City: Kuala Lumpur
Before meeting Wann we didn’t known yet he is a changemaker. We found him on couchsurfing, he agreed to host us for few nights in his place in Kuala Lumpur. Every hour of conversation with him, slowly made us aware what an amazing person he is.
I have three things to focus on in my life. – says Wann Senn - The first is IT to make money, then skateboarding, my passion, to keep me on shape and the cafeteria to keep my creativity flowing. Four years ago, when I already started my skateboarding company, I was thinking what else I want to try in my life. I was in IT for too long, 12 years. I wanted to have something which connects me to people instead of looking at the screen all the time. I opened the skate company, but I realized it’s a very small market, I didn’t get what I want. Along the way my friend invited me to co-create the first cafeteria in our area. He said: hey, Wann, I’ve just opened a cafeteria here, maybe you want to join our team? He gave me 2 weeks to decide. In 2 weeks I created a team, I found the proper chef, I hired a coffee maker. And I served to customers personally, with the cheapest salary, but it didn’t matter. In 6 months it became one of the most popular cafeteria in Kuala Lumpur, fifth place in the newspaper. When we started I didn’t have much knowledge, but I felt I know what people want.
Although both in IT and cafeteria Wann has amazing achievements, from our perspective the most interesting among all his initiatives is the skate park. His love for skateboarding can be felt from the first second, skateboards with Continuity logo hang everywhere in his house. His facebook profile contains mostly short movies with kids or youth skating.
When I was a teenager, young people in this area often took drugs, they got drunk, 17, 18, 20 years old. They lived in very limited space, woke up early because it was hot and noisy and they didn’t know what to do. So they were going for hanging out, drugs, games. When I built my first skate park, just in front of my house, I saw small kids coming: hey, what’s this? They started to play, they sweated, watched videos together of other skaters. With time they started to be too many, we had to move to another place, close to my school. Now we have 20-25 skateboarders in our space. Some of them become successful, they have careers. I do movies with them skating and publish in social media. Sometimes some guys call me offering a sponsorship. It is really happening.
But Continuity is not only the skate park and alternative for youngsters. It’s also the place in which community is building.
How to be sure all people who come to the park - junior, senior and veterans - are united and respect each other? I use our religion, we are Muslim and in Islam, no matter what, the youngsters have to respect the elders. The second important thing after that is the old to respect the younger. And at the end we are obligated to respect people the same age. I repeat to our members: please respect all people. I made the video showing why it’s important to respect older people. And one day we also organized a fasting ceremony in the park, so old people came to a youngsters’ place. And I invited youngsters to celebrate with them. We are Muslim, let’s pray together. I gave them permission to use the park. We prayed together and later the elder could visit the park and see how kids play, what they are doing.
Respect, understanding, working together plus fun – that’s Wann’s recipe for success.
Understand. Go join the social activity first, understand the people in it, understand everything and then make a change. It’s fair for you to make a change if you have an idea how to improve something. But do it with people. When you start to understand the story behind, you start to see what is the best way of doing it. A system is a system, in some context it works, in some not. But you must understand the system first. Once you understand the rules you can start to hack it. If you don’t understand rules, you break them instead of hacking them and making them better. And then remember, the team is everything. It’s never about me, I. The word is we, it’s always we. And finally… don’t make things too serious, have some fun.
Fun is probably the best word to describe our experience with Wann. We enjoyed staying with him so much, that after few months we came back to see how things are going, spend next hours on discussing the world, need of change and our own dreams.
At the beginning I just loved skating. But now I want to see young people to have a proper place to express themselves. Not show, but express, this is the right word. This encourages me to keep moving. However, it has to be said, I’m good as initiator but I’m not good at maintaining things. That’s also why I called my skate company Continuity, to remind myself to be patience, to stay in developing this project till the end. Usually after two years I’m done and already look forward to a new adventure.
On the list of new adventures is travelling in Europe. Traveling, especially for long, is not really common among Malaysian people, Wann could become a great inspiration for them. For now he is preparing himself, trying to find a job and contacts, accepting on couchsurfing long term travelers to listen to their experience. But the biggest task is to find the inner strength, to overcome fears, make decision and just do it, as so many other crazy things before. Hope to see you soon, Wann, somewhere in Europe.
More about Continuity: www.facebook.com/ContinuitySkateboards