Children may not realise it, but their inclination to fit into gendered moulds and roles is societal rather than natural. As a child growing up in a small farming village in Kota Belud, Sabah, Juhaidah Joemin had no idea that her fascination for cartoons will pave her steps into the animation industry, a male-dominated field with a known glass ceiling for women in it.
Fast-forward several years later, she is the proud founder of Giggle Garage, an animation studio established in 2010 and has since won several prestigious awards in the animation space including Asian TV Award in 2016 for Best 3D Animation and the Grand Prize for ASEAN-Japan Character Competition 2016 for Origanimals, an original home grown TV series created by the studio.
With the dream of making people have more fun and to smile more through content creation, Giggle Garage creates original character brands and animated content of high quality children and family entertainment; either fully managed or co-produced with partners all over the globe. Among their services are CGI animation services, commercial works, VFX or content commissioning for multiple digital platforms.
Today, Giggle Garage is a Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) Malaysia status company, a recognition bestowed upon it by the Government of Malaysia through the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC), for ICT and ICT-facilitated businesses that develop or use multimedia technologies to produce and enhance the products and services.
Juhaidah first ventured into the field of animation by obtaining a degree in Film and Animation from Multimedia University, Malaysia. Fueled by her strong passion for storytelling and creating a whole new world out of her imagination, she set up Giggle Garage in 2010 with three other staff, only 10 years after completing her degree. Three years later, her husband hopped on the wagon as the co-founder and Giggle Garage today comprises of over 70 full-time employees who constantly give their best in fun and fresh content creation.
The animation studio has since created eight different animated series including Kazoops, Cam & Leon, Boing the Play Ranger. Kazoops is a Netflix original which is broadcasting in 180 countries in 21 languages and is a co-production with Australia & UK. With 120 and 42 countries airing Boing the Play Ranger and Cam & Leon respectively, Giggle Garage is making waves around the world as an animation powerhouse and proud Malaysian export.
Naturally, her success in the creative content industry did not come without its own set of challenges over the years. As a creative who is also an entrepreneur, she is no stranger to the challenge of keeping the creative juice going while having to keep the business afloat at the same time. As she discovered in due time, creativity and numbers don’t go very well together and finding the perfect balance between the two is no easy feat.
Luckily for her, her co-founder and husband, Zeno Gabing, is a seasoned entrepreneur with nearly 2 decades of experience in running a business in another industry. Together, the husband and wife duo make a potent powerhouse in both the creative and entrepreneurial world. Citing agencies such as Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) as one of the key supporters of her success through training and mentoring, funding and international market access, Juhaidah also stresses that she would not have reached such heights without MDEC’s help.
Commenting on the status quo of the industry being a male-dominated one, Juhaidah shares some of the reasons that deters more women from venturing into animation such as the long working hours in production and fast moving trend that require constant updates that is naturally not conducive for women starting or having a family. Often, women are pushed into a difficult choice; to choose between their career and family, and this is even more challenging for those running their own business such as herself.
As an Asian woman, Juhaidah also feels that it was a challenge to put herself out there outside of her comfort zone and upon reaching the pinnacle of success, it can be difficult to be an effective leader rather than a reluctant leader. It was her own fear of helming the full reins of leadership of her company that was a hurdle and she is glad that she has successfully overcome her fear over the years through the accumulation of her experience as a female entrepreneur.
During the Minggu Usahawan Nasional 2019, Juhaidah was awarded the Women Entrepreneur Icon (Digital) during the Women Entrepreneur Convention which took place in Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS). Speaking on winning the award, she expressed her surprise and pleasure that there is an acknowledgement from ministries onto local entrepreneurs, especially the female ones, in the digital entrepreneurship field.
Sharing the aspiration going forward for her company and personal entrepreneurship journey after the award, Juhaidah said, “I believe this recognition will fuel our passion even more and I hope that I can inspire more aspiring women founders in this industry to go for their dreams. As for Giggle Garage, our hope is to take this success to the global arena and make a mark out there for Malaysia to be known as a global creative powerhouse”.