Juan de Lascurain is an artist-designer from Mexico City who travels the world painting and exhibiting his work as well as licensing and commercializing his brand Dream Big. Juan is also a sought after speaker about entrepreneurship, design and inspiration to executives from companies, at conferences and expos around the world!
The Bugg Report first met Juan de Lascurain at the 2014 Hong Kong International Licensing Show. We spoke about brands & licensing and he showed us around his booth during this show. We were immediately drawn to his ‘Dream Big’ brand and his unique style and colourful designs which serve to attract attention and position it as a true lifestyle experience. Juan began his journey way back in 2008 after previously working as a professional Tennis Coach. His skill to create was spotted by a friend, which led to him taking up painting and since then he has been able to achieve amazing progress with his brand.
He lives by the mantra of Discover Your Talent — Dream Big — Have Faith — Work Hard — Give Back.
He has travelled extensively speaking at conferences and helping people understand opportunity and to realise their dreams. Tony Bugg from The Bugg Report was fortunate to catch up with Juan during these very different times at his home in Mexico City. Tony posed some important questions to him in relation to his on-going plans for Dream Big and bringing his brand to Australia.
In the beginning, what was your overriding inspiration for developing Dream Big?
My main inspiration has always been to inspire others to follow their dreams. I’ve met so many people throughout my life scared of stepping out. Many of them scared of what would happen if they ran out of money along the way, what were others going to think of them, etc. I found out very early that the world needed positive voices to encourage and inspire others. To be honest, I never thought I was going to start my own brand, especially since my background was as a tennis player and triathlete. But life has a way of presenting opportunities to you and if you are in tune with them you take them and never look back.
Since 2008 you have been able to collaborate with many amazing global brands. How did you convince them to partner with Dream Big?
At the beginning when no one knew me it was more complicated because brands want to know that they are going to make money. So then it was more of sharing my personal journey and giving them the confidence that I was going to be successful and not quit along the way and leave them without any support. The more my brand grew it has been more of showing them the potential of the brand, the designs and the results we’ve had with other brands.
I found out very early that the world needed positive voices to encourage and inspire others.Juan de Lascurain
Your brand architecture in your home town Mexico is amazing, can you briefly take us through how it has progressed across all aspects of life in this market?
It was 2011, I was living at a youth hostel downtown Mexico city, had only 50 dollars in my pocket and was selling some of my notebooks with my designs inside a local Starbucks. The manager had no clue I was selling in the back of her store, but one day I approached her and asked if she would let me sell the notebooks in the counter. I also asked her if she would let me put my paintings on the wall. She said yes, and that Starbucks became my first point of sale, gallery and my office. The notebooks were selling really well and people were also asking for my paintings. One day while I was at the mall, I picked up a Hello Kitty T-shirt and while reading the label, realised that it was a licensed product. I had no experience in licensing but decided to look into it. After learning the basics, I made my first deck and started calling the biggest companies in Mexico. Obviously I got all no’s at the beginning, but I had a feeling that it was going to work out. One day while at Starbucks I overheard some people talking about designs and notebooks. I got up and introduced myself to them. I had no clue but they were one of the biggest notebook companies in Mexico. We exchanged cards and two weeks later I had a meeting with them to present the brand. A week later I had signed my first license with a minimum guaranteed of 10,000 dollars and a very good royalty. I used that money to get out of the youth hostel and got me an apartment on top of my office ‘Starbucks’. After a few months I was fortunate to meet the owner of a local agency, Jaime Meshoulam who took a chance on my brand and for the next three years we worked together and signed all types of licenses. From a collaboration with the Mexican national soccer team, to cookies and other products. Then came licenses with Kleenex, Kotex and other brands and in 2014 is when I started looking into expanding the brand to other countries.
Your partnership with UAE, Dubai and particularly the Burj Khailifa is a very powerful endorsement for your brand. Can tell us a little bit about how this came about?
Yes, that is a great endorsement and it has been an incredible project. It was 2010 and I was living in Los Angeles, I had been working on my brand for a couple of years but things were very slow. I had taken a job at a local Apple store in Beverly Hills selling computers. It was a part time job to put food on the table not realizing that one day the contacts that I would make there would open doors for my brand. One day a gentleman walked in the store and I helped him buy some computers. I had no idea who he was, but after talking a few minutes with him he gave me his business card. A few months later I googled him and realised that he was the chief economic advisor to the Sheik of Dubai. Years went by and when I started looking into collaborations in other parts of the world I realised that his company had built the tallest building in the world, The Burj Khalifa! By this time I was developing concepts based on the top tourist destinations around the world and thought that they could be interested in a collaboration. I decided to write Mr. Alabbar to see if he could put me in touch with the people responsible for the merchandising side. A year later the collaboration launched on their store with different products and I became the first Latin American artist to have my work displayed on the tower for their daily night show.
After learning the basics, I made my first deck and started calling the biggest companies in Mexico.Juan de Lascurain
We understand that you now have a stand-alone retail outlet in Acapulco. How did you manage to make this happen?
Yes, that’s another great story! One day I picked up the newspaper and read that a Mexican businessman had bought the Princess hotel in Acapulco. Princess hotel is the most iconic hotel there which dated back to the 50´s during Acapulco’s golden era when all the Hollywood celebrities were visiting. I had been there a few times and thought that possibly there could be opportunities with them. I called the office of the owner about ten times during a six month period but never got an answer. My idea was not only to have a store but to present them the Dream Big summer camp for kids and youth. A few months later I researched who was the director instead of trying to contact the owner. I called and got his email and just wrote him introducing myself and telling him some of my ideas. A day later a lady wrote me and told me that she wanted to meet with me regarding the email I had sent. She was the director of all the stores for the group. I went to Acapulco and met with her and eventually with Mr. Seyed Rezvani the director of the group who believed in the brand and the projects I presented that day. We launched the store a year later and also the Dream Big summer camp in their facilities.
What is your ultimate vision for the Dream Big brand?
My ultimate vision is to open a theme park, hotel and to continue developing inspiring content. From animation to movies. Also to continue growing my collaborations around the world as well as our e-commerce and retail presence. Another platform is the Dream Big sponsorship platform, where I want to sponsor athletes, maybe one day own a professional sports team.
Dream Big has now grown to become a lifestyle brand. In your opinion what are its most valuable connection points with the consumer?
I think one of the most valuable connections is my story! In 2008 I was coaching tennis in Beverly Hills, never had painted anything in my life and had no design background. I was at a friends house bored, doodling on a napkin and someone there was watching me. That person told me that I needed to paint. It was something that I was not familiar with, but I listened to her and two weeks later I had bought my first piece of wood, acrylic paint and the rest is history. Another connection is the theme of not giving up and overcoming obstacles. Especially today with the situation around the world. This is no time to quit or feel sorry for yourself. It’s a time to continue dreaming and continue working hard to help others and see your dreams come to pass.
Can you tell us about the Tucci umbrella project?
The Tucci project came about to participate in the Art Basel art show in Miami beach. I had met the director of marketing for Tucci at a trade show and had sent her all my information. It was one of those things where they were looking to partner with an artist to intervene one of their pieces to showcase during Art Basel. I had a lot of fun painting one of their outdoor pieces and we also partnered with a local fashion and art school to intervene some smaller pieces.
How has your global travel plan assisted in growing your brand?
It has been the best investment. Without the last 5 years of non-stop travel to more than 25 countries and more than 100 trade shows my brand wouldn’t be where it is today. It would probably be just a local brand doing well in Mexico. I like a phrase that Richard Branson says, “I didn’t get to where I am today by sitting at home” so, every opportunity I get to travel and meet new people — I take it!
It doesn’t matter where you come from, or how much money you have. If you have faith, a dream and you work hard, you can accomplish anything.Juan de Lascurain
Now that Dream Big is coming to Australia how do you see it resonating with our retailers and consumers?
Yes, I see it resonating with both! My first time in Australia was back in 1997 to compete at the triathlon long distance world championships in Perth and also a duathlon in Noosa Heads. I spent two months living and training there meeting some of the most amazing people. People that have dreams, that are go getters and that don’t settle for just anything. So, I am very excited to have met you in 2014 at the Hong Kong show and to see this opportunity materialise in 2020! There is a phrase that I wrote after two years of starting my brand; when I had no place to live, very little money and many people telling me to quit. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, or how much money you have. If you have faith, a dream and you work hard; you can accomplish anything.” That to me is what I see in the Australian way of life.
Thanks for speaking to us Juan, it’s a credit to your passion and commitment to developing your own brand. What you’ve achieved over the past 10 years is significant by any measurement and we look forward to seeing Dream Big becoming a strong and emerging brand in this market.