CEO Series

After 2 Startup Failures, This M’sian Found A 3rd Chance In The Form Of... Pencils?

  • Fiqa Liyana Chong is no stranger to entrepreneurship, having gone through two startups with no success, she is working on her next endeavor—Funky Pencils.
  • Funky Pencils is a business that that specialises in handcrafted personalised stationeries mainly for gifting.

There’s no shame in failing if you can pick yourself back up and come back stronger.

Having gone through a couple of failed startups, this Malaysian knows the truth of that statement.

Fiqa Liyana Chong is not only an entrepreneur but is also well known among the entertainment industry for being a model and TVC talent since she started in 2005 when she was 15 years old.

However, Fiqa delved into the world of entrepreneurship with her first startup called FIQS, a footwear brand that had a presence in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, and Malaysia. The FIQS footwear brand was established to ease women’s pain of wearing high heels, but she couldn’t keep up with the ever-changing trends of the fashion industry.

“Being in the fashion line, trends keep changing and new design constantly needs to keep coming in. Therefore, I couldn’t sustain it,” she said.

Left: FIQS footwear, Right: Funky Box

After FIQS she started Funky Box, a subscription box service, which was a relatively new concept in Malaysia. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out well for her too as the product needed a lot of work put into it. She explained, “There is a lot needed in educating the consumers about it and we didn’t have enough team members to proceed.”

“Also, we find that most Malaysians are not willing to pay for something 6 or 12 months ahead of time. They would always opt for monthly. So that was quite tough,” added Fiqa.

Finding The Right One

After the two failures, Fiqa thinks she finally has the winning ticket with her third and current startup—Funky Pencils. Taking lessons learnt from her previous startups, she applied it in her current business to prevent the same thing from happening again.

“I learned from my previous startups that I built it in the traditional way. Which is, by building what I think the consumers wanted,” she explained.

Going through that method results in putting a lot of effort into marketing, setting up distribution channels and persuading. She added, “In the business world, this is called the push strategy.”

Thus, now she has built something that has demand, something that consumers will actually want. She managed to gauge interest levels of consumers in her product by running enough minimum viable products (MVP) and then running surveys and collecting feedback for product development to satisfy her early adopters.

Image Credit: Funky Pencils

She puts a lot of importance in having an MVP—for FIQS, the challenge she faced was not doing a proper MVP. In the end, this resulted in her giving out massive discounts to make sure the stocks were moving fast.

“Hence, my advice for those who wish to start a startup to do a proper MVP, because your brilliant idea might not be accepted by others,” said Fiqa.

Funky Pencils is a business that specialises in handcrafted personalised stationery mainly for gifting. Fiqa and the team currently target people of all ages who love stationery and appreciate it.

The business is founded by Nini and Fiqa, with Nini contributing to the production side of the business and Fiqa focusing on the marketing, production and operations.

Both of them injected around RM15,000 for the capital and have made about about 170% in year-on-year revenue so far.

A Journey Of Ups & Downs

Being a serial entrepreneur, Fiqa focuses a lot of effort in time management especially when she has to balance time for work and her daughter.

“Before I sent my daughter to pre-school, I was taking care of her full-time. What made it harder was that she is super clingy. The only time I had to do my work was when she’s asleep at night,” she said.

“I believe if there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Other than that, she also has experienced a lot of down time in her business. Even when she was at her lowest time, she tried her best to not let the negative emotions take over as she mentioned that the business still had to run and decisions still needed to be made.

“I create solutions and not dwell on the tough times. Basically, stay focused. Be positive and optimistic as it’s contagious.”

Looking back from when she started, she’s very proud that the business is improving day by day and the team is getting better at what they do.

“That’s good enough for me at the moment and I’m content with that.”

Although the startup is called Funky Pencils, she mentioned that they don’t just focus on personalised pencils anymore as they are adding more stationery into their product line.

After going through a couple of startups without success, Fiqa is looking well on the way to striking gold with Funky Pencils.

As Mark Cuban—the entrepreneur and investor known for being one of the main “shark” investors in Shark Tank—said, “I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how many times you failed. You only have to be right once.”

  • If you would like to know more about Fiqa and Funky Pencils, you can check out their social media here

Feature Image Credit: Funky Pencils

 

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