Charting Your Path: A Chat with Gilian of Collabtive (Part 2)

If you are new to Gilian and Collabtive or missed our first interview here, here’s a brief introduction to them.

Gilian is the Managing Director of Collabtive, a digital and content marketing agency that helps brands strengthen consumer identification and brand loyalty. 

Having started with little to no capital, Collabtive now counts leading brands such as Harman Kardon, True Group and JBL among its many clients.

A graduate of the Laselle College of the Arts, Gilian pursues her passion for helping brands tell their stories through Collabtive and has never looked back since.

Tun Yong: Did you encounter any self-doubts along the way? How did you overcome them?

Gilian: I am quite an optimistic person. I choose to believe that if I work hard and want it hard enough, I will be able to put in the necessary effort to overcome the obstacles in the way. 

It also helps that we have a great support team with us, where we truly respect and support each other. It is always great to have people alongside you trying to overcome every challenge together and take the company to the next level. 

Tun Yong: What has been your greatest takeaway from starting up Collabtive?

Gilian: We have achieved a lot over the last five years, given that we’ve started with zero capital. In our first year, we were working out of each other’s homes.

We didn’t have the capital and thus didn’t want to spend unnecessarily. We felt that by saving on rental, we could focus more on bringing business in. 

We also had to make a lot of sacrifices. We both prioritised the company and had the best interests for Collabtive. Hence, we did not want to pay ourselves much at the beginning. Instead, we reinvested what we earned back into the company for it to grow. 

We gave ourselves a year to see whether Collabtive would work out. In our first year, we managed to score Jean Yip as our first brand. They gave us a chance and we are always thankful for that. 

We managed to carry on and grow from there. And in our second year, we moved to a 900 square foot office, after which we moved to a 1600 square feet office. And finally, we moved into our current office, which is almost 2000 square feet!

This was a result of us being focused and placing our best interests in the company. We wanted to provide the best welfare for our staff and make sure that we could put a roof over our heads – in terms of having an office. 

Therefore, we are always planning for the future and monitor our finances closely. We weren’t necessarily spending just because we wanted to. 

My greatest takeaway from starting Collabtive would be that if you are passionate and have the drive to do something, you will succeed. 

More importantly, you have to be able to commit to something that you started. When that happens, as cliche as it sounds, anything is possible.

Despite starting out with zero capital, Gilian (L) and her co-founder Terence have overcome the odds to built Collabtive into a leading digital marketing agency.

Tun Yong: What is a piece of advice you would tell your younger self?

Gilian: I would have told my younger self to not second guess so much and just do it. There’s never a right time to do something.

The more you think about it, the more you second guess, the more you doubt yourself. That’s when it’s harder for you to achieve your goals. 

When I started, I was in doubt over whether Collabtive would work out. That was why we set a year as a timeline to see whether we could make it.

If I was more confident and dared to reach out to more people, we could potentially achieve a lot more. Sometimes, It is only along the way when you start building more confidence in the things that you’re doing.

Tun Yong: What do you think is one thing that people don’t talk about that is very important in being an entrepreneur?

Gilian: Most of the times when people learn that I am my own boss, they always envy how I get to be in control of my time and have the luxury to travel abroad.

To be honest, I don’t. Entrepreneurs work around the clock and it’s not the best because work-life balance is key. 

But at the same time, it’s also having to deal with all the outside noise. Sometimes people will tell you that you are going to fail. 

Therefore, I think an underrated trait entrepreneurs have is resilience. A lot of business owners fail to realize that they are resilient. Being resilient enabled them to build and succeed in their business. 

A friend of mine started her own florist business three or four years ago. Even though she had a full-time job as an accountant, every night after work, she throws herself into her florist business. 

Today, she is quite successful and has built a name of her own. A key reason for her success? Resilience.

Tun Yong: Any advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs?

Gilian: I strongly believe that men and women are equals. Whatever men can do, I’m sure women can too. I’ve never let my gender affect the way I live. 

There are stereotypes where some believe women are more emotional and weaker, therefore we may not be suitable for some jobs. However, I believe what truly matters is whether you can perform and show results.

We don’t have to let the opinions of others affect our work. Therefore, the only advice I’ll give to younger women out there is to have the drive and do what you want.

Interested in learning about Collabtive and the work they do? Check them out here.

This interview is part of our “Founders X EDGE” series where we seek to hear the insights of youth entrepreneurs to demystify the scene and empower youths to turn their ideas into reality. Do reach out to us if you are interested in being featured alongside other great, young minds!

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Tun Yong Yap

Passionate about start-ups that identify problems, develop ideas and execute solutions that value-add to the community. As the Content Manager at EDGE, I seek to connect with youth founders to share their story and inspire others to turn their ideas into reality.

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