One day, 10 years ago, Abingdon Chelsea Welch discovered a hole in the watch market and decided to fill it.
An avid flyer, she had long admired the many-dialed aviator watches that adorned the wrists of her male pilot friends. To her surprise, she found nobody was making comparable models for women. And so, Las Vegas, Nevada-based Abingdon Co. was born, debuting with its Jackie and Amelia aviator watches for women.
In that first year, Abingdon, the company, sold about 100 of the $400 to $600 watches. But Abingdon, the company founder, knew there was strong potential and was determined to succeed.
“The one thing that I have always told myself is just go one more day, just be tenacious, and continue on,” Abingdon said. “If you can just do it, then it will get better. Stumble through it, learn from your mistakes, and get back upon your feet. Keep on failing. Do it. It will become a success.”
And Abingdon Co. has become a success. At first blush, the market for women’s aviator watches is small. Female aviators in the U.S. comprise only about 5% of total pilots. But when you look closely, that community is still about 50,000 strong. That’s just in the U.S. alone. And only for aviator watches.
Now, factor in the number of women, globally, who want high-quality, luxury timepieces at affordable prices – women who travel, women who are adventurous, and you can see some serious scale.
That’s where Abingdon has taken her company. A 2014 appearance on the popular entrepreneurial TV show Shark Tank broadened her horizons beyond pilot watches and changed the direction of THE Abingdon Co.
“We’re talking in the millions when we get into scuba diving and outdoors and race-car drivers,” Abingdon said. “There are so many more women that we’re going to be able to reach.”
Now, 10 years on, Abingdon has added staff and counts thousands of new customers a year. It has built out its product line to 64 different models, with Elise, Marina and Katherine lines joining the original Jackie and Amelia lines. And it’s not done yet.
“I definitely will be coming out with more products, more types of watches,” Abingdon said.
Abingdon’s founder attributes her company’s growth and success in no small part to working through Alibaba.com, the Alibaba Group’s original B2B platform, which, among other things, helps companies source manufacturers in China, Europe and other parts of Asia.
“I’ve had such success on Alibaba.com with one of the first manufacturers that I’ve used. This is the 10th year that I’ve been working with them,” Abingdon said. “I wouldn’t be in business without Alibaba.com. They really helped me set the stage to grow my business in the last five years.”