It’s not so common for entertainers to successfully transform into entrepreneurs. Some singers go on to become record producers, actors become directors and models perhaps teach modelling. But very few actually end up starting their own company.
TV personality Jojo Struys, who hails from Singapore, has managed to continue to grow as an entertainer while building up a production business. Like many entrepreneurs, her journey to entrepreneurship was a process of discovery and was not planned.
“My career in entertainment happened by accident,” says Jojo. “After finishing my business degree, I started modelling all over Southeast Asia, just to travel and make some pocket money. This led to a movie in Singapore called The Chicken Rice War, which the director of Kopitiam in Malaysia saw, and he asked me to audition for his show.”
That was what brought Jojo to Malaysia. “It wasn’t part of some grand plan to make a name for myself here,” she says. “I auditioned for a role in Kopitiam expecting to be a supporting cast member but it turns out they wanted me to replace Lina Teoh’s character. I ended up shooting four seasons of the show, which amounts to 52 episodes.”
After acting in the popular sitcom, she branched out into TV hosting and had her own late night show called Pillow Talk. After that, she decided she wanted to go behind the scenes and produce content.
“I wanted to really get a feel for how everything comes together, from a seed idea to final execution,” she recalls, adding that she then started a production house called kyanite.tv with business partner (now husband) Michael Lim, who was a former brand director at Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency.
They started small, with just one staff (a video editor) and worked out of her home, where she had converted a spare room into an editing suited. Our first project was called Ticket to Wellbeing, which was sponsored by Nestle and Laurier.
The company grew organically to where it is now, operating out of a real office with 15 staff members. “We’ve done so many travel and reality projects including shooting Miss Universe Malaysia, the reality series, for three years now. We successfully launched on Astro Ceria a children’s edutainment series called Chichi and Chacha which combines live action teen celebrity hosts with 3D baby animal characters. And we’ve have just wrapped filming of my international de-stress travelogue called Letting Go with Jojo Struys.”
Jojo credits the Multimedia Super Corridor status that her production company has received as a key success factor. “In Malaysia, there are a lot of grants and government incentives to help local companies gain knowledge and to go international,” she says, adding that she herself has attended many seminars and trade fairs around the world.
She says Singapore also provides a lot of grants and incentives but the competition for such grants is very stiff and the cost of doing business in Singapore is a lot more expensive, too.
One of the biggest challenges she finds is the temptation to be too immersed in operations. “If all your time and energy is taken up running a company, who’s out there doing the business development?” she asks rhetorically. Having built up a solid team has made it easier for Jojo to let go and not be too hands on.
Despite her business success, Jojo still likes to entertain people and is also a writer, a TV host and a speaker at functions. “I enjoy the challenges that business brings and seeing an idea come to fruition but I return to myself at the end of the day, just wanting to personally connect with others and make a difference in their lives.”
Oon Yeoh is a new media consultant.