Jerry Aurum: Entrepreneur in the Creative Industry

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JERRY Aurum landed a job with a graphic design company upon completing his studies, but felt out of place working for someone else. To realize his dream of running his own business, the Bandung Institute of Technology graduate of visual communications and graphic design decided to work extra hard to develop his skills in photography and design.

In March 2000, after just three months of working, he opened two businesses: Jerry Aurum Photography and Jerry Aurum Design Company.

The companies soon progressed and received dozens of design and photography orders. Jerry has mastered every detail of both design and photography and is now a successful young entrepreneur in the creative industry.

Jerry said that although his road to entrepreneurship has been quite long and winding, it has not been too difficult as he has determination and the required skills. “To start a company in the creative industry one clearly has to be creative and innovative in developing and expanding ideas. The capital required is not too big. The emphasis is on skill as we are selling services, not products,” said Jerry last month in his office in Kebayoran Lama, South Jakarta.

Jerry was short of funds when he decided to start his own business. To overcome this, he made 300 diskette-size calendars containing photos he had taken and sent them to prospective clients to promote and introduce himself. The effort did not cost much. “This method was quite effective. I estimated that at least 1 percent of the prospective clients would respond. And I was right. My first client was Conoco Philips. I got an assignment from them to photograph their site in South Sumatra,” said the 32-year-old photographer.

Immediately after getting his first client, Jerry resigned from his job. “The value of my contract was unimaginable. It equaled two years’ salary,” recalled Jerry with a smile.

The income from the first photography project gave him the confidence to set up his own companies. He said in the creative industry one had to have the courage to experiment and explore ideas.

Jerry travels a lot because he believes that a creative person should continuously expand his horizons. Fresh ideas, to him, are a major asset. “By trying out new things one can hone one’s creativity,” he explained. Jerry, who was born in Medan on May 26, 1976, has won the trust of two major clients: Citibank and Telkom.

Jerry said the photography and design business was akin to the restaurant business. To get many customers, a restaurant has to serve delicious food in a comfortable atmosphere and provide good service. Likewise, to satisfy his clients, Jerry gives the best service and creates a pleasant atmosphere, and of course produces top photography.

“If the quality of our photography deteriorated, customers would look for other photographers. I have succeeded in maintaining our photography and design quality, so today I have about 400 clients,” he added.

With his vast experience in photography and design, he sometimes runs into trouble, such as inconsistency of the part of some of his employees, which disrupts his planning. “Consistency is a must and has to be maintained. No client wants to know about our internal problems. They pay large fees, so it is understandable that they can be quite demanding when it comes to quality,” he explained.

In his mind, an entrepreneur has to be able to create something new and unique. During his nine years in the business, he has seen many lazy businesspeople who are mere copycats. “I realize it is not always easy to create innovative things. But, once we can do it we get our own niche,” he said.

He believes that as long as one loves their work, new and creative ideas will automatically come. Marketing-wise, Jerry is also quite creative. He said that success in his line of business could be achieved not only through good products and services but also via strategic marketing and promotion. Market expansion, he said, is an important aspect in marketing. Some businesspeople, he said, have forgotten all about cross-subsidized promotion. Jerry promotes his business via the Internet, including with a blog, a website and through Facebook.

For Jerry, Facebook is not only for finding friends but is also a promotional tool. “It is free and effective, because it is read by thousands of people every day. Next to my own photo, I also have photos of some of my work on Facebook. I call this a cross-subsidy promotion, because it is mutually beneficial. Besides being a hobby of mine, I can also introduce myself and my companies to many people, who may one day become clients,” said Jerry, who enjoys watching movies and traveling.

Unlike some businesspeople, Jerry shuns away from giving money or tips to middlemen to get a project. All his projects are acquired professionally through normal the channels, without any tips for middlemen, that is. “We must change this kind of mentality in businesspeople here. How can we develop our country if we still give and accept bribes? ” said Jerry.

He admitted that his stance could cost him work or earn him enemies. He said he often encountered such problems. However, his stance has earned him a reputation of being a professional and reliable businessman, one that is respected by many clients.

His business has so far been unaffected by the economic downturn, because Jerry’s clients are in the premium category. Major corporations such as his clients usually have sufficient funds for promotion and brand building, even in times of crises.

Armed with his skills and principles, Jerry is more than surviving. He said middle- and low-class photography companies were facing difficult times because their clients had reduced their promotion budgets. These companies train their employees to take photos or pay photographers who are merely newcomers.

“A company spends about Rp 5 million, buys a camera and tells an employee to take photos, and in this way they think their promotion problem is solved. They are no longer willing to pay more expensive photographers, who charge millions for one good shot. Apparently, quality is not a priority for them,” he concluded. (Faisal Chaniago)

The Jakarta Post, March 11, 2009

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