A quick word with ... entrepreneur Jimmy Hayes

A quick word with ... entrepreneur Jimmy Hayes
Hayes' business Minaal centres around a shirt called the ProTravel Shirt. It looks like a business shirt, but performs like a travel shirt, so it needs less ironing and less washing (because it resists potent ManStench).

Jimmy Hayes doesn't like wasting time. That's why he has developed a shirt that looks great but needs less ironing and washing.

Hayes’ business Minaal centres around a shirt called the ProTravel Shirt. It looks like a business shirt, but performs like a travel shirt, so it needs less ironing, less washing (because it resists potent ManStench), it evaporates moisture away from your skin, it’s easycare and quick-dry. The idea is to be able to pack lighter and save time and hassle on the road, without sacrificing Good Man Looks. He’s also looking at launching the world’s best carry-on backpack this year, with the ultimate aim of building a product ecosystem allowing people to travel with only carry-on luggage.

I came up with the idea in a controversial mind-meld experiment with my business partner (read: he thought of it). The overall concept spawned from our mutual obsession with mixing work and travel. We’d search for suitable gear and come up empty-handed. Our customers are the ones who hate wasting time in queues or dealing with things that aren’t adding value to their lives – they want to ‘hack’ the process – that’s us, and that’s the community we love interacting with.

In my former life I was lucky enough to learn from some of the sharpest minds in the film/TV industry – John Zaritsky, Donna Malane, Paula Boock, Luke Haigh – who in different ways showed me the value of a strong narrative, which will be a crucial ingredient for our upcoming Kickstarter. In addition to a stint as a Parliamentary journalist, I once drove a Mr Whippy truck with only first, third and reverse gears from Gisborne to Auckland – on New Year’s Day. There have been more enjoyable 24-hour periods in my life.

Reaction so far has been overwhelmingly positive. We’ve used Lean Startup methodology but applied it to a physical goods project – at each stage of development we throw the products to the wolves (i.e. the market) and iterate the designs over multiple rounds, based on their detailed feedback. It’s a lot of up-front work, but it sure beats dropping stacks of cash on 10,000 units that nobody wants. We’re currently focusing on ability to scale, as the strong response has stretched our capacity.

Other competitors in the space are embarrassing. I joke, I joke. There are some strong competitors, but the big boys simply can’t drill down on a niche and treat them as peers, like we can. There’s a growing movement of people who build their lifestyle around working on the road, and they’re looking for solutions to the problems that slow them down and stress them out. A lot of gear suffers from a lack of attention to detail, or simple cost-cutting. We’re unashamedly high-end because we care about solving real problems, and building a deeply satisfying experience.

Outside of my startup world … There’s an outside? In all seriousness, there’s no distinction between work and fun for us. Right now we’re in Vietnam, working with the world’s most advanced bag factory to develop the backpack, then we fly to Canada and the US for a promotional roadshow in the lead-up to the Kickstarter launch. We can’t think of anything we’d rather be doing