Pat Law, who started her social media agency, Goodstuph, in Singapore in 2010, has developed a reputation for being unconventional. She has cropped hair, tattoos and funky glasses, and is openly gay — all of which help her stand out in this prosperous but socially conservative city. “I will piss a person off within the first five minutes of meeting them,” says Law, with more than a hint of pride.
From a business standpoint, the tough persona seems to work for Law. Her nine-employee firm has won industry awards for its quirky, sometimes edgy, social-media campaigns, and is on track to make 10 million Singapore dollars (about $8 million) in annual revenue in the next two years. Clients include Sony, Sephora, Electrolux and BMW’s Mini. “We are not good at wining and dining,” she says. “We don’t know how to treat clients like they’re God. But we deliver on the work.”
As a social media agency, Goodstuph focuses less on tweets and more on events or promotions designed to cause a digital stir on Twitter, Facebook and the like. One of its most successful campaigns involved this cardboard workstation, which was designed for Hewlett-Packard’s Z1 computer and resulted in 79 million impressions on social-media platforms and was cited in Fast Company and other publications for its architectural appeal.
This summer, Law is gambling that a new division of Goodstuph will create more buzz on social media: She is opening a bar. While few social-media agencies own their own watering holes, Law says the move makes sense because a number of her clients — Glenfiddich, Monkey Shoulder, Sailor Jerry, Hendrick’s Gin — are alcohol brands. “If all my accounts were government accounts, I would never have started a bar,” she says.
Every three months, Law plans to let one single alcohol brand take over the establishment, a two-level venue on Singapore’s busy Club Street. For that brand, the space will be a blank canvas, which is why she dubbed it “Bar Naked.” Law will serve as creative director, handling the theme, decor and staffing. The client will supply the alcohol, and sales of cocktails will be split.
Law is scheduled to kick things off later this month with Monkey Shoulder, a triple-malt whiskey. “The bar stools will have swings. There will be a banana on every single table,” she says, and “paintings with monkeys.”
When another brand, Hendrick’s Gin, takes over the space, she plans to put bathtubs outside, as a nod to how the beverage was once produced. “It will be a moment worth Instagraming,” she says. And when Sailor Jerry rum, which was named after a tattoo artist, takes over, she’s considering turning the second floor into a tattoo parlor. “If you dare, we will ink the logo on you, permanently,” she says.
The goal is to blur the line between outdoor advertising and event marketing, and create something consumers will share on social media. “Creativity for us will be in 3-D,” she says.
Of course, whether Bar Naked will actually work remains to be seen. Law has not invested much capital in the project, as the venue is owned by a friend, Irene Ang, who is founder of a Singapore talent agency, Fly Entertainment, and an early backer of Goodstuph. The two will run Bar Naked as a joint venture. While the first 12 months are already sold, Law says she is “terribly” stressed. “When you get bigger, when you get more prominent, you just don’t want to fail,” she says.
Law has taken risks before — including when she left a promising position as a digital strategist at advertising giant Ogilvy to start Goodstuph. She hadn’t wanted to become an entrepreneur, but felt it was the only way she could make enough money to pay her father’s medical bills. (He was suffering from a brain tumor at the time and didn’t have insurance.) It would have been “really arrogant to go up to Ogilvy and says, ‘Excuse me, can you triple my pay?’” Law recalled thinking. “The only alternative was to give it a shot. Thankfully, it paid off.”
Law borrowed 10,000 Singapore dollars (about $8,000) from Ang, found a rent-free office space through a friend, and set up shop. Her first client was Nike, with whom she had worked at Ogilvy. Before long, Law had hired staff. In 2013, Goodstuph was named social media agency of the year in a regional competition run by Marketing magazine, besting Ogilvy and Mindshare.
“We beat the big boys,” she says. “Not too shabby.”
Woman Business Owner Pat Law, CEO and Founder, Goodstuph
Pat Law (PL): My clients, they don’t come to us to run a mundane corporate campaign. They come to us and the brief is “Hey, Goodstuph, make us look cool.”
Goodstuph is a social media agency. I personally hate that term, because you have a lot of douche bags around who claim to be social media gurus. The name comes from the first reaction that we want the audience to have when they see our clients’ campaigns. When you see something good, you go, “Good stuff.” Never great. People did ask me, “Why not Great Stuff?” Because we’re Asian that way. Mama told me to be humble, and I think that’s a constant reminder.
I was born in Singapore, my parents were not– they’re not poor, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not rich either. They had a store at the airport, selling duck rice. I had the airport as my playground. When I graduated with a diploma in marketing, I was quite clear in knowing what I like and what I do not like. I knew I hated numbers. I knew I like communicating. I like marketing.
TSE Twitter feed – Within 5 years, Pat was Creative Director at a top ad agency.
PL: I was very comfortable at Olgivy – I never wanted to leave. I started Goodstuph because of circumstance. I wish it was a more noble story; it’s not. My dad lost his motor skills in front of me. He dropped his mobile phone because he couldn’t feel his left arm. And um the first thing that came to my mind was “Oh my God, let it not be a stroke.” Reality bites for the first time. You know you go, “Oh my God, my parents are aging. It’s my job to take care of them.” I had to calculate my salary according to how many days he could stay in a public hospital. I could support him for eight days before my salary wipes out per month. It wasn’t like Olgivy wasn’t paying me well, they were, but for me as an individual – for me with a father who has a brain tumor. It was a tough call to make, but I knew the only way for ma–me to make more money to support the family is to give it a shot to try to run my own business.
CARD: Goodstuph opens on Pat’s birthday September 1, 2010
Question: Did you know much about starting a company? Like about accounting and….
PL: No! Okay, I knew enough – like I knew my weaknesses I think that helped me a lot. I knew, if you leave the bookkeeping to me, I would have gone to jail half a year ago. So first thing I-I got was a bookkeeper. First thing I told him was, “Hi. Treat me like a baby, please. I’m an idiot.” A good chef may not know how to run a restaurant, it’s as simple as that.
CARD: Twitter Feed: What exactly does GoodStuph do?
PL: We’re in between digital advertising and digital PR. We’re right in the middle. We find the right people for the right brands. We find the people who matter, to talk about that brand. Ben & Jerry’s has that cow, right? So we found 15 food bloggers. We called them the moolets. So about a month ago, we had a new flavor called Clusterfluff. So we contacted our Moolets, we gave them the flavor before the rest of Singapore and beyond just hand delivering every single cup of ice cream—which is what we do, because it’s the little things that matter—we brought a cow with us. So we had a human cow. And it was newsworthy. You would take a photo and put it on Twitter, you’ll take a photo and put it on Facebook. So our job is to find that social currency that you would share online. And we knew the cow would be the story that they-they tell.
Question: Have you been – this last year have you been scared, and thought, I can’t do this.
PL: I was scared. And stressed out sometimes and lonely because I can’t show that I’m scared to my girls, I can’t. I think it’s all about having faith really and knowing that if you do a good job, business will come. We’re fortunate enough be at a stage where I’m rejecting projects. Because if I take on more, I would – the quality would suffer. And we don’t want that to happen.
CARD: Twitter feed – Advice that’s Goodstuph …
PL: If you’re starting your own business make sure that it’s related to your passion. Make sure its something you love to do because there will come to a time, a day when you question yourself, why am I here? What am I doing this for? And if its not, its not from the fire in your belly you won’t have conviction to stick, because when its really passion its not a job. Its just your life. Of course if you’re passion is money then I really have nothing to say.
Producers – Victoria Wang and Sue Williams
Director – Sue Williams
Editor – Merril Stern
Director of New Media and Outreach – Karin Kamp
Director of Photography – Jerry Risius
Production Assistant – Erika Howard
Assistant Editor – David Scorca
Music – Killer Tracks
Photos Courtesy of:
Ben & Jerry’s
Changi Airport Group
Victoria Cheng – gastronommy.com
Roddy Gibbs – Rodzilla Reviews
Yuen Goh – sgdessert.com
Faith Chantal Lee
Kerry Anna Lim Kim
Ogilvy & Mather