In any industry, military research has spurred many advances that have aided the design of their respective products. XCEL, a Hawai’ian wetsuit company based out of Haleiwa on the North Shore of O’ahu, gains its development the same wayà'†¹through a lot of crossover manufacturing.
Owner Ed D’Ascoli created the company back in 1982 out of a small room in his house. Although he began making surf suits, D’Ascoli started making dive suits five months later when his brother-in-law, who was a construction diver, needed one.
Seventeen-years later, D’Ascoli heads a business that produces suits for all kinds of users including surfers, divers, Navy Seals, and rescue divers on icy lakes. The suits are also distributed worldwide in countries such as Japan, Australia, Chile, and Switzerland.
Through distributors in the diving industryà'†¹vendors who understand the government processà'†¹D’Ascoli is able to work with the military and keep their business. The feedback he gets from the military is invaluable for his R&D and provides him with ideas such as stretch panels on the knee that D’Ascoli says were developed when military trainers were cutting their knees on the cement.
XCEL does a lot of crossover because it aids in the development of surf suits. “It the crossover market opens are perspective wider for when we work on surf suits.” In a diving industry with 40 brands, he feels he’s changing the traditional dive suit and wants to do the same for surf suitsà'†¹every year they tinker with the fits to make them better.
XCEL employs 45 people in the North Shore factory and retail store, Honolulu store, and Huntington Beach factory. Although it’s not cheap with his low volumes, D’Ascoli feels producing his suits in the U.S. gives him better control to iron out any wrinkles that are uncontrollable when done in Asia. XCEL is the largest employer in Haleiwa and his employees enjoy their jobs because as he says, “They love to sew.”
He also has a rep force he’s very proud ofà'†¹the bread and butter of his company, “Reps make or break a company,” he says. He attributes a lot of his success to his reps who have done very well in their respective areas by giving him key accounts who supply him with feedback and help develop his lines as well.
“Basically I want to build on what I have,” says D’Ascoli, whose business plan revolves around modernizing his warehouse so he’s able to ship within three days of reorderingà'†¹absolutely no customer service problems. Up against huge budgets that the other wetsuit companies wield, he aims to hit pre-books with reorders being the key and making his company the primary or secondary suit in a handful of stores.
As for marketing, he puts a large percentage of his budget into advertising toward younger generations because young kids are more willing to be nonconformistà'†¹the way he feels XCEL is. To D’Ascoli, making kids’ suits is an investment that will pay off ten years down the line.