This article was originally published on the Freeman Asian Scholarship Association’s homepage in November 2015.
Conceptions: How It All Started
“It all began back in Singapore when I wanted to have some good old-fashioned fun with my friends. I got the idea to use iTunes mobile, turning my mobile phone into a remote to play songs and project music, and we had a lot of fun goofing around and singing amateur karaoke.
“During my freshman winter break, I stayed over on campus at 200 Church and had the time to experiment with new things… usually we just sang along to songs without mics or anything, but after a while I decided to buy some mics, a mixer, and a projector, to improve the experience and make it more enjoyable. One of my first events was a 200 Church ResLife event and it was great singing and interacting with the community.
“Next thing I knew, I was also using the equipment for FASA events, and we had so much fun with it! People were singing along to all sorts of songs in different languages, in solos, duets, and groups, etc… the kind of interactions it encouraged was a very positive thing for me and I realized I was onto something good here.
“Someone pointed out to me that since people really liked it, why not expand it to the whole Wesleyan campus as a business, and charge people for the services and equipment rental? Actually, I’ve had that thought for a while. I’ve been interested in entrepreneurship in the past, creating some apps—though nothing worked out, I found the whole experience really fun and it gave me an adventurous sense of entrepreneurship.
“My first step was to get clients, and I chose Usdan, because they are involved in organizing student activities. I figured it’d be easier to start with a departmental or institutional setting because they know how to attract students. So I made a pitch to Michelle from Usdan, lugging along all of my equipment and showing her how the entire process works— from selecting songs on the iPhone, making a queue that can be transferred wirelessly to the laptop, and playing it on the projector. She thought it was really cool, and I sealed the deal that day! That was my very first paying customer.”
Carving out a Niche
“The next challenge was reaching out to certain populations at Wes. I think the American conception of karaoke is usually singing solo in a public setting like a pub or something… but the way we do it back home and in Asia is different— we do it in a private room with some close friends. It’s much more informal and casual, you know? You don’t have to be good at singing or anything like that—no one’s judging you and you’re just having fun.
“This is the kind of social space that I’m looking to create – an intimate social environment where you can have fun with a bunch of friends, and even meet some new people through other mutual friends. Personally, I prefer a more private setting where you can talk about things and life without loud music blasting. I think once people give it a try they might like it and do it more frequently in the future, especially with the affordable rates we offer to student groups or individual students – a mere $15/ hour, which is very cheap given that the cost is spread out amongst a group.”
Expansion and Recruitment
“WesZone has given me valuable business experience trying to grow nothing into something—and also gave me an opportunity to get involved with certain communities that I would not otherwise have access to.
“What we would like to do next is train underclassmen to take over this organization, because most of our current members are graduating next year. It can be difficult to get people to commit to WesZone, with the plethora of things offered at a campus like Wes… but I think we are quite unique in what we can offer, especially for those with an interest in entrepreneurship.
“Besides technical technological skills, they learn invaluable business practices such as accounting, marketing, and sales… most importantly, we are an independent organization that is not accountable to the school or WSA. We are self-sustainable and we do not have budget constraints from the Student Budget Committee, so strategic decisions can be made independently and there is greater leeway to generate revenue and grow as a business (since conception, the year-to-year revenue growth has been over 70%). We’re not just restricted to karaoke services—if someone wishes to diversify, we are open to investing in other initiatives.
“Currently, Usdan and Reslife are our biggest clients, and it’s great because they have their own resources for marketing the karaoke events. I’ve managed to build a fairly good relationship with an Area Coordinator (Emily) and she has been helping me a lot by sending emails to the RAs and dorms about the services we provide. Recently, we’ve even begun hosting events at Vines on Church and perhaps will expand to other bars/board games cafes in the area, though we are limited by our manpower capacity.”
“I want to use WesZone as a vehicle to propel even more campus initiatives that cater to the greater Wes community. The revenue generated from WesZone can be used as capital to fund other independent initiatives, and students who are involved can learn hands-on entrepreneurship experience, instead of being limited to inspirational and informative entrepreneurship talks. Eventually, we would ideally have an umbrella of initiatives, with one leading to the funding of another. This raises awareness and possibilities where students can identify spaces that cater to the demands of the community and provide lasting value.”
“Don’t restrict what you do on campus to what is available—if there is something you really want to pursue, try your utmost to make that a reality! Look for resources to achieve what you want to do, take charge of what you’re interested in, and who knows, you could come up with something totally new and original.”
*For your Karaoke needs, WesZone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org via FB at www.facebook.com/weskaraoke. Rates are $15/h for student organizations and private house events. If you’d like to be involved, don’t hesitate to reach out!