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Against All Odds

Growing up in the early 70’s brings back memories of humming to Boy George, Duran Duran and Wham on our way to school. That was the only form of creative inspiration in addition to art classes once a week. When it came to being vocal about our ambitions, it was understood that the best career choice was to be a teacher, an engineer, a doctor and perhaps even the Prime Minister. None of us thought a career in the arts was even possible…

Having practiced in the interior design industry for almost two decades and witnessed the speed of disruption across most industries, it got me thinking why the creative industry is somewhat unaffected (or perhaps behind the curve) and if we should challenge the status quo before it catches up with us. What does this mean for our industry with multi-generational workforce, coworking, shared economy and automation infiltrating our everyday lives? The world is changing faster than we understand it so how do take the bull by its horns? Unfortunately, disruption requires a completely new way of thinking and shedding precedence of how things have been done in the past. Not easy, when we’ve been informed that being a specialist means gearing to be a practice area expert. This used to make sense when innovation and shared knowledge wasn’t the number one priority across most industries and workplaces.

This got us thinking if there is indeed a way to work and collaborate differently to achieve innovation. Being in the same firm, knowing the same people and working towards the same culture and standards naturally breeds a lot more of the same. The idea started forming to pull together individual and team expertise across niche studios to respond to the client’s needs.

The conversations in our heads finally led us to forming Paperspace in Bangkok and Singapore in 2016, followed with Manila in 2017. We all believed in the vision and committed to building it together. After six months of going round in circles with a million ideas, we realized we needed help to streamline our thoughts, drive alignment and plot a strategic roadmap. We sought for consulting service with Spring’s CDG grant 3 months after incorporating in Singapore. All our ‘advisors’ told us that it was impossible to obtain this grant as a startup, but we decided to write the proposal ourselves together with the consultant we wanted to engage. Two weeks after submission, Spring contacted us to verify a few questions, and approved the grant within four weeks.

In the midst of working through our business strategy with Spring’s support, we pursued projects opportunities of all sorts, and were informed by nay-sayers that clients wouldn’t engage our services due to risk of being a new company and unproven track record. We pursued relentlessly and 15 months later, not only did we win projects, we are working with the likes of Google, Facebook, 3M, co-working owners and traditional industries looking to transform their businesses.

Working in a collaborative fashion also meant working on a physical space together. We visited dozens of coworking spaces but none had the studio facilities we needed. We were introduced to an interior design studio and warmly welcomed us to work in the same space together. Even though space and a formal address was what we needed, it was the company of others going through similar challenges and victories that was priceless. We outgrew the space soon after and started looking for alternative sites to house a larger community. The National Design Centre issued a tender that called for a co-working operators in their space and we submitted our proposal. Two weeks later we presented our idea and two months later, we were appointed for the space. Two months of construction and we are moving into our new space and gearing to coincide our launch with Singapore Design Week 2018. This third co-working facility after Bangkok and Manila signifies the importance of building a vision as a team.

18 months later, we work with 15 studios and 60 collective talents across three countries, with a total of 0.5M sf of on-going projects.

Going against all odds is about pursuing the vision ignited in our minds and choosing to take a step forward no matter how many times it feels like we’re going backwards.