When it comes to business, they aren’t kidding around.
By Aiden Jewelle Gonzales
For a while, we Millennials reigned supreme as the vanguard of fresh business ideas and bastions of innovation. Then Generation-Z came around, and they pushed industries that we’ve just discovered into the stratosphere, making millions from 30-second video clips and intuitively understanding the digital space in a way that we couldn’t. Now, Generation Alpha (yes, there’s a new one!) are already entering the entrepreneurship space, giving hope to a future which will require all their savvy, flexibility, and wide-eyed confidence.
Masala spoke to four such entrepreneurs from the community who, at an age when I was still (repeatedly) skinning my knees, have already tested their mettle in the business space, learning lifelong skills such as innovation, financial management, and resilience, while also teaching us a thing or two about not letting age define who you are or what you can do.
Brown Girl’s Brush (Instagram: @browngirlsbrush)
“Inspiration can come from anywhere, but mine started at home, with my family,” Janya, a graphic designer and student at Bangkok Patana School told me. “My parents are very driven entrepreneurs and my brother also started his own business a few years ago – seeing them inspired me to find my passion, develop my skills within that passion, and to just take the dive and start my own business.” Having started her first business, Lavender Sparks, when she was 10 after her brother asked her to design graphics for his business, Janya soon realised that she could do more than just customising templates, and thus, two and a half years later, revamped her business into Brown Girl’s Brush.
What first interested you in graphic design, and how did you acquire your skills over the years?
I was always interested in editing and drawing so over the years, and I’ve developed those skills while also investing in many different courses, and even developing over 150 Procreate brushes. This allows me to create graphics like no others, which can be fully customised.
What kind of designs or prints do you do?
Brown Girl’s Brush offers all types of graphic design services, which include the business bundle (circle logo, square logo, cover photo, announcement templates + one extra graphic), greeting card graphics, invitations, and a subscription! On my Instagram feed, I usually do positive affirmative graphics, and every week I put up a story for people to send me quotes that they would like to see in a custom-designed graphic.
What inspires your designs? Can you walk us through your design process?
Most of my designs on social media are affirmative quotes that most of us can use to remind ourselves to be kinder to ourselves. The process I go through normally only takes five steps. Number one, research for a quote that resonates with me. Number two, sketch the graphic that is inspired by the quote. Number three, work on the layout. Number four, lettering the words. Number five, extra details, and just adding a bit more of ‘me’ to it! However, for my clients, I ask them for inspiration so I know what style and aesthetic they want.
What challenges did you have to overcome to start a business so young, and on the flip side, what do you think are the unique advantages of being such a young entrepreneur?
Sometimes it feels challenging to balance my timetable because of school, homework and tutors. However, the solution I’ve found is to post unique content only once or twice a week. As a young entrepreneur, I’ve seen that while some people have reservations about my age, most are willing to take a chance and are very supportive! Another advantage is that you can get a head start at running your own business and learning tips and tricks at such a young age. Being a young entrepreneur allows you to make mistakes without being judged harshly, and within a safe environment.
Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently when you were first starting out?
I used to use templates and just fill in the names and other information, but now I know that that’s not something you should sell since anyone can do that. I realised I had to provide more value than just customising templates, so I invested in some courses and learnt how to design and produce graphics from scratch. Now I have created my own digital brushes and resources, which means my graphics are unique and 100 percent customised.
Since the pandemic, digital services like yours have seen an uptick in business as people have increasingly turned to the digital space. Did you find this was the case for you over the last couple of years, and did you have to change things in your business during this time?
I started my business during the pandemic itself, as a result of being asked to create graphics for my friends’ and family’s online businesses. These included logo designs, announcement templates, and even digital invites. As more people move their businesses into the digital space, it creates opportunities for young entrepreneurs like me to turn our passions into a business with real value to offer. I love that age is no longer a barrier and people of all ages are seeking out my services.
What advice would you like to give other kids who’d like to get into graphic design, or would like to start their own businesses?
For beginners who are interested in graphic design, apps like Canva, PicsArt, etc. are a great way to start your creative journey as it allows customisation, but it is not intimidating. Once you’re ready to deepen your expertise, Procreate or Photoshop are the way to go as they allow much more creativity.
Being an entrepreneur requires a lot of perseverance and bounce-back-ability, in other words resilience, since things will not go the way you want it to at first. However, being committed to my own goals and passion for designing is what keeps me going. For anyone who is considering it, but feels they aren’t ‘enough’ yet – I really want to encourage them to just go for it! Learn and develop skills as you go, because you’re never really going to feel fully ready!
GG Bakes (Instagram: @GGBakes.Bkk)
The youngest out of our entrepreneurs, Gianna, who goes to St. Andrews International School, started baking when she was only two or three years old. “I think I started with either chocolate chip cookies or fudge brownies,” Gianna recalls with a smile. “I really like baking because it’s a creative outlet,” she reveals, as her mother shows me a nursery report card that highlighted her love for “learning how things change, such as baking.”
“My masi, Anjna, inspired me to continue baking and we both like to talk about recipes. I still use those recipes today, including some variations, and now we’ve got over 20 items on sale!” Gianna’s baked treats (I’d personally recommend the eminently delicious banana biscoff!) soon gained popularity among friends and family who urged her to charge for them, and in April 2021, she formed GG Bakes, and she hasn’t stopped baking since. Soon after, her mother created her Instagram page, which soon gained a large following of people who’ve sampled and loved her products.
How do you come up with your recipes?
Initially, my masi taught me how to make my signature banana loaf and everyone seemed to loved it and kept wanting more. My masi taught me a lot, and my mum and I experiment together and we like to make many variations of it, like eggless, vegan, sugar-free gluten-free etc.
How are you able to manage the logistics of baking and delivery – do you do all the baking yourself?
Yes, I do all the baking myself; during VSE it was during my breaks and after school but now that school has opened, I make the batter the night before. My mum does all the packaging and handles all the deliveries.
Is it difficult, being such a young entrepreneur? Anything you would have changed about your business?
I don’t think of myself as an entrepreneur, I’m just doing what I love which is baking and art. I wouldn’t change anything at all, in fact every day it seems to be getting better and better. To all the kids who want to do the same – do it, it’s so much fun. You should do whatever you love and enjoy doing!
Bestieboutique.co (Instagram: @bestieboutique.co)
Starting her own business at the tender age of 10, Renha, who goes to NIST International School, was inspired to create her own jewellery line after seeing unique designs on Pinterest that she couldn’t remember finding in Bangkok. “I’d already been selling other products, so I thought I’d expand my product line,” she revealed. “When the second wave of COVID hit in 2021, I was looking for something to keep me busy, and I noticed that I really enjoyed selling, creating and packaging.” From there, Bestieboutique.co was born.
Can you tell us a little about your business and what inspired you to start it?
I started the business by selling fidgets, but there was a lot of competition, so to stay in trend, I added to my product line. I slowly added stickers, planners, phone charms and then jewellery, which is what I’m best known for now.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I buy beads and I like to play around with the colours before I make my final product. I enjoy browsing on Pinterest, and that is where I find a lot of cute ideas for names for my charms and bracelets. Some of my favourites include: Starry Duo, Milky Way, and Perfect Peach.
Tell us about how you’re managing the logistics of the business – from sourcing the materials, to the tools needed to make the jewellery, marketing and delivery.
I source my materials from various sources, which as a business woman I cannot reveal! [Laughs] I hand make my jewellery myself, and the marketing is all done through my Instagram page, while my deliveries are done through Grab and Kerry Express.
What was the biggest challenge and advantage you’ve found in being such a young entrepreneur, and what lessons have you learnt along the way?
Convincing my parents was the biggest challenge. They were worried that I would get too distracted with social media and not focus on my studies. The advantage is you learn how to start a business and how to adapt to your customer’s needs at such a young age.
Over the last year, I’ve learnt that I shouldn’t sell too quickly, and that I should test my product out first to see if it was strong enough. Initially my hooks would fall out before I realised the mistake. If I had taken my time and not rushed the sale, I would have known about this before selling those products.
What advice would you like to give other kids who’d like to get into the jewellery industry or would like to start their own businesses?
Always make a sample and test it out first to see if your product is good. You don’t want to upset your customer because that would lead to bad reviews. Also, always check reviews before you buy your materials for your business. Give samples to your family members, as they will tell you’re the truth about your product. If anyone wants to start their own business, I would say, go for it! There’s no harm in trying and it’s a lot of fun.
Riri’s Masks (Etsy: @RirisMasks)
At nine years old, Riana, who goes to NIST International School, leveraged her love for fashion to create products that will be a part of our daily lives for the foreseeable future – masks. “When I saw everyone, including myself, having to wear the same boring masks day to day, I wondered why not make cute fun ones that we can actually enjoy, and make them another fun accessory,” she tells me. “As I began to see some people wearing cute masks, I was even more inspired and, since I love to sketch, I thought, why not give it a try?” From there, Riri’s Masks was born.
Tell us about your interest in fashion and where it began.
I’ve always been interested in it since I was very little, from dressing up, accessorising, to even doing character make up tutorials online; I tried everything. I self-taught myself design, especially since my friend Simran introduced me to Procreate, after which I started designing digitally and never looked back.
Tell us about what makes your masks unique.
My masks are comfortable and soft to wear. At the same time, they provide full protection as they are made with two layers of fabric where the top layer is nano fabric. Along with being stain resistant, they repel liquid and any spills so even if someone sneezed on you, nothing would come through the mask, the droplets would just slide off.
Tell us about how you come up with your designs – which ones are your favourite?
One of my favourites is the Puppy Madness design. My dogs Peppa and Roxy inspired it – I knew there would be a lot of people out there like me who love and have dogs, and they would love wearing a mask with cute paws prints on them. My other design called Sweet Tooth was inspired by my love for candy. I have a big sweet tooth and I know many other people have it too. My best-seller is one called The Splash, which is a marble-print mask that I created. Those sell so fast and seem to be a favourite among my customers.
How are you managing all the logistics of your business?
When I decided to make masks, I did my research with my parents to find the right resources, and thanks to them, I’ve found a mask manufacturer who I now send my designs to, so it’s become quite easy for me. In the beginning, we had to make samples and check them to make sure they are high-quality. I also sell on Etsy for which I courier my orders. Most of my sales are through word of mouth and small fairs.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome, and is there anything that you would’ve changed since you started?
My biggest challenge was when I had trouble sending orders to other countries because of COVID, as shipping became so much more expensive. I also had trouble when my mask manufacturer was not able to do masks in time due to the pandemic; his shop had to remain closed for many weeks. Honestly, I think I would have advertised a lot more in the beginning.
An advantage of being so young is people are more supportive towards young entrepreneurs, and you also learn a lot about business and how to handle money. It also keeps you busy, especially during these COVID times!
Any advice for others in your shoes?
If you want to start a business, make sure it is something you are really passionate about so you don’t get bored of it.