Today we’d like to introduce you to Ryan De Jesus.
RYAN, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was born and raised in San Diego, CA. I’m a Filipino American and I’m very fortunate to live all my life in this beautiful city. My parents gave my older brother and I everything they didn’t have when they grew up. I did have my struggles when I was growing up. I was the small, quiet, chubby kid that just wanted to fit in. Unfortunately, I did get bullied and got made fun of because of my weight. I didn’t like being called names but I remember a girl pushing my belly with her finger and calling me the Pillsbury Dough Boy. That was pretty funny. What got me through those struggles was my big brother Francis always looking out after me, art, and sports.
Family is the number one priority in my life and those values were instilled into me through my parents and it has carried on with my own family today. Art has been a big part of my life because it allows me to express myself and share my sense of style with others. The name calling stopped after I started to play more sports and really excelled in baseball. I was able to lose weight and get into really good shape. During my high school years my homies nicknamed me “Muscles.”
Today I have a beautiful family, I still express myself through art, I stay in shape by playing sports and I built an active lifestyle brand based on the story of my life called Mana Pono with my Fiancé Francesca Hasty, big brother Francis De Jesus and long-time friend Jimmy Symphony.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I wish it was a smooth road! We did have struggles along the way.
Our first struggle was with our brand name. We wanted the name of our brand to have a meaning that reflected our lifestyle. After a lot of brainstorming and name changes Francesca came across the Polynesian words Mana and Pono. Mana meaning life energy a spiritual power within. Pono is to do what you believe is right. The team approved and we finally had a name.
The next obstacle was reducing the cost of production. In the beginning we were working with a company that played the role of a middle man to manufacture our headwear. The costs were too high leaving us with lower profit margins to reinvest into the business. Our good friend Dat Nguyen of Vertex USA suggested to work directly with a manufacturer. We researched manufacturers from overseas online, emailed them, and ordered samples. All of the samples did not meet our standards. The design was wrong, the quality was poor, and we had to start over. That process took 3 months with no luck. We wanted to meet a manufacturer in person and didn’t want to fly to another country so decided to attend the Magic Trade Show. Only 1 manufacturer met our standards. It took us a little over a year to receive our first order because of the language barrier. It’s still a learning process but things are running smoother, our profit margins are higher, and business is growing.
The ongoing obstacle is time. Everyone on the team has a family. I still have a day job, I went back to school to finishing up my business degree at Arizona State University and I’m involved with my son’s Little League team. We’re working hard to make Mana Pono our full time Passion. It gets crazy but we do our best to make time our ally and not our enemy.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the MANA PONO story. Tell us more about the business.
Mana Pono is an active lifestyle brand. We represent those who seek a balanced lifestyle through strengthening of the mind and body.
We gain Mana (power) by living Pono (doing what is right). For example, we gain mana by choosing to wake up early and exercise instead of sleeping in.
We also can lose mana by making careless decisions like eating a Carne Asada Burrito every day of the week. When those things happen our mind and body tell us that we need to stop and get back on track.
Mana Pono is not just a name. It’s a reminder of how we choose to live our lives. The name is so powerful that it translates with every aspect of our lives. From the decisions we make that involves our families, work, school, and health to how we treat others.
When you own a small business, you wear many hats. Haha. I learned that you have to know your business inside and out so I basically do it all. I specialize in designing the artwork, communicating with our overseas manufacturer, run our social media accounts, when our very talented videographer/photographer Jonathan Labrador is not available I do some of the photography, fulfill/ship the orders, book keeping and customer service. The team supports me when I need help and advice. We all make the business decisions together.
I’m most proud that Mana Pono is a San Diego brand.
What sets us apart from other brands is that we found that there was something missing in the market. San Diego was missing a brand that they can call their own. That’s why we made the sd script hats. The hat is not attached to any sports team. San Diego has a lot of transplants from all over the world. The majority of them are not going to wear a Padres hat. Our hat represents the people and city of San Diego.
What also sets us apart is the quality of our products. We’re obsessed over every detail of our hats. The sd performance snapback hat is custom made and inspired by the active lifestyle we live in San Diego. The sd script design was hand drawn, the hat is light in weight, the back panels has laser cut holes for ventilation and the snapback provides an adjustable fit. We created an innovative, high quality product and made sure that everything was right before we released it. That obsession will continue with every type of product that we release in the future.
Finally, we give back to our community by donating a portion of our profits to the Child Obesity Initiative.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Good and bad luck has played a major role in both life and business. I learned that luck is when proper preparation meets opportunity. I believe If you prepare yourself in life then good things happen. We started this business with $500 from our tax refund. Since we didn’t have investors or much capital, we did everything we could that didn’t cost money. We made Social Media accounts, learned to build a website, created a brand with meaning and a movement. After we sold out of our first 50 hats people around us started to notice. Our friends who are entrepreneurs started to reach out and offered help. We are so lucky to have their help. I think if the business wasn’t prepared when we sold out that we might have missed our opportunity.
Thank you to San Diego Voyager Magazine and all of our supporters.
Gain Mana. Live Pono.
- Performance Snapback – $35
- Snapbacks – $35
- Kids hats – Start at $20
- Website: www.gainmana.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gainmana/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GainMana/
Cynthia Hunter, Jonathan Labrador