Some strive towards achieving perfection in their careers, however it is not perfection that is required of an aspiring entrepreneur, but rather perseverance.
A source of inspiration would be Mr. Wong Chan Meng, a versatile entrepreneur who has many businesses to his name. He is the founder of DGFX Studios Pte Ltd, Xenium, Beluga (co-founder) and ‘Gioi GiaDinh’ Vietnamese Fashion Magazine. Chan Meng’s key business,
DGFX was established in 2000 and is an integrated Events Management company with Graphic Design and Corporate Gift services. It counts F&N and MasterCard as satisfied customers, providing a comprehensive one-stop studio environment as their unique selling point.
Starting young, he established his first business at the age of 24 with only a computer, printer and fax machine. Using a loan of a few thousand dollars and the simple business idea of print advertising, he was successful in creating an opportunity for himself.
During the interview, Chan Meng shared that two things enforced his interest in entrepreneurship: his passion for events management and design, as well as his unsuitability for monotonous office deskbound job.
Speaking from his personal experience as a student, he failed 5 out of 6 subjects whilst studying Electronics in a local polytechnic (because it was a practical course to study at that time), and switched to marketing instead. He then realized that pursuing something he had passion for was more important than trying to fit into the competitive Singaporean education/workforce system. Having a positive learning attitude and being aware of his strengths and weaknesses helped him to move forward and realize his true calling.
His first job at Sentosa Discovery Tours stamping expiry dates on cable car tickets before its delivery to the travel agents. It was resembled a one-man production line, and this was yet another wake up call that office deskbound work and environment was not for him.
The journey towards self-discovery is half complete when we discover and understand the lasting interests that may shape the way we live. For Chan Meng, he learned valuable life lessons as a student struggling to excel in schoolwork and when he was struggling to find a career path suitable for himself. When he eventually realised that design was his true passion, he discovered that he lacked the skillsets and knowledge to embark in a career as a designer. A very wise move he made was to get a job as an accounting assistant for a local design house. It was there that he received guidance from his first mentors- a husband and wife team who were also the owners. His male boss taught him much about design, whilst his female boss impressed and inspired him with her sales tactics. He probably learned most of his business startup skills and strategies from them and which he put to good use later in his life.
Being an entrepreneur entails a greater responsibility and there will be tough times that you will have to overcome. Chan Meng shared that a memorable setback in his career happened when he had just set up his events company. He ran a year-end-event for a client at a Singapore Mega Mall promoting late night shopping and shoppers could redeem $20 vouchers starting at 8pm. The response was overwhelming and Singaporeans queued up at noon just to get the vouchers. As a result, the dedicated area was insufficient and the mall wanted to relocate the company’s booth. In the mad dash to the new redemption location a regular customer got injured and angrily demanded compensation from the mall and his client. Matters got ugly as the police got involved, and the incident was reported in the Chinese newspaper as well as the radio. Chan Meng was vexed, but he urged his client to focus on resolving the matter quickly and offered to bear all responsibility. He used his own money to purchase an added $6000 worth of vouchers to give to the unhappy customers.
Chan Meng assumed that this might spoil the reputation of his company and put an end to the working relationship with that client. Contrary to that, his client was impressed with Chan Meng’s efficiency to resolve the problem and till date they are still working together. This is a very good example of accessing the situation and taking responsibility at the right time. Although he had to fork out his own money, he managed to save his event’s company’s reputation as well as the working relationship with his client.
Beluga and “Gioi Gigdinh” Magazine were his subsequent business ventures that allowed Chan Meng to enter the fashion industry. As a fashion student, I was very intrigued that he could handle such different aspects of business all at once. His menswear-clothing retailing company Beluga was founded with two other partners.
They brought in what was then lacking in Singapore- Quality and stylish apparel for men. Beluga came up with an in-house label Grandiosity three months after its official launch as they felt something was missing in the store’s style formula. According to him, “With the brand (Grandiosity), we want to give Singaporean men timeless basics which go with anything in their wardrobe”. Since he owns a graphic design company, Chan Meng had access to in-house talent to create Beluga’s product branding and advertising. Hence he could easily control the branding of the company. Promotional strategies used include tapping into social media like Facebook (5800 likes) to create publicity and branding awareness for Beluga. Beluga itself does not embrace fancy visual merchandising and opts for a clean and polish interior layout that is a way to save up on decorating costs.
With Beluga, Chan Meng was able to identify a niche market to cater to men looking for classic apparel pieces of good value. Working like a true entrepreneur, he merged both his interests and the demand and supply for menswear labels, into creating a successful local boutique like Beluga.
Chan Meng possesses natural business acumen and has made very wise decisions in his career that brought him financial success and respect. He believes that being truthful and adopting a positive learning attitude is essential in order to be a successful entrepreneur. This can be seen in his willingness to learn from others and from setbacks. I admire his humble attitude and the way he approached his initial business setup, to his investments in a variety of businesses.
When asked about the potential of youths in the current generation, he replies, “they have more opportunities”. Chan Meng says that we are given a lot more platforms to work with (camera phones, apps, online businesses), and that the major challenge our generation faces is whether we can weather storms, as all businesses have a cycle.
Youths of today need to understand that it is not easy to be an entrepreneur. With a hectic schedule and barely time for himself, Chan Meng knows those are the sacrifices he has to make for his businesses. Yet it is not impossible, and all it takes is passion and the right learning attitude. I believe that it is his sheer perseverance and tenacity that has brought Chan Meng to where he is today. His journey can serve as an inspiration to others like me who are keen to one day be a successful entrepreneur.
The Cathay, #02-05, 2 Handy Road, Singapore 229233