Double team

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE - Rod Nepomuceno () - May 14, 2012 - 12:00am

I’ve always dreamt of becoming a basketball star.  Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always fantasized about being this otherworldly demigod hoopster like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or Philip Cezar (I know what you’re thinking: “Philip Cezar? What’s he doing on the list?”  Yes, sadly, I was an incurable Crispa-natic decades ago). I guess it’s the dream of every kid growing up in this basketball-addicted country.

When I was in high school, I felt I was good enough – and hardworking enough – to probably have a shot at a career in basketball.  The only problem I had with that dream was that basketball – or any other sport, for that matter (except for golf and chess) – provided a very short career span.  Most professional basketball players’ careers last only five to seven years.  If you last in the PBA for 10 years, you’re considered blessed … and lucky.  So that was the main problem for me.  Sure, it would be lots of fun playing basketball as a profession, getting paid big bucks and being idolized by many at the same time.  But the question in my mind was:  “What happens afterward?   What do I do after my playing career is over?”  Because of that concern, I never really practiced hard.  I just played the game because it was fun. And I followed the NBA and the PBA very closely, as a fan.

One of the players I really looked up to – and still look up to – is legendary San Miguel Beerman Olsen Racela, who is now coaching the national youth team and is venturing into various businesses together with his beautiful wife, Melissa “Litlit” Puey-Racela.  I’ve followed Olsen’s career ever since he was in college.  He was the backup point guard for the Ateneo Blue Eagles team that won back-to-back championships during my last years in college, 1987-88 (stop computing – yes, I’m old).  He parlayed his hoops skills, which eventually led to a PBA career that lasted more than anyone could ever fathom.  Olsen ended up having the second longest professional playing career for a point guard, next only to  drum roll, please  that’s right, the Big “J” himself, Robert Jaworksi.  But then again, Olsen didn’t elbow opponents and punch referees, so in my book, he’s Numero Uno.

“I didn’t really plan to have a professional basketball career that long,” said Olsen during a casual get-together we had recently, together with Melissa.  “When I applied for the PBA draft, there were a lot of great point guards, one of which was Johnny Abarrientos.  I was the fourth point guard selected in the 1993 draft, so I was way down there.  I was taken in by the Purefoods Hotdogs, and then Purefoods coach Chot Reyes took me more as a ‘practice point guard,’ with Dindo Pumaren being the main guard. They only offered me a one-year contract so I wasn’t really planning on a career in basketball.  But after the first year, they liked my performance, so they renewed me for another year, and then again the next year.  In my fourth year, I was given an offer by the San Miguel Beermen, and that became my team from 1997 to 2011.  I never expected that my basketball career would last 18 years. I’m very blessed … and very lucky.  I never really got injured and I left basketball with my body intact.”

I asked Olsen and Melissa if they were already thinking of putting up their own business during his playing career.  Melissa said, “I met Olsen when he was a rookie.  At first we were really more concerned about his year-to-year contract while I took care of the kids and the home.  But as his playing career continued, Olsen told me that his playing days would not last forever, so he said that while he concentrated on his basketball I should look for ways to augment/ supplement our income through businesses I could think of.  And, ideally, by the time he finished his career, these businesses would be enough to sustain us.  So I busied myself studying different businesses.”

I asked Olsen and Melissa what sort of businesses they got into.  “A lot,” said Olsen. “I ventured into the cab business.  It’s still there.  And I also invested in a bar called Aruba, as well in blue-chip stocks like San Miguel and Petron.  I was more of an investor, really.  When it came to day-to-day-operations type businesses, Melissa was more into that.”   

Melissa added, “Oh, I got into a lot of things.  I had this business called Party Store where I was selling kiddie party stuff as well as organizing kiddie parties.  But that business took too much of my weekend time and I had very little time for family and church.  So I gave that up.  I then got into the apparel/fashion business with some friends.  We had two brands: Faro for big women and Lime for smaller women.  But then one of my partners left for abroad, and my other partner got busy with her other business.  Plus, the 2007 financial crisis didn’t help. So I gave that up, too.  I then ventured into accessories and I put up my own brand, Melissewear.  That had some degree of success, and that business trained me a lot in terms of branding and marketing.  Eventually, I closed that, too, because I discovered a great watch brand, Phosphor, and Olsen and I want to focus on promoting this brand.”

Olsen and Melissa then talked to me about their new “baby,” Phosphor, which has a lot of very unique-looking watches, I must say.  They brought me to their store at Ronac Center along Ortigas Avenue.   Said Melissa, “Technology and new stuff have always intrigued me and Olsen.  Technology has enhanced our lives in a million different ways but somehow there was not a lot of technology in watches. Watches essentially remained the same through the years, so we researched a bit online and we discovered Phosphor.”

Melissa continued, “Phosphor was started by the former VP of technology at Fossil.  He saw a simple but huge opportunity  that is, implement new technologies in an industry that hasn’t changed for decades, and create watches that are truly revolutionary.  He harnessed the latest cutting-edge technologies and with a team of veteran designers redesigned the traditional fashion timepiece for all age groups.” From what i could see from the units she showed me, you, Phosphor goes beyond conventional watch design and offers a revolutionary fusion of fashion and technology.   

The Phosphor Appear, for example, showcases the founder’s revolutionary Micro-Magnetic Mechanical Digital technology.  Our watches utilize miniature-sized rotors to mechanically rotate Swarovski crystals and other precious materials into positions that reveal numerical or chronological information.  It’s really mesmerizing to look at, don’t you think?  And these other watches  these digital watches that show big numbers  these use E-Ink technology.”

I certainly couldn’t disagree with Melissa; the watches they showed me certainly were eye-catching and mesmerizing.  You almost get hypnotized … and you want to stare at your watch all the time.  I have no doubt in my mind that Olsen and Melissa have a winner here.  Olsen has always been a winner and has always had the support of Melissa.  I’m sure this “double team” entrepreneurial couple will have a big impact on the fashion watch industry.

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