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 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.
“I’m motivated by the idea of doing something that has not been done before, sailing through uncharted waters to disrupt and innovate.”
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.
Grooming by Jet Babas
This story was originally published in Northern Living, January 2017.
Writer: OLIVER EMOCLING
PHOTOGRAPHY RALPH MENDOZA