Serial entrepreneur Tony Goh may have more misses than hits when it comes to business, but he’s never given up nor regretted following his entrepreneurial instincts.
Tony Goh is the owner of Altrex Singapore, a small retail shop tucked in an obscure corner of Shaw Towers on Beach Road selling outdoor and sporting equipment such as backpacks, camping gear and skateboards. The serial entrepreneur officially opened his latest venture on November 2006, targeting young skaters and adventurous travellers who go off the beaten path.
“I decided on this business because I like travelling, so it’s relevant to my passion,” Tony shares. “I like to see new things, explore and get to know more people.” So far the 34-year old has travelled to Japan, Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, New York and Kansas.
To set himself apart from his competitors, Altrex carries products from brands such as Deuter, Victorinox and Camelbak which are not commonly found elsewhere. “This is a very competitive industry with places like the Army Market (also on Beach Road), so I need to be a bit different,” Tony explains. “Departmental stores are the worst, because they periodically have sales which spell bad business for the rest of us.”
From Business to Business
Altrex is not Tony’s first business. In fact, his first venture into entrepreneurship was in 1994 when he entered into a partnership which dealt with the transportation, delivery and installation of furniture. He was a delivery assistant who helped set up furniture in showrooms, and he spotted an opportunity for this business. However, his business soon shut down as the furniture industry was later hit by an economic crisis.
Tony decided to further his studies as he realised he wouldn’t go far as a delivery boy all his life. He studied design in a private art school for a year and later obtained a Bachelor in Advertising and Diploma in Marketing from Australia’s RMIT University.
Armed with his new qualifications, Tony freelanced for various advertising firms from 1999. He then started his own design firm with another partner, but the business also ended after slightly more than a year due to poor business.
In 2000 he started Yellow Box, a toy shop in Beach Road market specialising in miniature toys, with three partners. “Why the name Yellow Box? Well toys come in boxes, and yellow was our favourite colour,” he laughs. He is still a sleeping partner in the business today.
In 2003, Tony also started a shop in Far East Plaza selling clothing and apparel, specialising in ethnic wear. It didn’t work out either, as the rise in demand of ethnic wear saw too many competitors enter the market. “Certain competitors were able to bring in exactly the same products, but yet sell them cheaper,” he sighs. Then Sars hit Singapore, and he decided to close shop in 2004.
From 2004 he entered into a premium food business marketing products such as kaya, jam, peanut butter. Like some of his previous ventures, this was also short-lived. “It is not easy to enter a crowded market. Supermarket chains usually had their own products and preferred suppliers,” Tony muses. He had set himself a goal but he knew he wouldn’t be able to meet that goal in this business so it had to end.
Tony then went on to help in a family business – a children’s art school – from 2005. But he felt stifled, and the entrepreneurial bug continued to chafe at him. He felt that he needed to do something of his own and so Altrex was born. “I venture into any business I think that can make money,” Tony reflects.
He has never regretted giving into his entrepreneurial instincts. “For sure I’ve had times that I’ve made some wrong decisions as far as choosing partners or timing my business opportunities,” he shares. “But I’ve never regretted starting any of my businesses or thought of getting a full-time job. I’ve never regretted even when I was in debt.”
What would Tony say to someone who wanted to start a new business? He says it is important to know the right people. “There are actually a lot of business opportunities out there, but most people don’t know where to find them,” he says. “I knew some people from my time at Yellow Box in the Army market, and hence I have the contacts to the right suppliers.”
“It is all about timing, location and opportunity. You must know your market well. Assess market demand and calculate your profit margin,” he declares. “Retail and merchandise is all about products – your product must be good.”
“And never ever regret.”
You can contact Tony Goh at admin[at]altrex[dot]com[dot]sg.