Victor Tong hasn’t always held a career in the realms of entrepreneurship. The 31-year-old founder of Heaven Spot, Singapore’s first indoor graffiti studio, initially started his professional journey as a lawyer.
He trained at a local law firm where he assisted their real estate division with transactions related to the sale and purchase of land.
After Victor was called to the Singapore bar, he decided to practice in the area of private mergers and acquisitions (M&As) at an international law firm based in Singapore — but little did he know that this one decision would significantly change his career trajectory by sparking his interest in entrepreneurship.
When I practiced in the area of private M&As, I became fascinated with companies and how people built them. And that inspired me to make the switch and explore the world of business.– Victor Tong, founder of Heaven Spot
Armed with a “modest war chest”, Victor launched Heaven Spot back in April 2021 and has never looked back since.
Bringing the art form of graffiti to Singapore
When asked about the inspiration behind Heaven Spot, Victor said that he observed a growing interest in street art, yet, there were no accessible platforms for Singaporeans to experience and explore graffiti as an art form in the city-state.
“The idea for Heaven Spot was sparked from noticing a potential gap in the market and a desire to bring the dynamic art form of graffiti to a wider audience in Singapore,” he explained. Consequently, he envisioned creating a space where individuals could “engage with graffiti art in a fun and accessible way”.
According to Victor, the term “Heaven Spot” is deeply rooted in graffiti culture. Heaven Spot refers to hard-to-reach, and often risky areas that graffiti artists choose to create their work.
“We wanted our name to reflect the essence of the graffiti art form and its adventurous spirit,” said Victor. Through Heaven Spot, the former lawyer aims to provide a supportive environment for Singaporeans to “explore their creativity, learn the art form [of graffiti], and express themselves through it”.
Heaven Spot is more than just an art studio. It’s a vibrant space where people of all ages and backgrounds can come together to express themselves through graffiti art.– Victor Tong, founder of Heaven Spot
Heaven Spot broke even in eight months
Although the initial response was slow, interest in the indoor graffiti studio gradually started to pick up as the brand gained exposure through various media platforms and social media.
Apart from this, Victor also attributes Heaven Spot’s initial growth to the fortuitous timing of its launch. “We launched during the peak of COVID-19 — everyone was stuck in Singapore and were looking for something new and interesting to do,” said Victor.
Heaven Spot managed to break even within seven to eight months of its inception. Despite its early success, establishing the indoor graffiti studio was not without its challenges.
Being fresh out of law practice, Victor admitted that he knew “next to nothing about running a business other than the aspects of a company and contract law”.
There were many gaps in what I knew I had to learn. This included basic accounting, marketing, advertising, managing people, sales, and customer service, amongst others.
I’ve learned the ropes and kickstarted my entrepreneurial journey with Heaven Spot, but a funny thing I’ve come to realise is that the more I learn, the more I have left to learn.– Victor Tong, founder of Heaven Spot
At the same time, the business also faced significant pushback from the local graffiti scene as they were viewed as “outsiders who were capitalising on the art form”.
However, Victor emphasises that Heaven Spot stands firm on its inclusive stance. “We hope to let as many people in Singapore try out the medium of graffiti, and develop greater awareness and appreciation for the art form,” he added.
Over the years, Heaven Spot has seen significant growth, serving a diverse and impressive portfolio of clients. This includes teams from FAANG companies, the Big 4 accounting firms, government agencies and even public schools.
While its client base may be impressive, Victor humbly proclaims that the biggest milestone Heaven Spot has achieved so far was to have grown its team to three full-time employees.
“This may not seem like much of an accomplishment to some, but being able to provide jobs is something that I am personally proud to have been able to do at Heaven Spot.”
The former lawyer is now juggling three ventures
Earlier in September this year, Victor launched another business venture, Manual Focus, a studio that offers film photography workshops.
Recognising the growing interest in both the authentic and tangible aspects of analog photography, he launched the film studio to educate people not only on how to use older mechanical cameras, but to also develop film and create their own analog prints.
Film photography has been a long-time passion of mine and I was wondering if I could potentially replicate what I did with Heaven Spot with a different experience offering.
I view Manual Focus as a lateral expansion of Heaven Spot and a challenge to find out whether I would be able to replicate the model that was successfully executed at Heaven Spot.– Victor Tong, founder of Heaven Spot
Aside from Manual Focus, the former lawyer also runs Unspokin, a bicycle shop that offers build-your-own bicycle workshops.
Currently, Victor is personally overseeing operations at Manual Focus while simultaneously managing his team at Heaven Spot, who are responsible for running the daily operations at the indoor graffiti studio.
Meanwhile, Victor’s business partner oversees the operations at Unspokin for the most part as Victor has taken a “backseat” on the business ever since launching Manual Focus.
With his hands busy managing the film photography studio, Victor shares that he does not have any immediate plans for expansion, especially in Singapore, given the city-state’s relative small market size. Nevertheless, he is in early stages of exploring the feasibility for overseas expansion to serve nearby markets that may be similar to Singapore.
Through these ventures, Victor hopes to drive empowerment through art and to champion positivity and creativity. Ultimately, he aspires to “inspire and support individuals from all walks of life in discovering their creative potential and expressing themselves freely”.
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Featured Image Credit: Heaven Spot/ Victor Tong