Card Asia: Surjan Singh
The greetings card entrepreneur on blending Eastern and Western cultures for his venture
Company Name: Card Asia Founder: Surjan Pal Singh Website: www.cardasia.co.uk Age: 26 Based: Southampton Staff Numbers: 6 Date Started: April 2010
Tell us what your business does: Card Asia is an innovative, unique and exciting greeting card company aiming to help the British Asian community to sustain, enjoy and be proud of their unique Eastern & Western lifestyle by providing an alternative choice for British Asian greeting cards.
How did you know there was a market for it? Market research has consisted from walking the streets, to gathering internal community intelligence. The results from this research have been clear in that the vast majority of British Asians want an alternative product to what is already in the market. One of our many surveys involved giving 500 British Asians a choice between a Card Asia card and two other cards, one from the mainstream western market and the other from a private retailer who deals in imported South Asian designs. The result was overwhelming in that 499/500 British Asians would choose a Card Asia card.
Have you always wanted to run your own business? Right from my early years, I used to talk about how I wished to be a leader for industry and add real value for the British Asian community, paving the way for future generations. You could say these were the first signs of someone wanting to make an impact on society. However, the real signs were clear from the emotions and feelings I got from my first business: a web design company. The feeling of liberation, exhilaration and control of knowing that the success of my output is solely dependent on my own input, and that this input would be solely reliant on my own judgment, trust and commitment….a very powerful position to be in but at the same time very daunting!
What was your first big breakthrough? On a personal level I would say when the first card rolled off the production line which gave me a real sense of achievement, but from a business from point of view it was when we started to open dialogue with a major greeting card retailer.
What challenges have you faced how have you overcome them? In launching Card Asia my biggest challenge was cashflow, which I overcame by raising funds through running a number of small satellite businesses such as web design, car boot sales and some freelance consultancy. My objective was to be self-financing and not raise funds via any debt. One of the major hurdles was promotion and marketing of my company, for which I had to borrow some money from friends and family.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?My hopes and dreams for the future are for Card Asia to become a household name among British Asians for greeting cards and other associated products which we are launching. I want to become a mainstream default in this market
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs? If I were giving advice to other entrepreneurs I would say: if you wake up in the morning and go to bed at night thinking about your business idea, then you know what you need to do. Do not assume someone else is already doing it because the chances are that either no one else is or you can do it that much better. Research and find out about your competitors, be one step ahead of them. This requires self belief that you can make it, acceptance of criticism and to still hold your head high. Be prepared to share you passion with others as this will be your greatest challenge. But whatever you do remember “it only takes a few ordinary people to do a few extraordinary things!”