Interview with Fauzan Baharudin, founder of Fvauz.

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Recently, there is a growing potential in the 3D printing industry. We recently got the chance to interview Fauzan the founder of Fvauz to share his personal experience and his insights into the 3D printing business. 

What’s the inspiration behind Fvauz?

It’s actually pronounced as ‘Faz’. I wanted a name that has a modern kick to it. When you start a business, you want to ensure that your name is memorable and authentic. I also wanted to add subtle elements of my name into it as well.

Could you tell us a bit about Fvauz and how you started this business?

I started this business when I was still in the UK back in 2015. 3D printing was relatively popular there, and they already had several 3D printing centres available, even in smaller cities. Then when I look at Malaysia I noticed that 3D printing was still a new concept and there weren’t many people doing it.

I’ve always had an interest in designing and creating new things. However, if I were to choose to manufacture my designs, I will be subjected to a minimum order quantity. So, it didn’t make sense for me, because I know a prototype will require several iterations before actual commercial model. Therefore, when 3D printing came along this becomes “Eureka” moment for me as it solves my ‘manufacturing’ problem. I didn’t have to hold a lot of stocks, everything is made-to-order. I just needed to design digitally and see what was workable then it was just a matter of replicating and producing the designs.

What is your outlook on the 3D printing industry in Malaysia? Who are your ‘printers’?

There’s actually a gap in the market. It’s very difficult to find 3D printing services in Malaysia. There are many companies that were based in the US and Netherlands that offer 3D printing services, but the cost for delivery alone is quite high. Regardless of quantity or designs, they’ll charge a flat rate per delivery. I once tried to collaborate with MDEC (Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation) to see if there was something we can do. Unfortunately, at this point in time having an Asia Pacific 3D printing hub is not part of MDEC digital roadmap and I will have to continue looking for potential partners for collaboration.

The market for 3D printing in Malaysia is still small compared to Singapore. I managed to engage with the international crowd when I was at a Singapore Maker Faire. What really surprised me was that the market and the demand for 3D printing was quite big in Singapore. But the issue is that a lot of these 3D printing services only do plastic materials. There is a specialised machine that can 3D print in metal called SLS (selective laser sintering). Basically, you use the laser to melt the metal powder layer by layer. The cost of the metal 3D printing machine is quite substantial. So, unless your machine runs 24/7 you won’t be able to get your return on investments soon. Thus, for me it wasn’t a feasible option. These services work in places like the Netherlands and the US because they are actually one of the biggest 3D printing hubs in the world. They always have customers from around the globe. Malaysia doesn’t even have a hub and that’s the gap in the market.

Was it difficult for you to take the first leap and do something of your own? How was the process like?

I am a firm believer of this quote, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door”. I’ve always had this passion to create and design. With 3D printing opportunity, it allows me to create. When I first started this business, I knew things were going to be hard. Because I had a day job, I had to wake up at 4am in the morning every day to work on Fvauz. (I still have a day job.) Plus, that’s the only quiet time I have to myself when I can sit and design. Starting a business, you just got to make it work.

When I created my first design, I wanted it to reference Malaysian culture. I saw this as something new and no one has yet to really explore it. That’s how I decided to 3D print butang baju Melayu. Not only do I make these buttons, but my designs can be made into cufflinks too.

When I came back to Malaysia from the UK, I saw a lot of positive feedback. I would make my designs and wear them myself. People kept asking me about it. It was during the Raya season and the timing was just right. So, I decided to continue and now I have a total of 5 designs.

Are there any limitations in terms of the designs you can make?

There are some limitations, depending on the material of the designs. With plastic, you can do more exotic designs. You can make edges sharper, but you can’t do that with metal just yet. It’s something I have to take into account when I’m designing. Over time, technology will eventually improve, and I’ll be able to do more in the future.

The challenge is when I’m customizing designs for clients, they want their designs to be identical to their logos. However, with the limitations with metal printing, I’ll have to tweak their logos a bit. There are also limitations with regards to minimum and maximum dimensions. The maximum dimension is a little less than 1 m and the minimum is 3mm. Thus, I’ll have to make my designs within that range.

How is the business model like?

The beauty of this business model is that I don’t need a huge start-up capital. I just need creativity and some initial investment to come up with my own designs. I started out small but being small may not necessary be a bad thing because it works well for me. Everything is made-to-order. I actually encourage new designers who want to pursue 3D printing. They should just go for it. But if you have a lot of financial commitments then, of course, you have to contemplate and think it through before you take the plunge.

What did you do in terms of marketing?

When I started this business, I knew I needed to make a website as well as all the necessary social media accounts. But I wasn’t sure which platforms I should use and where I should start. Should I sell them on Ebay? Should I make a stand-alone website? There were so many channels, I can even go on to Alibaba and Lazada to sell my designs. But I felt like I wanted to build my brand organically, so I decided to have my own website instead.

I designed the website myself. I didn’t outsource or hire any external designers. I think with the internet nowadays, it’s not difficult to build your own website because of the availability of website builders.

I also manage an Instagram and Facebook account for Fvauz. The key is to keep the accounts active, because it gives a good impression of your business. When an account is inactive for too long, people will start to think, “What happened to the business?” Therefore, I try to update my Instagram as much as possible to keep it active and engaging. I started this since 2015, but I only started getting real traction recently. I know I can pay for advertisement, but I believe if you have a good product the product will promote itself.

Another thing I tried was to find brand ambassadors to promote my designs. Luckily enough I have a friend, who was also starting out his own business of becoming an MC (emceesaufi) at the time. So, we came to an agreement to collaborate together to promote each other’s business. What he’ll do is that whenever he attends an event or function, he’ll wear one of my designs.

Were there any points in your journey where you felt like giving up on the business?

When you first start out in any business, you’re not going to have much prospects initially. Back in 2015, when I was still in UK, things were moving very slowly. But what kept me going was having a good mentor, a friend, whom I could seek advice from. I wanted his honest input on my business. He told me that I should focus on designing buttons. Initially I created all sorts of products like mobile phone holder/case, ceramic honey dipper, as well as the buttons. Being an engineer, I was eager to create! However, my friend told me that I should just focus on one thing and make that one thing successful first.

Are you the only one doing 3D printed buttons in Malaysia?

I think I’m the only one in Malaysia doing this currently, especially when it comes to butang baju Melayu.

What is the vision for Fvauz?

My long-term vision is to eventually open my own shop. Even if it is a small shop it wouldn’t matter, at least I want to elevate the brand and open up more opportunities for customisation. I have a few customers who came up to me wanting to do customized designs, such as creating their logos as a button. It’s only recently that the corporate world started to see value in this. I think they want to try something new, because normally corporate gifts are just mugs, planners, keychains and other similar items. This is something fresh and unique to them.

Any parting advices for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Don’t keep waiting for the opportunity to knock at your door, get out there and just go for it. I encourage others to explore the field of 3D printing. If you’re going into 3D printing, then you’ll need to invest in a good laptop or desktop because that will be your bread and butter.

My other advice is to find that mentor or friend that can help provide a different perspective that you might not see. I’m sure there are a lot of well know businessman that are more than happy to share their experience with you. We can all learn from each other.

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