What does nine plus two equal to? The answer is not simply eleven. When nine cities from the Pearl River Delta merge with Hong Kong and Macao, a grander market and more business opportunities are created.
The recent development of the Greater Bay Area, which promotes higher integration of nine cities of the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong province with Hong Kong and Macao, has been receiving increasing attention. From trade and commerce, finance, tourism to technology, the Greater Bay Area focuses on strengthening the communication and collaboration between the nine cities from Guangdong province and the two SARs (Special Administrative Regions). And of course, the cultural and creative industry is also part of the integration and collaboration initiative. In this issue’s Feature, we have invited representatives from three Macao enterprises in the cultural and creative industry, Todot Design, Theatre Farmers and Macao Mango International Media Limited, to share their stories on integrating into the Greater Bay Area as well as how they can utilise their own advantages in a bigger market and tell Macao’s stories.
Todot Design: building up a business that one enjoys
Ten years ago, a local young college graduate fresh out of the design school decided to start his own career in the first-tier cities in mainland China. He started off in Hangzhou and Shenzhen and learned from the veterans in the design industry. Ten years later, the once young graduate is now the director of a design firm that operates in both Macao and Shenzhen, who is working to build two original brands that target the mainland market. “Actually, we didn’t specifically target the Greater Bay Area or the mainland market,” Bob Lei, the protagonist of the story said. “We are only developing our business in accordance with our own features.”
Making lifestyle innovative products and fashion items
After graduating from college and accumulating professional experience in the mainland for several years, Lei teamed up with three partners from Macao, Hong Kong and Shenzhen and kickstarted Todot Design in Macao in 2013, providing brand and graphic design service for potential clients. The team also later established two original brands, Ultraworks and Faith & Fearless. Ultraworks, which has already received several awards from international and national design competitions, focuses on lifestyle products such as watch and stationery, etc. Faith & Fearless, on the other hand, targets the fashion sector, producing fashion items such as bags, caps, clothes and skateboards, etc., mainly catering to young college students and professional talents.
“Ultraworks hopes to expose consumers to some interesting concepts. We founded Faith & Fearless because we have been seeing the emergence of young fashion brands both in China and overseas markets since 2016,” Lei explained, who is now the design director at Todot Design. “Then we realised that Macao didn’t really have relevant original products yet. So we thought we should give it a try.”
Curiosity towards Macao
The two original brands target the mainland market and have set up over one hundred consignment points in Guangzhou and Shenzhen. The team also sells its products on e-commerce platforms and on social media, which contributes nearly 80% of the revenue. The revenue coming from Macao also accounts for around 10% to 15% of the total revenue. The markets in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan, etc. also contribute to the team’s revenue. “I had worked in mainland China before so I have a good understanding of how the market operates and how the culture works in mainland China. I know what we can bring to the table,” Lei said. “So I am quite confident in exploring the mainland market.”
However, there are already a large number of original brands in mainland China. The success of Ultraworks and Faith & Fearless really depends on whether they can increase their exposure by participating in exhibitions and competitions, collaborating with other brands, organising events and stimulating mainland consumers’ curiosity towards Macao's brands. “When collaborating with other businesses, they would always ask us what special features we as a brand have,” Lei explained. “At the end of the day, there are tons of mature brands in mainland China. That’s why I think if we base our headquarter in mainland China, Taiwan or Japan, we won’t have much of an advantage in setting ourselves apart from the crowd.”
Another feature the team has is that it has design talents coming from Guangdong province, Hong Kong and Macao, which resembles Lei’s own professional experience. “I used to work for some companies in the mainland. My colleagues were from all parts of the world. We have people from inner-Mongolia, Malaysia and Hong Kong, etc. There was also me, from Macao,” Lei recalled. “I thought that such working environment is very great. Then there were some friends who shared the same idea of starting their own business. We subsequently teamed up and kickstarted Todot Design.” Lei believes that having designers coming from different cultural backgrounds would facilitate an inclusive learning environment where designers can inspire each other on design projects and during brainstorming meetings.
Expanding to second-tier cities in mainland
Ultraworks and Faith & Fearless have been in business operation for some time. From Lei’s perspective, the two brands have both met the team’s expectation. Ultraworks and Faith & Fearless are now continuing to promote their products in order to attract more people to creative products coming from Todot Design. Faith & Fearless will specifically focus on entering second-tier cities in mainland China. “Besides Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai, we are also seeing great consumption potential in places like Hunan province and Sichuan province, etc., judging from the brand’s sales statistics. That’s why we are planning to create a franchise model to provide opportunities for people interested in us to open up Faith & Fearless outlets in their cities,” Lei said. In his opinion, a franchise model involves very complicated operational issues and therefore requires a lot of research on relevant operation principles. Regardless, Todot Design has strong confidence in the second-tier cities in mainland China.
“I wish that consumers will remember the brand and the products even if they don’t remember the origin of the brand,” Lei added. “Let’s look at the example of Japan. Many local brands there don’t really make Japanese elements their selling point. Instead, they provide the opportunity for consumers to feel and have a glimpse of Japanese culture through the products’ quality and design.”
Stay true to oneself fearlessly
As what the brand name entails, Faith & Fearless’s brand philosophy tells people that one should stay true to oneself fearlessly. A creative and cultural company should have a deep understanding of its own position in the market regardless of what kind of market it is exploring. “It is essential to figure out who you are and what you want. If the market in Greater Bay Area doesn’t suit you, then you might find success in Europe, South America, etc. Or maybe you will find success in another bay area,” Lei concluded, while showing his Faith & Fearless tattoos on his hands. “Or perhaps staying in Macao could also be a good option since we have over 30 to 40 million visitors each year coming to Macao. This really depends on the founding principles of your brand.” He believes that a brand’s philosophy should be embedded in everyday life.
Todot Design mainly provides services in brand image, package design and image planning for events, etc. The team consists of talents coming from Macao, Hong Kong and mainland China. Todot design established Ultraworks in 2014, combining unique design language and fresh concepts. Ultraworks has won A' Design Platinum Award, China Successful Design Award, China Design Intelligence Award TOP 100, G-Mark, HKDA Silver Award. In 2016, Todot Design also kickstarted a fashion brand named Faith & Fearless.
Ultraworks / Faith & Fearless | ultra-works.com