These young entrepreneurs share how they handle school and work while running their own innovative businesses.
Running a start-up business as a side hustle sounds like a good idea as you get to earn some extra cash while going about with your life. But there’s much more to it than simply launching a product and earning money.
From administrative work to designing the products and marketing them to the public, running a business is no easy task, especially for youths who also have to focus on their studies or day jobs.
We spoke to the youths behind three local start-ups to find out more about their journey.
Little Printings is a 3D printing brand that creates products ranging from keychains and lithophanes to plant potters.
It is run by Jovin Lim, 22, Noel Tan, 22, and Abhiram Eswara, 20, who met on their first week of orientation at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. They customise, design, print and market their products all by themselves.
Business was not too successful at first – in the first three months, Noel could count the total number of sales with one hand. However, they are slowly gaining momentum, and have even collaborated with other local brands to make plant potters.
Jovin said: “At the start, I tried to market myself as a designer that gives you things you want. But nobody does that because if they don’t know what you can do, they just won’t come to you. After that, I tried focusing on a single product line.”
As full-time students, running a business while keeping up with studies can be tough.
“Juggling between lessons and schoolwork is pretty tiring. It’s studies by day, Little Printings by night,” said Jovin, who mostly works on the design of the products.
However, they feel that the time spent rushing to meet deadlines is worth it when they see their final products as well as their customers’ reactions.
Noel likes when customers send photos of them using their Little Printing products at their homes, as it is heartwarming to see how much people like their products.
So far, one of the most memorable things they have made is an engagement ring box.
“When you know that somebody is entrusting such an important object to your company or ability, it’s very rewarding,” said Abhiram, the technician of Little Printings.
When asked if they had any advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs, they emphasised the importance of doing what you love.
Abhiram advised: “Do what you’re passionate about. We spend hours doing this but it doesn’t feel like hours.
“When you do something you enjoy so much, it doesn’t feel like work anymore, it’s just something you do.”
Before, the 24-year-old did not own a single pair of jeans as she thought they looked bad on her. But when she went to Australia, she had a great time shopping and bought many pairs of pants as they had more size options.
This got her wondering: Why couldn’t she have that shopping experience in Singapore or even Asia?
“I’m not the biggest person I know. If finding jeans is so hard for me, what about the next girl?” said Anda, who also works as a financial consultant and beauty content creator.
With that in mind, she started Wear Bums to provide jeans of all sizes for the girls who need them. In order to customise the plus-sized jeans she had to teach her suppliers how to make them, because they “just don’t know how to do it”.
“When I told them I want 2XL, they were like: ‘No, it’s very big, you know.’ I was like: ‘I know it’s very big!’” Anda recalled with a laugh.
She initially feared that no one would buy the jeans because “everybody is so small”, so she was surprised when most of her plus and petite sizes were sold out at her first launch. That was when she realised there is a demand for jeans that did not just cater to the “in-betweens”.
On top of being size-inclusive, WearBums is price-inclusive.
Anda sells her jeans at $89.90, though she knew they would normally be sold for hundreds of dollars. She chose to take that profit cut as she wanted her jeans to remain affordable.
Customers can also choose to purchase the $89.90 jeans in three instalments.
She said: “$30 a month is like three days of lunch or dinner. I feel it’s more affordable and everyone could try and buy it if they want to.
“At the end of the day, what pleases your consumers? I don’t focus on what makes me happy, as it’s about what delights and excites them.”
Sharifah Nuryuhanis, 22, is the founder of The Solution Initiative, where she hand-sews carriers for drink cups, water bottles and hand sanitisers.
It all started when she was on the bus, and thinking about how irritating and tiring it was to carry a drink in her hands.
Since she had experience with sewing, she wanted to create that product that would let her clip her drink onto a surface, such as the bus handle.
As part of her research, she bought many drinks to decide on the size of her products.
“I had to buy cups of all sizes from Starbucks, McDonald’s, Liho and Gongcha. You name it, I have it in my drawer,” she said.
While Sharifah was planning her first launch, she ran into a problem: since her store was operated entirely online, customers were not able to see or touch the products before purchasing them.
“It was a struggle to explain what the material is like and how it works. It’s not something that people often see, so they don’t really know how it works,” she said.
Thankfully, with the help of her supportive friends and family, who bought her products and posted about them on social media, her first launch was a success. Now, The Solution Initiative is at its eighth product launch.
As her carriers are made to order, she makes them in bulk with her mother for one and a half weeks every night, a sort of bonding routine for the both of them. She spends about two days packing the orders, and they are ready for delivery by the next day.
Since the process can be tiring and time-consuming, she rests for two weeks before working on the next launch.
When asked for advice for other youths who wish to start their own businesses, Sharifah said they should start saving their money now, as “business is not cheap”.
As for youths who may not dare to start their own business, she encouraged them to just do it.
She said: “Go for it no matter how small your market is. You’ll never know, the people around you may love your products.
“I was hesitating at first, but now when I think about it, why did I even hesitate? I love what I’m doing now. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”
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