Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, June 14, 2001


Former Chaminade and Kaimuki High School basketball
player Gary Skinner is now in business as apparel manufacturer
Mango Moon, and will sponsor a team in the NCAA Summer
Basketball League, which tips off tomorrow.

Not just a
moonlighting job

Local business people learn what
those in the island basketball scene
already know -- don't get in
wild Gary Skinner's way

When, where and who

By Dave Reardon

He exploded up and down the court like an outsized version of one of his dad's mo-peds, chucking an endless stream of treys and going hard to the rack every time he had the chance. You got in his way at your own risk.

When the young Gary Skinner played basketball in the 1980s, he was a wild man.

He was fun to watch, and he had a lot of fun.

But as a star for the Kaimuki High School team, Skinner was barely under control. His exciting play wasn't always what was best for the Bulldogs.

"When I was in high school I was a little more selfish," Skinner, now 35, says today. "My idea was I could beat anyone, I'm going to run down the court and dunk over everyone -- that was my attitude. But once I got into college I started learning that teamwork is the important thing."

As it is in business.

But also in business, the weak get crushed.

So when Skinner started his aloha attire company, Mango Moon, four years ago, it was with one part fearlessness and one part humility. He entered a stagnant local economy as a small businessman, in a field that seemed to be already saturated. But he jumped in with the willingness to begin as a supplier to established local retail outlets.

Former Chaminade basketball player Gary Skinner (right)
is now in business with apparel manufacturer Mango Moon.
On the left is his business consultant and father Brad Skinner.

"I started out walking though Waikiki selling to mom and pop stores," he says.

Today, Mango Moon has its own 1,200-square-foot retail outlet on Alakea Street, nine employees, clients in Japan, Canada and the mainland, growing name recognition -- and, of course, profits.

"We're definitely making money," Skinner says. "Why be in business if you're not?"

Some of the brand exposure came through being a title sponsor for a University of Hawaii football game last year, which cost Mango Moon $75,000.

A heavy price tag. But when UH coach June Jones and his staff wear your shirts for games, that's exposure.

While Skinner has become a player in the local business arena, he rarely has time to be one anymore on the local hoops scene.

So instead of playing in the NCAA Summer League, which begins with two games at Roosevelt tomorrow, Skinner and Mango Moon are sponsoring a team.

"(League commissioner) Pat Tanibe asked if I was going to play. But if I'm going to keep up with those kids, I've got to be in shape. I played last year, but I've been so busy with my business I haven't been able to do the training," Skinner says.

Skinner played in the league when he was a college player at Alan Hancock (Calif.) JC and Chaminade, as well as for several years after.

"Sponsoring is an easy decision," Skinner says. "I played in that league so many years and learned a lot. I want the younger players coming up to have that same opportunity."

Former University of Hawaii forward Mike Gilless was Skinner's teammate at Hancock, and is the coach of Mango Moon.

"He really does a good job of connecting with the right people, a good job of networking," Gilless says. "He's still a character, but he's matured and become a lot more focused."

Skinner feels the more that young people play sports, the better chance they have of succeeding in a competitive environment -- like starting your own business.

"It was very, very tough because of the economy. But with consistency, hard work and going the extra mile for the customer you can make it work," Skinner says. "I feel I learned a lot of that playing sports."

Creativity and diversity are also important, Skinner says, and one of his business goals is to "stay ahead of the curve by creating and expanding our niche."

Today, that means unique shirt designs such as the one featuring renderings of local endangered species. He also is working with former Chaminade coach Merv Lopes in designing shorts for the Big Man's Camp in August.

"It's kind of neat. Merv was like a hero when I was a kid and I always wanted to play for him at Chaminade. He wasn't coaching when I got there, but now I'm doing some work with him," Skinner says.

After he finished at Chaminade, Skinner played pro basketball in Taiwan for the McDonald's team for two years.

"It was a great opportunity, travel through Asia, playing basketball," he says. "And I learned about the import-export business."

Skinner hadn't really thought much about getting into business before then -- at least consciously. Life was basketball. But the entrepreneur spirit was always in his blood; his father is Brad Skinner, who has owned a variety of businesses in Hawaii for 30 years.

One of Brad Skinner's early ventures was Funway Rentals, which included leasing mo-peds to tourists before most people knew what one was.

"One of my first memories as a teeny kid is washing down those mo-peds," Gary Skinner says. "I guess it was always in me to end up with my own business."


NCAA Summer League

What: 25th Annual NCAA Summer Basketball League season openers
Where: Roosevelt High School Gym
When: Tomorrow, 6 and 7:30 p.m.
Who: Honolulu Ford vs. Electricians Hawaii, followed by Mango Moon vs. Central Medical Clinic
Admission: Free

Team rosters

Central Medical: David Evans, Shawn Farr, Jeff Gabel, Kerri Hendrickson, Charles Higby, Marcos Lageman, John Lane, J.J. Marxen, Alvin Stephensen, Larz Stewart, Kahi Villa, Coach: Danny Lum.

Crossover: Ryan Adle, Marco Johnson, Dragan Karano, Scott Kato, Jamar Miller, Woody Moore, Mike Paul, Ty Riley, Jeremy Robinson, Kelii Silva, Kaleko Stietzel, Coach: Stacy Nolan.

Electricians Hawaii: Brad Anderson, Pierre Elliot, James Houser, Fabio Ribeiro, Tim Shepherd, Alika Smith, Kawika Smith, Julian Nakanishi, Bobby Nash, Chris Walz, Ramsey Williams, Coach: Artie Wilson.

Gaspro: Zach Anderson, Jacob Avilla, John Avilla, Jeff Jensen, Clifton Jones, Leandro Maruoka, Kalia McGee, Jesse Nakanishi, Nick Spajic, Nash Subotic, Lance Takaki, Coach: Gilbert Hicks.

Honolulu Ford: Micah Casey, Remington Chun, Jeremy Frampton, Garland Gantt, Ryan Hogue, Roger Huggins, Kaunaoa McGee, Scott Salsbury, Brian Skinner, Nick Walters, Johnny White, Coach: Charles Harris.

Mango Moon: Eric Bander, Damon Escoffery, Jeremy Holcombe, John Kirk, Maulia LaBarre, Mike McIntyre, Justin Palmer, Ross Silva, Joshua Stanhiser, Seth Sundberg, Jaborri Thomas, Coach: Mike Gilless.

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