It never ceases to amaze me how much time people invest looking endlessly for magic shortcuts to entrepreneurial success and fulfillment. What other people fail to rationalize are the realities that lie behind when venturing this road out.
It’s a crucial hurdle and only those with enough grit and perseverance overcome.
Arthur Choo is one of those rare gems in the entrepreneurial world who manages several hats on his head. Just like any successful story where entrepreneurs have worked their way relentlessly to the top, Choo had his fair share of ups and downs in life.
“We found the ideal person to feature, a media personality in Singapore.” That is as much I know about the person joining our very first shoot.
With only “media personality” resonate in my head, I automatically tick off the list of what to expect: good-looking, intriguing, and perhaps intimidating.
It isn’t until he introduces himself. I realize that what I had in mind is all that he is not. He is incredibly easy to approach; he is the type to brush off a compliment, even.
Guessing his age, I reckon it’s pretty much almost the same as ours. He seems to be a man of many tricks up his sleeves. There’s something about the way he presents himself, one that will never go unnoticed. The way he shares his story is so passionate – this made me secretly pull out my phone from my pocket and start to look him up on the internet.
My curiosity continues to grow until we sit down and get the chance to know him more than the “media personality” that he is. This is when he starts to unveil his journey.
“I got into the business when I was 18. I had an automobile business, but I failed tremendously,” Choo recalls. When we ask about his motivation to get into business at such a young age, “It’s all about money. At the start, money kind of covered the whole intention (of) why (I started early),” he responds.
His entrepreneurial spirit is already evident in his young years. It shows in the way he talks about his first failure. It appears that he has already mastered the art of tenacity that enables him to get back up from his first major setback.
In 2011, Choo founded BEAT’ABOX, Singapore’s leading Cajon enterprise. His main goal is to create a vibrant and inclusive local art scene from the street, “I was called to perform in a volunteer work, I started feeling genuinely happy when I hear rhythm and beats,” he recalls.
While he admits that he is not the most knowledgeable in music technicalities, we can sense how powerful his determination is, enough to take a bold step towards pursuing his dream.
Despite not having a proper education or background in music, he is persistent in taking a stride, “On the streets, we have a dream of having an academy, using the box drum as a stepping stone to introduce and to promote music and creativity, to be the leading music education provider in the region.”
BEAT’ABOX was coined to benefit other people, connecting communities, and different organizations through music. It has fulfilled 300 over performances and workshops to more than 30,000 participants across both public and private sectors. For four consecutive years, Choo has been spearheading events such as BOX’OUT, Singapore’s largest Cajon festival. This event successfully made it to the Singapore Book of Records for having 431 cajons played in a single session.
Due to its increasing popularity, local and regional media outlets take notice – The Straits Times, Cable News Network, and Channel News Asia, to name a few. Choo has been actively involved in youth empowerment and community initiatives. His mission to create a vibrant and inclusive arts scene by making rhythm possible for everyone regardless of status and rank has started to leave a mark in history.
“I thought of BEAT’ABOX as creativity, a production, in theatre, concerts, music shows, academy, and community. I think everything that my heart feels is all in there. So for me, it’s more than just a Cajon,” Choo passionately utters.
The success of BEAT’ABOX has diversified into another network called Green Drumming. Choo, the founder, explains that the goal is to create a sustainable way of drumming.
Driven by his passion for arts and creating an impact on people and community, he took a notch higher in revolutionizing the drumming experiences for the public. Green Drumming is the first and leading recycled percussion group in Singapore that creates music and drums out of waste materials.
Like any other road map, Choo also had to go through several roadblocks; the rejections he received from his friends when trying to develop an idea. “There were nine out of ten people who said, ‘Are you crazy?!'”
“One thing that I constantly tell myself is to always try hitting another wall. Don’t ever stop trying. Even if I would have to be put hitting against that wall of change, of new transformation, I will, because from there, I will know how it feels,” Choo added.
Even though BEAT’ABOX and Green Drumming are correlated and have the same mission, Choo wants to promote these as two uniquely separate entities. While BEAT’ABOX encourages people to express themselves, enjoy playing a Cajon, and make music, Green Drumming is about environmental sustainability. He wants it to become a platform of change, “Our goal is to send a message that nothing is wasted in your life. Anything that is put into the right hands will turn into a beautiful piece of music. We give all these drums a second life. They, too, deserve second chances.”
Bringing the intention of giving chances to life, he taps into different individuals and gets them involved in the community. “We minister to a lot of people, even like ex-convicts, elderly people, who lost their passion in their youth days, bring them back to where their purpose is.” This initiative propagates transformations and stepping-out from the usual. His group has been incessantly working with institutions and different government sectors.
His advice to young aspirants who want to take the same path is to maximize the potential and make decisions based on one’s capacity. In terms of being an artist, there should be a continuous improvement and non-stop honing of craft, no matter how many people try to shoot you down. As an entrepreneur, he emphasizes the importance of having a sharp, precise, and alert mindset. There will be impactful things that must be driven by logical decisions.
All of this is likewise attributed to being surrounded by good company, supportive people, mentor, and most importantly, having enough faith and trust in himself. To leave a legacy and lasting impact on people and the community is what he yearns to achieve in the end.
Book: Dare to Fail
Speaking of legacy, he shares yet another milestone in his career – his book, ‘Dare to Fail.’ “I think a lot of times, books talk about success and nobody really talks about how much they fail,” Choo explains. He wants to be true to his students and partners, to whom he can say, “You know, I have failed many times. I’ve learned the art of rejection and what took me to overcome such failures.”
As they always say, major outstanding changes didn’t occur overnight — they happened in gradual stages; through slow, protracted movements. To Choo, it was the massive move he took when he was young that made the difference, who, despite having humble beginnings, persisted, trusted and had faith in his own voice and capability against doubt, believed in his vision and strived to be better.
I still try to grasp everything he says and gather my thoughts around my head. I admire his wisdom. It takes great courage to make tough decisions quite early in life. Choo’s distinguished attitude towards bringing about change propelled him to achieving his goals.