New Ventures and Handling Risks and Detractors

Earlier this year, in January 2013, I decided to partner with an old buddy of mine, Suki, to help him run and grow his creative advertising agency called Pixel Monster LLP. The company started since 2011, which he launched after his earlier venture called Fat Pixel Pte Ltd dissolved.

To be frank, it wasn't a quick decision on my part.

I took my time to ponder, I looked at the Profit and Loss, their accounts. I looked at their previous works and the companies that they had served before.

And I concluded that I definitely can trust Suki's creative judgments and abilities.

Suki and his creative team are masterful artisans in the digital advertising and marketing world, and they have created beautiful and amazing creative ad work which have great functionality too, helping companies to either make more or save more or both. But I found this out: often, creative people lack structure and order, they function more like an disorganized, somewhat-chaotic mess that more often than not, result in amazing stuff being created. Good for creative products, but messy bad when it comes to business operations, sales and marketing.

In my humble opinion, I think that was what caused the downfall of the original Fat Pixel.

Since then, Suki has been working full time with other creative ad agencies until we caught up again in the last quarter of 2012, when I found out on FaceBook that he had dislocated his elbow following a fall in reservist.  I had PMed him to find out how he was doing, and we met up in a swimming pool (how cool was that) and when I found out his story of Fat Pixel and how Pixel Monster had been shelved, that's when I was compelled to pick it up where it had halted.

Pixel Monster LLP had been in stasis somewhat, since 2011, as Suki has been more busy working full time, with a daughter (and now another darling daughter too =p).

I thought long and hard about it, prayed, looked at the P&L, before deciding I wanted in. It was making a very small sum of money every month already, so there's a trickle of passive and positive cash flow, just not many creative projects.

After two months, I started to launch Pixel Monster LLP to all my friends, relatives and colleagues, as I wanted to create buzz and business development. It was very interesting how different people responded differently to me.

I experienced the full end of both encouraging and discouraging spectrum:

"Congratulations" - most common

"Nigel it's very good to diversify" - Dr L

"Nigel, I'm interested but your email is too long and convoluted, let's meet and talk more" - Dr F

"Nigel, I'll try to send business your way and engage you, I have my own creative guys with me but I'll work something out. You know, it's interesting because most of the time we diversify something close to our core, but you have moved entirely out of your core...but whatever scratches your itch man." - Dr E

"Congrats but your email too long la" - Tim

"Congrats man but you know I'm also in creative industry right?" - Sulaiman

And most of the email reply following my email blast launching Pixel Monster were filled with congratulations on the new venture, encouragement, wanting to send business my way etc. Many had feedback to me that my email was too long winded/convoluted/complicated etc, and I receive the feedback with open arms.

I even had people setting up meeting with me to follow up on this creative advertising agency and our solutions, three of them within 2 weeks following the email! For Sulaiman's case, I communicated to him that I'd rather not be seen as a competitor, I'd rather be an outsourced creative solution to his agency, to do work that they don't particular enjoy and they can do stuff they enjoy more.

You see, I think people are naturally very willing to help - all we have to do is to be sincere and to let people know, in a very non-scammy or hard-selling way what we provide and offer, and remind them periodically, and they will try their best to help or even engage us. That's the same thing that I've been doing with Urbanrehab, and it's gotten us somewhat further ahead.

On the other end of the spectrum, I've my beloved family -God bless them- who were the ones who gave me the most heart-wrenching and knife-deep responses and reactions.

Some of their responses included:

  • Nigel, you better get out of there now.
  • You're not blessed in being creative.
  • You're not creative at all.
  • I didn't bless you for this.
  • I'm disappointed in you.
  • Nigel, you're greedy/don't be greedy
  • Nigel, I don't think what you're doing is wise nor is it worth it.

Or some variation/combination like that, oftentimes with tears, screaming and frequent slamming the phone down/hanging up on me. I assure you, their comments and reactions were the most painful ones. I love them a lot, maybe that's why. Maybe I hope that they will say "Awesome Nigel, you can do it!" and it was disappointing that that didn't happen.

I wouldn't say that their responses didn't affect me at all, because they did. They hurt a lot. The most really. I really did ask myself if it was worth it.

In the end, I went ahead with it.

You know why? In 2008, when I first left my job as an occupational therapist from a public hospital, likewise, they too screamed at me and yelled at me, calling me names (which included things like foolish, stupid etc) for "breaking my iron rice bowl" (a Chinese term for a job that will feed me forever) and asked me to go back to my boss to beg for my job back.

They had failed to see how miserable I was at the job. I felt sick all the time, developed blood in my stools (hemorrhoids, which is a condition strongly related to stress), I had 1-2% increment per year, optional bonus, increment and promotions which depended on if my bosses like me...and I hated everyday of it.

And I did not go back to working in the hospital. In fact, I became a freelancer, and doubled my salary immediately. I got happier instantly, less stress, more pay and more fun. And that's how Urbanrehab got started - with $65 in 2008, today it's slightly bigger making a comfortable six figure sales in services. No more questions or objections from my family. Now they're even saying that I was meant to do Urbanrehab. Man, they do love me. =)

I'm not saying that whatever business ideas that comes to you or me will be a 100% success even if you strike out. I've had a couple of failed partnerships before, and Pixel Monster is not immune to this possibility. It becomes my job to mitigate as much risk and problems, on top of serving people and making money. I've minimized as much risk as I can, and now what I can do is to take steps and actions of faith.

I wonder if the same level of success I have with Urbanrehab will be achieved with Pixel Monster? Actually, I don't have to really wonder - I have faith that it'd be as great or even greater than Urbanrehab, but then again, Urbanrehab has much great level of potential too. With the level of creativity and experience that Suki brings to the team, and my business and operational input, I do believe it'd grow from strength to strength. We're here to stay for the long term.

If you're in a situation similar to mine, where you know (you always know!) that you have to make decisions that may not be as popular, especially with your loved ones, what would you do? Assuming you've done your due diligence, and it shows "GO" and it's positive and controlled risk...but your parents, loved ones and friends object - would you do it? If it's your passion? Would you?

Let me know by commenting and sharing this page with your buddies, and let me know how I can help. =)

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