Back in 2015, Jeremy Ong was a 24-year-old who had already spent 3 years of his life working in a desk job for FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) companies in Kuala Lumpur.
While working in large corporations, he realised that he could never achieve “financial freedom” by climbing up the corporate ladder.
It wasn’t just about how much he was earning or would ever earn in a 9 to 5 job. What he really wanted was freedom of time.
Ecommerce seemed like a way out, and he spent his nights experimenting with his online store, usually for about 2 to 3 hours before going to bed.
He endured another year in his corporate job, but finally quit to join a coding bootcamp.
He told us that after 3 years of building and growing his ecommerce businesses, he’s achieved over USD1 million (RM4.15 mil) of revenue annually, with a 6-figure profit, all by starting with USD300 (RM1,245) in capital.
But rather than rest on his laurels, in January 2019, he launched a third business named Hustlr, along with his co-founder, Sim Li.
Both the co-founders have been running ecommerce businesses since 5 years ago.
“We are both marketers by profession and we try our best to stay updated with the different aspects of digital marketing,” they said.
The School Of Ecommerce
Essentially, Hustlr was built to help individuals and big or small companies bring their businesses online.
Their services include ecommerce training, education, strategic consulting, web design, photography, videography and developing entire ecommerce architectures for businesses.
“We decided to create an education and consulting business focused on ecommerce because we noticed that there’s a gap in the market,” said the team.
“Ecommerce is defined by the public as selling on Lazada & Shopee. Even though that is the hype right now, businesses solely selling on these platforms have a very slim chance of being extremely profitable.”
Hustlr’s first programme teaches people how to set up and market their own ecommerce store.
Jeremy and Sim see online learning as something that is taking off worldwide.
“Because of the digital nature of our programmes, the entire world’s population is the limit. According to a study by Global Market Insights, elearning is an industry that will be worth over USD300bn worldwide by 2025.”
This international focus was also why they changed the name of the startup from Moola Boss to Hustlr.
“We decided that we want a brand that’s worth building. We believe Hustlr is going to be wide enough to develop almost anything. Just to keep our options open to pivoting in the future,” said Sim.
Expanding Local Perceptions
Right now, the Hustlr team has found that Malaysians are still very much tied to the idea that ecommerce is just marketplaces like Lazada and Shopee, who are dominating the local landscape.
“While these companies have helped people become more comfortable with shopping online over the past few years, we do feel that there is a huge opportunity for individual branded retailers create their own digital presence,” said the founders.
“If you’re just selling on marketplaces, you’re missing out on so much valuable customer shopping and behavioural data. Also, you lose a whole lot of control when you sell on marketplaces, because it’s their turf, not yours.”
Hustlr wants to change the mindset away from just relying on marketplaces and to show, “you’d be able to stand your ground in your own niche”.
At the moment, their course is priced at RM1,497, and they were able to make sales before the course was even ready.
“We minimised risk by developing a landing page and a simple sales process. Once we had our first batch of students enrol in the course, we started putting in the hard work—which is to create the syllabus and the course.”
However, they’ve also run into a few snags when trying to market their product. Chief of the hindrances was dealing with Facebook advertising.
“Our advertising account has been banned for more than 2–3 times. [Facebook] is under a lot of fire right now from lots of regulatory institutions and they’re clamping down on advertisers when it comes to ecommerce education.”
This is likely due to the many “get rich quick” online gurus promising that their ecommerce courses will help students generate high amounts of sales, but end up being scams or not delivering.
Hustlr wants to stay far away from being associated with courses like this, and they said, “We only onboard teachers and with proven track records. We also don’t go market through the popular ‘guru’ model. One of the core things we want to do is to give 99% of our content for free. The course is just a structured method to deliver knowledge.”
Their two big goals over the next 5 years are to onboard at least 100 qualified course creators and have empowered at least 100,000 students around the world.
“We want to be an international online school that teaches people freelancing, entrepreneurial and technical skills.”
For The Ecommerce Rookies
We asked Jeremy and the Hustlr team to share some insights for ecommerce newbies, and they wanted to reiterate that building an ecommerce business is just like any other business, except everything happens digitally.
“A lot of people think an ecommerce store is profitable because of it’s cheap to set up, but a lot of them don’t know that marketing is (almost) everything when it comes to ecommerce success. So, ignore the fact that starting an ecommerce store is cheap as hell, you need to put in the same amount of work as you would to an offline business.”
Jeremy’s own personal biggest mistake was that he committed too many resources to an idea that was not validated and ended up losing quite a bit of money.
“The lesson here is, validate first before launching anything—especially if you’re bootstrapping!” he said.
- You can find out more about Hustlr here.
Feature Image Credit: Hustlr