HOW I GOT HERE: ABINGDON MULLIN ON GIVING WOMEN THE TOOLS TO FLY HIGH
May 11, 2022
Abingdon Mullin is like many pilots in that she loves a good checklist. For example, an aviator needs three things for every flight: A good headset to protect your ears; a good pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes, and a good aviator’s watch to serve as a backup for your instruments.
Mullin had the headset and the sunglasses. But when she searched the market for an aviator’s watch that she thought might appeal to female pilots like herself, there wasn’t anything that met her expectations. Rather than stew, her mind lit up with possibilities.
The daughter of immigrants and fearless flyer recognized opportunity. But her practical side realized there was a smaller market for women’s watches within the aviation industry—only about 7% of the aviation pilots in the United States were female at that time. That number is only 9% in 2021, the most recent data available.
Mullin thought back to her job as a door-to-door salesperson when she was fresh out of college. That work experience gave her an understanding about customer service, sales technique, and filling a gap in the marketplace.
“I knew from that experience going door-to-door that you can create something out of nothing,” Mullin says. “It’s taking that action step of opening that door.”
Her Nevada-based business, Abingdon Co., creates watches specifically aimed at her crew—a nickname of active women who wear her watches, advise her on their design, and live fully, whether it is as a diver, a pilot, a race-car driver, or a mom. To Mullin, every woman is vital and lives a life of adventure.
“If you’re a stay-at-home mom with three kids, this watch also is for you,” Mullin says. “We had a customer testimonial where her 2-year-old was chewing on it and threw it against the wall in an effort to keep it from mom. She picked it up, washed it, and it was still working well.”
Her business has had a successful launch, and it continues to gain altitude (sorry, had to do it). For example, in April, Macy’s selected Mullin as one of 25 businesses selected to participate in its Workshop at Macy’s program. The retail-development workshop helps up-and-coming companies with tools, knowledge, and resources to build their business and sell their products on Macy’s website. Mullin’s application was selected from more than 30,000 applicants.
Mullin was born in England, where her father comes from; her mother is from Mexico. The couple raised her in California, where Mullin remembers her first interaction with a pilot happening in high school. Her school’s career center held a luncheon every month with a different speaker, and Mullin says she attended mostly for the food.
Two male pilots spoke to her group that day, and they taught her two important lessons, Mullin says. First, you don’t have to join the military to learn how to fly. Second, once you know how to fly, you can work for more than just an airline—there are corporate jobs, celebrity gigs, and more within the industry.
Intrigued, Mullin got her college degree and chose to be a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon after finishing her education. A week after her return, she was in an airport starting lessons, Mullin says. Among her jobs during those early years was selling children’s educational materials, and while it was difficult, it taught her self-motivation, positive affirmation, and the basics of entrepreneurship.
That has all translated into the Abingdon Co., where she continues to work closely with female pilots, divers, and other professionals on each of her watches as she develops them. “Our slogan is, ‘We make watches for women who do more,’ ” Mullin says. Her test groups help her design each watch for form and function.
“I can make it look good. I really want to know their use case,” Mullin says. “We have a tactical watch that just launched, and we had been designing it for about eight months with a group of women who were watch owners but worked in tactical fields.
“One of them couldn’t tell us what she did for a living because it was government related and top secret. Another was a competition shooter on horseback. Another was a survivalist in that she lived out of her airplane on back-county airstrips,” Mullin says. “They told us they didn’t want a smartwatch or Bluetooth because they can’t take it to places where they want to go. They’d have to leave that kind of watch at home or in the car.”
Originally published on JCK Online.