For the last few months, I have been working on some business ideas. On a completely unrelated project, a certain huge dance festival in Singapore was coming up and when given a small opportunity, I decided on impulse to try and sell something on the day of the event.
I was convinced that it was something that partygoers would love, and buy. I was sure it would be something in demand.
OK, I’ll tell you what it is – I wanted to sell glow-in-the-dark body paint for this dance event.
After 5 days of searching for glow-in-the-dark body paint in Singapore (I traversed costume shops, Spotlight at Dhoby Ghaut, and a number more shops etc but to no avail), I FINALLY found a supplier who was selling a small bottle at $19. Because it was so hard to find and I finally did, I bought a few bottles just for fun, for my friends and I to use at the party.
On the morning of the event, a Singaporean student (Student J) told me that he was helping another company to sell something else at the entrance of this event, and almost straightaway, I offered him a commission per bottle of body paint that he sold if he helped to push my product along with what he was selling.
He agreed, and I called the supplier straightaway to arrange urgent purchase of MANY more bottles.
I trust my judgement in people and I also trust the student that I got to work for me. I don’t think his sales skills was the problem, but the problem was just with reality… And a few more things.
MY THOUGHT PROCESS
I had used glow-in-the-dark body paint before in other countries at other similar beach-themed or night-time parties, and I adored it. It was pretty popular at these parties and among the party people.
I convinced myself that it was a great idea – I would buy it, my friends who I spoke to said they would buy it, so why wouldn’t other people buy it?
I GOT ADVICE BUT HEEDED NONE OF IT
My best friend advised me to only execute it IF the supplier would give it to me on consignment (whatever I can’t sell, I can return at no cost to me). However, they did not agree. My best friend and my Dad said to forget it, but I went ahead and did it anyway.
When you believe in or want to do something, no one and nothing will stop you. Risks are like a pair of old spectacles that you wore in Secondary school – You don’t see risks clearly. You think you’re smarter than everyone else. You feel invincible.
It was a great feeling to outsource everything from the pick up of the glow paints, to the selling of it. I did nothing but constantly kept on the phone through Whatsapp with him.
He tried to sell my glow paint according to my sales strategy – the aim was $30-$35 per bottle to older party-goers especially Caucasians or Internationals, $25-$28 per bottle to Singaporeans/Chinese. I’m not racist, but it made business sense to profile customers and adjust costs accordingly. Student J caught on quick.
He called me to update me that he had put a bit of the glow paint on himself and his friends, to attract more attention. He called me later that the sales were going too slow – he had only managed to sell 3 bottles in 2 hours. He told me that he changed the strategy, and that he was now offering to paint partygoers for $5 but he was using as little of the paint as possible. I told him great job, and to go for it.
4 hours later, Student J had to leave the scene and almost 80% of the bottles that I had purchased were still left. I was stuck with stock.
I lost $300 that day, $300 that was really hard to earn and quickly lost. I feel like kicking myself!
1) GOOD PEOPLE MAKE OR BREAK A BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY
I don’t know Student J very well, but I was fortunate to have met him at a random event and he struck me as a go-getter. He was young, but had a certain hunger and good attitude about him that I picked up straightaway. I gave him my number and told him to keep in touch. Even though this was only my first time getting him to work for me, I was really impressed with his quick-wit and performance in this exercise.
I definitely want to groom this one and I think he has a lot of potential ahead. If you need a part-timer to help with a project, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him.
2) DON’T BUY STOCK WITHOUT KNOWING IF YOU CAN SELL, I SHOULD NOT HAVE JUMPED THE GUN. MAYBE TEST THE MARKET FIRST.
Should I have bought stock that I couldn’t sell? No. Did I know what I was doing? No. Was my cost price too high and the selling price too high? Yes and yes.
I learnt a valuable business lesson that day. No matter how much you are told or you think something may be a good (business) idea, it doesn’t matter – It helps to try and test the idea in on a smaller scale (Instead of going full steam ahead, I should have just tried selling a few bottles and then estimating the demand and circumstances).
I should have done more industry research and figured out what I was really doing.
Don’t be delusional or a dreamer like me – Testing any business idea is SO important.
At least, and at last, I finally stepped out of my comfort zone of “thinking” and moving into “doing”. I moved out of my world of “talking” and into the real world of “action”.
I finally tried to do something.
I failed, but nonetheless, I tried.
And so, this is how I learnt an important first lesson in failure that money can’t buy. Unfortunately, my failure cost me good money!