University grad endures low pay before starting his own business

June 20, 2015 08:01
Young entrepreneurs Ray Wong and Oscar Sheikh  started Treehouse Studio three years ago. The company specializes in creating animations and computer graphics. Photo: Treehouse Studio

After he graduated from a local university, Ray Wong Wai-ho joined a firm that processes computer animations and graphic designs for foreign companies.

Wong made only HK$3,000 (US$387) a month at the time, not enough to keep up with the cost of living in Hong Kong.

While other young people were upgrading to new mobile phones or going on holiday to Japan, Wong could only dream of doing so.

He endured the tough times for one year.

What kept him going was his determination to start his own business one day.

Wong then met his business partner, Oscar Sheikh Ka-hei.

Three years ago, the two quit their jobs and started Treehouse Studio, which specializes in creating animations and computer graphics for clients.

Video marketing was becoming popular around that time.

Since animation is the common language of everyone and requires no translation and less editorial work, companies, especially start-ups aiming at overseas markets, began to use it to tell their corporate stories and to highlight their products' features.

Treehouse’s clients include banks and fast-food restaurant chains.

“Turning my work into profitable products is the ideal scenario,” Wong said.

In Hong Kong, not many are willing to invest in the animation business.

Enthusiastic local artists are hampered by a shortage of capital.

At the beginning, Treehouse’s business was slow.

But Wong and Sheikh made good use of their spare time by applying for a loan from the Hong Kong government to finance the creation of one of their animations, Hong Kong Station, which shows the city at different periods of time.

Sponsored by the Hong Kong Digital Entertainment Association, the Hong Kong Station animation was entered in an international competition and won the 15th TBC DigiCon6 Creativity Award.

Though the start-up cost for a computer animation business is not high, cash flow has been a major challenge for the studio.

Sometimes a client won’t settle the bill until six months after the work is done.

But overall, business is growing healthily and generating a steady income.

When they first started, Wong and Sheikh were not able to afford their own premises and had to use the offices of their friends.

Now, they lease their own workspace and have two full-time employees.

Wong said Treehouse will use character animation more extensively in creating commercials for its clients.

If any of the characters becomes a hit, it will open up new possibilities for the business, he said.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 1.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version中文版]

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Hong Kong Station is an award-winning animation created by Wong and Sheikh. The cute characters are called 'Thingers'. Photo: Treehouse Studio
Wong says Treehouse will use character animation more extensively in creating commercials for its clients. Photo: Treehouse Studio

Hong Kong Economic Journal