So @Kathyjah suddenly tweets me to @theStar_Rage recommending me to be one of their young CEOs for a cover story. Thinking that I might as well give my work some hard earned publicity (especially with really awesome projects running right now!) I asked myself, why not? After all, if people don’t know what you do, how far can you really go?
It’s no secret that some of the most successful companies were all spearheaded by one particular face, that one person who carries their company image everywhere they go, backed by an incredible team surpassing even that person’s intellect or skill. The Tony Fernandes’, the Mark Zuckerbergs’, the Steve Jobs’.
Whether you like it or not, it’s inspiration that people are looking for. Then comes the successor planning and expansion to make sure the company can last with or without their icon. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m sharing with you this not to show off, but rather, to try and tell you that it’s okay to be confident and to know how to sell yourself in order to be trusted, valued and sought-after.
Here are some of the questions asked, some made it to the newspaper, most did not, so this is for your reading pleasure!
I started SocialGrooves on the 15th of December 2010, so it’s been one and a half years since! Just after that I started EYE Project in March 2011 together with a partner-in-crime (Reza), and that’s about a year and two months.
- Wan Mohd Firdaus
I was working in an investment bank for 2 years after graduating from Imperial College London in Joint Mathematics & Computer Science. During the time I was there, I took part in many social initiatives, like UKEC back in the UK (a student movement to create awareness about Malaysian affairs for Malaysian students studying there) as well as co-founded Young Corporate Malaysians (both with my partner-in-crime Wan Mohd Firdaus, who was featured in the article too!) and assisted Random Alphabets in many random ways possible. It was then I realized I could combine my passion together with the skill sets & experience I learned at ECM Libra to make a living out of what I do best – building and developing communities through sexy initiatives using social media. With the help of the many mentors who supported me, both on the social media side as well as the corporate scene, Socialgrooves.com and EYE Project was formed on a separate basis, with different set of people and goals altogether.
4. Was it always your dream and desire to start this business?
Not really, as I’ve never been the one to think about earning a billion dollars, at least once upon a time. I’ve always focused on doing my best to support driven individuals who are out to make a difference in people’s lives by building a platform for them that will amplify the effects of their work, and treated earning money as a by-the-way need, at least to feed myself. However as it becomes clear that a lot of money is needed to fulfill my ever-growing dreams, and also to prove to naysayers that there’s no money to be made by doing good, I soon realized that starting a business that will do just that became my biggest desire in life.
5. What drove you to begin your own company?
At first I was contented in just looking around for companies that will be able to do what I just mentioned above and to work in there, contributing in every way. However I soon realized that no company has the same vision as I do, and since nobody will allow me to work on my own initiatives while being with them, I decided to take the leap of faith. My mentor, @imokman, told me that “it’s time to institutionalize your services”, so that I don’t end up overworking myself with the good things I’m doing… it’s just not that sustainable.
With his memorable words, and all my clients and partner’s faith in me, the companies started without ever having to borrow money from anyone, getting various investments from supporters who is made up of Malaysia’s movers and shakers like Dato’ Seri Johan Raslan at PwC Malaysia & Roslan B Zakaria formerly from myHarapan, and that’s something I’m proud about! Then there are the people who believe in my vision and work with me as well, my partners, my colleagues, my army… Without them, it just wouldn’t kick off.
6. What were the challenges faced in the process of starting your business?
- Reza Samsani
Many challenges, especially for me who’s not really business oriented. From knowing how to place a price on the services the two company offers (nothing to compare to), to juggling between people management skills (very difficult) and even the smallest things like implementation of SOPs/processes are the few issues I faced in the creation of the company. For somebody who’s always been doing this as a good will gesture, it’s not easy to “transform” into a business owner.
You will need a certain level of toughness in decision making in order to succeed. Luckily with the help of unlikely mentors like @BakiZainal as well as my business partners in both businesses I’m able to overcome these challenges, and as of today, both businesses are profitable (though not in a large scale, yet!)
Other challenges include ability to retain talent and paying good salary, as both companies are startups and will face similar challenges to most startups. People are generally concerned about sustainability and sustainability, and while the reasons to work with us are great, social businesses are still an unknown career path which not many, especially parents of our staff, are comfortable with.
7. What are your achievements?
Too many to count. On SocialGroove.com’s side, we’ve got many celebrities and social initiatives (NGO/NPOs) who believe in what we can do and trust us to help boost their efforts by creating/serving communities that they serve. Commercial entities get intrigued with our not-very-common way of thinking up bizarre but applicable ideas and hence we got ourselves a few clients who agree to our unique proposals, thus enabling customers to experience something you don’t get to see everyday.
As for EYE Project, the achievements has far exceeded our expectations. From being supported by myHarapan
at the very beginning, to getting corporate sponsors such as PwC Malaysia
as well as GTI Media
to even government entities such as TalentCorp Malaysia
supporting our initiatives, we are proud to say that we’ve proven to meet such high standards especially since we’re a small startup. Endorsement from the Ministry of Higher Education helps as well. Even our events, which invites Malaysian personalities to meet up with undergraduates for free in an informal setting, has gotten no rejections at all by our invited guests which includes corporate bigwig Dato’ Seri Johan Raslan, celebrity host Hannah Tan and Baki Zainal, entrepreneurs Jeol Neoh and Timothy Tiah as well as a bunch of successful others like Ahmad Izham Omar, Sajith Sivanandan and Jason Lo.
- Flanked by Dato’ Seri @HishammuddinH2O and @aznilnawawiHM
Our most recent success is running the student-focused GradMalaysia Graduate Careers Fair in partnership with SEC
where we managed to get Dato’ Sri Idris Jala
to come officiate the event, and both him as well as Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin
went on as our VIPs to meet and commend the student leaders for their project work that were exhibited at the event. Student leadership never got that much recognition here in Malaysia until today.
8. What do you think made your success today? What’s your secret to success?
One, our intentions, most definitely. You can’t fake that. Two, having a series of successful projects behind you certainly helps as well, so one should never underestimate the power of volunteerism at a young age. Three, being stubborn helps as well, but at the same time, accept criticism from people who actually want to help; it keeps things real and grounded among your untainted dreams. My secret to success? I never treat myself seriously, I never think that I can take everything by myself, and I always never forget to have fun, either by blogging about really cool events I’m invited for (at www.spinzer.us
eating something I can’t afford occasionally, or just giving a day to myself to rest, play games and tweet (@spinzer) all the way. That way, I try not getting burnt out whenever possible, where it’s just so much harder to bounce back up 🙂
9. What is your advice for young aspiring successful entrepreneurs today?
- DS @IdrisJala_
Three simple sentences: Dream BIG, Start SMALL, Move FAST. I didn’t coin this, but when I first heard it from a friend’s mouth, I realized it was all I am. From someone who’d never dream to have a company on his own, who’d never think about the failures he could have ended up to be and never thought he would ever become a leader like the people he supports, all it really takes is for him to just do it, and make ALL sorts of preparation to make sure there’s no room for error. Sure, that’s hard work, but more importantly, it’s a journey that you’ve built for yourself, an experience none others will have. As DS Idris Jala said, it’s not important what you do with your first job, it’s what you learn from it.
From there, the world is your oyster.
Read more by theStar RAGE’s article here: http://rage.com.my/content/stories/youth-on-top/
With @TimothyTiah of @NuffnangMY & Wan Mohd Firdaus of @YCMS.