Biz Alumni 13 April 2020

The DIY entrepreneur

Marcus Chua (BBA 2019) is an entrepreneur who chooses to be hands-on about everything, and even learnt how to sew so he could make a backpack for motorcyclists.

He met his business partners who are fellow NUS students and alumni at the NUS Motorcycle Club. They identified a gap in the market for off-road motorcycle accessories and came up with Rock Ready Engineering; a firm focused on just that.

Marcus Chua (right) with the Rock Ready team Chua Kah Yeow (centre, Industrial Design Year 4) and Joel Lim (Material Science & Engineering 2019)

Founded in early 2019, Rock Ready Engineering’s first product was a weather- and shock-resistant toolkit that can be secured onto the handlebar of a bike.

“Dirt bikers tend to bring along tools for maintenance as their motorcycles are subjected to frequent wear and tear. They tend to put the tools in their backpacks, but these often got lost. Also, some of the tools have sharp edges and it can be disastrous for the rider during a fall,” said Marcus.

The team actually came up with the idea of putting tools into a customised barpad during an off-road dirt bike trip. Their product, the Barpad Toolkit, stores the tools in a safe and secure manner, said Marcus.

Marcus with the toolkit product

Sewing a backpack

The team is now preparing to launch its second product — a waterproof backpack that can be mounted at the back of motorcycles and is big enough to fit a helmet.

“There are limited storage spaces on motorcycles, so we came up with the idea of a backpack that could be attached to the pillion seat. This way, the rider has more storage and he or she will not feel fatigued having to carry the backpack during a ride,” said Marcus.

The team also wanted the pack to be waterproof in case of rain. “We want to fit in a helmet, as riders have to carry one or bring along for their pillion riders,” he said.

It was no easy task bringing the products to life. For the backpack, Marcus had to learn about sewing and fabrics to build a prototype for their supplier factories.

“It is amusing to see three guys, with no experience in making bags, design and sew together a backpack. We had to go to the textile markets to choose the fabrics, cut and sew the prototype,” he said.

The team acquired a sewing machine and produced four prototypes. “If you placed them side by side, you can see how we progressed with each model,” added Marcus.

Confidence boost from NUS Business School

In the early days, Marcus was not sure he wanted to be an entrepreneur. Current engineering student Chua Kah Yeow, who was helming the firm, reached out to Marcus and asked him to join the company.

Marcus at a NUS Motorcycle Club roadshow

It took a module, New Product Development (TR3001) taught by Adjunct Associate Professor Neo Kok Beng, to convince Marcus, to join the Rock Ready Engineering team in his final year. “It was a module which I enjoyed thoroughly and sparked my interest in entrepreneurship,” said Marcus.

“We had alumni, who are entrepreneurs, coming back to share their experiences,” he said.

One of them is Faculty of Arts & Social Science alumnus Grey Tan who shared the product development journey of his astronomy camera TinyMOS. He gave the class insights on how he started the journey from ideation to launching a Kickstarter campaign for TinyMOS. “It was intriguing to learn about how he channelled his passion into something that became material,” said Marcus.

Crucially, Marcus received a huge confidence boost when he scored an A+ for the module, and his project idea (a motorcycle helmet designed for humid countries) was voted to be one of the class development project.

“We put together a marketing campaign to launch the helmet. It was significant to me because it was my individual project pitch, and more importantly it was something that I was genuinely interested in. It was an eye-opening experience to get diverse perspectives from my classmates during the project,” said Marcus.

Hard work brings rewards

Companies usually lack resources during the early days, but Marcus said it made the team more resourceful. They forced themselves to not take the easy way out by outsourcing all the time. Marcus even learned web design and worked with the team to design their logos and the company’s website.

“The ultimate reward is knowing that a product we can call our own is benefitting someone out there. Customers are happy with it, which validates all the hard work that we put in,” he concluded.

In the coming months, the team is looking to diversify the Rock Ready Engineering business and positioning themselves as a product & projects design consultancy in Singapore to help clients bring ideas to life.

Marcus (left) at a motorcycle tour in Indonesia