Forge Factory believes the future is multi-dimensional
A pair of young entrepreneurs are building a lead into the future
By learning a marketable skill, in my experience, that's where the ideas, opportunities, partners, and finances always seem to come from says Nisha Fairuz Mazlan. Nisha, 21, a mechanical engineering undergraduate student at UTP is the co-founder of Forge Factory, a 3D printing service company.
"Sure, it also takes an enormous amount of hard work, but that just comes with the learning," she says. She says she is glad that her university years have been put to good use to build a lead in the business sector.
Kickstarting a 3D printing start-up has paved the way for a fulfilling university life for both Nisha and her co-founder. After seeing brisk demand for 3D printing services at the university, Nisha and her co-founder, Wan Muhamad Fadzli Wan Abdul Hamid took a huge stride towards offering 3D printing services at the university.
"I saw there was a long queue at the university's 3D printing facility. Soon, I realized that this was an opportunity for me to offer 3D printing services. All it took was a little bit of courage," explains Nisha.
"I met my business partner at this one business event called the Entrepreneurship Expo (EPEX) at UTP. At the time, he already had a 3D printer worth RM6,500. But he only used it for his own personal projects, not for anything for-profit," says Nisha.
However, at first, the pair faced financial constraints to procure enough printers to cope with rising demand. In order to get access to more funding streams, both co-founders hit upon the idea of joining local entrepreneurship competitions to fund their expansion.
Initially, the pair joined the VEST competition organized at UTP. Despite failing short to make it to the conclusive round, they then went ahead and took their business pitch to the Ministry of Higher Education's KPT-TERAJU SUPERB Higher Education League competition to try their hand at government grants.
Before their SUPERB entry, Nisha says that they were really thankful for the RM2,000 funding received from UTP's Technopreneurship Office.
"After we received the money, we decided to use it to join entrepreneurship competitions outside of UTP. The aim was to gather more money so that we could expand our business," Nisha explains. And in 2017, the pair managed to secure a top 10 place at MaGIC's SUPERB program in Cyberjaya.
After winning the grant, as part of the scheme, the duo were required to attend a business training for three months. "At the training, we were taught how to manoeuvre our business and how to make sure our ideas can take off," Nisha shares.
Significantly, this warranted the company an RM50,000 grant to further their business. Acting on the opportunities that have come their way, Nisha who hails from Pekan, Pahang, says, the company now serves a busy schedule taking orders for 3D printing from both, inside and outside of the country.
The pair, who started the business in their first year of study now owns four 3D printers worth around RM20,000. Since, UTP's Technopreneurship office has given Forge Factory a rent-free space within UTP to operate their business.
Nisha says, "We have had clients from all over Malaysia. Apart from this, we have also received orders from Singapore and a few industry players. We offer the cheapest price in town for 3D printing services."
"Currently, we charge RM1 per gram. Our price is the most affordable. In Kuala Lumpur, it could go up to RM2.50 to RM3 per gram," she says.
Leveraging from the experience the pair has accumulated in the last couple of years, they have been able to offer competitive pricing to outdo their competition.
"Because we have experience sourcing our printing parts from China, we have an advantage over our competitors," adds Nisha.
However, Nisha notes that the first year in business was tough for the both of them. In 2017, she recalls that it was really difficult because the pair were light on experience and did not have anyone to refer to when they encountered problems.
"We see that 3D printing is going to be big in the future. Five years down the line, 3D printing will be commonplace in the industry. By that time, we would have already had five years of experience navigating the business and this is a good head start for us," she says.
Sustainability is the most important thing in business, adds Nisha. Currently, the business is looking up. Nisha says that their current location is good for the business. "We have good business here because we have UiTM nearby. UiTM has architecture, design and modelling students who require a lot of 3D printing services," she says.
Last year, at Telekom Malaysia's hackathon challenge 2018, the pair were invited to be among a panel of professional judges to judge participants' ideas. Additionally, Forge Factory had also been hired by Yayasan Ikhlas Johor to be the 3D consultants for 3D modelling and design class.
To give back, the pair had also lent their expertise for various CSR causes. This year, Forge Factory took part in a 3D tour where they led a team that reached out to six schools of various clusters in Perak. During the program, Forge Factory shared their experience by conducing 3D workshops and competitions at the schools.
Nisha says, "We went to two Maktab Rendah Sains Mara schools, two Sekolah Berasrama Penuh schools and two secondary schools in Perak. The programme was a one day workshop where we taught secondary school students how to design in 3D using the TinkerCAD software."
Rounding off the program, the pair helped choose three best groups to compete at a 3D design competition at UTP. Nisha says, "It's really cool because the prize money pool was RM1,000."
Nisha says, "I have learned a lot after I started my business. Now I see my university life entirely different to what I first imagined it. Through my business ventures, it has helped polished my rough edges and business skills."
At UTP, we coach our students to be innovators and inventors in their fields of study. This is simply because future challenges require leaders and movers who are bold enough to mobilise change.
Indeed, Nisha is another prime example of UTP's profound career connected learning and industry collaboration. From the work we do, we foster long-term relationships with our global social-impact partners to prepare our students, people and researchers as global citizens.
As a leading university in engineering, science and technology, our graduates are driven to exceed their professional objectives and contribute towards overcoming capability deficit across all sectors and industries.