Darren Chan

Hand-crafted audio product.

URL: Arctand.labs

Darren is a 19 years old Ngee Ann Polytechnic student. He started freelancing audio production for artists, and eventually got into creating custom audio products. He runs Arctand.labs, selling handcrafted audio products to the audiophile market.

Business Summary

Business model: Handcrafted audio products

No. of employees: 1

Location independence: Yes

How much time spent working: 5-7hr/day

Revenue:  2k/month

Based on passion: Yes, Music

Background:

  • Hobby
  • Passion
  • Location-independent entrepreneur

Related Topics:

  • Music
  • Photography
  • Audio Production
  • Audio Products
  • Audiophile

Making 2k/month
selling hand-crafted audio products @19

Tell us a little about yourself and what you’re working on right now?

My name is Darren, I’m a 19 years old polytechnic student. I run my own audio product store while balancing my school commitments.

I’m currently focusing on developing a new high-performance digital audio cable for the audiophile market called Rubi +, as well as desktop recording equipment for the home studio space.

What’s your back story and how you got into this space?​

I started freelancing audio production for emerging artists at the age of 15. So during that period I found myself being obsessed with sound quality, and started playing around with acoustics and even cables. I was a huge skeptic for the audiophile cable ‘snake oil’ but being involved in making my own cables and hearing first-hand any perceived differences changed the way I mixed and mastered music. Through research I found out that the audiophile market was sharing similar obsessions, so I decided to start my own business selling audio cables.

Throughout my freelancing times, I have met some larger players like Zendyll Studios, composed of people like Jon Chua, The Sam Willows, etc. Thanks to several word-of-mouth instances, I worked with Luke from Zendyll to work on pieces of recording equipment, called Channel Strips.

How I got my first client was actually through giving the studio owners a trial for my product, he liked it and placed a bulk order from me. It wasn’t easy trying to fulfill the orders as I was starting off. For my first order I had to learn logistics, manufacturing, and financing methods on the go.

What makes your business unique or different from the rest?​

The products from Arctand Labs are handmade and built-to-order. Our slogan is called “Discover your sound” because selling what customers need to match their setup is of importance; we don’t try to upsell them anything else just to make a quick buck. Providing value and making the customers very happy is key because they may keep coming back for more. We design products to first-principles; smaller than the component level, and if I think a product is bad, I would pull it off the shelf.

What were some of the greatest challenges you struggled with? And how did you overcome it? ​

The greatest challenge that I struggled with is time management. It’s damn difficult to balance between schoolwork and running a business right now. Thankfully, it was during the COVID-19 lockdown period and classes were online. I sometimes spend the lesson time multitasking between lectures and fulfilling orders. Sometimes I would skip lunch as I was too busy. 

School reopening would be another challenge as I would have less time. I plan to hire my mother or friend to help me out with some of the fulfillment and customer service tasks, in the short term.

Another thing that really held me back was overthinking. I would constantly fear that my next step would fail, causing inaction and a self-fulfilling prophecy. I spent my first year contemplating on my actions and didn’t really move at all.

What made this an easy source of revenue for you? What motivated you ​

The niche audiophile market was what I started with. As it is a rather small market, it’s tough to gain market share. You’d have to really stand out from others. Branding and Marketing with intent made the difference compared to other stores. I think many audio products are hyped using their brand name; I’m not fond of that. I wanted to build a world where more could enjoy the art of having a good listening experience, and more artists to have more intent in the music they create. I learnt about marketing during my freelancing time and was able to apply them to my store. For example – writing descriptions that appeal to the market that competitors couldn’t.

Money wasn’t the main driver. I want to do useful things like make life easier for people who listen and create music. For a start, the audiophile community is rather small but very cohesive, it wasn’t difficult for me to establish my social presence. So extending the ‘audio obsession’ paradigm to music producers is one way to fulfill our mission.

Where do you see yourself and the business in the next 5-10 years?

In 5-10 years, there will be enough to perform small-to-mid scale assembly and fulfillment locally. Singapore has little natural resources, so production using first-principle thinking is not viable. By then it’s possible to fine-tune the local assembly process to the point of reaching sub ~$10 costs per piece of equipment.

Is your business location independent? Could you tell us more about it? If not location independent, why don’t you do it?

Currently working from home, I have all my stocks shipped and stored in my home.

How many hours do you spend per day working on your business? How did you make your day more productive? ​

Around 5-7 hours spent on the business a day. 3 hours is usually dedicated to marketing activities such as creating content, graphics, and photography. While the remaining 4 hours are spent on assembly and fulfilling the orders such as delivery and packaging.

I usually go for a run or hit the gym every alternate day to clear my mind to focus better and be more productive. I practice Elon Musk’s 5-minute method, occasionally, where I would focus intensely on a task for 5 minutes before switching to another.

What would your advice be for someone who’s just starting out?

Be prepared to fail countless times and not see anything in return. Sacrifices have to be made, you have to prioritize your business over your friends.

Another advice is to have good branding down. Because it’s the foundation that determines why people would buy from you. Branding is more about showing your personality, and if people like you they’re going to buy from you. Having a marketing plan ensures that you’re getting your message out there to the market. And make sure what you do is useful. Bonus marks if it’s awesome.

What were some of the mistakes you made? ​

The biggest mistake I made was not understanding if my product was what the market wanted. I over-ordered materials and created a product that nobody wanted, resulting in a loss. I would suggest anyone to do thorough market research before creating a product to validate the demand for it, and don’t go for fleeting emotions of over-excitement, fear, or greed.

What is your biggest takeaway from starting the business?​

Fail fast, fail forward. Then reflect on mistakes and contemplate. One would likely eat a lot of shit for years before the business starts to scale.

Resources & Mentions:

Things we have talked about above, or recommended by interviewee.

  • "Art of Thinking Clearly" - Rolf Tobeli
  • Op Amp Applications Handbook, 2005 - For those who are inclined in electronics

Follow Darren @Derraan

Rubi is a high-tier cable is perfect for audiophiles and mixing/mastering engineers to provide solidarity for your audio system.

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