil Kelly of Malo’o .

Tell us about yourself?

I am an entrepreneur, investor , inventor , author and outdoor enthusiast. I have worked in major corporations and established startups in locations throughout the world.

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

That it is easier than it really is. New entrepreneurs start with an idea and a background

. Their background could be in marketing or sales or manufacturing but they have a perspective and think about all the tasks that need to be accomplished for the start-up from that view.

What they don’t realize is all the work that needs to be done to determine if their idea is viable.

The patent & trademark searches, the legal structure decisions, the business plan or funding requirements all need to be considered.

What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?

1) Do your homework before you start your enterprise

2) Have a goal that you want to achieve with the start-up

3) Treat every dollar like it is a thousand in the beginning and boot-strap everything

4) Outsource where you can in the early days until it is clear what should be in-house

5) Prepare your family and friends for the time away that is needed in a start-up

6) Set time line for the start-up and

If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

1) It is going o take longer and cost more than you thought.

2) Not everyone is going to be as dedicated as you and even co-founders will let you down

3) Make sure the product, service or process of the start-up solves a real problem and is compelling enough for people/companies to want to solve it.

A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?

Life balance in a start-up or as a serial entrepreneur is mostly a foreign concept. There are times when tremendous time and effort are required at a particular stage and it will be lower at other times.

Most enterprises are started to improve the lives of the customer and the entrepreneurs. Customers usually get rewarded first and if the entrepreneur does this often enough, they will then see the rewards.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

My background was in telecommunications and technology and after the sale of my last company I wanted to get more involved in outdoor activities as opposed to offices and airline terminals.

Malo’o was started after I uncovered a need when I start surfing again, but I was not looking for another start-up.

Sometimes things align and your compelled to do it again. The driving influence after that first product idea has our customers. They have played a leading roll in every product since then.

What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?

Most of our products are patented and proprietary but all of our products are durable, versatile and are well priced for all outdoor enthusiasts.

How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?

Sales have been increasing every year as we continue to develop new products in line with customer requirements. The outdoor space is vast and fragmented.

Innovation is key to creating a space for your brand in this market space.

What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in California over other states in the US?

For an outdoor products company, California is wonderful.

You can surf in the morning, be at the slopes in the afternoon and camp on beautiful beaches or scenic deserts at night.

California also has a broad and diverse workforce and an ample supply of freelancers to help get businesses off the ground.

What (if any) are the weaknesses of operating your business within California?

1) Costs

2) Outbound logistics – shipping across country from one side

3) Inbound logistics – port delays, trucking costs, traffic

4) Virtually non-existent manufacturing or supplier base

5) Space – limited manufacturing & multiple purpose buildings

We are currently suffering through a cost of living crisis. With California already being one of the most expensive states to live in, how has this impacted your business?

Inflation is very real over the past 12 months. Logistics costs have gone through the roof both inbound and outbound.

Much of this cannot be passed along as customers have been trained to expect free shipping. offshore manufacturing costs have gone way up due to currency, material costs and COVID. It is currently a very difficult time for small companies to stay profitable.

It is no secret that California is the birthplace of innovation. But that also makes it incredibly competitive. How have you found the competitive environment of California?

We operate globally and need to understand global competition as well as local (USA).

Our next biggest competitor could come from any state or country so being diligent on the competitive front and to have a good roadmap for the company are critical.

Have you considered moving your company to another state? If so, which state and why?

Not really.

We have opened up distribution centers in other countries and states to decrease our logistics costs.

We continue to evaluate which resources need to be closest to the customer and what is the best location for them.

Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?

Acquired by a larger brand that wants to expand into our space and values our patents, trademarks, market verticals and customers.

And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this. People can find out more about us at

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