Abingdon Mullin is making watches for women who break boundaries
Running a business

Abingdon Mullin is making watches for women who break boundaries

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating the stories of the amazing women in small business that are conquering male-dominated industries and working to #breakthebias.

Name: Abingdon Mullin 

Location: Las Vegas, NV

Business: Abingdon Co. 

What does your business do?

We build watches for women who do more. The Abingdon Co celebrates those who showed us how to beat the odds. Those who, when challenged with “Hey, you can’t do that…” are just too busy to reply because they’re prepping for a 250 foot tech dive, or nailing a sick stand-up wheelie, or focused on landing an approach. Women use great tools to do great things. This greatness requires purpose, not decoration. We empower women. We build technical watches. They are designed with purpose and meaning, so women can climb, drive, fly, dive, ride, and discover.

Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started? 

The idea started when I completed my flight training and earned my wings as a pilot. I wanted to give myself a purpose-built aviation watch, but nothing existed for women at the time. As a result, I started the company by making the first pilot watches for women. Today, we design and manufacture technical timepieces for women in all different industries, from scuba diving to the medical field, to the military. An Abingdon watch is strong and beautiful—like the women who wear them. 

What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year? 

Much like new business owners who started in 2020 learned, the world can shift in an instant. I launched my company in November 2007 and then the economic downturn came in 2008. It turned out to be a blessing because I had to pinch pennies—not just because I was starting out, but because a full-on recession was happening. So what did I do? I scanned my signature and learned photoshop so I didn’t have to print anything I needed to sign, saving paper. I had my friends help me at events instead of hiring trade show staff. It not only gave me a fun reason to hang out with friends, but it also saved me the expense of contract employees. I was scrappy and some of those systems I established in the early days (like no paper, for example) became foundational today. 

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner? 

The most surprising thing about becoming a business owner is the impact I get to see happen. From an employee saying they feel more confident because of their job to a customer who tells me they are empowered when they wear their watch. It fuels my fire to see theirs burning so brightly. 

What is an aspect of running a business that you needed to learn more about when you started? How did you learn about it? 

Everything! I was 22, fresh out of college with a degree in neuroscience psychology, and I had no idea about watches. I just knew I wanted a female pilot watch and I knew how I wanted it to look. Other than that, the “business” part was a blank canvas that I began to paint with very small strokes. 

How does running your own business make you feel? 

I love getting up and coming to work. And it’s not about any paycheck—because I’m always the last one to get paid before my staff…and sometimes payroll skips me altogether. It’s about the feeling of being challenged, engaging with the crew and seeing what they are doing in their worlds—going on missions, dive trips, being firsts, olympians, and breaking glass ceilings. Each day I’m running this company is like being in the most uplifting binge-worthy tv series. It’s fun and exciting. 

What are your proudest moments? 

One of my proudest moments was in 2017 (on the 10 year anniversary of the company), when we established Abingdon Foundation, a non-profit 501c3 that helps to promote STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) to girls and women. We give scholarships, bring women to major industry events, and have created a series of activity books for girls to help introduce them to STEAM. It’s been an incredible beginning and I can’t wait to build more of the foundation. 

What are the next big plans you have for your business? 

You are going to see some major changes. In May, you’ll find Abingdon Watches in Macy’s stores! I recommend following the Abingdon Co. on social media and getting on our email list so you will see what’s coming. New crew member stories, new products, new events, and new retailers are all happening in the next 6 months. The company is shooting up like a rocket. 

What are three things that you feel have contributed to your success as a business owner? 

I’ve always loved the saying (with all transparency, I found this saying on a fortune cookie), “Act as though it were impossible to fail.” Attitude is everything as a business owner, and having this saying in my head at least once a day is definitely a major contributor to my success as a business owner. Two other things that have helped are my team of people and my customers. They wave the Abingdon Watch Co. flag and do so without my influence. Their love of the brand and willingness to help grow it through word of mouth has increased business exponentially. Without them, I would not be as successful as I am today. 

What challenges do you feel are unique to female small business owners? 

Statistics show that women in business are not as well-funded, and I find that to be true. What is strange is that female businesses often outperform male businesses in investment portfolios, yet female businesses are missing major investment dollars. I think another challenge female small business owners face is society’s pressures on their gender role. Women are still expected to be mothers and wives in society’s eyes, while the business demands women to be the leader and fully committed. Juggling the two can be detrimental to one’s health, and it’s important to have a good support system when running a business as a woman. 

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I love breaking stereotypes and I’ll just keep working harder.

What is it like working in an industry that some might see as traditionally male-dominated? Have you come up against any bias? 

When working in not only the watch industry, but also the aviation, dive, tactical, and automotive industries—everything is male-dominated. Because I’m a woman, I have to be better, know my subject matter more, and not make a misstep or else I might immediately be dismissed. Even when I do everything right, it’s still a challenge to overcome. I remember one time at an airshow, I was explaining a patent-pending feature to a man who responded with “How cute,” and wished me good luck and walked away from me. I’ve never considered a patent “cute”—intellectual property is one of the toughest things to achieve. Such microaggressions happen all the time, and it’s challenging to overcome, but what can I say? I love breaking stereotypes and I’ll just keep working harder.

Is there anything you want other women to know about working in your industry? 

If you are technically minded, you will love it. Have thick skin and don’t sweat the little things. You will be judged, but breaking those stereotypes will always make you smile inwardly—and often outwardly too. You will be the minority and that’s a good thing. 

What advice would you give to other women starting their own business? 

When starting a business, you are excited, full of energy and want to take on the world. Everyone is wishing you well and good luck, and it’s positive everyday. Weeks or months later, it often happens that not all of your goals may have been met. That is OK. Things take time and it will always be better to do things methodically and correct rather than rush. Don’t get frustrated at yourself if you don’t meet the deadlines you set for yourself. Just keep moving forward. Tenacity is what makes a business succeed in the long run. Being tenacious will get you to your goals. 

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going? 

When I’m having a tough day, I look at my crew members. Now, after 15 years, there are thousands worldwide who wear an Abingdon watch. I see what they are doing and it pumps me up to keep working. Their watch is a tool for them to do their job. I can’t let them down. I have to keep going so that they can keep going. 

How can female business owners support one another and their community? 

There are so many ways to support one another! It’s as simple as commenting on a picture on social media to recommending them to others. Compliments and recommendations are free and easy. That’s the least we could do. If you want to really support female business owners, buy from them. Invest in them. Put your money into their business and watch them grow. 

To learn more about Abingdon Co. and to support the business, visit their website or check them out on Instagram.

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