MARK Yeow, 24, has long scars that testify to his passion for scooter riding - despite road accidents that left gashes needing multiple stitches. But in the last two years, he has gained the battle scars of doing business too - in none other than scooter tuning and repairs.
Scooter Narcotics is still up and running today with a monthly turnover of $20,000 to $35,000, defying setbacks such as Mr Yeow's brushes with the law, getting his family evicted from their residence, and struggling to rebuild a tainted reputation in the local scooter community.
The idea of entering into a scooter-related business had in fact come as a surprise to Mr Yeow himself, who left school at 16 and has worked in sales and real estate since. "I've always wanted to set up my own business, but never imagined myself to be in this industry. I thought maybe a bistro, or something generic, just selling stuff," he says.
He had hit a rough patch in life, facing a relationship problem and feeling directionless, when a friend asked over ramen: "Why don't you just start a scooter business?"
"I thought that was crazy, but the very next day I set up a Facebook page for the company and decided to start selling parts," he says. The scooter enthusiast had been racing since 17. "My mum has asked me to give up several times, but that's something I just cannot do. Riding is freedom," he says.
She soon had more reasons to hope he would give up both riding and his new business.
With just $800, Mr Yeow started buying scooter parts from local suppliers, negotiating with those he had gotten to know as a customer and persuading them to offer him favourable prices without having to buy in bulk.
That worked for awhile, and he soon decided to branch into offering basic repairs and servicing of scooters - on the premises of the landed property his family was renting then. "We had several complaints because of the noise and it was considered illegal soliciting of business, but I really loved what I was doing and wanted to continue." The family was soon given a month's notice to leave the place.
"After we got chased out, my family was really furious. Ties between myself and my two elder brothers were so bad. I told myself I had to take responsibility for it," says Mr Yeow. The family moved into a condominium and he was tasked with paying half the rent.
"I could not keep up with the payments, so I really had to broaden my sales network," he says. Early marketing tactics included forcing himself to copy and paste links to his website every day from 8pm to 1am. "I told myself I had to paste 300 links in scooter forums every night," he says.
In dogged pursuit of business growth, Mr Yeow also began taking on scooter repair jobs in the condo's carpark. Again, complaints followed swiftly. He realised that a proper workshop was needed.