Career

How To Start Your Own Agency As A Beginner

University is a time of exploration. Exploring your interests, what job you might like to do and who you aspire to be. Ultimately, it is a time where you are starting to look for your purpose. For so many of us, we finish our course and kick start a safe job, one that pays the bills and has some degree of job satisfaction. You may think that being your own boss has a certain appeal and want to start your own agency.

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Tash Tan, founder of agency S1T2

It’s a difficult path, but you’re not alone. Some people beat societal norms, and with a little bit of naivety, ambition and wonder, turn their dreams into a reality. It’s not easy, but Tash Tan, Co-founder of S1T2 shares how he launched his agency straight out of uni. Now, 10 years later it has become a leading agency working on social change in the Pacific Islands. He has some lessons to share for you if you’re planning to start your own agency.

Setting your own protocols

When you launch a business as a fresh-faced upstart with little business experience, how do you know what is right or not? Maybe you don’t, or you guess, but that’s what makes the journey truly exciting and leads you to new possibilities.

“When you start your own business without the precedence of these protocols, you rely on your own judgement and moral compass to determine right and wrong,” says Tash. “Sometimes, [for me,] this ended in spectacular failings. But other times, the results were delightful and exhilarating because through the unknown I found new methods of solving problems.”

Small steps and incremental wins

When Tash and his co-founder launched their business, there already existed a number of established agencies with years of experience they had to compete against for work. They worked hard to convince large organisations that they could deliver on briefs.

“I believe businesses and people naturally gravitate to alleviating risk, and there are many company cultures that unknowingly err on the side of caution,” says Tash. “This means that if our entire business is designed to pursue work we’ve never done before, we will always find ourselves in a position where we are trying to convince people what we are capable of. This is something that to this day, we are still battling, but we do so through small steps and incremental wins.”

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Tash Tan’s S1T2 is a leading agency working on social change in the Pacific Islands. Image: Alana Holmberg

Find meaning and create impact

“If the goal of the first five years of business was to survive, and the goal of our last five [until now] was to find meaning. Our mission in the next five will be to create impact,” says Tash.

Following their aspirations of producing social impact has led Tash and his team to their involvement in a project using innovative technology, play-based learning tools and storytelling mediums to address the issues of malnutrition and noncommunicable diseases in the Pacific Islands.

Titled Beyond the Stars, Tash and his team are working towards creating social change and long-term impact by “inspiring children in Fiji to embrace local produce and adopt healthy living habits while considering their impact on the environment,” explains Tash.

Tash is finding his own success through these pursuits – showing that perseverance and dedication are both key to the path of creating a successful business.

Advice for starting your own agency

For the past 10 years, it has been a nonstop learning journey for Tash. He has shared some of the key learnings he had over the past ten years from taking the leap of faith into entrepreneurial life.

#1 Remember, you are not your role

If you start your journey in a business, remember that you are not only your role, but are much more. This is the best way for you to move ahead with learning new skills and following your dreams.

“While we always hire for a specific task, ultimately an employee’s long-term value lies in how adaptable they are to new challenges,” says Tash. “Through the lens of innovation, this means that our staff are constantly doing new things that encourage them to seek out and explore beyond their comfort zone.”

#2 Live and breathe a pioneering spirit

“Through creative research, we continue to explore how technology can solve some of the world’s most complex challenges,” he says. “This pioneering spirit manifests itself in the research and development culture the company aspires to maintain.”

This pioneering spirit is essential to new businesses – when you (and your co-founders, if any) are the key person driving action and growth, this attitude is one of few things which will help your business to grow.

“S1T2 develops its own intellectual property in-house and is proud of our technical endeavours – it is within our DNA to explore, and it is this that allows us to stay ahead of any trends,” says Tash.

#3 Listen and learn

“Be open to learning and listening to anyone and everything,” Tash says. “You never know where the next lesson could come from.”

Tash first learnt this at university as he was starting to understand the power and perspectives that are found in a diverse environment.

“This melting pot of people without judgement or prejudice was the breeding grounds of some of the most exciting and unique ideas I have ever heard.”

#4 Be human

“Remember the humanity in everything you do,” he says. “In business, you’ll face problems that are complicated – ones where right and wrong isn’t as clear as black and white. You must remember that behind every desk, platform, phone call, email or message there is a human being.”

#5 Give yourself time – it doesn’t happen overnight

“I understand that life can be difficult, and sometimes circumstances seem to prevent you from doing what you want to most,” he says. “But you owe it to yourself to do the best you can in the situations you find yourself in. S1T2 wasn’t built overnight – it took years of dedication to get to where it is today, and even its current standing is only a fraction of what I hope to achieve. Big dreams can start in the smallest of places, through the tiniest of steps.”

Taking your time to grow your efforts and business over time will pay back in – hopefully – more and more growth over time.

If you’re considering starting a business, consider how these side-hustles, or a love of beer, became successful ventures.


Emma Davey is a passionate story teller who spends her time challenging her understanding of the world and sharing her experiences of living overseas on her blog Another Aussie Abroad.