Thousands of graduates may have a similar degree to yours. How will you stand out?
WARREN Buffett once said: “If you want to soar like an eagle in life, you can't be flocking with the turkeys.”
The American tycoon was alluding to the importance of meeting the right people and having the right resources to achieve your goals.
Jizen Loh Iskandar bin Khairi Loh Abdullah, a Bachelor of Mass Communications (PR and Marketing) student at Taylor’s University, embarked on his sports brand Nex at 18 selling a “no-tie shoelaces” product.
“The first two years were the toughest,” Jizen admits. “At that point, the Taylor’s Me.reka Makerspace didn’t exist yet so I went to a 3D printing store and printed a sample, which didn’t work. I thought if I can’t even make a sample, how could I sell my products?”
Then his aunt gave him a book on Chinese entrepreneur Jack Ma. Inspired, Jizen persevered and switched business tactic to product improvisation and branding it as Nexlace instead.
Still, it was an uphill battle of crippling anxiety, balancing his studies and a punishing training schedule as a national fencing athlete, and struggling with managing cash flow.
Applying what he learnt in marketing and branding, Jizen reassessed his business model in 2018.
“I began to understand my market segmentation and value proposition, so I designed my ads to fill in the gaps,” he says, adding that sales started rocketing when he marketed his products on Shopee and made tutorial videos on using Nexlaces.
Along the way, the Taylor’s University start-up incubator team Bizpod provided valuable advice and feedback and connected him with Taylor’s Me.reka Makerspace (TMM) where Jizen met like-minded Bernard Loh, who was instrumental in testing and experimenting with laser printing Nex designs on his Nexlaces.
Jizen says: “As an entrepreneur, you cannot do everything by yourself. I have the vision – I know A and Z, but not the B to Y of achieving it. Bernard knows the B to Y.”
Jizen reflects that environment and network help entrepreneurs realise their vision.
Taylor’s University deputy vice chancellor and chief academic officer Prof Dr Pradeep Nair believes that Jizen’s experience of network and support is not unique, as the university has been carefully curating the Taylor’sphere ecosystem to nurture students’ intellectual, mental and emotional growth, with emphasis on entrepreneurship.
“Looking at the job market now, I believe graduates will need soft skills, creativity, business acumen, networks and an entrepreneurial edge to not only land their desired career, but also to carve their own path and start their own businesses, if they choose.
“I also believe entrepreneurial know-how should be the hallmark of every Taylor’s student,” he says.
With TMM, every student will take up a social innovation module and have the opportunity to receive guidance with ideation, prototyping, funding and product commercialisation under the mentorship of Taylor’s Me.reka Makerspace, Bizpod and, Research and Enterprise.
While TMM is equipped with relevant tools that enable exploration of creative and entrepreneurial ideas, the BizPod mentors students to sharpen their business proposals and connect them to investors and venture capitalists, should they want to pitch for funding.
Research and Enterprise helps staff and students commercialise their intellectual property.
Final-year students also pursue cross-faculty projects, mimicking the collaborative way of working across departments in the industry.
To support these projects, not only would they be able to access TMM, but the entire campus becomes their “makerspace” where they would be able to utilise any lab, studio or research facility.
As Taylor’s continues to push the envelope in pedagogy and student-centred learning, Prof Pradeep believes that such initiatives will give its graduates the edge in the industry, and help them find their place and role in society.