His Business Burnt Down In A Day. What Mindsets Got Him Through? – Shafiq from Meka

What would you do if something you have spend years building burn down to the ground suddenly? Would you rage quit? Or fall in the abyss? Or would you put yourself together, take good care of the people around you? Tune in to find out how our guest managed that!

Our guest, Shafiq, is the Co-founder of Meka, a 3D printing and prototyping firm. And he will be sharing how he managed the situation when his factory burnt down. What are his thought process? Why does he continue to do what he do even after facing hardships? What is it in entrepreneurship that he is after? What is his important bedrock of support in his entrepreneurship journey?

In this episode, you will also hear what are some qualities he looks out for when finding a business partner. How being a minority in Singapore affected his entrepreneurship experience? And what advice would he give to someone who wants to be an entrepreneur?

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podcast Transcript

Shafiq: My entrepreneur shit show, really starts with fire.

Reggie: It is not every day that you have your factory burning down. But more importantly is how would you have handled the situation?  Would you rage quit? Or fall in the abyss? Or would you kind of put yourself together, take good care of your guys, and be that founder you always wanted to be. I am not too sure what I would’ve done, but I’m pretty sure what Shafiq did. Co-founder of Meka, a 3D printing and prototyping firm, has done an amazing job handling a situation that even seasoned entrepreneurs would remotely ever think of. By the way, fire aside, I think they’ve done some pretty interesting projects, like, printing 3D Guan Yin Mas, like, the Goddess on Mercy. So, join me as we explore how he moved on from this epic moment of his entrepreneur journey. Welcome to entrepreneur shit show. 

Shafiq: Like, that fire essentially changed everything, like, it was a really inconvenient time, in life. It was like, on the business end, we were look, I was looking at expanding the other business that I had, the 3D printing business, and I was also looking at expanding the sandblasting business. And at the same time, personally, it wasn’t the most convenient of times, my wife and I had just gotten our home. We had just settled in, we were looking at having kids, you know, fertility and all that mumbo jumbo starting and then, you know, your life changed overnight. So, I still remember it was, I woke up in the morning, so, when I go to sleep at night, I put my phone away and I don’t bother about it. And I woke up in the morning, so, it is about 6:15 in the morning, and you have like, 17 missed calls and how many hundred messages. And I’m like,

Reggie: What a great way to start the day.

Expand Full Transcript

Shafiq: Some shit must’ve really gone down and that’s what I really thought. Oh, man, some shit must’ve gone down and called up, one of the guys that worked with me and he was like, boss, got big fire here, Sungei Kadut. I was like, oh, so, how is our workshop? He is like, never really touch our workshop, but everything close. Then I am like, oh, fuck. so, I was like, okay, I’ll come down. And I went down and you see fire trucks. There are just so many fire trucks and they’ve made these little tentage for all these firefighters to have their lunch, and while they are fighting the fire, so they can go and fight the fire and then come and have fucking lunch and then go back and fight the fire. And you’re like, this must be freaking serious, like, these guys can have a break and rotating shift and all that sort of shit. And you couldn’t really see what was going on inside, you know, like, it was a road that was closed up, they couldn’t really see what was going on inside. So, you’re standing like, the outside main road with people trying to control traffic, with people trying to tell you to move away from there. You are just like, that’s essentially all we worked for, for the last two years burning up. Yeah, so, really essentially at that point in time, my first thoughts were like, oh damn, I need, you know, I need to take care of the workers. So, I essentially only had two workers at that point in time and I need to make sure like, they were taken care of. So, I had to put them up in a hotel and say, hey, you know, rest a while, as in, I didn’t want them to go back to their dormitory after what had happened, I felt like, that wasn’t a safe space for them. So, put them up in a hotel and told them, you know, do whatever you need to do, and then, we’ll start out discussions about what we need to do next later on. So, I think, they enjoyed it a lot, staying in the hotels. They were probably like, fuck man, in the heart of Little India and you know, we could get good food, then walk around the city and stuff like that. That was a, that was, I guess, an interesting experience, but for me that was really when things started. I think for me, I realized at that point in time, I had to make a decision, do I want to continue with this business or do I just want to say, you know, cut my losses and be done with it? So, in the end I sat down, took a few days, sat down and say, hey, you know, if I were to rebuild this business, how much effort and how much money would it take me versus me just going into something else or me even just saying, take a fucking break. So, I think at the back of my mind, I had already decided, but it took like, quite a lot to justify. And especially with the workers, one of them really didn’t want to go back, one of them wanted to go back and it was a good chance for him to go back and start a life of his own. And the one who really didn’t want to go back was like, oh, you know, please, I want to continue being here, blah, blah, blah. But at a certain point, I had to have a bit of heartlessness in me and say, look, I’m really not starting the business again. This is all I can give to you, and this is all I can do to take care of you and you need to go and find another job. It was a bit fucked up of me to do that, but in a way, I think I needed to do that for myself. Because I can’t build a whole fucking business just around the fact that this guy didn’t want to go, right. Yeah, so, that’s where that was.

Reggie: And at the back of your head, you said you have already decided, right. But then, why did it take so long for you then to make the decision?  

Shafiq: Okay, so, before the fire, right, there were already aspects of the business that I found really difficult to understand, there were, you know, it was difficult to collect money. So, we were more, 

So, let me just come back and explain to you what the business was about, in 2016, July 2016, my grandmother had passed away. So, when my grandmother passed away, in, all Muslims basically bury. I am supposed to be a Muslim and all Muslims bury. My grandmother was all about, you know, she got, so, she was buried after she died and after she is buried, they built this sort of tombstone. The Muslim way, if you talk about like, real Muslim beliefs and things like, that. There is a few schools, people will say, you can, you cannot, blah, blah, blah. Doesn’t matter to me. It’s like, whatever she wanted or whatever the family wanted to do. So, we built this little tombstone for her and stuff like that, and it was a very complicated affair, I felt, like, dealing with the contractor and all that sort of thing was way too complicated. Because prior to that, you have to remember, I was already involved in CAD design, product design, I was involved in 3D printing and all this sort of things. And I’m like, why the fuck must it be so complicated? And also, in 2016, more or less the 3D printing business had plateaued. So, it was like, hmm, you know, we’re at this comfortable space, I don’t know where to grow in. So, I thought, oh, maybe, diversifying into something else. So, I saw this and I was like, yeah, we have all the right resources, and then I started digging into the business. And as I dug into the business, I found that the person we were dealing with, was a contractor. The contractors only have two suppliers to work with. And both of the suppliers were just two old Chinese men and they were like, you know, we are too old for this and blah, blah, blah. And I know one of the guys was willing to retire, one of the guy was like, yeah, no, I’m going to do this until they drag the sandblaster off my hands and things like that. And I was like, oh, okay, cool. So, obviously you go to the guy that’s going to retire and you make friends with him. I didn’t go in saying, I want to make him an offer and buy him out and all this stuff. I was just friends with him. I was like, yeah, you know, if you could, you know, work with me and supply me and things that and then this old man is like, oh, why don’t you just buy this business over? And long story short, I told him, just give me a number, if the number makes sense to me, I will take over. And his number made sense at that point in time, but now in hindsight, you are like, hmm, could have bargain a little bit. But it’s not one of those, it’s not one of those things, you know, you do at that point in time. Yeah, so, it was good, took over the business paid him, had to raise a bit of money from like, friends and family and stuff like that, paid him and then took over the business. And I was very adamant that I didn’t want him to be involved in the business. I didn’t want it to go back to the owner-operator ways. I wanted it to go to a business-business way. I didn’t want him to be running it and all this type of thing. So, I guess he felt a bit unhappy, like, I basically retired him, but too bad. What are you going to do? You already got your money, right? So, yeah, so, worked with, at that point he only had one worker, worked with the worker to say, hey, you know, let’s change things, let’s really do things differently and stuff like that. So, we really, me and the worker, his name was Deepu. Me and Deepu really grew the business, in a way, so, Deepu did, really essentially all the operational stuff. I did more of the bigger stuff, like, the strategy and stuff like that, and the finance and all that sort of things. Deepu, essentially was one of the best things to happen at that point in time, Deepu was hardworking, Deepu was honest, you know, and he helped a lot. We were only able to grow the business because Deepu was that great. Then we grew the business, we had, we brought in one more guy who could take care of all the IT side of things. So, the designs and all that sort of things, which was really great also. Then, what happened. 

Reggie: So, is it because of all of these happenings, that was very hard to make the cut? 

Shafiq: So, this was one of the reasons why it was hard to make the cut and say, oh, this is a bad business, let’s not get into it. But on the other end, there were a lot of cons to the business. There were a lot of sides of the business that was just really fucked up. Number 1 was, because we were suppliers working with contractors, it was fucking difficult to collect money from the contractors. These guys would drive fancy cars and they would suddenly tell me, oh, Ali, I don’t have any money to pay you. They would say in malay, tak ada duit hari ini (I have no money today). And you are like, I can scold you, but where’s the joy in that. But after a while, I found the joy, you know. I was like, you owe me money. du, du, du, du, du, you know, all that sort of thing. After a while, you really found the joy in that. Because who the fuck cares, like, if you owe me, if you owe a certain amount of money and you have no interest in paying me back, then I’m going to just take liberties, going to be scolding you, scolding your mother, scolding your son, scolding everything that walks around you. Is really just all that jazz. Listen, bro, when people owe you money like that, and you know that they are so upset with having to pay you it’s very upsetting, yeah.

Reggie: But then, they are living the life.

Shafiq: Yeah, but then, they are living the life. Yeah, so, that was one thing. The other thing was, the business was very capital intensive for me, I felt like, every few months, I had to bring in a whole load of granite and marble, and it was costing a lot of money. And having to also grow the business, would have been really capital intensive. And I thought, it has to be a better way to make money in the world, you know, and again, like I said, I didn’t have any, I had a passion for things I did feel in a way that, you know, sandblasting and this whole marble granite sculpting thing was fun, and I had a lot of fun doing it. I had a passion for it, but not in a, I’m going to give up my whole life and dedicate myself to it. At the same time, I also felt because I had done this business after my grandmother passed away, I felt, oh, maybe its something like, in a way, something that my grandmother had left me. So, I felt that respect for it, but I didn’t feel like, I have to dedicate my whole life to this and things like that. So, even before the fire happened, there was certain points, I was like, can we just build this up and sell this off and let someone else run it, or can we like, you know, run it automatically so that I can go and do something else and things. So, there was always the little inklings at the back of my mind. I’ll tell you a funny story that my wife feels shows my 0 to 100 mentality. Our computer, the computer that was doing all of the designs actually broke down, and essentially the problem was, you just basically had to change a little battery on it because some shit with the motherboard or something like that. So, you had to change this little battery on it. Obviously, I didn’t know that, in my mind, I thought, oh, it’s a fucking old computer and it’s broken down and for me to redo all of these designs and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I told my wife, oh, you know what? Let’s just close down the business because the fucking computer broke down. That’s it. You have to pay attention to that fact, I told my wife, let’s close down this business because the computer broke down. My wife is like, are you insane? Like, you just went from 0 to 100, then all the way to like, 200 in no time, you know, your computer broke down and you’re like, oh, close the business. Yeah, but there always was these little inklings there. But I must tell you the business, when people paid, it made money. It made good money, and it was what allowed me to live the type of life that we live.

Reggie: So then, after the fire, the business like, disappeared, essentially. It just went, 

Shafiq: It disappeared, went away. So, after the fire, the fire happened in December of 2018, so, I think in just around that time, also the few days after that, after the workers went back to Bangladesh and to India, I decided that, you know, I’m not going to do it anymore. Then I decided also that, it was time to take a break. So, had a nice long 2019 of a holiday. 

Reggie: So, during the break in 2019, right, like, how was that for you? I think, most entrepreneurs, you know, breaks are not very great, usually. 

Shafiq: It was great for me because, at that, up to that point, I hadn’t really taken a break. And it was like, the past 2 years before that, was like, work all the way. So, in between those two years in 2017, I got married. I got married on a Wednesday evening, which was an odd time to get married, but it was Wednesday evening because it was my birthday. So, like, wednesday evening, you know, people are like, “Eh, why you get married on Wednesday evening. Why don’t do it on a Saturday?” But anyway, it was an odd time for some people.

Reggie: Friday morning you wake up, you want to get married? Okay, let’s go. 

Shafiq: So, Wednesday, we got married on Wednesday. We had a whole Wednesday full of festivities, in a way. So, we got me on Wednesday. Thursday, I had a bit of a break, but I was still working, like, I was on the phone, then I was still working and then Friday we were back to work. So, we were like, yeah, there’s no break. We didn’t really have a honeymoon or sorts. We had a honeymoon, but it was just like two weeks where we went away, you know, and stuff like that. So, we didn’t really, as husband and wife, we didn’t really have a break and I have family that lives overseas, like, my mum lives overseas and all that sort of things. And I’m like, yeah, it didn’t really have a break, didn’t really spend time with family, didn’t really do much. So, I took 2019 and that was essentially at the start of 2019, I said, okay, this year, no matter what happens, the main thing that has to happen is I have to come out at the end of the year, like, recharged. Having said that, I’m sick of having a break already. So, that’s what I did in 2019. So, 2019 was quite fun in the sense that we got to travel, I got to explore different opportunities, I went to Bangladesh to visit Deepu and all that sort of thing. So, it was fun. And I went to Bangladesh, explored opportunities in Bangladesh, went to spend some time in LA, where else did we go? Can’t even fucking remember now, but yeah, 2019 was fun in that way. But essentially, what happened was that because I had built the 3D printing business before, and it was an online business that was more or less running itself. So, all I had to do was get a warehouse to ship out all the orders that were on that were ordered online and that’s it, it was gold. So, I didn’t really need to be involved much in the business, I did get involved in the business when there were difficult clients and stuff like that, but, other than that 2019 was, so I came out of 2019 saying, oh, wow. It’s such a great year to be alive and a great time to start off 2020 and then fucking COVID happened. But listen, it was a great time to get out.

Reggie: Okay, and then from 2019 to 2020, essentially you took a break, right, and in the process of the break, sounds like you’ve done a lot of stuff, right. So, did you kind of like, find your center again, as to why you do what you do, you know? And, was that a thing for you?

Shafiq: Not really, I think, I always knew, I always knew why I do what I do. And the main point being I enjoyed the freedom of it, I enjoy being able to do these things, being able to say, oh, I’m going to take a break or being able to. One of the things I really enjoy, is actually being able to fire your customer.

Reggie: Tell me more. 

Shafiq: I enjoyed that part of it, you know, if I worked for someone, right, I wouldn’t be able to tell the customer to fuck off, but because I work for myself, I mean, I don’t tell customers to fuck off, that is just rude. But because I do it for myself, I can essentially tell customers, oh, sorry, you’re probably not the right fit of a customer for us. Thank you very much for your inquiries. So, that’s really one of the biggest freedoms I enjoy. And I think for most entrepreneurs, I think freedom is really a big part of it, I think freedom is really important in the times we live in now, in the country we live in now where you don’t have much, you know, you have more or less everything put in front of you already. They say, oh, you finished your blah, blah, blah, your schooling, and then you go and buy a house and you get married and you have kids and that’s the rest of your life and things like that. So, essentially entrepreneurship was my way to stick it to the man, to say, hey, no, I’m not going to do it this way that you have told me to do. I’m going to do it my own way. And even though I’m going to suffer in this environment that you have built, but, yeah, it was the freedom to say that. And it was, I think it was a large part because of one particular episode in my life, where in 98 during the Asian financial crisis, my mom lost her job. She was working with someone in a gas company, let’s refrain from naming names. So, she was working in a oil and gas firm and then she lost a job after like, 16, 17 years and she really enjoyed the job. And then, at that point in time, I was like, what, 10, 11 years old. Was I? Yeah, 10, 11 years old. And then I realized, and then my mom also at that point was, had just given birth to my little sister and it was like, huh, she just gave birth, and then she lost her job. And then, now we are, hmm. And also, I guess, in context is, my mum brought us up, my mum got divorced when she was, when we were younger, and then remarried, and then my little sister, and again, she got divorced. It wasn’t, it didn’t work out. So, in context, we always only had my mum as a sole breadwinner, and we had good supportive family around us, by the end of the day, it’s just your immediate family that you have to look to. So, when I saw this in 1998, I was like, this would be insane. You worked for someone for 16 years and you’ve built everything they’ve asked you to build, for them, and then after that, they just say, okay, thank you for your service. Bye bye.  That’s just insane. So, I said, it’s just not going to happen to me, but I think, I never really thought of entrepreneurship or being in business as something that I could do straight away. If I had known earlier, I would have started my business when I was fucking 12 years old, which I did actually, I was trading in comics when I was younger, but like, I would have started something larger when I was younger, like, if I knew that it was a very viable opportunity at that point.

Reggie: Hmm. And I think there is two themes here that revolved, right, quite a bit. Number 1, is about family, right. Sounds like your family is quite a bedrock in your life. Because a lot of entrepreneurs that we’ve interviewed, there’s a lot of dissonance between, like, family wants them to do a certain thing and then they rebel and do another thing, right. And then, become an entrepreneur. So, how was that for you? 

Shafiq: Yeah, you know, when I went to university, I studied biological sciences and there was always a running joke, when I took over the sandblasting business, I used to tell Deepu, and I used to, and people around me, they used to say, your mother send you the university, right, she never thought this was what you would be doing. I was like, yeah, mother sent me to university and she thought I would be a doctor and I’m basically, like, a construction worker now. Nothing wrong with a construction worker but essentially. There were points when family would be like, you know, why don’t you just, like, find a good job, nice high-paying job. You could probably do quite well for yourself and things like that. But I think they gave up after, like, two weeks of telling me that they were like, this guy is too much of a difficult, stubborn person. He’s just, he’s an asshole basically, so, he’s never going to listen to us. Then, they were always supportive, then they started supporting more, they started coming up with things, like, trying to give me ideas about different things that I could do, trying to give me ideas about, or even trying to just say, like, hey, how can we help you and all this type of things. So, family was always supportive in that sense.

Reggie: And was it different? In the sense that, do you feel the difference when your family was questioning what you’re trying to do? And then they turn around and say like, hey, you know, how can we help? And how does that feel? 

Shafiq: How did that feel? Let me think about this, I’ve never actually put those feelings into context. No, as in, it wasn’t really very different for me. I feel like, my family wasn’t, they weren’t like, not so completely not supportive, they were just like, oh, you know, there is something else that you could be doing. And they weren’t like completely unsupportive, so, I didn’t really feel a difference. But now, and especially after everything that happened, and they seem like, essentially, this is how I feel that they’ve seen how far I’ve come, they’ll be like, oh, actually this guy can probably make something of himself doing this business or doing whatever business he does. So, I think for, the differences, probably for them, they see the opportunity, they see how it’s different from having a job. They see the unlimited potential, right?  So, I guess, that’s the part for them, but like you said, that family is very important bedrock, and I guess, for most entrepreneurs also, even if you’re saying that someone whose family has, is not supportive of them, after a while they come around is number 1, or when they start building their own family, then that becomes a supportive family for them. Building their own family, not in the traditional sense of husband, wife and kids and stuff, right. They build friendships, they build their business community and stuff like that. So, family is a very important bedrock in entrepreneurship if you asked me. It’s who you turn to, even if they can’t give you the right answers. It’s who you look towards to say, oh, this is why do I do what I do, or this is why I need to wake up fucking early tomorrow morning to go and meet this asshole of a client and all that sort of thing.

Reggie:  So, who do you turn to specifically? 

Shafiq: Right now, I turn to my wife. I think, my wife’s been quite supportive in that sense. She’s an entrepreneur in her own way. So, she also, she understands, she understands the potential of what we do as entrepreneurs and she also understands that if I went out and find a job, we will probably have a lot of money, but we won’t have a lot of potential. So, yeah, so, she understands that. So, I turned to my wife quite a lot. Essentially, I turn to family. So, turn to my mom, turn to my aunties, turn to, yeah, my brothers, turn to my cousins. Yeah, we just turn to each other. You turn to different people when you need different things isn’t it? Yeah, friends, you know, when you get to this age, I mean, I’m not that old, I’m now 33 years old and you only have a small group of friends, you only have really good friends that have essentially been friends since you were young. So, your army days, or even maybe, just slightly before your army days and things like that. So, these are people that know you, these are people that support you, these are people that see you through things. So, these are sort of like family also. Actually, they are they are family. 

Reggie: Real cool. And this central theme about freedom, right. You talk a lot about it, right. So, I’m kind of curious, what does freedom mean to you? 

Shafiq: Essentially when I got into this, when I started with business and with the businesses and stuff like that, it was about financial freedom. But then I realized the more important thing here was the freedom in terms of time. You only really have, you can earn unlimited amounts of money, and that really is the truth. You need to, you know, strike on the right idea, be able to sell the correct thing to the correct person and that’s it. You can make all your money and 

Reggie: make sure your factory don’t burn.

Shafiq:  Yeah, make sure your factory don’t burn down and stuff like that, or just buy a lot of insurance. But you see, the thing is, right, freedom in terms of time, that you cannot buy. How much money you have, you can’t buy time with people, you can’t buy time with what you want to do, you can’t buy your time with experiences and things like that. So, freedom evolved into being freedom with my time for me.

Reggie: And so, in some ways, your old business gave you that freedom, right?  

Shafiq: So, the old business, the 3D printing business gave me the freedom, the new business, the sandblasting business, were new at that point in time, the new business was, if we have built it, I mean, if it had not burned down, then it would essentially have been running itself anyway, given me additional freedom. So, it was like, you know, you’re 2 years, 3 years’ worth of work, you build something and then you move on to the next one. That was how I saw the patterns in my life. So, essentially, freedom of time. But when it came to 2019, and I really needed the freedom of time and the financial freedom, then I fell back into the old business, the 3D printing business.

Reggie: And that took a, you kind of jazzed it up, right, from there. 

Shafiq: Yeah, so, in 2019, after the little break, I got a bit tired of saying, yeah, I got bored of having a break and I also got a bit tired of the 3D printing business in a sense that it was really just a retail. 

Reggie: Can you kind of give me a little bit better understanding of like, what do you mean by tired of the break? Because, you know, a lot of people are like, so excited about traveling the world and, you know, doing all that jazz, right. Why do you feel tired of taking a break? 

Shafiq: It was two things for me, number 1 was, I felt that I had fallen into a comfort zone and it was very comfortable, let’s just say. As in, I essentially just didn’t feel ambitious anymore. Yeah, so, I thought it was really important for me to get out of that.  It had done what it needed to do; the break had reached its peak. The break at that point was like, you know, my work here is done and now you need to move on to something else. So, I really felt that, in a way, kind of that loss of ambition, that, oh, you know, actually, this life, not bad, I can sit down here and the business runs itself and I have money and I have time and I have, and then I think to myself, Fuck, this is not what you want to be doing. This is, you know, essentially, this is not the house you want to live in your whole life. This is not the car you want to drive your whole life. This is, you are more, right? Like, if you are okay with this being your house, and if you’re okay, I think, I say this as just a way to quantify things, I don’t say this as, you know, all I think about is money. I say this really as a, I mean, how else am I going to fucking say it, right? So, if this is the house you to live in your whole life, then well and good. Live this fucking life, if you want to, you know, buy nicer houses, build nicer houses and all that sort of things, then obviously you have to work harder. Like, you have to have ambition, you have to blah, blah, blah. You have to get out of that.

Reggie: Okay, and then, so, from there you came out and then?

Shafiq:  And then, came out, I started back with the 3D printing business. So, in 2020, when this whole thing with COVID hit, we were still essentially a retail and distribution business, but also at that point in time, I met, I known this guy since before, but I approached him at that point and said, hey, look, we both do relatively similar things and you do something that I aspire to do and if we come together, I can support you in doing, you doing more of what you currently do, which is like, the product development, the design engineering, and the mechanical design side of things. I can support you to do it, you know, in terms of the business aspects, the financial aspects and everything. And then we could grow something together, we could make magic happen together. And he essentially agreed. So, we decided to combine our businesses in July of 2020. We operate now as Meka 3D printing. So, he essentially closed his business and we operate as Meka 3D Printing Pte Ltd. And now we do a lot more like, design engineering, we help people build prototypes, we help with manufacturing when people need to, we do a lot of CAD design, mechanical design and stuff like that. And that’s fucking interesting to me, instead of just being, selling 3d printers and all that. But the retail business and the distribution business then support all these other projects and all these other businesses that we do. So, that is interesting. 

Reggie: Yeah, but then, how do you, because it is one thing to start something from scratch and it’s another thing to already have a thriving business and another person also have a thriving business and merge, right. So, how do you end up deciding to merge with this guy? Not about the business per se, but the person specific.

Shafiq: I knew, so, this guy is Hisham, I’ve known Hisham for quite a while. I’ve always known him to be one of those, like, really hardworking, yeah, ambitious and he is basically a kid. He is like, 20, it’s fucked up to say, I don’t really know exactly. I think it’s 27 or 28 years, something like that. Probably even younger, you know? So, I knew Hisham when he was in poly. And I’ve known him since then and we’ve worked together. So, it wasn’t really difficult for me to judge Hisham as character, as a person he was good, I didn’t think there’ll be any problem working with him. So, I think it’s fine, let’s, you know, let’s try this. And as conversations went on, I think we more or less aligned, yeah, you can’t really be perfectly aligned with anyone in the world, even the person you marry, I think even kids you give birth to, you never be perfectly aligned to them, you know. But as long as there’s some sort of, you know, parallelism, it works. We are going in the same direction.

Reggie: So, it’s important from an ideological viewpoint or from a moral standpoint, or is technical skills important also?

Shafiq: For me, I think, morally, ideologically, you need to be similar, but in terms of skillsets, there needs to be sort of, so Hisham fills in a lot of gaps in skills that I don’t have, so, if you ask me to do a CAD design, right, I won’t be able to do it. I can go and find who can do it for you and pay lots of money for them to do it, but Hisham could just probably, could just do it on his own. So, there was skills gaps that Hisham actually filled and stuff like that. So, essentially if you’re, if you’re talking about larger picture of, you know, how you look for partners in this whole entrepreneurship thing that you do, I honestly have no advice. I feel like, it needs to be someone that you can spend the rest of your life with essentially. It’s essentially, like, dating and it’s really like, finding your wife and it’s even more important than finding your wife and in some ways, you know. Because your wife, right, is someone you, how do I put this without my wife getting fucked up when she sees this? Yeah, okay, it’s as important, maybe you can cut out, but it’s really as important as finding your wife, in a business partnership. 

Reggie: I think, we’ll keep that.

Okay, so, I think everybody have their own way of choosing that partner, but I think you did give very valid advice about finding someone that you can as good as marry, right? Because the kind of, honestly, the kind of complexity in business and the kind of longevity on the journeys is very. 

Shafiq: So, I never really had partners in business and I never really thought that it was very important. Because, I think like, you could always just pay someone to fill up gaps for you and things, which is true to a certain extent. To a larger extent, you need partners to be with you and advise you and just really be there on the journey next to you. There’s this, people always share this common thing about if you want to go fast, you go alone, and if you want to go far, you go together. You really need to decide where you are on that journey. Do you now want to go fast? Or do you now need to say, oh, let’s go together and let’s go build deep, build a deeper business and go further. So, it’s essentially, each person has to decide on his own, whether he really needs partners or not. And that’s one thing. And the second thing is how you decide on your partners is up to you. And essentially, most of the time, if you ask me, it’s about taking a chance with people, getting the basics right, and then taking the chance with people. And then you have faith. You be optimistic and you have faith, and you say, hey, you know, this will work out and let’s just try to make this work as much as possible. And I think, that’s really important with entrepreneurship as a whole, you need to have optimism, you need to have faith, then you also need to have a certain amount of clarity. Optimism cause, optimism will keep you going, but clarity will get you going, in a way, clarity gives you, you know, when you don’t have the motivation to wake up in the morning, when you don’t have the discipline to wake up in the morning, which let’s be honest, most of us lack, clarity will tell you get up and fucking do this and having the clarity is important. Having clarity. 

Reggie: Thanks. Thanks for sharing. Do you feel like, okay, so this question may be a bit sensitive, but do you feel like being a minority in Singapore as an entrepreneur, does it make a difference? What is your experience like? 

Shafiq: I think in the general sense of things, it does make a difference. It’s not helpful in a way, in a larger sense of things, it’s never been a problem for me because I don’t fucking care, honestly, at the end of the day, I have had situations where I have been looked down upon, I have been. Even with the 3d printing business, we have had situations where someone will walk in to the business and then I will be like, hi, how are you? And they’re like, where’s your boss? And you’re like, go inside like, I just pretend I don’t know, I mean, at the end of the day own all of it, so, as long as I know, I only, I don’t really care what they thought. Even in the sandblasting business, there were days when I would be there doing the work and people would be there doing the work and the other guy will be there doing the work and someone walk in and approach the only Chinese guy in the place. And he wasn’t even fucking working there, he was just sitting there having smokes with them, you know?

Reggie: Neighbour. 

Shafiq: Yeah, it’s just the neighbour, the metal worker next door or something that comes in and sits down with, the cool kids. I mean, we were there, we were really the youngest guys there. I didn’t give a shit about them smoking, I don’t smoke, I didn’t give a shit about them smoking in the place, I mean, as long as they cleaned up after themselves. So, they would always come by, like, the neighbors will always come by and sit down and all this stuff, things, and then. So, I can really remember it quite clearly, you would have three of us doing the work there and then one guy sitting down smoking, and he’s just having a chill time and he doesn’t even work there and someone will walk in going 老板 (boss) and you are like, and this guy is confused, like, why are you speaking to me, then this guy is like, you should speak to them. And this fool will come and go, like, where’s your boss? And I am like, boss not here. It was a really funny, your boss not here, I gave her a name cut saying, oh, you call this number, and then this guy stands outside and calls the number and then it rings inside, which is my number. And I’m like, yeah, hello. And he is outside like, oh, you are the boss. He comes back inside.  People do this type of shit, like, people just really look down and people really just have this stereotype that, you know, the Indian guy or the dirty looking dude who is doing the work cannot be the boss. But it’s a very important part about being an entrepreneur, you have to be able to do the fucking work, you have to be able to get in there in the trenches and fight. Yeah. And, okay. So, coming back to your whole thing about minority, I think in general it is a problem, it is more difficult to get opportunities or it’s more difficult, people have these stereotypes that they think, you know, the Indian guy, probably some conman, the Malay guy, lazy, the Chinese guy is the one with a lot of money and very hard working and, you know, perfect for everything. There are all these stereotypes that people do buy into, but essentially that’s in a general sense, but for me, I didn’t give a shit, like, if you were a customer that comes in and talk that way, then you are not our customer, then you cannot possibly be our customer. You cannot, I could fire you, going back to firing your customer. I could fire you. I could say, I don’t want to be with you, take your stereotypes and take your xenophobia and fuck off from here.

Reggie: At the end, you know, I just want to know like why despite all of these, you know, why do you still do what you do?

Shafiq: Why do I still do what I do? I think, for me the answer is it still goes back to the freedom that I have. It goes back to the fact that; I can do all of these things. I am not bogged down by anything like, I’m not bogged down by the fact that I have a job, I’m not bogged down by like, you know, having to answer to my boss and all these other things. So, I feel like, it’s freedom at the end for me, it’s freedom to pursue the things I want to do, the interests that I have, the projects that I want. It’s just being able to explore these different things, that’s just really important to me also, curiosity and all that jazz. So, that was important. I think freedom is why I continue doing what I do. I have reflected on life, saying, hey, you know, what if this, what if that, and most of the time, I think, the only advantage any other path might have over what I do now, and what I have chosen now, would really just be financial. But then again, I’m not in a very bad financial position, so, yeah, it’s not, there’s no need to, there’s only enough money in the world, there is only an X amount of money that you can have. So, it wasn’t important for me to say, hey, you know, I should have done that, I would have a million dollars more like, it wasn’t important for me. But it’s freedom, so, it was a freedom in the general sense, the financial, time, the just being able to do these things. I think that that’s my answer. 

Reggie: Thank you. Thank you. Good stuff.  Cool stuff.

Shafiq: Yeah.

Reggie: So, yeah, I think for Shafiq, it’s interesting because I don’t know if I should say interesting, but not every day someone’s factory gets burned down, right. So, and it’s also pretty unique the way he handled it, like he didn’t feel that emotional. I’m sure, deeper, if we went deeper, you know, more stuff could have, you know, probably would have come up. But I think, the optimism didn’t feel very fake, right. It feels like, it perfumed his belief, the way he sees, you know, the way he sees business, right? Taking things in his own stride and just kind of, some things you just cannot control. That’s a reality of business. There are actually many things that you cannot control. So, I think in this episode, I felt that, yeah, just do what you can, just keep working, keep doing what you need to do, and then, you know, from there things happen and if it happens, good for you, if it does not happen, go back to the drawing block and just kind of try again fundamentally, it is still a lot about how often you try and just being smarter every time you do something. All right, so, yeah, I think that’s that. A lot of good juice laugh from him. Also, about the minority ethnicity portion, I think it’s a very real thing. We need to have more conversation about it. We’re not trying to, like, stir racial disputes, but we’re just trying to recognize that, you know, gender plays a part and race plays a part in the business, depending on where you’re at, who you’re working with, culture, they all interact in terms of day-to-day interaction. Of course, it perfumes how entrepreneurship is done, right. So, yeah, so that’s all for today and because you stay all the way here, so we’re going to have a, Shafiq has a little bit more to share with you. Okay, so, I think we’ve got one last question that we’ll post-produce. So, if someone wants to start a entrepreneurship, right, just join entrepreneurship as a journey, you know, what is one advice you would give to them?

Don’t do it? 

Shafiq: No, no. I would really will encourage people to do it, to try and do all these things. I don’t think there’s one advice that you can give anyone. But when you are starting only, and I think I come from a bit more experience in the sense that number 1, I’ve done this for quite a while, number 2, I have seen friends who have come on board and started this and then fucked off out of it because it’s not for them and all that sort of thing. I think the most important thing that I see is, they weren’t optimistic, they didn’t have undying faith in themselves, they didn’t really see themselves as being able to achieve all that they wanted to achieve. And the second thing was the clarity of it. So, we come back to optimism and clarity. They weren’t as optimistic as they needed to be as entrepreneurs, and they weren’t as clear with what they wanted to achieve. So, for someone who is starting on entrepreneurship and someone who is going to get into this and jump into this, I think the two things that you really need to sort out is your optimism and your clarity. You need to know what you want to do, and you really need to have undying faith that you can actually achieve it. Yeah, I think that’s my advice. Yeah. 

Reggie: Thank you. Thanks a lot. Cool. Awesome, cool stuff. All right. Good. That’s good. Good. 

Shafiq: Anything else? 

Reggie: That’s good. Good stuff

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