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Some of Malaysia's high flyers share their secrets to success

By KEVIN TAN

kevinrage@thestar.com.my

Ever thought about starting your own business? How about being the founder of your own corporation? Worried that if you took that leap of faith, you’ll crash and burn?

Well R.AGE caught up with a few successful young people who tried doing just that, and guess what? They were all pretty scared too, but they did it anyway.

Starting your own business or organisation can be a daunting prospect, but as the following young managing directors, CEOs and company founders will tell you: if you’ve got the drive for it, you probably won’t do too badly.

So whether you’re planning to start your own cupcake empire or a community of tree-hugging drum circles, we hope you’ll be inspired by the stories of the following young personalities, who’re some of the most enterprising young Malaysians we know.

 

Bryan Loo, managing director of Chatime Malaysia

Bryan Loo, 27

Managing director, Chatime Malaysia

Bryan is the man behind the Chatime craze in Malaysia. The bio-tech graduate brought the Taiwanese bubble tea brand to Malaysia two years ago after completing his studies in Australia, and there are now 53 Chatime outlets across the country.

Was it always your dream to own your own F&B (food & beverage) chain?

I’ve always wanted to venture into a business and I love F&B but I wanted something simpler, so I was deciding between a beverage business or a bakery. In the end, I chose beverages and started to study about tea.

What was it like when you opened your very first Chatime outlet?

Everything was done by my family and I – from the process of making the tea products to handling the cashier to managing the sales of the company. Although it was not easy, I was very grateful to have the chance to do it and the opportunity to educate the public about bubble tea.

What do you think is the key ingredient to your success?

It always comes back to one word – passion. Passion can only bring us further.It’s the only thing that keeps us going without getting tired. Things aren’t always easy. But I believe where there is a will, there is a way. It may sound cliché, but it really works.

Desmond Chui, managing director of Japanese bubble tea, Ochado in Malaysia

 Desmond Chui, 27

Managing Director, Ochado Malaysia

Malaysians are now treated to not just Taiwanese bubble tea, but also Japanese bubble tea – all thanks to Desmond, who brought the Ochado brand to Malaysia. The marketing graduate attributes much of his success to being willing to take risks.

What did you do before Ochado?

After graduating from college, I took on a marketing executive position in Asiasoft for about a year before proceeding to start my own advertising firm. This was where I gathered the experience I needed to venture into Ochado.

What were the challenges you faced in starting Ochado?

The main challenge was finance. Because we didn’t have investors or any backup savings, every single sen we (Desmond and his partner Clark Tan) had was put into the business. It was a sink or swim situation. If the business wasn’t successful, that was it.

What is your advice for young people who aspire to be successful entrepreneurs?

Know your direction well. Don’t be stagnant because of fear. Failure and loss may happen but it won’t happen continuously. Be willing to take risks and you will see great results.

Aizat Amdan, an artiste and co-founder of record label, KasiGegar Entertainment

 

Muhammad Aizat Amdan, 23

Co-founder of KasiGegar Entertainment

Aizat was just a teenager when he started his own record label with the help of his family in 2006, immediately after his stint on the fifth season of reality talent competition Akademi Fantasia.

Was it always your dream to start your own record label?

When I was little, I never dreamt of having a record label, though I was very interested in singing and recording music. We are not a major label. We are more of an indie label that doesn’t do just recording, but also event management, production and content management.

What drove you to start your own company?

Artistes have got to take more responsibility in charting their own career paths. Only by having some sort of control over it that you can express yourself just the way you want, and be true to yourself without being dictated by anyone. This is important as I hold honesty in artistic values as the most crucial element in producing quality work.

What’s your secret to success?

The thought of knowing that there is no short cut in this business really drives me to challenge myself more. I also have a good support system. My team and my fans have been supporting me from day one, believing in what I do.

Joshua Wong, CEO of real estate brokerage, RJ Realtors

 Joshua Wong, 28

CEO, RJ Realtors

After dropping out from his business degree course, Joshua discovered he had a passion for the property industry and decided to become a real estate agent. Two years later, in 2008, he became the owner of his own real estate brokerage.

What drove you to start your own company?

I guess we all want to progress in life. It came to a point where I felt that I had reached a limit, and I wanted to go to the next level; and starting my own company was the next level.

What were the challenges you faced in building your company?

The challenge was the fact that I was doing something new. There was an element of risk involved and I did not want to step out of my comfort zone. Plus, I didn’t have the experience needed to start a company.

How did you overcome these challenges?

I learned from role models, especially successful organisations and individuals. There are many big players in real estate, so I observed and learned from them. I learned that if it makes sense to do something after you’ve done all your planning and calculating, just do it and persevere.

What is your biggest achievement so far?

My biggest achievement is the people that I have with me (in the company). Although all of them come from diverse backgrounds, I think my achievement is having helped them succeed in the business and explore something different.

Timothy Tiah, co-founder of Nuffnang, a blog advertising community

 Timothy Tiah, 28

Co-founder, Nuffnang

Timothy and his partner Cheo Ming Shen created a company called Netccentric in 2007, which then gave birth to projects such as ChurpChurp, Ripplewerkz, Jipaban and, most notably, Nuffnang, a blog advertising community that has spread across the Asia Pacific to countries such as China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and the Philippines.

Was starting your own company something you had always planned on doing?

I’ve always thought I was going to end up in the finance industry because that’s what my family was mostly involved in. That’s why I studied economics at University College London and ended up doing internships with JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank.

But when I started blogging at university I had the chance to meet many really popular bloggers and I started wondering why no advertisers or brands ever leveraged on the clout they had. I then realized that what the blogging community needed was a hub to connect bloggers to collectively approach advertisers. I promised myself that by the time I graduated, and if nobody had started anything similar, I would start it myself. That hub later became Nuffnang.

What is your biggest achievement so far?

I guess I’m proud at the way Nuffnang and ChurpChurp have grown. But one of the achievements I’m most proud of is actually how we managed to nurture a really strong team at Nuffnang and ChurpChurp. Today, we have over 140 full-time staff with offices in seven countries around the region.

Do you have a motto in life?

It’s not what happens to you that matters, but how you react to it that does.

Christopher Tock, founder and social director of Social Grooves and co-founder of Empowering Youth Endeavor (EYE) Project

 Christopher Tock, 28

Founder of Social Grooves and the Empowering Youth Endeavor (EYE) Project

Christopher is involved in a variety of social and youth development organisations, but his background is really in mathematics and computer science, which is what he studied in Imperial College, London. But even when he was in London, he was involved in the reviving of the United Kingdom and EIRE Council (UKEC) of Malaysian Students; and he is also a co-founder of Young Corporate Malaysians.

Was it always your dream to start this business?

Not really, as I’ve never been one to think about earning a billion dollars. I’ve always focused on doing my best to support driven individuals out to make a difference in people’s lives by building a platform for them. I started a business to do just that, and it just became the biggest desire in my life.

What drove you to start your own company?

At first I was content with looking around for companies that will be able to do what I just mentioned above. However, I soon realised that no company had the same vision I had. And since nobody will allow me to work on my own initiatives while working for them, I decided to take the leap of faith. My mentor told me: “it’s time to institutionalise your services”. But without the support of the people around me, this wouldn’t have happened.

What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Dream big, start small, and move fast. From someone who had never dreamt of having a company of his own and who never thought he’d be just like the leaders he look up to, I can tell you: all it takes is to just do it – and make all the preparations necessary so there’s no room for error.

Wan Muhammad Firdaus, founder of Young Corporate Malaysians and IDEAS

 Wan Muhammad Firdaus, 29

Founder of Young Corporate Malaysians (YCM) & Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS)

Firdaus founded YCM as a “business club”, a Malaysian network of young corporate professionals. IDEAS, on the other hand, helps promote market-based solutions to public policy challenges.

What are your achievements?

My partners and I are very happy that YCM has consistently organised our mothly CEO Series (which helps connect young professionals with influential corporate leaders), as well as our annual YCM Summit for the last three years. YCM has also successfully become a platform to allow many people to improve their careers, to network with other professionals, and to meet great CEOs.

What do you think made your success today?

I am very fortunate to have met great people, to have had good talents to work with, and good mentors to learn from. I am also fortunate to have gotten familiarised with the corporate world (through his current job with the Johor government), which equipped me effectively for my work with YCM and IDEAS.

What is your vision for the youth of Malaysia?

I hope young Malaysians will believe in the Malaysian dream – If you work hard in this country, you will make it. I also truly believe that it is good for young people to be entrepreneurial and to run their own businesses, aside from just being a professional. Lastly, it’s not just about what you

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