- From small enterprise to international manufacturer
- Aiming to provide complete e-commerce solutions
FOUNDER of Malaysia-based creative design startup Creativize Sdn Bhd Joachim Sebastian has been business-minded since his teen years and, in his own words, having grown up without much, was always something of a hustler.
“My father would tell us that he could provide the basics but if we wanted anything more we had to work for it,” he says. This mind set meant that he was selling his skills as a computer repairman and making money in small business ventures as a teen.
The idea for Joachim’s first real business, however, came into being in 2012 when he bought stickers for his motorcycle online from a retailer in France.
“I looked at the market and wondered why I needed to buy these products from France,” he says.
Joachim took about six months to figure out how the stickers were made, source local materials and buy a small machine to make them himself.
He and his wife opened their first eBay account in 2013 and started selling the stickers in US dollars to an international market. Within a year, they were making about RM6000-RM7000 (US$1,420 – US$1,666) per month in sales.
Joachim started planning for funding for the enterprise in late 2012 and finally obtained RM140,000 through SME Bank’s Graduate Entrepreneur fund in early 2014, which allowed the him to obtain more machinery and raw materials to expand the business. [Corrected: An earlier version had the SME Bank funding at RM400,000.]
Joachim says that he learned a lot while bootstrapping in the early days and pitching to the bank for funding.
“In e-commerce, nothing comes free – you need to pay for the tools and systems, and it all eats into your end result. The first year was a struggle,” he confesses.
Realising that the money was running out, Joachim continued to look for funds, securing RM300,000 in funding from MyCreative Ventures in December 2014, which is when the startup was incorporated and became Creativize Sdn Bhd.
Obtaining funding was a lot of hard work, says Joachim, and he and the startup went through a lot of ups and downs.
Through all the pitching and talking to various entrepreneurs, Joachim says he realised that even professionals do not know everything there is to know. He was even advised by a mentor that his startup idea would not work, but refused to give up.
“A lot of the time you put your dreams on another person’s shoulders and allow them to decide things for you but you must understand where people are coming from. Looking at it from his point of view, this was an untested business with no track record. But knowing that he did not know everything allowed me to make different kinds of decisions. This was a very valuable lesson,” he says.
Growth and new markets
Once the second funding was secured the startup went through a massive amount for growth and change.
Creativize got two partners on board, one with a vast amount of business experience who brought in new ideas and education about strategy, budgeting, leadership and processes.
“He brought to the table all his experience and I brought my energy and effort. It was a good synergy of skills,” says Joachim (pic, above), adding that getting people on board who were more experienced and had more knowledge than he did allowed the startup to grow much quicker than it otherwise would have.
From December 2014 to November 2015, Creativize registered about RM400,000 in sales, and by end 2016 recorded RM1.2 million in sales. The team also grew from the three partners in 2015 to seven employees in 2015, 12 in 2016 and 18 employees currently in various portfolios.
It also obtained more funding from MyCreative Ventures in March this year – an additional RM1.3 million, which is being spent on scaling up and manpower acquisition.
Creativize now sells its stickers on 20 different eBay and Amazon platforms through multiple brands. Through its partnership with DHL – the logistics company is Creativize’s premium logistics partner – the startup was introduced to Facebook’s regional marketing office and is now an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), manufacturing stickers for it.
The startup’s own footprint on the global market gained it attention from financial services company Payoneer, which provides online payment services for Amazon. Joachim is now a brand ambassador for Payoneer.
“It’s an area I’m passionate about and I’m representing a big player. I get validation and prestige being associated with them because, frankly, nobody knows who I am. With Payoneer behind me, what I say has weight,” says Joachim, adding that become part of Payoneer was certainly a strategic move for Creativize’s growth.
Another aspect of Creativize’s growth was creating a new brand called Kismet Decals under the startup in the first quarter of this year.
This brand produces wall art in the form of removable wall stickers using designs by artists from all over the world, including Malaysia. The artists get 20% royalties from the sales of their designs. There are currently 12 artists signed on with Kismet Decals, and the brand is looking for more.
Beyond that, starting Kismet Decals made Creativize realise that not many companies can do what the startup can, says Joachim.
This has led to Creativize opening up a fresh sales channel in the business-to-business market; it is approaching manufacturers – car manufacturers and others – to propose OEM deals.
“Manufacturers need specific stickers and we can manufacture high-quality sticker to specifications as we truly understand stickers. And because we are digital, we are cheaper and more efficient than traditional sticker manufacturers,” explains Joachim.
Because of digitisation and high smartphone penetration as well as fundamental digital infrastructure already laid by big companies such as Google, Facebook and Instagram, penetrating new and international markets is easier, he adds.
“It is now so cheap and feasible for one small company to reach anybody in the world if they know how.”
New businesses opportunities
After three years of building the businesses, Joachim says he and the company have enough skills, tools and grassroots knowledge about starting a business in the digital economy, which is why he started Everpeaks Consulting Sdn Bhd, which provides integrated market and e-commerce solutions to digital businesses.
“I feel it’s our duty to share this knowledge, and those who can, will pay for it,” he says.
Everpeaks, incorporated in January this year, provides study and analysis of products and markets using comprehensive data from various platforms, and produces a holistic report. According to Joachim, a report is worth RM30,000-RM40,000 but EverPeaks provides it for RM10,000.
Eventually, EverPeaks aims to provide complete solutions for its customers – it will store, pick and pack, handle logistics, listings, returns, strategy, analysis, platform management, fees, social media, content and so on, and all the customer has to do is produce.
This is certainly the way the market is going – e-commerce giant Lazada is currently doing something similar in providing comprehensive tools and support for its merchants as well as education through its new #EveryoneCanSell Programme.
“We want to provide a pathway to market for those who can’t do it by themselves,” says Joachim.
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