When I asked to visit Kevin at his office, he gave me his home address.
This trend isn’t too far off what many e-commerce shops have experienced in their bootstrapping days. Nowadays, with just a “low 4-figure sum” as Kevin says, you can quickly setup and run a small e-commerce startup.
Off The Beaten Path
Back in March 2015, I saw a Facebook post from Kevin asking for likes for his new Facebook page, Pawrus. Looking back, I didn’t think much of what Pawrus was, or what Kevin was up against. Like many others he has heard from, Kevin shares, skepticism was the norm when it came to talking about his business venture.
But what was it really like graduating and then delving right into a startup? “I took a leap of faith, and I’m still taking that leap of faith to do this full-time because I think that scalability in the business comes with effort and time.” Kevin tells me.
“As a fresh graduate I know that most people have their inhibitions… they’re affected by their parents, who tell them not to waste their $30k education.” I agreed, saying that it’s difficult for people to set out on their own.
How did he then come up with the idea for Pawrus?
“I had the idea for [Pawrus] since 2014. I used to buy from Pet Lover’s Centre and we found that the staff there didn’t help us find exactly what we wanted. As consumers we decided that if we combined convenience, cost and knowledge it would make for a great product. That was the starting point for our business.”
Kevin’s quick and detailed answers make it seem like he’s been sharing his story with other people quite often, and I don’t blame him; as a fresh graduate you’ll often be questioned why you’re already starting to spend your own savings.
Looking at around his house, it’s unbelievable that this has been his working space for over a year now. Other than the cloth used for pet grooming (Jasline is a trained groomer), there is absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. “I am very meticulous, OCD-level even” Kevin jokes, laughing.
One Paw At A Time
Together with Jasline, who used to work in an IT firm that deals with B2B sales, the two co-founders pooled their savings together in order to start Pawrus. “E-commerce for pet food is still in its infancy, and Singaporeans will always be busy.” Kevin jokes, confident that he has found his place in the pet food world.
“The 110-million pet retail industry in Singapore is growing (Euromonitor, 2015), but slowly – around 6-7% a year,” Kevin tells me. Why, then, did he want to join such a slow industry?
“One of our dogs – Bobby. He had a lot of problems with his digestion” Jasline explains. “We came across this supplement from the U.S. and it worked for Bobby, so we thought that maybe more Pet Parents could get to experience this benefit!”
Kevin and Jasline’s affection for their customers goes beyond just calling them Pet Parents, they do their best to remember their pet’s names as well. Here are some glowing reviews of Pawrus, which maintains a 5-star rating on its Facebook page:
“It’s about exclusive differentiation. People might say “I’m different in this way”, but whether they can implement it well it’s another thing.” Kevin explains, citing the way he both produces well-researched content on his shop blog and ensures that he has top-notch knowledge of his products as his main advantages against his competitors.
“We don’t just recommend just on the basis of internet knowledge. We consult veterinary books and cross-reference the ingredients used for our pet food to know what kinds of allergies that could possibly come up for each brand.”
More Than Just Business Partners
The close-knit couple completes each other’s sentences sometimes, but that’s not the only thing they help each other with. When I asked him about what he looked for in Jasline as a business partner, he had a very interesting approach to the question:
“I think that looking for a business partner is the same as looking for a relationship partner. The most important thing is trust. Even as friends, that should be the foundation of your relationship.”
“Your partner should also help you grow individually, not just the business. For example, right now Jasline is doing pet grooming, and I will have to take over the business while she is gone. Similarly, when I go for my training, she has to take up most of the business. As business partners, there is no 50/50 or you do 70, I do 30 at certain points.”
“I say that most people, when they have business partners, they usually look at numbers, like how much they contribute in revenue, but for me and Jasline we don’t have that dynamic because I always say that it’s very tough to measure any relationship with numbers. That’s why I have a mindset of “you help me, I help you”. We have to be there for one another.”
Starting a business with the right people that are willing to steer the ship as well is definitely better, just so that no one person needs to bear all the burden of running the business.
All The Right Reasons
What inspires the team to keep going? Both their peers are earning more money, with less hassle. Jasline states that she believes in what she’s doing:
“Everyone has a limited time on earth. If you deduct of 20 years off both ends where you’re studying and when you’re retired, the bulk of your life is spent working. It’s very important to work on something you love, instead of wasting your time in vain.”
“What Jasline says is right” says Kevin, for the third time. “Not everyone is a Facebook, Uber or Instagram. While it’s good to aspire to be like them, like Jasline said, passion lets you come a long way. Like Facebook, they started with the intention of making a difference in an industry, disrupting it and improving people’s lives. I think till today, the founders still have that core as their objective.”
“Don’t be afraid to fail, because I failed many times doing Pawrus, and know that there is no right age or right time to start. Everyone is looking for a “right time” to start a business but there isn’t one! I think the right time is within yourself, and you have to see if the factors have aligned to seize the opportunity.”
Kevin’s willingness to take risks fueled by a clear goal, as he says it: “As an entrepreneur, you just have to know what you want. You don’t have the luxury of people in a large company guiding you and you have to look for your own mentors.”
Paw-some stuff! -Vulcan Post
All images are owned by and courtesy of Pawrus.