After ten years of living in South-East Asia, approx 4 months of lockdown and a long plane journey back to London where it all started, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
We opened Studio Rarekwai, later Studio Rarekind (theSRK), informally in Hackney, London, 2006. We went legit in 2008 as a creative video production studio that also authored and published books. We worked with some great record labels, musicians, publishing companies and a few brands.
As both business owners and artists we always had issues with the operations side of running a business, add in serious wanderlust and our business was never focused to scale.
The 2008 financial crisis hit hard but we rode it out thanks to naivety, a great landlord and a slate of small projects. 2009 was a wonderful bounce back year where we landed some big projects and in 2010 we took the company fully remote when we started to work more across Europe and Asia.
Our portfolio grew, our skills improved and we won some great clients. But what we didn’t realise is that we had forgotten our mission.
After being ‘digital nomads’ and opening and closing offices/studios across Cambodia, Jakarta, and Bangkok where we curated The Space gallery for six months, we decided to grow up and settle the business in Singapore in 2016.
We had a lot of clients, great contacts and a bunch of friends in the small city state and it seemed the right thing to do. It wasn’t easy, but Studio Rarekind grew to 7 employees with offices in London, Singapore and a mini ‘bureau’ in Bangkok.
But as much we enjoyed having a studio in the tropics we were barely making payroll, stressing regularly, drinking daily and taking every job we could. Some we enjoyed, others we detested. Reality kicked in – we had become a ‘content farm’. The filmmaker in me felt sick whilst the business owner in me shrugged it off and carried on.
MEDIOCRITY AND DEALING WITH BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR
What was disappointing for me was not doing what we had set out to do. I am a filmmaker and my business partner a creative director and producer. I was always decent at hustling up work and handling the sales process, the funnel, account management and a bit of HR. My partner was similar. But back in London we had set out to make a creative studio that produced cutting edge films and unique publications but ended up in the corporate city state of Singapore making content.
Boring, plain content. Content clients were happy with, content that got bought, content that was watched, but we felt our work had become mediocre.
With my wife pregnant and me unhappy with work, I was confronted with the option to either double down on the business (get investment and expand) or close and admit defeat. It was a difficult few months but after deliberation and many a pint in Owl’s Brew Bar we took the latter option and closed.
It’s too hard to drive a business forward as a founder and MD when your heart isn’t in it. It was also hard confronting impending parenthood while unhappy. Studio Rarekind officially closed in 2018, just a couple months after my son was born. My family and I left Singapore and I took some much needed paternity leave.
The emotional toll of failure was under-appreciated and it’s taken about two years to digest where my head was at. After leaving Singapore, my family and I spent 6 months in Cambodia where I shared an office with Stuart Cochlin Architects. Then we spent a year and a half in Seattle, where I got to shoot SODO EXPRESS and fall back in love with taking pictures and then I was brought back to South-East Asia for a contract.
COVID EQUALS TIME TO REBUILD
Covid struck next which forced reflection and general uncertainty. But I felt lucky to be in a contract and in the tropics with a pool.
Long conversations with my business partner followed. As did chats with old friends and colleagues. Everyone agreed it was time to rebuild Studio Rarekind. Not as a conventional business or traditional corporate entity. More an old school creative studio that tries to capture that spirit we had in our 20’s. An uncompromising attitude where the work, the quality and the process comes first.
It’s been a whirlwind few years and I’m uploading this post whilst in transit back to London from Jakarta.
My 6 month stint as head of creative for a marketing tech agency is done and the realisation that closing our ‘content farm’ in Singapore was probably one of the best decisions we ever made has officially set in. It was the classic, two steps back to go one step forward. Myself and my business partner, Ryo Sanada, had a well deserved break from the business, from each other and filled the gaps with freelance work and more. Skills and ideas have improved and distance made the heart grow fonder.
Now I’m really excited and happy to see what’s next even though everything in the world seem so uncertain.
Our latest piece SODO EXPRESS is close to being finished and we have a slate of other projects in the pipeline. We have new crew members, Andy Funnell and Andrea Juanillo who have joined the crew and hopefully more soon.
All I needed was a disaster to enforce some well needed time for reflection to put life into context.
If you need something shot, stills or video, or perhaps you need an illustration or some motion graphics, please do book a free consultation with us here and we’ll be happy to help you through the process.