With a love for photography and travel, Joseph Mak decided to make his passion a business. In 2014 he founded Unusual Expedition, a travel business with a focus on photography tours.
What’s your story?
I picked up photography in 2009 and quickly fell in love with it. With this new found passion, I started travelling to capture more overseas sights. At one point, I was travelling up to twice a month. Deciding that I needed to share this passion with others, I chose to start a travel business focusing on photography tours. In 2014, Unusual Expedition was founded. Today, we partner with leading camera brands like Canon and conduct over 20 tours a year to the most exotic locations like Norway, Antarctica, Inner Mongolia and Cuba.
What excites you most about your industry?
What I love most about the travel industry is that it’s constantly evolving. In the past, people used to join group tour packages because of a fear of being in a foreign land and because of the difficulties in making itinerary arrangements on their own. However, with the internet today, things have changed. Services like TripAdvisor, Airbnb, and Expedia make it easier for people to plan their own free and easy tours. To survive in the industry, we need to constantly improve and provide more value to travellers. What this means is, with every year that passes, we offer something better and stronger than what we did the year before. This constant upgrading keeps us on our toes, making it a very exciting industry to be in.
What’s your connection to Asia?
Unusual Expedition was founded in Singapore, and Asia is one of our key markets. We constantly develop our services for Asian customers in mind by catering to their tastes and preferences.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
It has the best city vibe and shopping scene.
The culture there is similar to Singapore’s and
It is easy to blend in.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
When running a small business, don’t manage it with too much complexity. By learning to see things simply, problems don’t seem to be as daunting.
Who inspires you?
Mr Tan Suee Chieh, who was awarded The Best CEO award in Singapore. I admire his successful transformation of NTUC Income into a whole new, greater brand.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I recently learnt a new business management strategy. My three business principles for 2018 are: Keep your workforce lean, do not spend money unnecessarily and learn to leverage on others’ skill sets.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I don’t tend to harp on decisions made in the past because it’s futile. We cannot rewind time.
How do you unwind?
I unwind by travelling to countries that I love. When I do, I like to go at a leisurely pace, taking pictures of the things that I like.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Japan. They have a lot of things to offer such as, good food, tall mountains and a beautiful culture. I love that the streets are clean, everything is orderly and the transport system is one of the most efficient I’ve ever encountered.
Everyone in business should read this book:
I don’t read books as it is more relevant for me to devote my time to reading the news so that I’m up to date on current affairs. Since my service includes international travel and offerings, it is imperative for me to be up to date on international affairs.
Shameless plug for your business:
We are one of the leading travel agencies in Singapore for photography tours. Major camera brands partner with us to co-organise their photo tours.
This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.