Why These 23-Year-Old M’sians Opened A Co-Working Space Instead Of “Getting A Real Job”
Dale John Wong
The Playground is a co-working space located in Kota Damansara that caters to students, freelancers, and entrepreneurs.
It was founded in February 2018 by Quintus Woon and Kenneth Lee Ron—two fresh grads from Taylor’s University—with the aim of providing an affordable space to work with no commitments.
Usage of their space is RM12.50 if you stay less than 90 minutes, and RM17 for anything beyond 90 minutes.
“How do we deal with people telling us that we’re too young to start a business?”“We don’t. It’s been a social stereotype for too long. All we can do is just focus on improving ourselves.”
These are the words of Quintus Woon, the 23-year-old co-founder of The Playground—a co-working space located in busy Kota Damansara.
Having just graduated with International Business and Marketing (IBM) degrees from Taylor’s University, Quintus and his co-founder Kenneth Lee Ron (also 23) started up their co-working journey after three months of non-stop building and planning from the ground up starting in November last year.
“We knew we had to enter the market quickly while the co-working concept was still relatively fresh in Malaysia,” Quintus said.
“It was a rather tough process as we had no prior experience starting up a brick-and-mortar business.”
Co-Working Within The Budget
After launching just last month, The Playground now caters mainly to students, freelancers, and entrepreneurs who want an affordable co-working option and who aren’t yet ready to commit to renting a space on a monthly basis.
They charge for the use of their space based on a 90-minute threshold. Pay RM12.50 per daily entry if you stay for less than 90 minutes, and pay a maximum of RM17 for any amount of time spent after that.
“We also didn’t adopt the pay-per-minute model because personally, it seemed stressful for people to think about the rate increasing with every passing minute,” said Kenneth.
“Though there are now plenty of co-working spaces around, we found that there was only a handful that catered to this specific group of people who can’t afford more expensive options.”
“We know because our poor asses couldn’t afford to pay high prices for a place to work in the first place!”
True to its name, The Playground looks and feels like a place where work can feel like fun. The obligatory free flow of tea and coffee is complemented further by the availability of free snacks, fruit water, soft drinks, and ice cream. There’s a chill-out/gaming area that houses a PlayStation 4, and the 100 mbps free Wi-Fi ensures productivity is never halted.
Room For More Players
Beginning with a capital of RM80,000, Quintus and Kenneth entered the scene fully aware of the many other co-working spaces crowding the scene.
However, they also knew that they weren’t in direct competition with a majority of them and described spaces such as Colony and WORQ as being the “major players” while The Playground was likened to a “mom-and-pop store”.
“Of course, there are other co-working spaces such as Herserlef that are similar to ours, but we don’t see the relationships between all of us as competitive,” Quintus said. “Rather, we feel that we all have more of a collaborative relationship.”
Explaining this thought, Quintus said that he expects that having more players in the scene would help Malaysians open up to the co-working concept much faster.
“If we were the only space in Malaysia, it would take a long time to expose locals to the concept of co-working,” he said. “In fact, we believe that there should be at least one co-working space in every town.”
“Consumers need to understand that there are alternatives to working in places life cafés. Not that there’s anything wrong with cafés—they’re great places to socialise and enjoy a good cup of coffee. But we feel that they’re not ideal for getting work done.”
Quintus moved on to the topic of staying relevant.
“Honestly, we can’t see a distinct unique selling point that isn’t easily replicated by others,” he said. “But having worked remotely as freelancers and content creators for some time now, we’re using what we’ve learned to help us tweak every minute detail in order to ensure our customers get the best experience working here.”
From allowing patrons to roam around barefoot, to providing them with ergonomic chairs with lumbar support and offering a choice of more than 10 different types of snacks, Quintus attributed the decision to include these simple pleasures to the desire to change what they didn’t like from their own past experiences.
“These are all solutions to problems we didn’t like when we worked at other spaces,” he said. “So we included all this to make sure our own customers won’t face the same problems we did.”
Ignoring The Playground Bullies
Circling back to the topic of beginning a business as fresh grads, Quintus brought up the pains that he and his partner have so far faced along the way.
“Starting up right after graduation without any full-time experience has been a challenge for both of us, mainly due to societal norms,” he said.
“So far we’ve been told that we’re too young to start a business, or that we should get a real job first.”
“We understand that most of them mean well, but it can become a real hindrance when people automatically underestimate us due to our young age.”
“There isn’t much we can do except constantly improve ourselves. Undeniably, there’s plenty we need to learn, and we’re striving to improve both our business and ourselves.”
Coming from a private institution like Taylor’s University, Quintus also laments the “spoilt rich kid” label that he and Kenneth have unwillingly received.
“Well that’s just not true,” he said in amusement. “All of the capital that we’ve put into the business was made by us through all sorts of odd jobs and gigs.”
“I guess there’s just no point convincing everyone.”
Then there’s also peer pressure to contend with.
“Most of our friends have started working nine-to-five jobs, earning stable monthly incomes,” Quintus said. “But for us, starting up a business has so many unknown factors that sometimes we feel doubtful and uncertain, especially when major setbacks happen.”
Determined To Win
Despite all the negativity and doubt, Quintus and Kenneth are determined to make it all work out.
“The current problem we face now is not having enough exposure and publicity, and we also lack the funds to carry out necessary promotional activities,” they said.
“But this has motivated us to try out unconventional methods to get ourselves noticed.”
They both detailed the efforts that they’re currently making to build their business, from approaching random strangers to tell them about The Playground, to forming collaborations with certain F&B businesses for the future.
“Very soon, they’ll feature some of their products at The Playground, and our patrons will get to try them for free,” they said.
“After all, the concept of co-working is all about community, isn’t it?”
As for the future, Quintus shared some of the concrete plans that the both of them have to grow their business.
“For the immediate future, we aim to stabilise our foundation and hit a target of 30 daily customers,” he said. “Within five years, we aim to expand to two other towns in the Klang Valley.”
And even though they have no plans to become one of the ‘major players’ in the local co-working scene, Quintus and Kenneth ultimately hope to set up at least one co-working space in every Klang Valley town.
“We think what the market needs now are co-working spaces with minimum commitment—places that won’t break the bank for students and freelancers.”
“That being said, we need to put in a lot of effort to achieve our targets. And every day we strive to progress towards those targets.”
Address: 3-3, Jalan PJU 5/10, Dataran Sunway, Kota Damansara, Petaling Jaya