MOST of his fans know him as a deejay with popular Chinese radio station 98.8 but Chan Fong is a man who wears many hats. He is also an artist, actor, songwriter, brand builder, event planner and a successful businessman.
Chan, 41, joined the entertainment world when he was in his 20s and used to work 18 hours a day doing numerous jobs, including hosting programmes and directing.
Despite the long hours, he recalls, he rarely earned RM10,000 a month.
Wanting a better life, the graphics design graduate decided to try his hand at business and ventured into advertising with a partner. Unfortunately, that was in 1997, the year of the Asian financial crisis.
Chan relates how he and his partner turned to the Yellow Pages and randomly mailed out letters to potential clients about their business.
“We offered proposals and told them they could pay us only if they liked our suggestions,” says the father of three.
They managed to get a few small clients before getting a big break with a leading water filter company. There was no turning back since, although Chan split from his partner in 2002 and set up his own company, 180 Degree Strategic Communications.
Today, Chan's company employs 42 people and is involved in branding for about 30 companies, most of which are household names.
For those who intend to go into business, Chan's advice is to be prepared as “doing business is very competitive these days and involves a lot of hard work as there are financial and human resource issues that need to be looked into, among others”.
He also believes one needs to have at least eight to 10 years of experience before setting up a business.
“People will only come to you if you have experience,” he says, adding that networking also requires time.
Chan, who still guest-deejays once a week for 98.8, believes that passion is important to succeed in business.
“Don't always think about making money first. Think about how you can solve problems before thinking about a better life,” he says.
Chan acknowledges that he is in a position to retire but wants to keep going, at least until the age of 50, before focusing on other interests such as acting.
“There is still a long way (to go) and I am not tired yet,” he quips.
Suthan Mookaiah is 25 and has already earned his first million after working seven years.
While many people take a lifetime to hit the million ringgit mark or don't even come anywhere close, the online entrepreneur and Internet marketing coach considers seven years “a very long time”. “I have seen people who made millions in one or two years,” he says, adding that business started picking up for him when PayPal was introduced in Malaysia.
He points out that there's a huge market for Internet-based businesses, with Malaysians spending about RM1.8bil shopping online annually. Apart from eBay, many online entrepreneurs are also relying on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to push their products, which may range from e-books and videos to things like sarees, sunglasses and even diapers.
Some, he says, earn RM60,000 to RM70,000 a month.
Suthan explains that one only needs RM100 for a domain name and hosting to start an Internet business. For a conventional business, the start-off capital is a minimum RM20,000 to rent and renovate a place.
He notes that while youngsters are more IT savvy, senior citizens can also tap into the online market. One of his students is a 70-year-old man who is selling a guide on Islam online.
When the Asian financial crisis struck, many people who invested in stocks had their fingers burnt while others pulled the brakes on their investments.
But Anthony Poh (not his real name), a former remisier, saw the 1997 crisis as a “window of opportunity” to invest in other areas.
“I went into real estate and the birds nest trade,” he shares.
While some friends were sceptical over his swiftlet farming venture, it turned out to be a cash cow for Poh. Today, he exports premium birds nest to several countries.
Something of a forerunner to his younger contemporaries, Poh cemented his millionaire status in his early 20s by being at the right place at the right time and daring to take risks.
Having made some decent coin with initial public offerings when he was still in university, Poh decided to be a remisier after graduating. His career choice was swiftly rewarded by daily five-figure earnings his best daily haul was RM37,000.
Although the rewards were great, Poh's wheeling and dealing convinced him that he was strolling down a sunset boulevard.
“Internet trading was on the horizon and more remisiers were entering the market,” he recalls.
“I still had my regular clientele but I figured there was better money to be made elsewhere.”
Successful real estate dealings have further bolstered his wealth and Poh's masterful streak shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.
Despite this, Poh keeps his feet on the ground, spending wisely and resisting urges to buy anything more expensive than a Toyota Camry.
Joel Neoh, the 28-year-old CEO of Groupon Malaysia, may have a degree in mechanical engineering but his forte is definitely in business. Modelling part-time during his college break, he realised there was a huge demand for such jobs and set up a company that recruited youth for events.
The company generated its first million within a year, and Neoh went on to set up NGO Youth Malaysia, which ran several big youth-based projects.
Nine months ago, Neoh started Groupsmore, a discount website that offered deals on food, products, services and lifestyle activities. In January this year, it was acquired by American giant Groupon, a company worth billions and is said to be one of the fastest growing Internet companies.
Neoh believes that many youngsters do not realise their dreams by taking the safe route of working for corporations. To succeed, he stresses, one needs to enjoy their work and be good at what they are doing.
Ammar Zahar, 24, started selling information products during his first year of university. He was pursuing a degree course in landscape architecture and needed money to buy colour prints and paper. Coming from a poor family, he had to support himself through university. He attended many web seminars and learned the tricks of the trade.
These days, he sells information products on various topics such as finance, investments, internet marketing, acne cure, weight loss and even Farmville (a popular Facebook game). He also gets expert writers to write on the products.
“A lot of people from all over the world are buying these things,” he says.
By his third year in university, he had set up his own firm and this year alone, the company achieved half million ringgit sales. Ammar is giving himself another year to reach millionaire status.
“Anyone can go into internet business,” he says, adding that he has no plans to use his degree for now.