THE way Isaac Tan tells it, the story of how he went from a kid who sold insects pinned under scotch tape at 80 cents a piece to being a partner in video production company Big 3 Productions is a story of other people.
Of those he names, many are entrepreneurs themselves. Others helped make doing business possible, or easier.
There is Willie Lee, whom he has known since childhood. Mr Lee worked out of his own bedroom when he first founded Big 3 to shoot small corporate videos. He roped in Mr Tan three years ago when Big 3 moved into its current office along Telok Blangah Road.
But Big 3 wasn't Isaac's first business venture. As a third-year undergraduate, he successfully bid for a two-year lease to operate a student-run bistro, Screme, at the Singapore Management University (SMU) with a few friends.
Among them were Vincent Ha, another childhood friend from church who now runs a social media marketing start-up; and Seth Lui, who runs milkshake start-up MakeShake. A third partner in Screme, Rachel, did not go on to do business after graduation; instead, she became Mr Tan's girlfriend. His parents are among those who made it possible - he took loans from them to keep Big 3 going in its early days but has since repaid them. "We had a lot of problems at the start because of cashflow," Mr Tan explains.
The bulk of expenses then was on pricey video production software, since Big 3 was still a two-man affair with little equipment. "We wanted to be 100 per cent legitimate; we did not want to use pirated software at any point. So we had to cough up money for all these things," he says.
Other times, they had no jobs; and when they did, clients took a long time to pay. "There were times when we were really just waiting for cash to flow in."
The longest wait so far has been six months but, on average, clients pay about a month after each job is completed. As their accounts receivable grew, so did the accounts payable. "We had to take a father-mother loan," says Mr Tan.
Big 3 worked on securing more projects too. Here, his earlier stint as an intern with the People's Association proved useful. Familiar with the government's procurement process, he decided that the system's transparency could work in favour of a start-up like theirs.