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Monday, 17 February 2014

Striking out as your own boss

Freedom: Mohamed Juffrie at home with some tools of his trade. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Freedom: Mohamed Juffrie at home with some tools of his trade. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

WHILE many of his peers have just started working, Mohamed Juffrie Mohamed Juma’at, 24, runs his own videography firm. “I have the freedom to direct and I can choose which projects to take on and pick the crew I want to work with,” he says.

The bachelor graduated from Republic Polytechnic with a diploma in new media in 2009. He started working as a freelance videographer in 2010 while doing national service and set up his own firm last year.

The desire to be rid of office routine and answering to bosses, and the wish for empowerment, flexibility and job satisfaction are driving many young graduates to start their own businesses.

Experts from universities and human resource firms say the trend has been growing since 2009.

Associate Professor Hooi Den Huan, director of Nanyang Techno­logical University’s Nanyang Techno­preneurship Centre, estimates that the number of students striking out on their own after graduation has jumped “by about 50%” from 2009 to last year, although the base figure remains small.

At the National University of Singapore (NUS), more graduates from the NUS Overseas Colleges programme are returning to start companies, says Dr Lily Chan, chief executive of NUS Enterprise.

The programme arranges internships for students in start-ups overseas, such as Stockholm in Sweden and Silicon Valley in the United States. “There are more than 100 start-ups by returning students since 2005,” she says.

The Singapore Management University says it has 174 students who started 58 ventures over the last three to four years.

Experts say the trend shows that young Singaporeans are becoming more adventurous.

Associate Prof Hooi says one reason for the greater willingness among younger Singaporeans to venture out is that they do not feel as much pressure to bring home a pay cheque as people 10 to 20 years ago did. “Many kids these days are well-provided for and have understanding parents, who support their plans,” he said.

Juffrie recalls borrowing between S$5,000 (RM13,120) and S$8,000 (RM20,992) from his parents to start his videography business. “They were hoping I’d work in a company but remained supportive. I’ve since paid them back and make it a point to take them out for meals now that my income is sustainable.”

Associate Prof Hooi adds that most students will give the professional ladder a shot first before venturing out on their own.

Being your own boss is not always plain sailing, of course.

Some young entrepreneurs cite unstable income and the lack of medical benefits as some of the cons.

“Some months, when we earn less, we pay ourselves less. The future is unknown and there is increasing competition,” said one

“Entrepreneurship is a journey and not a bed of roses,” says another. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

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