Best friends Sheena and Jin Hui have zero background in education.
Nevertheless, they still decided to pursue a subscription box business based entirely on education for young children.
But with an acute understanding of their lack of educational experience, the pair of friends knew that they wanted to start off as a self-funded operation.
And it’s perhaps in this pursuit of a “palatable” venture that the pair decided to have a little fun with their business.
The friends’ surprise box business is called Atom & The Dot. It goes out at RM100 per month, for kids between 5–8 years old.
Each box will contain a mix of activities that kids can do with their parents based on a “theme”.
The boxes are usually themed around combining both arts and science.
Over here on our shores, 16-year-olds have to make a decision between the arts stream and the science stream. Meanwhile, the Nordic countries and the US are starting to rethink that notion.
Educators there are recognising the importance of integrating the two “clashing” subjects in order to develop more well-rounded learners and leaders.
“We believe that the future of education is different from what we grew up with and the skill set of our generation will become nice-to-have with the advancement of technology.”
To the two-man team, their biggest challenge is coming up with the “perfect” box.
It’s a balancing act between affordability, fun and engagement. This also includes the important ‘wow’ factor in each box that will impress both parents and children alike.
Some parties may see enrichment classes and the tuition industry in Malaysia as competition for this business, but to us, Atom & The Dot is a different ballgame altogether.
After all, the kids can still go for classes. The box instead is a fun yet educational activity that kids and parents can enjoy together. The idea is that kids get hands-on, with their parents to help explain the “science-y” stuff, aided by booklets provided in the boxes.
Friends Turned Business Partners
Jin Hui and Sheena have been “developing their chemistry” for more than half of their lives.
There are a lot of startups in Malaysia that are run by friend or family teams, but the pair kept receiving “friendly advice” about how you shouldn’t go into business with your best friends if you want to keep them.
“Realising this, we had a very upfront conversation about our thoughts, concerns and ambitions to ensure we were aligned. This practice of transparency and over-communicating is something we’ve pledged to continue throughout our venture,” said Sheena.
They choose to see their longtime connection as an asset, rather than a liability.
“So far it’s been amazing and really fun! Apart from the chemistry we’ve been developing for more than half our lives, we have serendipitously developed skill sets that complement.”
Entering A “Dead” Scene
“The subscription box model is less capital-intensive to scale geographically with less time-to-market. Given our ambitions to make a sizeable impact, this was an important consideration in our operating model.”
Subscription boxes are not a new thing in Malaysia, and a brief glance of other industries using this model showcases a somber scene. We posit this question to Sheena, and she had this to say:
“Speaking to previous subscription box founders, their concerns were from the supply side. For us, this is less of a concern because we curate our own activities. So we can get a bit creative and tweak the required materials accordingly.”
To them, their bigger concern lies in the drying out their idea well. Their focus is on crowdsourcing ideas from college and university students, as well as R&D to keep this at bay for as long as possible.
But as far as buyership goes, they acknowledge their position.
“It’s not an issue yet as the concept has some novelty at this point,” the team said.
But if parents still prefer to send their kids out instead of trying something together, that would be the dealbreaker that would lead the pair to roll down the proverbial shutters.
“It’s something that we’re consciously trying to validate. We’re also working to tweak the activities and model accordingly to better cater to their needs.”
As far as future goes, the team has plans to eventually introduce more variety of box difficulties to suit kids of more ages.
But they have a more far-reaching dream.
“Our dream is to change the way we think of education,” said Sheena.
“Learning is not just about memorising textbooks. You can learn by observing, experimenting and play. We want to encourage them to observe and question, not just accept things the way they have been presented.”
The subscription box can be ordered from Atom & The Dot website.
Bonus: Get 20% off with Hong Leong MACH Credit/Debit Cards.
Feature Image Credit: Atom & The Dot