NUS BBA 16 April 2020

The “just do it” entrepreneur

Zheng Jiaxing (BBA Year 4), or Jiax among his friends, is a firm believer in making things happen in life. He is an entrepreneur that walks the talk, and has turned not one, but two of his hobbies into businesses. His passions for longboard skating and video-making inspired him to go all in and find ways to scale up, and eventually set up Odyssey Boards and Jiax Media.

Jiax with the first batch of Odyssey Boards

Odyssey Boards came about when Jiax, a longboard enthusiast, was looking for affordable boards in 2016 so he could teach his friends to skate. These boards in Singapore would cost at least $250 from stores. Undeterred, Jiax went on Taobao to search for cheaper alternatives. When he found one, he ended up buying an extra board thinking he could sell the piece on Carousell. It didn’t take him long to make the sale – he managed to sell it within hours. And Jiax began running an online store for longboards out of his bedroom.

Knowing this business model is not sustainable as it can be easily replicated by competitors, he decided to design and brand his own boards. This brand eventually became Odyssey Boards.

The birth of Jiax Media

Since he was a young boy, Jiax loved making videos. He would make vlogs about his travels as a hobby, where he can look back at his experiences as well as share with his friends. “This was how I got into video making,” he said.

His break as a freelancer came when he landed his first paid video gig which was a series of videos for an educational platform called SmarterMe. Determined to develop his video-making skills, Jiax immersed himself in videography-related internships with Walter Tan Productions and The Travel Intern.

“I had the opportunity to work on demanding projects with huge brands like Scoot and L’Oreal and it really helped me to cement my fundamentals and be comfortable with tight timelines,” Jiax recalled. “One project was The Epic Interview campaign for Scoot that has an Amazing Race concept. It was shot in Greece and Berlin where I was the main cinematographer and editor.”

Jiax during the production of The Epic Interview in Meteora, Greece

After the internships, Jiax continued freelancing and was able to gain more jobs through referrals from prior clients. “I got to the point where I was inspired to create Jiax Media and take my video productions to the next level,” he said.

Dealing with COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic may have left many retailers reeling, but it has created a unique opportunity for Jiax. Instead of a decrease in demand, he found that the orders for longboard actually increased. “I guess people have more time to pick up hobbies since everyone is staying at home,” Jiax said.

Unfortunately, there have been supply chain issues. For instance, the production of a collaboration board with local surf brand Haikini was delayed due to the extended closure of the factories in China. However, with the re-opening Chinese factories, Jiax expects production to pick up soon.

As for Jiax Media, Jiax is confident that the retainers would help tide him over the tough period although many shoots have been cancelled.

Striking a balance and setting measurable goals

Business School has provided Jiax with a network of like-minded friends and entrepreneurs to thrive. “The community here is great as everyone around me strives for excellence and are very open to helping one another,” he said.

Walter Tan Productions, where Jiax did his internship, is run by Walter Tan (BBA 2018). He also frequently collaborates with fellow Bizader Daniel Tam (BBA Year 4) who runs production firm Parallax Collective.

Jiax at a panel discussion on student entrepreneurship at NUS

But how does Jiax find time to study and run both his businesses? Jiax says his approach is to find a suitable working style. Knowing that he works well with tight deadlines, he would set short but realistic timelines to motivate himself. “By doing all this, I’m able to stay on task and free up time to do the things that I love like skating or chilling with friends,” he said.

Jiax has another trick up his sleeve. He explains it is crucial to have specific and measurable short/long term goals. “This will give you a target to always work towards. Goal setting is vital to keep your business focused on continual improvement as well as aligning to your vision for the business.”

Most importantly, Jiax observes, an entrepreneur needs to be fearless. “You really grow through failure,” he concluded.

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