When Kwai Bun founded his animation outfit, Many Many Creations, he had no idea about running a business. All he knew was that animation production was something that he loved to do. Starting as a two-man band making less than HK$1 million in a year, Kwai now leads a team of 25 and has an annual turnover of more than HK$10 million.
How has your education and work experience helped your business?
Making animations has been an ambition since I was young, and I graduated from the Baptist University of Hong Kong (HKBU) with a degree in digital graphic communication. However, a lot of an animator's work is done in front of a computer screen, which can make the job a solitary one.
Working for a year as an air steward after graduation made me a more outgoing person, which has certainly helped in the development of my career.
How did you get started?
After the air-crew experience, I worked as an animator for a production firm. Like all creative types, I wanted my creativity to be able to breathe, so I quit the job a few months later to open my own business with a friend who was also an animator. Our starting costs were low - just a couple of computers. Later, we rented a village house in Sha Tin as a studio and home.
Why did you shift from being a freelancer to entrepreneur?
The first trigger was when an old friend from HKBU introduced me to a director of advertisements, and I became involved in advertising. We had the chance to work for big brand names and to build a name for ourselves.
A second turning point was accepting a job offer from a Malaysian director. We did really well and expanded our market to Malaysia and then Southeast Asia.
What is competition like in the animation industry?
There are not many animation production companies in Hong Kong, making local competition less keen than at the regional level.
Hong Kong is still a leader in animation in Asia Pacific, but Thailand and Australia are emerging. The mainland has some very high-profile clients who are willing to spend, but overall, the standard of animation on the mainland is far from mature.
Given my Malaysian director contact, my company has expanded into Southeast Asia, making business more stable.
How has your mentality changed now that you are a businessman?
While I used to struggle between creative ideas and the demands of clients, I now understand that clients come first. I am not telling animators to give up their views, but they have to understand that advertising clients pay us to promote their products and services.
As an businessman, I consider clients to be a priority. But as I have moved into the role of manager, I treasure my staff just as much. They are the engine of the company. Without a capable team, nothing can be achieved. So, both clients and staff are my priority.
Do you have any advice for those who wish to become animators?
Stay humble and be patient. If you want to be rewarded, you have to show your boss what you are made of. A hardworking and capable person will never go unnoticed. Bear this in mind and you will be successful. There is always room for improvement, so be keen to learn.