The side hustle: How 3 Singapore students found success as entrepreneurs
Have you ever had the urge to pursue a side hustle at some point but were concerned about managing it with school? Just not sure if you should take the leap of faith? Or contemplating taking a gap year to pursue something entrepreneurial?
It is said that everyone has a great business idea at some point in their lives, but not everyone has what it takes to morph vision into a tangible reality.
To address your doubts, we spoke to three budding student entrepreneurs about how they are running their own side hustles in Singapore and what it took for them to be successful.
Canvas Yoghurt – A passion/side hustle for F&B
It’s not often that we are met with serendipitous coincidences where opportunities are presented right when we think about it.
But that is exactly what happened to Ervin Teo, one of the co-founders of Canvas Yoghurt when he was presented with the chance to take part in a business competition right when he and his friends were thinking about starting a side hustle in Singapore together.
Even though they took part without any expectations, the group gleaned valuable insights about the F&B industry and ended up winning the competition.
The prize? Having their own physical store on Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s campus which birthed the concept of Canvas Yoghurt – an F&B store dedicated to selling handcrafted yoghurt drinks.
While the team were enthralled by this new venture, not everything was smooth sailing. Ervin mentioned how it was daunting to liaise with big stakeholders like UOB who were also keen on setting up their own hangout space within the store itself.
Furthermore, coupled with the added delay and restrictions brought about by COVID-19, Ervin and his team were forced to adapt to extended deadlines and figure out new ways to work around things.
When asked about what was the key to being able to manage work and school, Ervin put it simply – “I wouldn’t say I was very stressed … it was more like a numbing experience because you know you just have to do it.”
Despite the difficulties, Ervin is proud of Canvas Yoghurt’s growth. The brand awareness it garnered is something he did not expect given that the store was located in a part of school with a low traffic flow and the covid-19 situation encumbering footfall.
The experience truly opened Ervin’s eyes to the nook and crannies of running a side hustle locally. The plan for the future would be to hand Canvas Yoghurt over to a new batch of juniors who can take over the business from them until the store’s 3-year lease expires.
When asked what his advice would be for those who would like to start their own business, Ervin mentioned “Go and grab every opportunity the school offers and do not be afraid.”
Ever thought of selling handmade products? Well then look no further than the founder of Project Klei for inspiration. Vanessa, the co-founder of Project Klei started the business from scratch with her sister in September 2019 when they began to sell pom-pom earrings.
Two years later, their account has garnered a whopping 12.2k followers and Project Klei has certainly made a name for itself in the local jewellery scene.
Their glory, however, is the result of the sacrifices and hard work poured in by the sisters.
Vanessa recounted how she started the side hustle as a student while she was still in Polytechnic.
It was not easy to juggle school and a budding business but the consistent support from her sister enabled her to pull through. Vanessa cites consistency as a key factor that really caused her side hustle to blossom.
In fact, she recalls the very first item which ‘blew up’ and garnered widespread attention. “We were still amateurs but one of our floral based collections really blew up and that’s when my business started growing and I could see what my customers wanted.”
Vanessa’s journey was also not one without its fair share of challenges. She noted that back in 2019, social media marketing like Instagram advertising was still not as developed, making it hard to reach a wider audience.
Furthermore, it was hard for Vanessa to deal with the varying opinions and advice of others while she was still in the early days of her business.
However, with time, Vanessa learnt the importance of following her gut and blocking out opinions that do not add value to her business.
Now, Vanessa is a full-time student at NUS Business School and works full time while managing Project Klei. When asked how she manages her various commitments, Vannessa said that her sister is her biggest support.
Whenever she finds herself busy, her sister would step in to run the business. The teamwork and understanding between both co-founders are essential in ensuring operations run smoothly for their side hustle.
Looking into the future, Vanessa plans to expand her side hustle into her smaller sister businesses, Project Clara and The Toodles.
She believes that those who are still in double minds about starting a side hustle should just “go for it” as “the world is moving and no one is going to wait for you so there is no harm trying whatever is in your mind”.
For those who have a passion for fashion or are just invested in a particular market of niche goods, then Kye’s story is definitely one to look out for.
The 21-year old Polytechnic graduate who is currently serving his National Service runs an online store by the name of Vtg. Kye is part of the Vintage community in Singapore.
He primarily sells Vintage apparel and helps customers rework their old vintage clothes. Kye single-handedly grew his side hustle’s following to over 6k on Instagram and has over 2k subscribers on his telegram channel.
Kye started his side hustle towards the end of the Polytechnic due to his interest in Vintage clothing. As a connoisseur of vintage clothing, Kye found that it was hard to find specific pieces.
Furthermore, given that second-hand items are an effective way to save the Earth, Kye found purpose in starting a store dedicated to providing vintage pieces catered to his customers. This includes Kye specifically sourcing for clothes demanded by his customers.
When asked about some of the hurdles he faced setting up his side hustle, Kye cited finding suppliers and finding items of his desired quality to be a challenge.
“There is a lot of trial and error involved,” said Kye who after multiple rounds of experimentation finally found suppliers who met his desired standards.
Besides that, he noted that it helped that people his age were naturally interested in the Vintage Clothing scene so it was not hard to appeal to his target audience.
Despite having a background in business, Kye believes it is not necessary to have studied the subject to be good at running an actual business because it only equips one with knowledge of the corporate model and not the practical know-how on how to actually thrive in a certain market.
He did not think his side hustle would grow to the extent it has. But he believed the growth came from being consistent with his prices, quality and uploads.
Looking into the future, Kye plans to have his own physical store in December at Far East Plaza to expand his business.
Ervin, Vanessa and Kye are a few of many who encompass and cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit, leading by example by showing us that it is possible to have a successful side hustle despite other commitments.
If you’d like to learn more about other ways you can earn income while studying, do check out our article on our curated list of online jobs for students.
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