How Leon Jakimic was bounced from a pro tennis career to become founder of Hong Kong glass company Lasvit
Leon Jakimic traded a professional tennis career for the world of glassmaking design, but sportsmanship continues to drive him, on and off the court
If Leon Jakimic hadn’t become the founder and CEO of Lasvit, a bespoke glass company, he might just be one of the world’s top tennis players – at least that was his dream before he faced a stumbling block at the age of 17.
His love for sports came from his father, who is a former member of the Czech national skiing team. “My father really wanted me to become a professional skier like him; therefore I’ve been engaged in different kinds of sports starting from the age of four,” recalls Jakimic .
When he turned 12, he realised tennis was his true calling. “Back in those days, I used to start training at 5am in the morning. That was the only way to secure a spot at the tennis court, as only one hall is available in the city during winter,” says Jakimic . His parents, who thought he had bitten more than he could chew, attempted to talk him out of it. But he had his eyes on the prize. “At some point, I wanted to become the world’s No 1 tennis player and I did everything I could to achieve this goal.”
However, his plans fell through at the age of 17, after a back injury halted him from pursuing the sport professionally. “The doctor advised me to focus on my academics instead. At first, I simply couldn’t believe it and thought that wasn’t possible,” says Jakimic . But that roadblock didn’t break him. While he didn’t quite achieve what he set out to do in the world of tennis, the sport paved an alternative path for him. With a tennis scholarship offer, Jakimic left home for the Loyola Marymount University in the United States. And in 1991, he began his career with a role at a Czech crystal company based in Hong Kong, where he continues to call home.
Having turned his eye to design, Jakimic was determined to make a mark in that realm. Thanks to the support of his parents, who are both glassmaking veterans, he set up Lasvit in 2007, specialising in bespoke lighting.
Some might think that someone who with no background in the industry has little to offer when it comes to the design business. Today, however, he is a leader in the hand-blown glass industry, known for his blend of authentic Bohemian craftsmanship together with technology.
While he has traded the tennis court for the boardroom and glassmaking workshops, sportsmanship continues to influence him on and off the courts. “My experience in tennis has taught me how to work hard, to deal with winning and losing, and how to be tough on yourself,” Jakimic said. “I believe sports is indisputably core to Lasvit’s company culture.”
More than just a form of relaxation, sports, Jakimic believes, shapes one’s character and enhances mental strength.
Through tennis, the entrepreneur has also crossed paths with various characters that have inspired him.
“Roger Federer, for example, is very competitive on the court, yet he is also a very nice, kind and gentle individual off the court,” points out Jakimic . “At Lasvit, we are competitive, but we treat our competitors with respect, as long as they are ethical.”
Jakimic , who thrives on positive pressure, believes rivalry is key to motivate one to push the limits and strive for greatness.
Before his knee surgery a year and a half ago, Jakimic played tennis twice a week and was a familiar face in competitions around the city. Today, he continues to enjoy swinging his racket on the court. You can often find him behind the net in Discovery Bay, where he plays on a local tennis team.
Between frequent business trips and client meetings, the father of five still manages to make time for his children and their various athletic pursuits. “I’m glad they enjoy sports, but I would never push them too hard. But of course, I do secretly hope that some of them can be actively involved in the management of the company in the future,” he said.
Exactly how much does Jakimic love tennis? So much so that he decided to make a film about the sport and its impact on his life and business. Breakpoint, a 30-minute documentary that debuted in October last year, details his life story.
The film portrays the transformative journey that led the then-aspiring sportsman into the world of design. “I’m glad Leon found his passion in glassmaking,” Radek Stepanek, a good friend of Jakimic ’s and a tennis pro who formerly ranked eighth in the world, said in the film. “Just as I’ve won as many titles and awards in tennis, so has he in the world of glass and design.”
Jakimic remains connected to the sports world, which has led him to some unique collaboration; the brand has created trophies for various world-famous sporting events including Tour de France and Mubadala World Tennis Championship. For the recent Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Game, Lasvit created glass trophies and commemorative sculptures that were given exclusively to Czech athletes and medallists.