Musotrees has become a synonym for everything travel and lifestyle. More than just a publication, it’s also seen as a guide for everyone looking to meet their wandering needs. However, Musotrees is first and foremost, a brand. But it’s also proving a point: That anything is possible if you’ve got enough nerve. It’s about sticking up to the man, and saying, “Watch me.” A magazine so sophisticated, that it works backwards in order to move ahead of its time. This is the story of Musotrees as a brand, a print, and a publication; But it is also the story of the man behind it: Kerol Izwan — The enigma.
You would never think that a publication like Musotrees could derive from a former microbiologist of the corporate world. It just doesn’t read as that. But that is exactly what Kerol was. Not only was he a microbiologist, be he had no history or knowledge in art or design. His story is truly a compelling one. From working 9 to 5 just to stay alive, to jet-setting from one continent to the next as part of his regular routine. Kerol deserves to be amongst the legends who one day decided to change the status quo and succeeded.
Kerol understood that publishing was a risky game to play, and an expensive one at that. But when I asked him how it all began, he claims it all stems from his love of reading, and his appreciation and admiration for magazines. Never has he has never considered creating an online blog, simply because it was never his passion to do so. Even though everyone else has been on the train of digital content, he still favours print. He deems himself as the ‘Collector of Collaterals’— He loves collecting in-flight magazines from his travels. His home has been generously decorated with tall stacks of all the magazines from all the different airlines that he has ever flown with. He says flying with different airlines has helped him understand the micro details found in the different cultures of his travel destinations.
When asked how his background in science has helped him in his current field, he was quick to point out that being analytical from his previous work has helped him become a better decision maker and overall observer as an entrepreneur and an artist. With the knowledge that he had from science and the habits that he had adopted from conducting experiments, he has learnt to use those very tools to be better at planning and organizing himself when it comes to business. He uses the same method and approach found in conducting experiments to troubleshoot any problems he might encounter during publishing. In his own words, “Checklists have saved my life.” But most importantly, he says that science has taught him to never give up. It has taught him to grow a thick skin at an early state.
“With science, everything is purely subjective. No result is also a result. Knowing that there are still a hundred different ways to achieve something when you’ve failed is important and necessary if you ever want to succeed.”
Upon discussing the current issue of Musotrees, I asked him how does a print like Musotrees decide on the theme each issue was going to reflect on. He simply described it as picking a topic out of a fishbowl. However, the current issue of Musotrees delves deeper and focuses on the topic of Home. As a person who travels so much as Kerol does, I was curious to know how he manages to stay grounded and avoid feeling alienated by the word ‘home’.
The issue was inspired by a designer in Denmark that Kerol had met with over one of his travels. He was intrigued by the Scandinavian interior design that was making waves throughout the globe. But to Kerol, home is literally what you make out of it. Whether you feel a connection in a foreign city or a building, you’ve then made a home in the sense of belonging in a new place. This issue focuses on the more symbolic meaning to home than the literal sense. Making it possible for avid travellers to find a home wherever they go.
It also plays a huge role in the history of Musotrees. Kerol touches on the topic of how Malaysia is home. In the previous prints, Musotrees has never revealed itself as a Malaysian magazine. When the public constantly asked regarding why he hasn’t mentioned that Musotrees is from Malaysia in his past prints, Kerol responded with this:
“Just because you don’t necessarily have Malaysian content in the magazine (or whatever you’re currently working on), doesn’t mean you’re not Malaysian enough. You can be Malaysian and create whatever things that reflect you as a Malaysian. I believe that being Malaysian is flexible. It doesn’t mean that you have to wear Kain Batik, or Kain Pelikat in order to be qualified as a Malaysian. It’s how YOU bring it to the table that matters. That’s what makes it YOUnique. If that’s how you do it, then people just have to suck it up. I think that it ends up a better product, when it reflects you as a person, as a nation, as a citizen, as a whatever. Again, YOU grow the brand. If the brand is good, the first question that will be asked is not where it comes from. Sure, it will pop up eventually, but it’s not the first question. The first question is usually HOW. So… come up with a good product, then question if this element is important. Always work backwards.”
Luckily for me, Kerol was very generous and was willing to share some of his genius insight on how to start your own publication in 5 easy tips. And so, here are
Kerol’s 5 tips for starting up your own magazine:
- Have a clear objective.
Who is this for? Why does it need to exist?
- Be willing to experiment and try new things.
Did you know that in the first issue of Musotrees, most the photos were taken with an iPhone 5?
- Have good content.
Content is KING.
- Meet with a lot of people. And he seriously means a lot.
Always say hi to strangers in coffee shops. You’ll never know what you’re going to find. I always say hi to random strangers I meet on my journey. It’s inspiring. It’s also liberating. It’s always usually easier to talk to someone you’ve never met with about a crazy idea that you’ve had for a while than it is to with someone you’ve known for YEARS.
- Always, ALWAYS, try to minimize your procrastination.
We always dream to do a lot of things, but things always get in the way. Most of the time, it’s you who’s getting in the way of your own progress. You need to have a barrier. A point where you draw a line in the sand and say “OK, stop. Get back to work”.
But most importantly, don’t be afraid to try.