TRYING to secure funds to run a business for something that can’t be explained is a daunting task. However, that does not mean it is not a viable business proposition.
Usaha Selaseh Sayang Sdn Bhd (USS), the creator of JOHO brand, is a testament to this.
The company had difficulties securing a grant or loan as they were unable to explain the idea behind the brand and its business model.
JOHO, a trademarked lifestyle brand, operates JOHO Event, JOHO Creative Agency, JOHO Interior Design, JOHO Concept store and JOHO Club for youths.
Mohd Yusri Bachok teamed up with friends Zulkhari Abas and the late Azrafe Zaky to start the company and brand, linking it to the youth community, particularly in Johor.
“There was no ‘scene’ and we wanted to up the ante here in our state,” said Johor-born Mohd Yusri.
“It’s hard to explain our services and offerings. We are involved in so many things,” he said.
To associate their partnership and involvement between the youth and Joho, the company sells T-shirts, key chains and other merchandise.
Profits gain from these sales are used to finance JOHO social and entertainment activities for the younger people in the southern region.
JOHO has a blog and Facebook group to engage with their followers.
Mohd Yusri said they had been in the social media scene since 2009 and used the JOHO brand to market their activities and products including indie clothes.
“But the clothing line is just one part of JOHO,” said Yusri.
He said they also run a creative agency and event organiser which is managed by USS.
The JOHO Concept, said Yusri, manages the clothing and merchandising business while JOHO ID oversees the interior design unit.
JOHO began with a few friends attending cultural events such as Zapin competitions and Johor Baru lantern festivals.
From there, it evolved and formed other smaller interest groups, each with a specific focus.
“There were long boarders and artists, fixie bikers and musicians. Each was doing its own things. But what JOHO did was to bring them together through meetings and gatherings,” said Yusri.
“We organised a big gathering for all of them to meet up. One of the gatherings was the Southern Project of Arts Movement or SPAM in 2010.”
He said they did not expect an overwhelming response for the gathering but was shocked to see almost 800 people at the outing held at Roost Bistro.
Today, JOHO is totally on a different scale.
When they organised GETUP Kluang in 2012, they attracted over 90,000 visitors with activities such as ghazal performance by a high school, a graffiti demonstration and a fixie bike competition.
This year, their Johor Pavillion at Putrajaya Youth Festival drew some 90,000 people.
To engage youths, JOHO is active in updating and keeping in touch with their followers.
Yusri said they had over 100,000 followers collectively on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
As a business, JOHO has also seen their revenue increased from RM15,000 in 2010 to more than RM500,000 last year from the sales of the items marketed under brand and revenue from their other activities.
“Considering that we did not get any grants, loans or funds to finance all our activities, we have done well over the years,” said Yusri.
He said the business partners faced tough time when Azrafe died suddenly in May this year.
Azrafe or better known as Zak, was the JOHO prime mover.
Zak’s sudden departure forced Yusri and Zulkhari into the limelight and to manage the company and run all JOHO activities.
“What he has left us was his inspiration, spirit and style,” said Yusri.
The GEGO festival, taken from Johor slang word gegor, which means ‘rumble’ or ‘vibration’ in English, is one of JOHO’s annual fixtures on Johor’s social and lifestyle calendar.
Other lifestyle events held by them were extreme sport clinics, live dances, arts performances, concerts and exhibitions.
JOHO also hosted Paso Bumbung or Pasar Bumbung.
The event saw the gathering of young entrepreneurs in a giant sale fair held on the rooftop. The event was also known for its open-mic sessions for poetry and booths selling vintage items and hand-made crafts.
With the buzz JOHO has created among the Johor youths, it is set to take the brand to a new and different level.