Bright Young Things: Dylan Ang Of Pocotee & Friends
July 17, 2018 | BY Tania Jayatilaka
Where most people admire cute comic characters from a distance, entrepreneur Dylan Ang took it a step further, recognising their marketable potential and eventually building a business that would monetise this popular art form. Here’s what this character-licensing whiz has to say about the successes he’s enjoyed so far and his plans for the future.
If you ever needed proof that watching Saturday-morning cartoons as a child could one day lead you to start your own business, look to Dylan Ang’s unconventional success story with Safe Tree Sdn Bhd, a character-licensing company that owns Pocotee & Friends.
The eccentric but lovable cartoon-like characters in this collection consist of the hot-tempered Pocotee, a timid banana named 'Mr Jiu', 'Hapimo' the Malayan Tapir, 'Please Jeh' (a girl who ends every sentence with the word 'please'), 'BearBoss' and several others with equally quirky backstories.
“I travelled overseas often and noticed a lot of merchandise that used famous characters like Hello Kitty, Doraemon, and Minions on their limited-edition packaging,” Dylan says, adding that his love for cartoon characters as a child was strengthened by a strong foundation in art and design.
“It got me thinking of ways to combine business with art. It took me a few months of study but I found that the feedback and demand was good. So I decided to pursue a character-licensing business in my own country of Malaysia.”
While the characters soon gained a large online following in Malaysia, they would also become well-known throughout the region, picking up loyal followers in Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan and others.
Recently, Safe Tree released Pocotee & Friends WeChat stickers that amassed more than a million downloads in 14 countries around the world including Hong Kong, Macau, the US, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Brunei and India.
The company has also struck gold with a slew of successful collaborations with international movie stars, film production companies and other big brands in the recent months.
From a collection of NanoBlockTime watches decked out in Pocotee & Friends character designs to a line of Giordano Malaysia apparel designed in collaboration with the Malaysian Nature Society, it’s clear that Dylan is not alone in his love for playful illustrated characters with a comical aesthetic.
But no success is without difficulties, as Dylan still experiences today.
“The challenge in this industry? Convincing new clients to use the Pocotee & Friends characters.” Dylan shares.
“Local clients usually hesitate and compare us with similar art overseas. It gets me down sometimes, but I push on and always follow up with a quick analysis to share the lessons learnt with my team.”
When I ask Dylan to reveal one word that describes him as an entrepreneur, he responds with “BearBoss”, in reference to a Pocotee & Friends character who happens to be a demanding employer with a penchant for turning into an angry bear.
I needn’t ask if Dylan is anything like this in real life as his next words don’t hide his affection for the people in his team.
“Everyone and anything surrounding me is my daily inspiration. I’m grateful to have a hardworking team that comes up with great ideas to make Pocotee & Friends a success.”
Dylan does what he does by networking extensively, hinting at potential crossovers with other famous characters from overseas artists. As someone who’s spent a large portion of his career managing the business aspects of this beloved character franchise, conducting thorough market research is now almost second-nature to him.
“I always keep in mind what a top Hong Kong star once told me, that great opportunities are only given to people who are well prepared.”
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