This is the story about Chiayao Muse Lin, a graphic designer, illustrator and maker from Taipei, Taiwan.
Upon her arrival in Basel, Muse went on a quest to find just the right idea for a Swiss souvenir that would catch on. Her aim was to create a solo business out of her passion. Today, Muse is the proud owner of Aquspi Creation, her own creative company that she started two years after settling. Ever since, Muse has been acting as a liaison between Switzerland and Asia, combining her love of design and her multicultural experience. I recently sat with Muse to find out more about what it is like to open a creative business in Basel.
Muse, how did you come up with your business idea?
While searching for the right souvenir from Switzerland. I could not ﬁnd an ideal gift that would ﬁt my needs. So, I decided to create my own!
At my previous job at Sony Japan, I was used to seeing my designs in the shops. I felt motivated to continue this tradition here in Switzerland.
Please talk about what inspires you to create...
When I first arrived in Switzerland, I found it very hard to integrate with the locals - especially because I did not speak the language. During my German studies, I kept wondering how I can create something that can help me connect with the Swiss.
I thought it might be easier to learn the language and integrate into the society if I can create a designer product. It would be a connection tool that would help me communicate with the locals in spite of my shy personality.
What is special about your design?
My personal style is known as colorful, cute, vital and energetic. I am able to deal with many different kinds of needs and tastes depending on the client’s wish and target user.
My clients actually come from different parts of the world, ranging from the USA, Japan, Taiwan and Switzerland. This enables me to act as a cross cultural expert connecting Western and Asian markets. Not only do I understand the culture of these countries, but I can also speak the languages and understand the design taste of my clients.
Any challenges of opening your own business in Switzerland?
There are many challenges when it comes to opening a business in Switzerland. As a solo business owner, it is more of a “learning by doing” type of experience, which can be difficult at times.
In addition, I needed to learn more about Swiss culture, language and the behavior of those who would be interacting with my products. This is vital information to selling products that would suit the needs here in Switzerland.
Which resources would you recommend to someone starting their own creative business in Switzerland?
Working in a co-working office is my number one piece of advice for someone starting up their own creative business in Switzerland. This work atmosphere enables you to meet like-minded people and help you create a network.
Being a solopreneur can be lonely at times, so having this community is helpful. Basel has many co-working spaces, such as:
- Start Up Academy
- Mitte Co-Working Space
I would also advise creatives to join or visit trade shows. This is where they will be able to showcase their work to prospective buyers of their products. Switzerland holds these types of trade shows once a year:
- Business Innovation
- Packaging Innovations Zürich
- Onaris is the biggest B2B gift show in Switzerland. It is held twice a year in Bern and Zürich, focusing on gifts and products. (Hence, it does not fit the needs of design agencies.) This event actually picked my clip as their new trend exhibition in 2015 and 2016.
Do you have a piece of advice for someone who wants to start a similar business?
I would definitely recommend to anyone to spend time and learn the local language. It is very hard to learn German from scratch, but you have no choice if you would like to have a business and to be able to interact with the local community. Trust me, it is better to know some German...
I would also recommend that you create a network with other creatives, design agencies and people in this field. It will only help you if you befriend others and maybe learn from their experience.
In the long run, make sure you really love what you do! At times, not everything will go the way you want it to go, and if you do not love it wholeheartedly, you might lose your ability to maintain your business when times get tough.
What's the most rewarding thing about running your own business?
The simple fact that I am the business owner provides great satisfaction. Personally, this is the most rewarding aspect of running my business – especially during tough times. Also, having flexibility is a great benefit. Be it in terms of time management but also in choosing who I work with.
And what surprised you most about running a business?
It is harder than I expected (laughs)! But now, as my business has been running for the past five years, I think that as long as I keep going, the doors will remain open.
What do you wish you had known before starting your business?
I wish I knew more local people with similar businesses. I think getting advice from them might have been helpful.
Where can people buy your creative products?
My products are available at the following stores in Basel:
- Basel Tourism Stores
- Basler Papiermühle
- Bider und Tanner
- Papaya gift shop
- RADIUS 39
- And those who prefer online shopping can find everything on my website.
Thanks for sharing your story, Muse Lin!
(All photographs copyright Idit Kobrin)