Updated: Apr 6, 2018
For our Startup! Series, Vorbly had the privilege of interviewing three successful entrepreneurs who will share their startup journey. With experiences in various industries such as 3D printing, interior design and F&B, these entrepreneurs share practical lessons and the real challenges of building a brand and marketing their products and services.
In this chapter, we will follow the story of Shafiq Ali, CEO and Founder of Meka 3D Printing as he shares his experiences with us.
Meka 3D Printing
Meka 3D Printing is a Singapore based company that specializes in all things 3D printing. Their 3D Printing Materials Store provides 3D printers and materials to customers worldwide. Meka also provides design and prototyping services through its Meka Design brand. And Meka Medical 3D Printing revolutionizing the use of 3D printing for the medical and healthcare industry.
Shafiq Ali, Principal at Meka 3D Printing
Shafiq Ali is the founder of Meka 3D Printing. He is an entrepreneur who has started several businesses, including Meka 3D Printing and KBA Design.
An Interview With Shafiq Ali
In the interview, Shafiq gives us insights into his experiences and the challenges faced when launching his various brands.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
Shafiq: I think it was really the need for freedom and not to be beholden to anyone or anything. Now that I'm running my own business, I'm only beholden to the biggest pain in the ass, myself!
What do you think is the most important quality of an entrepreneur? Is professional experience necessary?
Shafiq: It's about having a growth mindset and the grit. Mindset! Mindset is everything! I don't think professional experience is necessary but it can be very helpful. I also think being kind and caring is important. You have to care about what you do and care about the people working with you. Being unsympathetic may allow you to reach your goals sooner, but in the long run, it is not sustainable and increases attrition.
Does it get easier each time you start a new business?
Shafiq: It gets easier, but it also gets more expensive. Why does it get more expensive? As you gain experience, you learn the "right way" of doing things. And you won't be able to launch your brand and products without the necessary preparations.
For example, when I started Meka 3D Printing (started as Meka Studios LLP), I had a few hundred dollars and a dream. Working hard to realize my dream, I sent countless emails, met with potential clients and working things out along the way.
Now when I start new businesses, it can costs thousands of dollars for things like company registrations, well-designed websites, stationery and networking sessions. When you do things the "right way", it costs more, but you gain invaluable knowledge and grow along the way.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when launching your brands?
Shafiq: The public launch of my brands, letting people know who we are and what we do. I always had this mindset that everything must be perfect, but that was not entirely right. By launching the product earlier, you can get feedback and use it to improve your brand, business model and offerings. When you reach out to more people, you get more opinions. Most opinions are great and have the best intentions, but you have to be discerning when evaluating feedback.
How are you using social media to build brand awareness and drive website traffic?
Shafiq: Social media is big in every aspect of the business. It's really our main channel to reach customers, especially Facebook. We have well-defined customer segments and know which channels are most effective for communicating with each segment. Most of our leads are from organic traffic with the occasional marketing campaign. To increase the effectiveness of our campaigns, we usually create a series of advertisements. In 2018, I have adopted a personal branding strategy on social media to build credibility and establish myself as an industry thought leader.
How do you use SEO and content in your marketing strategy?
Shafiq: We recently adopted an SEO strategy. We always had a content marketing strategy but no distribution strategy. I wrote and posted new content on Facebook, but did not think of how people would find and read my articles. SEO is our long-term strategy and I am a firm believer in investing for the long-term (most of the time).
How do you measure the success of your business?
Shafiq: Obviously, everyone looks at the dollars (and those who tell you otherwise are not being honest). Another big factor for me is the people I work with. And having happy colleagues translates to happy clients.
What's next for you? What business are you going to start next?
Shafiq: I'm enjoying what I do at the moment and there is a lot on my plate. I will gladly see through my current projects before embarking on new business ideas. But I do have a few ideas. Stay tuned!
What advice would you give to young, aspiring entrepreneurs like yourself?
Shafiq: Personally, I think about the failures. What if it all falls flat? Then what? And then I start thinking of different ways of mitigating risks and the next logical steps. However, most of the time, the best thing to do is to test the market and just do it!
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Chapter 2: Shafiq Ali, CEO & Founder of Meka 3D Printing