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myCreative Ventures: Where Art Meets Business
Launching a business is always risky. But it can seem even more daunting if you’re an entrepreneur in the creative industry. Whether it’s music, film, fashion or design, these industries depend on creative vision and individuals who want to make their artistic mark on the world. However, sustaining these enterprises also requires a solid business plan – and some capital.
myCreative Ventures was launched by the Malaysian government in 2013. The aim of the agency is to give loans to creative businesses, helping young Malaysian entrepreneurs who are ready to expand. So far, the agency has invested in 60 companies with a total of RM120 million in loans. myCreative Ventures has an overall budget of RM200 million.
Johan Ishak, CEO of myCreative Ventures, stresses that the agency is a support mechanism for entrepreneurs who already have some experience and are ready to launch.
Currently, fashion and content creation dominate the investment categories, while Johan explains that very few people apply for loans for traditional arts.
“If you are still in research and development and have not tested the market, seek grants from other agencies,” says Johan. If you’re more of an ideas person, he advises you to partner with business-minded people.
We spoke to three investees of myCreative Ventures to see how they have grown their businesses:
Joachim Sebastian, Design
As a teenager, Joachim Sebastian was already a keen entrepreneur, making money from fixing computers. After studying Biomedical Sciences and then working for Sime Darby for three years, Joachim went on to launch Creativize.
Creativize is an online retail business which designs, markets and sells vinyl stickers. Right now, Creativize is focused on the market for motorbike stickers. “Demand is always there for the personalisation of bikes,” says Joachim, who loves motorbikes. “People want to really own their bikes.”
Now about a year old, Creativize has sold roughly 9,000 stickers to date under its brand StickmanVinyls. Joachim explains that the company is breaking even with its operations, which is no mean feat. Currently, the stickers are distributed online and receive orders from around the world. The biggest platforms are eBay and Amazon, and the largest market is in the US.
After seeing that Creativize was already operating with a profitable model, myCreative Ventures awarded Joachim a loan of RM300,000 in 2015. Previously, he had also received a loan from SME Bank.
Money aside, Joachim says that he got valuable advice from myCreative Ventures on a range of matters, ranging from queries on tax to classification.
“They have a personal touch in what they do. They do not give you additional red tape. They try to help you deal with the tape that is out there,” he says.
Puan Seri Sabera Shaik, Performing Arts
Puan Seri Sabera Shaik is a director, choreographer and actor who has performed all over the world. In 2003, she founded Masakini Theatre in Malaysia.
Masakini is known for shows that deal with Malaysian identity, folklore and women’s stories. Recent shows have included the dance Naga Women, the wayang kulit performance Malaysiaku, and the musical Chow Kit Road! Chow Kit Road!
However, Sabera sees the primary aim of the theatre company as a support system for young, aspiring performers. “Our aim is to nurture as many young people as possible,” says Sabera.
In 2014, Masakini applied for a loan from myCreative Ventures. Sabera says that the loan of RM500,000 has allowed her to have some security for future productions, because sponsorship of shows can really vary. She first approached the agency after having problems with one production where sponsorship fell through at the last minute.
However, despite this additional security net, Sabera still feels that Malaysian theatre needs further support: “I think it’s strange we don’t have grants,” she says.
“If you’re doing a big production, with various stars, then you can make the money back,” she says. But she adds that with smaller, more serious performances, they must still rely primarily on patrons and sponsors. The theatre company also relies on income from workshops.
As part of her CSR endeavours, Sabera also does outreach work with orang asli communities, where children learn English and crafts through theatre.
Sabera would like to see more diverse options from both the public and private sector to support Malaysian theatre. However, she adds that she is determined to continue Masakini: “I don’t want young people to lose faith.”
Pearly Wong, Fashion
A graduate from New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, Pearly Wong was shortlisted for myCreative Ventures’ Fashion Pitch in 2013 and received funding from the agency in 2014.
Pearly Wong’s designs channel an urban, contemporary chic, where structured cuts meet bold, monotone prints in black and white.
The designer was already gaining attention in Malaysia when she launched her label in 2012, but she says that the investment from myCreative Ventures “helped to put my label in the international arena.”
“I was able to compete with the ‘big boys’ in the fashion business overseas and now my label is being sold around the world in Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Berlin and London.”
Since expanding her business, Pearly has participated in international runway shows like in Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, Berlin. Her designs have been featured international media, including the BBC and Vogue Italia. Locally, she won the Newman’s Pioneer Award in the fashion category in 2014.
Most notably, Pearly has dressed musicians Grimes and Ellie Goulding for their performances. “That was a huge milestone for me as no other designer from my batch in Malaysia has had that opportunity to dress an international celebrity yet,” she says.
“I think talent and financial backing needs to come hand-in-hand. Without talent, you can’t buy people to like your clothes and probably wouldn’t stand a chance at being in the international fashion play field,” says Pearly.
“Without any financial planning, a designer with all the talent in the world will not even be spotted or have the ability to have a business.”
For those who want to start a business, Pearly has some words of advice: “Be very realistic about your objective of the business. Passion will not get someone very far in this business. There needs to be some sort of entrepreneurship traits in the designer. Always secure some sort of financial backing,” she says.
By Ling Low
Photos of Pearly Wong courtesy of Pearly Wong
Pitch your business today at MyCreative Ventures’ website.
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