For most people, let alone young people, the idea of starting your own company sounds like a terrifying prospect. The anxiety of how to get started, how to fill in the paperwork and how to attract customers stop many a business in its tracks before it’s even been born.

But some young individuals do manage to jump over the initial obstacles and get started on seeing their business come to life.

Today we’re chatting with one such young business owner – Andrew Farrugia, who together with friend Craig MacDonald, co-founded Te Fit-Tazza, a Sliema-based art studio that creates prints and paintings based on everything Maltese, whether it’s a bottle of Cisk, the bastions of Mdina or an Għajn Tuffieħa sunset.

Andrew says one of the biggest motivations to start Te Fit-Tazza was the opportunity to work on a project away from client interference.

“When you work as a freelancer, it’s very easy to build up frustration when your ideas and strategies are changed and not executed as planned,” he says.

“With Te Fit-Tazza, Craig and I wanted to do things our way. We knew that we could combine our skills to offer something that we believed could surprise the market.”

Freelance work can also be repetitive, so it’s no surprise that Andrew says the goal of the company is to keep growing and investing in more creative work.

“All this while connecting our prints and other products with our audience and celebrating some of our island’s best cultural aspects.”

In its second year, the business started seeing significant results in revenue and brand recognition.

“Our biggest step forward at that time was preparing for a month-long exhibition at the Splendid Hotel in Valletta. While setting up this pop-up exhibition, we also started negotiations to purchase Souvenirs That Don’t Suck. These five months of hard work proved crucial for our company as they defined us and gave us an even bigger platform to grow,” Andrew says.

Starting out wasn’t easy, however.

“When I started, we were both naive. Excitement and motivation to succeed helped me get through long hours of work and very little time off. As time went by, I started learning to be patient, allow a process to take its time and trust that things will work out.

“It was not easy to find a balance and make sure we grew sustainably.”

Indeed, Andrew says that there are common misconceptions about starting a business.

“Nowadays, being an entrepreneur is trendy and it’s very easy to use that label loosely. In reality, starting from an idea you execute as a self-employed person, to building a business that doesn’t need your constant input, and that can support the shareholders financially and offer opportunities to its employees is not an easy task. It’s never really a case of ‘you make it, and you’re done’. You just keep feeding the cycle and solve problems as they come your way.”

In terms of what the next goal for the business is, Andrew mentions a truly ambitious objective.

“Our next biggest goal and challenge is to try and go international. It was something on our radar, and if it weren’t for the disruption caused by COVID, we would be planning to give it a go soon. We had to postpone it, and hopefully, we will have managed in the next five years,” he says.

If the business had unlimited resources, Andrew says they would like to invest in a large space to host a permanent Te Fit-Tazza exhibition that showcases all their work.

As for what advice he’d give to other budding entrepreneurs, he cautions:

“Don’t get lost in the fanciness of the idea. Work smart and hard to go from zero to one as quickly as possible. Plan ahead, set clear goals, and don’t stop until you make it happen.”

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