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Chapter 1: Design’preneurship

By May 21, 2020July 6th, 2020No Comments

by CHARLES CHA (Singapore)

This is the opening sentence of my business plan executive summary and it will be the aspiration and endeavour towards my entrepreneurship journey in Singapore.

“WERKSTATIONS™ is a strategic design management consultancy that facilitates businesses and organizations in exploiting industrial design to archive the desired sustainable competitive advantage through product innovation and design synthesis.”

It all started in Kuala Lumpur back in 2003. Having spent 3 years of full-time employment after graduation, I’ve decided to leave my comfy office desk to start my own independent consultancy. During then, it didn’t take much consideration and contemplation to just leave everything and try to start-up something alongside my passion for product design. Freelancing is truly liberating and the rewards are undeniably gratifying. But what all designers will appreciate most in such an endeavour … is freedom.

3 years of freelancing have both its pros and cons. My knowledge in industrial design and the understanding of the product design industry in Malaysia has propelled my ambition towards a greater goal. My very own product design empire! (YES, I’m going to take over the world too! …LoL :-D. Jokes aside, it’s never about the money. Designers are no basement artist contentedly satisfied with just self-creation. My passion is to create profound impact and imprint realization for the greater good of design itself.

Indeed, we designers are weird individuals with that peculiar idiosyncrasy. Maybe that’s why we’re “creative”? 😉

The disadvantage? I’ve realized that how destructive freelancers can be in our design industry. The product design market in Malaysia is so insignificant and sensitive to market disruption that I’ve been naively taking part in the slow slaughtering of the design consultancy trade. It became lucid that what’s preventing D Zign Synthesis (my company name then) from expanding towards a full fletch design house is me, myself (and other freelancing ‘i’ community).

I could continue on for another 3 years and still will not add additional economic value to the design industry as a whole.

I stopped D Zign Synthesis at end of 2005 and relocated to Singapore. No No … not for the greater good of design (I’m no saint…Hee Hee). I came here because of my wife (Yup… for love). I was new to the Singapore design scene and my network for freelancing work is practically non-existence.

It made sense during then to get a full-time employment for the sole reason of PR application ease. My strong design experience has made it easy for me to find jobs. Yet paradoxically, I was retrenched after one year due to the company financial hurdle. The whole R&D was closed down.

That happened 2 months before my wedding date. This is why till today I have never been a strong believer in the phrase “stable full-time job”. After all, we are responsible for our own destiny.

Retrenchment has always been a classic prelude to most start-up but alike my classmate in the UniSIM TEN programme, I’m also a happily married man with financial commitments and family obligations. In addition, I’m truly not prepared for sustainable entrepreneurship (coz retrenchment will never be in my HR handbook).

I might have wealth of design know-how but I lack business knowledge. Which is why I enrolled in the TEN programme to gain more understanding. The course will not solve all my predicaments but it’s truly enlightening (lecturers and classmates alike).

Since 2007, I’ve hop from an established local design consultancy to my current job as an industrial designer with a US MNC which I will continue to gain more design skills and experiences but the gentle calling from my entrepreneur spirit has yet to relinquish.

My goal for 2009, the formation of WERKSTATIONS™. I may have started wide of the mark and the economic outlook certainly looks grim but to me that’s irrelevant. My motivation has always been about the journey itself.

To boldly go where no man (or designers) has gone before 😛

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