Groomed for big­ger dreams

> He makes it look smooth like but­ter, but Kevin Tan re­veals the sac­ri­fice and sup­port needed to mas­ter a few trades

The Sun (Malaysia) - - YOUTH - BY PEONY CHIN

FROM mu­sic to jour­nal­ism, then men’s groom­ing; Kevin Tan has dab­bled in quite a few dif­fer­ent fields in his short 26 years of liv­ing. While mu­sic has al­ways been a pas­sion of his, and writ­ing was dis­cov­ered soon after, Tan found that he wanted to be more like the peo­ple he in­ter­viewed back in his days as a jour­nal­ist. “I was al­ways in­ter­view­ing peo­ple who cre­ate things, or do some­thing in­no­va­tive,” he said. The more he in­ter­viewed them, the more he wanted to cre­ate some­thing as well, which later led Tan to cre­ate his own hair prod­uct.

What made you cre­ate your own po­made? I’m a very heavy user of po­made, so I’d fin­ish it within a month or even three weeks. I’d been spend­ing a lot of money on it, and I was even in Face­book groups for po­made en­thu­si­asts. Most of them are from the US and Aus­tralia, and they’d share about prod­ucts that they use and “home­brewed” ones. It was then that I re­alised that you can ac­tu­ally make your own po­made, so I texted one of them and he gave me a ba­sic in­gre­di­ent list to work with.

Why did you name it Men­tega? Nat­u­rally the prod­uct is light yel­low, and be­cause it’s oil-based, it scoops and feels ex­actly like but­ter. I wanted to name it But­ter be­cause it con­tains co­coa but­ter, but I came across this brand – Bot­tega Veneta – in a mag­a­zine and it was a light bulb mo­ment. It sounded like men­tega; and that’s per­fect be­cause it’s lo­calised, and easy for for­eign­ers to pro­nounce at the same time.

You’re also cur­rently bar­ber­ing – how did you get into that? After my jour­nal­ism stint, I helped out in my friend’s mu­sic store. Then, the cur­rent owner of Am­pli­tude Bar­ber­shop wanted to fuse his shop with the mu­sic store (which is now de­funct). He said that he’s al­ways wanted to teach me bar­ber­ing since he knew I made po­made. It wasn’t sup­posed to be a ca­reer, but I wanted to learn and thought it’s a good skill to have. After train­ing me, he said, “Why don’t you charge your first client?” So I charged my first client, then my sec­ond, my third – and now I’m here.

Was it a dif­fi­cult skill to learn? Learn­ing how to cut hair was really dif­fi­cult for me, firstly be­cause I’m left­handed. Hold­ing the scis­sors with my right hand felt a bit weird for me at first, but you do need both hands any­way. It’s also eas­ier to buy righthanded scis­sors.

But some things came nat­u­rally to me, such as the straight ra­zor. After bar­ber­ing for a while, I re­mem­bered the days when I would look for straight ra­zors to try out, and now I’m ac­tu­ally do­ing it pro­fes­sion­ally.

So you’ve done jour­nal­ism and mu­sic; now you’re bar­ber­ing and cre­at­ing your own prod­uct. What’s next for you? With mak­ing prod­ucts, I never really had a chemist’s ex­pe­ri­ence in for­mu­lat­ing prod­ucts, so one of my goals would be to learn that. I’d like to ex­pand my range of prod­ucts and be an ex­pert in cos­me­tol­ogy. The goal would be to form a brand that makes its own prod­ucts. I love bar­ber­ing, but I don’t think I would spend my en­tire life do­ing just that.

How do you feel your life’s path dif­fers from most peo­ple your age? I never really thought of it as dif­fer­ent. But it is dif­fi­cult try­ing dif­fer­ent things – es­pe­cially with­out a solid foun­da­tion – and not know­ing how it’ll play out. You have to hus­tle really hard.

A lot of peo­ple say, “Be your­self, fol­low your heart. Do what you love!”

It comes with a price and it isn’t al­ways like the free­dom you think of – in fact, I feel it’s the ex­act op­po­site. You won’t have free­dom be­cause you have to work all the time to suc­ceed. Even­tu­ally, you’ll get there. But you need to sac­ri­fice time and en­ergy even while ev­ery­one is asleep. You also need peo­ple to sup­port you, es­pe­cially close friends and fam­ily. I don’t think I’d be where I am if it wasn’t for them.


Tan re­cently opened his own bar­ber­shop, The Oven Cut­tery in Da­mansara Utama.

He had to tweak his po­made for­mula about 20 to 30 times be­fore he got the right one to suit our trop­i­cal weather.

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