Ignacio Mena (23) and Roberto Merino (25) don their battle capes, grab the hilts of their lightsabers, and the colors green and blue instantly light up the room. Only the characteristic sound emitted by the swords of star wars as they stand before each other ready to fight. Seconds later, they begin a perfectly licked choreography, blows that go in the opposite direction of their rival to crash the sabers and are coldly calculated to give a spectacle of movement and sound. It doesn’t matter if the room becomes narrow, as long as it’s enough to make a few turns and make the “fight” more colorful.
It’s a normal day in the offices of StarBlade, an SME founded by Ignacio Mena that imports and sells lightsabers with aluminum hilts and polycarbonate tubes that project different colors and reproduce the characteristic sounds they emit when they move and collide. In addition to sales in Chile, they also sell in the rest of Latin America and even in Spain.
Mena inherited the passion for The galaxy war of his grandfather and his father, who acted and re-enacted the films of the saga. “I appreciate everything Star wars. With StarBlade I try to maintain balance, because many fans split into segments: those of the original trilogy, those of the prequels and those of the new saga. Some don’t like the new, but you gotta strip down like a good one Jedi of the original and accept this world”, he says in one of the rooms of the office located in Andrés de Fuenzalida, Providencia
Over the years, he developed his passion in his own way: as a child, he had plastic swords and when he learned electronics and welding, he was encouraged to make his own swords with Christmas lights and plastic tubes. PVC or acrylic that he molds, paints and decorates to look like a real one. This happened in 2018. With this, he was motivated to upload videos to social media and followers started asking him for custom sabers.
“When I started practicing, there was lots and lots of criticism. The only thing you saw on the internet was me with a lightsaber. A viral nerd. People were like, ‘Hey, what? Little by little, people were showing that side more. When the SME started, we created these groups where people felt confident, because we are always the laggards, the losers Now, people have brought out their wacky side and we have managed to denounce it, to come together without fear of social criticism,” testifies the founder of the company, who is finishing his studies in Mechanical Civil Engineering.
Mena started making these types of swords, then invested $20,000 and started selling them, until he got enough money to be able to import state-of-the-art toys. The official start of the business took place in March 2021. “It cost me little to make one, I sold it and made a profit. This is how I created StarBlade, which later became an SME with enough capital to invest more,” he explains.
Now, instead, the sabers come from overseas, they have products that replicate the hilt details that appear in the franchise, they light up perfectly, replicate sounds and can be banged against each other without be exposed to breakage or damage. They are cataloged in categories, ranging from $149,900 to $999,990, and involving different details. For example, the type of technology: the RGB, in which the light is projected from the handle and is ideal for combat, and the XenoPixel, which has leds along the blade and looks like the way we see them in movies. . Moreover, they have identical replicas of the sabers that the characters use, such as Luke Skywalker or the double saber of the sith Darth Maul.
After a while, Ignacio Mena gets up and pulls out different models of swords from a shelf. He carefully takes them out of the boxes and displays them one by one. You know their names, if they match a character, their handle details and, of course, how they work.
“We have models that have this crystal appearing in the barrel of star wars, where the energy comes from. Of course, this glass doesn’t exist, it’s fantasy, because it’s actually lithium batteries that are used for electromobility,” Mena points out. But the founder also learned how to open, repair and maintain them. When the business was formalized, he bought one just to take it apart and learn how the system works, how to open it, what order the cables go in, how to fix them, and how to maintain them.
Ignacio Mena expanded the StarBlade team by chance. She met Roberto Merino, the store manager, and he started helping her at the events they organized with other fans of Star wars in squares and where some of their swords were laid out so that others could also play. “I never thought that an SME was going to be created and the consequences that it would have on the community either. We were kids playing with lightsabers; then more people appeared,” he says.
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Along the way appeared, in addition to Roberto Merino, Constanza Palacios (24) and Scar Cortés (25), who are respectively in charge of the design of the company’s graphic pieces and of social networks and communication. “They are very talented people, they all have a specialty that has made StarBlade grow”, explains the founder.
The whole team knows how to wield lightsabers to perfection. More than once a day, they all raise their swords and skillfully face off against a team member. It’s only normal, for example, that when they’re all together in the office – because they’re split between studios and StarBlade – they eat lunch together and, in addition to carrying out their professional responsibilities, they practice more with their swords during the day. . Even Mena, who has to spend time managing imports and finances, says they always manage to play with each other or alone. They may spend more time with a sword in hand than without. “I confirm it, we are like that all day with that. Everyday,” Merino says with a laugh as he adjusts the color of his sword and who also practices and teaches Muay Thai and teaches the moves to the little ones at meetings they hold.
Ignacio acknowledges that he also practices and learns different martial arts to add to lightsaber fighting styles. For this reason, he explains that “there are seven styles in the universe, fictionally, but you have to apply martial arts techniques, for example, to fight in the style of Darth Maul, you have to put kung fu on it”. as a double saber is used and triple jumps are performed. You have to take things from reality to get into the fanaticism of Star Wars.” Indeed, in the videos they upload on their social networks, it is common to see them showing off their skills.
But in addition to fighting, they also take to the streets to do photo and video shoots for their social networks where they upload memes and informative content from the store in a fun way. Without the hidden costumes, but on and with the sword in hand.
“Now, fortunately, we have been able to form a discipline. There are more people practicing in Chile, hundreds of people following us in Santiago. Before there was nothing, I was a boy who on social networks told me to get a girlfriend. And I have a girlfriend, I met her at one of those events; yes i broke the code Jedi. Before, they criticized me on social networks, now people from the university ask me for help, they ask me things,” says Mena.
Sales in those years have been positive for StarBlade, especially because they spend time teaching their customers how to operate and certain moves. While many customers remain loyal to the sabers from the First Sabers collection, which are ideal for beginners because they are more basic, light and resistant, there are also fans of artefacts from the more expensive collections. Not only to dedicate them to collectibles or cosplay events, but also to use. “Yes, there are people who allocate their budget to these swords and take them everywhere. Our audience is more or less segmented between 13-30 year olds and over 30 year olds, the latter being those who have a larger budget, who participate in events, go to conventions,” explains Mena.
But they also have a lot of younger customers, a lot of children who come with their parents to participate and who have acquired a sword. Ignacio Mena attaches particular value to this audience, as he reveals that in the events that the little ones have organized, they have made friendships with each other, managing to find a meeting point around the star wars.
Because of this, he says that in an Instagram raffle they ran, a boy who had been sick for four years with a femur infection and had eight operations won. “Fortunately, he was cured. He won the lightsaber, it was like the Strength I wanted this to happen just when I was coming out of so much pain. Now his father has even bought a sword so he can play with him, we always stay in touch, we talk to his parents,” he says.
– What does StarBlade mean to you?
– I didn’t expect this to define my life, my professional life, my love life, my friendships. They all opted for StarBlade. I never thought I would catch so many flights. People talk to me on the street, they ask me questions about the videos. It was a life changing experience, like I told you, in college they contacted me because I have a business. That’s why I’m also looking for ways to help friends or acquaintances, like Karen Benítez, who worked at the bakery around the corner from my house and one day I found out that she had started making masks at the beginning of the pandemic she made We customized StarBlade creations and then she told us she was a circus and also had experience making costumes so she started making us the capes that we sell.
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