“We aim to be the very best at what we do.” Justin
Justin has a vitality and magnetism that makes people immediately want to be around him. I could see this clearly as I spent time with his team in and out of the office and watched them interact, the connection between Justin and his team are beyond what most companies can achieve- especially in an emerging market.
Owner and creator of ithinkasia, Justin Stewart’s background in production and post production precedes ithinkasia by decades. He began working in TV in 1989 working for two major networks and various post production houses before starting his own company, ithink, in Australia which he ran successfully for eight years. When an opportunity to work for an NGO presented itself in Cambodia, Justin felt it was time to make a move and within one month, he and his family set foot in The Charming City: Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Justin kept ithink running in Australia for some time before deciding to move operations fully to Cambodia with a different angle on business. Rather than a sole focus on income, he wanted to implement from the get-go a social enterprise aspect to the business and have ithinkasia be an outlet and place for education, training, and growth to occur. In 2011, he began ithinkasia- a more socially focused business albeit still a strong, grounded business. “I believe in striving to be the best at what you do and developing an industry that you feel passionate about. I don’t just want to do this for myself as a business owner. I see an opportunity here to benefit the Khmer staff with better salaries, work conditions, and opportunities. We pay well above the standard rate for salaries and this alone has a great impact on the lives of our staff. That’s what I want the business to be about, that’s what drives me, that’s what I’m most passionate about. Training and creating opportunities for Khmer creatives through a successful business model.”
Justin is adamant that anyone with the power, ability, or capability to help should be doing so in one way or another. Even with ithinkasia he’s constantly mulling over other ideas and opportunities in how to engage in the community and it’s exciting to watch the wheels turn in his head.
He wants everyone that comes through the ithinkasia training program to follow their own dreams and interests rather than adhering to a cookie-cutter mold of what they’re told someone does in the production industry. Justin finds it vital to let each of his staff and trainees find what they take most gratification from, allow them to gravitate towards it, and prepare them for that specific type of work they will encounter in the industry. He knows the importance of a strong understanding of what you do and doing it well, explaining that “from the very start, it was training plus business. It was always the intent...it was giving these kids the opportunities to learn international standards by doing international work and getting international credits. It’s worked that way, and I’m pretty happy.”
Justin has set the bar for ithinkasia high and pitches the company for strong and interesting internationally standardized work to help feed back into the company. Their production and post production quality levels put ithinkasia on an international level of workmanship. Although the price is comparatively high to local companies, it’s a drop in price for overseas companies coming in for their work yet receiving well produced and quality work at an international level.
Although Justin finds his work and business to be extremely life giving, it ties into the most important aspects of his life: family- both in faith and flesh. These people continue to be his lifeblood and give him freedom and are a large reason of why he does exactly what he does at ithinkasia. He’s surrounded by his trainees both in the office and out, whether at church or social gatherings, and overall there is a strong family-like connection between the team that was apparent to me the moment I witnessed them as a group. What is clearly evident to me when watching ithinkasia working together and learning about each individual is that with a leader like Justin it makes thriving, learning, and succeeding a thing worth working towards.