Editor's Letter — October 2020:
Building Off the Energy We All Give
A few weeks ago, we posted a quasi-celebratory post on Instagram. It spoke to a small milestone of hitting almost 5 years with MAEKAN. Looking back, from the moment Alex and I left HYPEBEAST, I think we’d agree that we had certain aspirations behind what we would achieve. Arguably there’s been wins here and there but it’s by no means the size and scale of what we thought it’d be, or at least for me anyway. We often go on these difficult journeys that may involve others which create a certain burden on our shoulders.
I certainly felt that way for much of the last few years. I’ve always been a stubborn individual that doesn’t necessarily write off well-founded wisdom, but that benefits most from experiencing pain and struggle first hand to really have it resonate. Almost half a decade later, I’m still learning that it’s an unrealistic expectation to drive every single thing. The core values, the mission, the activations, the stories. There’s a finite amount of energy I can devote to this.
I may not have recognized this prior, but the misaligned busyness of September really put into perspective how I spend my time and how I could spend it better. In these moments of both societal and personal challenge, I’ve honestly forgotten the impact and power of my peers. It’s these people that by virtue of their own energy and positivity, have reminded me that while we all have ideal timelines, shit happens, and also that creating something new often requires far more time than you’d think.
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We've never really been about celebrating birthdays (ok that's mostly Eugene), but it's been almost five years for MAEKAN. Crazy to look / reflect (see what we did there) back and map everything out in reverse. We probably expected a different outcome than what we've achieved thus far, but for every missed opportunity, it seems as though many new ones have arisen in their place. – Eugene #publication #indiemedia #maekan #storiesforthecurious
I recently had a peer reach out and moments of it hitting our inbox, Alex had Whatsapp’d me a screenshot. The email sat for a few days as other tasks took precedence. One night, when I should have called it many hours later, I was compelled to reply. An unsolicited email from a friend checking in, was a great reminder of how we can derive energy from those around us. It’s literally the one thing that will help us through the lowlights and the challenging times we face.
It was well past 3 am and I couldn’t stop typing. I was speaking to somebody who had, with his team, built up something so influential, and it fed into this need to just let it all out.
You can find that response email below. I felt like sharing it because it is the most honest thing I could write this month.
It’s been a crazy few years since the inception of MAEKAN and unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to catch up properly while in SF last year haha. I’m speaking primarily for myself but I’m sure Alex may feel some of the same feelings/emotions that I went through. Towards the end of 2018 and the start of 2019, we started to run out of money with MAEKAN and had really figure out how to keep it going. We hadn’t paid ourselves in more than a year (a paltry sum at that), I was eating through savings and generally feeling down and out as essentially failing at this thing I had brought a bunch of people together to do.
Alex was working independently on Adam Studios as a vehicle for photo/design jobs that allowed him to bring in other talents and leverage our network. This meant that he didn’t have to physically do and be present on every project. After we shut down our MAEKAN office and let go of some key people, Alex floated the idea of us using Adam Studios as an opportunity to pay some bills and find some small wins.
Fast forward to today, and I think we were very fortunate to build the type of business that we did, with two principals and one employee (my brother, who’s the only person who works full-time on MAEKAN). While we prepared for a global recession of some sort and kept it lean, who would have thought that HK would endure protests & then COVID. But this type of agency seemingly has thrived as we’ve started to move towards a “Hollywood-style” production where the core team is super tight and depending on the project, we bring in talent as needed.
It’s taken about 18 months to bring MAEKAN into the pits and prepare it for revitalization in 2021. As I said, we’re super fortunate that Adam Studios can in essence support MAEKAN but it’s been a great symbiotic relationship. We’ve been applying things we’ve done with MAEKAN circa 2016-17 to client work in 2020 and it still feels relevant haha.
I personally have been a bit worn out and I’ve been transparent with others around me that I’ve always been worried that MAEKAN will continue to devolve further into “Eugene’s pet project,” versus being a true platform for other people to come in and have a voice just like you guys do with VSCO. As Alex put it, MAEKAN 2016-17 helped MAEKAN in 2020, what will MAEKAN do in 2021 that will prepare it for 2025?
It seems like a lot of things we did with MAEKAN were either poorly marketed (not our forte lol) or simply too early whether it was going heavy into audio or paid content. But hopefully, if we can continue to see where the world is going we can help build something that’s relevant to this and the next generation of creatives.
Anyways, happy to hear you’re safe and well, and we appreciate you reaching out! Hopefully we can connect in person soon.