It’s been established that e-commerce is the way forward for most, if not all, businesses with products to sell. In fact, our very own site, VP Label Malaysia, is set to launch soon too. It will feature up-and-coming products from homegrown businesses.
But despite all the many e-commerce sites for Malaysians to pick from (as a merchant or customer), this mother still felt as though the space was lacking—there was no proper marketplace for entrepreneurial kids to sell their products on.
A personal experience brought this to her attention. Joanna, co-founder of FirstSeed, shared with Vulcan Post, “After my kids successfully created the bath bombs, they were unable to find a suitable e-commerce platform for them to market. They created an Instagram page for their business but didn’t get a lot of followers, even on their Facebook page. They could only rely on us parents to share it with our network.”
A stepping stone for kids’ ambitions
Shopee and Lazada are popular e-commerce sites for merchants and customers, but this meant they were too competitive and had strict terms and conditions, making them unsuitable for Joanna’s kidpreneurs. Her kids are still attending online classes and extra classes, so they also need flexible timing to produce the bath bombs.
“For kidpreneurs, this is their first entrepreneurship journey. There are a lot of processes that they need to go through to prepare them before going into the ‘adult’ marketplace. For example, communication with buyers, arranging for delivery, payments, the selling process, the financial and marketing aspect, etc.,” Joanna explained.
Thus, it could be said that her intention behind starting FirstSeed was for it to be a stepping stone for kidpreneurs to discover their interests and help them transition to more mature online marketplaces in the future.
But this wasn’t the only reason. Joanna’s 13-year-old son, Keane, came up to her one day and told her that he wanted to earn money. His dream was to become a game developer and he’d already gotten a taste of creating a simple game back in school.
Since he planned to seek an apprenticeship with game studios in the future, Joanna saw an opportunity to train his coding skills through FirstSeed. In 2 weeks and with the help of a mentor from a software company, he’d coded the skeleton of FirstSeed’s homepage which Joanna hopes to maintain.
As the deadline to launch FirstSeed loomed closer, however, Joanna sought the help of a professional to complete the project.
Providing kidpreneurs with the necessary support
Since its soft launch on August 1, 2021, 20 kidpreneurs between the ages of 5 to 17 have registered on the website as merchants. Among the products they sell are slimes, bath bombs, baked goods, jewellery, and more.
While the majority of its merchants are from Klang Valley, there are also kidpreneurs from Penang, Johor, and Sabah. Parents and guardians are encouraged to give their kids the space and independence to explore, but will still take charge of any procedures where personal information is shared.
FirstSeed takes no transactional fees but charges a monthly fee of RM39 for merchants to list on their platform. The kidpreneurs can then access benefits like featured posting on FirstSeed’s social media, personal and group mentoring sessions, weekly workshops with exclusive discounts, access to free resources like tools and tips, and access to a private support group.
A common concern customers would have especially with vendors handling food and beverages is quality control. Not all kids would be aware of what SOPs they should follow with regards to quality control, safety, and hygiene, and neither might their parents.
When asked how she plans to go about this challenge, Joanna shared with Vulcan Post that she’ll be collaborating with a KKM accredited trainer to provide the kidpreneurs with training for food regulations in Malaysia.
At the same time, this is where FirstSeed’s services like the Seed Mentor and Seed Workshop come in to provide qualified mentors and workshops for the kids. These are currently still under development, though it’s gotten 5 coaches on board already.
Kid entrepreneurship isn’t as simple as you’d think
As a site that’s attempting to merge kids’ interests and entrepreneurship, Joanna shared that there were several challenges they still faced.
For example, some parents prefer to fully handle the transactional processes, which is fair if their kids are very young. However, for children that are old enough to understand the basics and only need guidance, Joanna feels as though this holds back their entrepreneurial development.
If the kids are only involved in the production process, they’re getting just a fraction of the entire experience. To add, those who are reliant on their parents’ devices to communicate with customers may be slow in responding to queries, thus affecting the rate of sales.
These will likely be ongoing challenges for Joanna and the FirstSeed team, so they should maintain an open communication channel with parents to discuss potential solutions. This will help them adapt quickly as well whenever a new issue arises.
For now, FirstSeed will undergo testing with its first cohort of kids to ensure that the site is easy for them to manoeuvre and use, then the team can plan for new features moving forward.
Joanna’s current goal for FirstSeed is to get 1,000 kidpreneurs listed on the marketplace by December 2021. While not impossible, it’s a very ambitious number. With 20 kids now on board, the team would have to recruit over 200 kidpreneurs per month to hit that goal.
To do that, it will have to ramp up its marketing efforts, refine its processes, and ensure that the site can handle that volume of kidpreneurs and customers that will follow.
Overseas, kid’s marketplaces appear to be a popular business model, albeit with more focus on physical bazaars and fairs. In Malaysia, we’ve seen similar events as well, though smaller in scale and occurring less frequently.
FirstSeed is positioned slightly differently since it’s an e-commerce marketplace first. Many of the skills that the kidpreneurs will learn through the site are transferable when opening up a physical store (whether pop-up or brick-and-mortar), but ultimately, they’re still two different experiences.
Perhaps when it’s safer to do so and when FirstSeed operates on a larger scale, it could look into hosting consistent physical bazaars for the kidpreneurs to experience what both worlds have to offer. This could further aid them in their future entrepreneurship journey when deciding on a business model.
- You can learn more about FirstSeed here.
- You can read about more e-commerce articles we’ve written here.