Taking The Plunge: A Chat with Collabtive’s Gilian (Part 1)


“And when I had to go to university, it was a struggle for me. I didn’t want to do something that I wouldn’t excel in or that I wouldn’t enjoy.”

That was the awakening moment for Gilian Lim which set her on the path to pursue her passion for arts. Enrolling into Laselle College of the Arts, she found joy in her work and excelled at it.

Passionate about helping brands tell their story, she co-founded Collabtive in 2016 with Terence Lee. 

A digital and content marketing agency that develops client solutions for brands to help strengthen consumer identification and brand loyalty, Collabtive has grown considerably from its humble roots.

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

Tun Yong: What was the problem you identified that led you to start Collabtive?

Gilian: When we started Collabtive five years ago, digital marketing was still new to the local market. Previously, I was with several other agencies and noticed there was a shift by brands to do more social media content due to the popularity of e-commerce. However, a lot of agencies back then were still focused on above the line marketing – like print and TV commercials. 

Together with my Co-Founder, Terence, we started Collabtive to bridge that gap. We wanted to focus more on producing digital content because we knew that everybody was going to catch on and focus more on Facebook, and Instagram. 

Also, Terence was great at producing short-form content that was easily relatable to people. I had prior experience working with different agencies and helping brands in storytelling. Therefore, we had complementary skill sets and it was a perfect match.

Tun Yong: What drew you into the field of digital marketing?

Gilian: I had attended numerous digital marketing courses when I was working with other agencies. I was always interested in how social media could influence one’s preferences. For example, I started liking a certain brand because of the identity they created on their social media channels. They were producing great content that I could relate to. Thereafter,  I realised I enjoy the whole idea of being able to bring the brand story to life. 

Besides, I’m able to distribute it further to different platforms and to target different audiences. There’s a science behind all these and I also truly enjoy the whole strategizing and planning process.

Together with co-founder Terence, Gilian has built Collabtive into a respectable digital marketing agency with several big-name clients

Tun Yong: What made you choose to pursue the arts and design route in your education?

Gilian: Since young, I was more of a creative person. My mom made me do a lot of arts and crafts projects and I naturally steered towards art and design. That being said, I do not think I am exceptional at designing.

Some obstacles presented themselves when I decided to study at Laselle for my tertiary education. I dislike to classify it as a stereotype but most parents want their kids to be a lawyer, accountant or doctor. So naturally, as I was growing up, my parents also had that kind of pressure on me.

But I just wasn’t great at science or math. So I did the standard route, went to primary school, secondary school, JC. 

And when I had to go to university, it was a struggle for me. I didn’t want to do something that I wouldn’t excel in or that I wouldn’t enjoy. 

That was the time where I sat my parents down to tell them that I didn’t want to go to a conventional university. Instead, I wanted to enrol myself into Laselle to explore the creative industry.

I guess it was then that they realized it was important for me to do what I enjoy. And they could see that after I enrolled myself into Laselle, I enjoyed it and had found my passion.

Tun Yong: What was your toughest challenge as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome it?

Gilian: It will always be a fear of failure. I think many entrepreneurs experience this. Especially when you want to start something on your own, there’s always this nagging thought at the back of your head, where you question yourself whether what you do is going to be successful.

Terence and I both have different sets of worries every day. We have to be responsible for our staff, for the kind of work that we produce and are always wearing different hats. 

There are some bad days where I asked myself why I did not choose something that had more stability or work for someone else instead. But more often than not, when I look back at what we have achieved, I’m very glad I took this leap. 

Although growing a company and the people within it gives me fulfilment, it comes with a heavy set of responsibilities. If you fail, you’re failing many people, not just yourselves but your employees too. 

At the end of the day, I believe the responsibilities we carry motivates us to work harder and constantly improve ourselves. 

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

Stay tuned for the second part of the interview series, as Gilian shares how she overcame her self-doubts to start Collabtive and dishes out advice for young entrepreneurs.

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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