Jeshua Soh was only 19 when he started Singapore’s first peer-to-peer camera gear and spaces rental platform, J Rental Centre (JRC), in 2015. Thereafter, he established another company, Startup Media SG, to help startups with their marketing and video productions.
At such a young age, Jeshua has accomplished a lot that people of his age are probably still wondering what they want to do with their life or the university they want to apply for their next level of education. So how did Jeshua do it and what’s his philosophy when running his businesses? Here’s his story.
JRC’s mission isn’t to make a million dollars, but to connect a million people (or more) – Jeshua Soh
How did the idea of JRC come about?
JRC.sg began as a Facebook page with just about 25 personal items that I wanted to share with others while I wasn’t using it. The idea then started growing organically, as customers and associates I knew also wanted to rent out their equipment. We created our first proper website in the middle of 2015 and the current site in 2016, where people can easily find and rent camera equipment from the respective owners islandwide. JRC today isn’t a traditional business, and we aim to connect people. We have been operating as a functionally non-profit company by putting revenue not spent on operations and marketing, into community initiatives such as filmmaking and photography workshops, events and competitions.
What were the initial challenges?
Having to explain the concept as well as our vision to partners and customers was and still is somewhat of a challenge. We hope that the ‘kampung spirit’ that is talked about by politicians and ordinary citizens alike will triumph over individualism and materialism in the long run.
What were the lessons learned while putting JRC together?
I have learned about the importance of focus as well as working with the right people (since that is essentially everything we do at JRC is about). The kinds of people I get to meet are very diverse, some more similar while others quite different in our background and goals. I believe that everyone has a story, and listening to another person’s needs and seeing how we can meet them should not just be a starting point, but something that may need to be done over and over again to build trust and community. On a practical note, I have also learned to keep operations lean to achieve other goals such as running the community initiatives that I mentioned above.
You run Startupmedia Singapore that helps startups with their marketing and video productions. How do you balance your schedule between work and family?
Work-life balance is honestly non-existent for me. Thankfully, the Startupmedia.sg and JRC are quite synergistic, being in the same industry and dealing with things that I’m quite familiar with. I have to prioritise important family events, keep reminding myself of the importance of adequate rest, and take breaks to recharge. In fact, I just came back from an 18-day trekking trip to Nepal!
Speaking of your family, what were their reactions when you inform them that you are starting your own business?
My family has been generally supportive of the decisions I take, though there were differences in opinions to some degree, I am thankful that I have their support to go through this journey
There are a lot of partners listed on your website. Who are they and what’s their role in JRC?
Our partners are equipment/space owners and they are the community of individuals who share our vision to connect with people. They provide their items or spaces, along with their professional expertise and support us for ad-hoc promotions and other community initiatives that we embark on (more on this later). Without them, there is no JRC!
What’s the selection criteria to be one of your partners?
There are no checkboxes or rubrics, but we do have a conversation with anyone who is keen on joining as a partner. What we look out for are our core values of collaboration, service and trust. If someone is looking for a good way to connect, has a good number of kit in good condition to rent and the availability to meet others, those are typically good starting points.
Browsing through your website, we noticed that besides having more than 1,000 listings and 50 partners, there’s also the mention of 10 spaces? Are you referring to co-working?
These spaces are mainly studios at the moment – targeted at photographers and videographers. We do hope to list more creative spaces as well, which may be good filmmaking sets or places to conduct workshops, training, meetings and events. The move to list spaces was in direct response to demand from our renters, some of whom needed to use these facilities for their school or work.
Where do you see JRC and Startupmedia in the next five years?
Five years is a long time, but in general; JRC’s mission isn’t to make a million dollars, but to connect a million people (or more); Startupmedia could end up becoming a lot of things, depending on where technology advances and how we choose to adopt it. Today, we have AI video creator software, speech to text, OCR, image recognition among many new technologies already being used. My hope is that we would be helping more startups and SME’s with getting their story out to the world, and help large corporates to market with a startup mentality (move swiftly and act decisively for maximum impact).
What’s your advice for people who wish to start their own business?
I am no business guru, but I’ll say that in general, asking a lot of good questions is better than having a lot of knowledge. Maybe this comes from my background in media and interest in current affairs/economics, but when so many things need one’s attention, it is better to have a robust framework of dealing with the issue than an answer to provide off the top of one’s head.
Anything you wish to add and say?
JRC.sg is now having our second run of a community photography/video project called PictureTogether. This free competition aims to showcase what the community can achieve together and how WE see Singapore. Participants will be given three random themes upon signing up at the link above and have until 15th July to submit their entries. For the video component, this year’s theme is ‘Boring’ Singapore in 360 (Free equipment rentals will be provided for VR/photography equipment for those who are joining in the competition).
159 images (53 for Singapore’s age, in 3 canvas’) would be exhibited, together with the compiled VR/360 video at Scape from 1-9 August, in line with National Day. There would also be 115 prizes worth $14,000 given our during the exhibition as well! This competition is one of the ways that we hope to connect people- with workshops, networking sessions and the collective showcase of talents that will be happening from now through 9th August!