Vincent: We both worked in Singapore as a web programmer before, then because of some reason, I had to go back to Malaysia to support my family and work as a computer tutor in a secondary school with a RM1500 salary, teaching very basic computer skills to students who never had a computer before. I also discovered there were many problems in the gift giving industry. I joined some online marketing and SEO classes, and despite it being many more times expensive (RM 6,000) than my salary, I went ahead, and realized knowledge is power, and got back more than I what I invested. With that knowledge, I built a simple website to promote personalized gift ideas and surprisingly the response was good.
And then I resigned from my computer tutor job and started my own small gift shop nearby our College. Unfortunately the gift shop did not last longer than about 6 months – we had to close down because of the wrong location. This failure taught me the importance of location and having a proper business plan.
Henry: For me, I worked abroad for 11 years in Singapore, the Philippines and Taiwan. I started from being an IT consultant, to senior IT Consultant, into application support, into production support, then into being the Technical Architect where I managed more than 100 developers in building a multi-billion web based system. I was working in a tech company similar to MailChimp, and after that, in a gaming company.
But I very nearly could not have had this because last time in secondary school my academic result was not very good and got rejected by 3 universities. Then I applied for college, and the main campus also rejected my application. The main campus later on sent me to their branch campus, far away from main campus and 10 times smaller than the main campus.
I still remember trying to also ask for the politician of our area to help, because sometimes politicians have the power to write the letter to the school to accept my application. So I tried for the politician to write the letter but nothing helped.
I then had to accept the fact that I have to study 2 years there because of my bad academic results in secondary school. Even then, I tried very hard to gain acceptance into the main campus to have a better life. I tried, I failed – but I didn’t give up.
And all of this happened because, as both of us were sportsman and representing the school, the district, and the state in table tennis, athletics and taekwondo, I was not in school much and even when I was, because we were so tired, we would sleep in class or not go to school at all. That is why my academic result was really bad.
I still remember, people were saying “‘Henry is only good in sports, but not good in thinking, his studies are so bad”
So the people looked down at me – and that drove us to want to prove to other people that we can make it.
Just like how they underestimated us in sports too, table tennis,we wanted to prove to them wrong because someone said that, ‘you are not good player’, ‘you cannot represent school’. Those are negative words to put us down. Then we train very hard, we even play seven days a week together and ended up representing Selangor.
So in this journey we learn that as sportsmanship we never give up and never look down. If someone is saying negative things about you, you need to be positive and treat it as a motivation that you want to do better than them.
Actually there is the saying, when one door closes, another door opens.
So when I studied in the ‘kampung place’, (Karak) it’s a small city, there was no discos, no pubs, no entertainment, no night clubs. So I could focus on my studies.
For 2 years I studied very hard and I became the top student, I scored straight A’s in all IT subjects.
So if that time I had studied in KL maybe I could not have gotten the good result. Too many distractions, too many friends.
After that I did the degree, and was also considered as one of the top students and for my internship, I was paid highest amongst my classmates. The rest of my career, is history.
So I say, ‘bad results are not the end of the world, results are not everything, but your attitude is what will bring you a better life’.
So fast forward to when I was working in Taiwan, Vincent came to Taiwan and asked me to come back to Malaysia and work together on a business he started, Printcious Gifts, as an e-commerce website, with our online design tool for people to easily create memorable gifts online at affordable prices.
We needed a team and all 4 of us brothers joined together along with our mother to help grow it.
After few months of consideration then I decided to come back, together then we build the business, Printcious.
Because we were getting very good payment package in Taiwan.
So with these expertise we can build our Printcious business from scratch combining all of our skills.
Printcious needed Vincent’s internet marketing and SEO/SEM skills, and my technical skills to customize the website so that it can have special features for customers to create memorable gifts online.
The Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) that time was also looking for tech-based company to help develop, and with our e-commerce website, online design tool, and online marketing side, we definitely fit.
At that time, I remember the MaGIC Accelerator Program (MAP) had a syllabus of financial and marketing courses, products and business development side.
And I think among the 50+ startups, we had the highest attendance rates and attended all the classes – a far cry from our sportsman/secondary school days.
They also sponsored us to the Singapore Echelon and e@Stanford programmes at Silicon Valley where we visited Google, Facebook and met Venture capitalists. And through MaGIC, we got to know about other investment funds.
Vincent: Anyways looking back, keep on learning and don’t give up. I failed but I kept on trying and learning – and then from a small shop at my old college, today we have 4 companies (Printcious,DIYPrintingSupply.com, 123Cheese Photo Booth) and a web development plus internet marketing company.
From 2 people now we have 50 staffs and have won several awards.
As brothers, we still play table tennis and we both still do taekwondo. Henry has a Black Belt (3rd Dan) myself Black Belt (2nd Dan), and we still play or compete with each other.
I think it is inside our blood, to never give up, to prove to others that we are better than them. Just don’t give up, just keep on doing the best.”
Photostory by Mushamir Mustafa and Amalina Davis
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(This post was first published on August 5th 2018)