The Moneymaker: HURON LOW, 27, co-founder of Virtuoso, a five-man professional card flourishing team. The Virts — as they call themselves — specialise in cardistry, which is “a dance of a deck in the hands”. In other words, fancy schmancy card tricks you may remember from The Unbeatables, without the gambling. They turned it into a business only two years ago, selling self-designed card decks and video tutorials online. “By next year, [our revenue would’ve hit a seven-figure sum]. It could have happened this year, but we didn’t want it to grow too fast ’cos we can’t handle it,” he explains. The Virts will be featured in Wild Cards, a docu that digs deep into the world of cardistry. It’s one of the five documentaries on Discovery Channel’s Singapore Stories series that feature the works of rising local filmmakers.
HIS HOME IS: A cluster house in Bright Hill Crescent where he lives with his mum, elder brother and younger sister.
HIS RIDE IS: His family’s BMW 7 Series car.
WHAT’S IN HIS WALLET? In his wallet from English luxury leather label Hard Graft, he stashes currencies from Malaysia and US (where he travelled recently), a subway card from New York City, an access card to his church where he serves as a worship leader and teacher, a card with a Biblical verse, notes from his girlfriend, and a Metro department store membership card. “My mum gave it to me. I didn’t want it, but she insisted I take it anyway! I usually carry around $100 cash with me for food and coffee.”
8 DAYS: How did you get into cardistry?
HURON LOW: I was initially not into it at all. I used to turn off the TV when I see card magicians ’cos I found them boring! But I saw a guy doing really cool things with cards, and my friend challenged me to master a card flourishing trick called the Slide. It typically takes about six months to learn, but I did it in one week (laughs). Virtuoso came about in 2005 when my friends and I made a short film called Virtuoso about card flourishing for a competition. We thought it was pretty cool and wanted to continue [working together]. We registered our company to keep everything in check. When money is involved and there is no clear black and white about how we work as a team, things can fall apart! We’re all in this full-time now, and everyone has their own role like video editing, graphic design and customer service. I do the marketing and perform card flourishing [for gigs].
What would you be doing if you weren’t running Virtuoso?
I’d have started up other businesses. I’m thinking of launching a leather company later this year selling small leather goods. I’m also helping my family with a skincare business and doing some marketing consultation on the side. I stopped studying after junior college. My job is not like being a doctor where I have to go to medical school. But I believe very much in education. No parent will say to their child, “Hey, be a magician when you grow up!” I studied marketing, business management, film and writing on my own. A lot of what I’ve learnt, especially about digital things, changes very fast. What I learn today in school may be already outdated tomorrow.
How lucrative is it teaching people to do cardistry?
It can be very lucrative. We currently have 54,000 subscribers on YouTube. Let’s say each of them pays US$10 ($13.70) for a video tutorial and US$9.95 ($13.50) for a deck of cards. We have more than one video tutorial, and nobody buys only one deck. People tend to stock up. I wear out a deck every three days ’cos of heavy use and our weather. It gets sticky and it’s not as nice to use. I’ve spent a six-figure sum so far on cardistry. Cardistry as a hobby can be expensive but most people who pick it up are aware of the costs involved and are willing to pay for it. Most of the money we earn these days goes towards producing cards, buying filming gear and paying The Virts’ salaries.
Does an autographed deck from The Virts fetch a higher price?
Yes, much more. The highest price I’ve seen for a non-autographed deck was already US$300 ($409). It was crazy! When we first launched our Spring/Summer 2015 deck this year, one guy bought 60 decks and another purchased 48 decks [for $13.50 each]. I later saw the decks on eBay and Carousell going for $25 to $100 (laughs). I always think to myself that it’d be really funny if I create my own eBay or Carousell account to sell my autographed cards when I’m tight on money. But I’ve never done that.
Does being good in cardistry help you or your customers with impressing girls?
(Laughs) It helps boost people’s confidence. A guy even proposed to his girlfriend using one of our card flourishes. But that’s not what we want to promote. You don’t want to be known as the ‘card guy’ who uses magic or cardistry as a crutch. I used to go, “Hey, want to see something?!” It’s cool to a certain point until you want people to know you for being you. Nowadays I don’t take out my cards at all until the conversation leads naturally to the topic. My girlfriend complains that I never show her any magic or card tricks! I realised it’s just better to get to know people by spending more time with them.
The Singapore Stories documentaries air Thur, Discovery Channel (StarHub Ch 422 and Singtel TV 202), 9pm. Wild Cards airs on Aug 6.