Friday, 4 April 2014

Kidz' Lessons from a Flea Market Stall

Hey everyone! Today, we welcome on Tan Family Chronicles, my sister Petrina Tan! She is an ex-banker turned full time mum, now working from home on a marketing/franchising job. Petrina & Chris have three beautiful girls named Rebecca, Isabelle and Natalie. Recently, they participated in the Sentosa Kidz Flea market which we went to show support. It seemed like such a fruitful experience for them that I asked my sister if she would like to guest post on their experiences, on Tan Family Chronicles. And she agreed! Yay!  ~ ;)pamela the chief chronicler! ~

In the words of Petrina Tan: 

2 weeks of preparation, 3 families, 8 kids, 5 hours – learning the value of hard work and perseverance - PRICELESS

The hubby and I have always been worried about the kids growing up too spoilt, not being able to take hardships when they grow up, not knowing the value of money, etc. I mean, most Singaporean kids have it pretty good. They are well-fed (when you tell them not to waste food because there are lots of hungry kids in other countries, their eyes kind of glaze over), well-clothed, well-educated and many are also well-travelled. The biggest hardship in their life would probably be the Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE), but that is another story for another time.

Sentosa Kids Flea 2014
So when a friend mooted the idea to enroll our kids in Sentosa’s annual Kidz Flea Market for little “Play-treneurs” , we thought it was a great idea. “Let them learn how hard it is to earn some money”, “finally an opportunity to get them to overcome their shyness and approach strangers to sell/explain their products”, “good way for them to learn about perseverance, and rejection…” - were some of the thoughts we had. It also appealed to us that part of the proceeds of the flea market would go to charity, an excellent way to encourage the kids to give back to the less fortunate.
What are “Play-treneurs” and what is the Sentosa Kidz Flea Market about?

Someone in Sentosa (or their events company) came up with the idea to organize a flea market catered for kids and operated by kids. They coined the term “Play-treneurs” which was (no prizes for guessing) derived from combining the words play and entrepreneurs. The idea was to teach the kids to be little entrepreneurs and have fun whilst doing it.

The Sentosa Kidz Flea Market is organized annually during the March school holidays. Three weeks prior to the event, the kids were given a ‘training’ session on how to be a “play-treneur”. This involved giving them some tips on costing, pricing, sales techniques and product display. Basically breaking down the 4 Ps of marketing into kids lingo. It was brief, but good enough to give the kids an idea of what to expect/do and a starting point to get them thinking on their strategy for the flea market.

The preparation

We had ‘joined forces’ with two other families to start up a stall. We were close friends with both families and our kids played well together. We brainstormed and came up with these final products… (most of which were made from recycled materials or were donated).

I regretted not having the foresight of taking pictures of the ‘production’ process. It was very labour intensive but turned out to be a good bonding experience for all of us. Kids, Mums and Dads were mobilized. We toiled over the various tasks of cutting, sorting, laminating, weaving, amidst cries from the kids about ‘how tiring it was’. To which, the mothers would typically respond, “Yah lah, you think it is so easy to make money?”

Many days and late nights later, plus one heartfelt bedtime prayer the day before the event for good sales and good weather ….we were ready to rock and roll.

Products and services the kids were to hawk at their Kids Flea booths

“It was really hard work!”

God must have heard our prayers as we were blessed with fantastic weather on the day of the event. That meant a pretty decent crowd at the flea market. We started setting up the stall at 1 pm and by 2 pm, we were welcoming our first customers.

To be honest, I had low expectations of how the kids would perform. In fact, the hubby had a premonition that it would be the parents who would be left manning the stall whilst the kids would be running off to play, getting distracted by the various stalls and activities at the flea market. My only brief to the kids before the event was, “Don’t be disappointed or give up if people reject you. You will likely face many rejections before you get a sale. And don’t feel bad about it.”

As it turned out, they rose to the occasion. In all my years of motherhood, I can earnestly say I have never felt more proud of them. For most of the five hours, they stayed focused to the task of selling. They developed their own sales strategies and worked together as a team. The children stood at different entrances to the flea market, even stepping out of the designated areas to position themselves at places where most of the tourists and customers were.

The kids netted very decent sales revenue, we were even told by the organizers that we were one of the top donors for the day.
Pamela the Chief Chronicler says:"I love these tags and bought a whole bunch of them! Can't wait to use them!"

The real rewards …. 

Initially when we started out on the project, there were a lot of thoughts on whether we would break even, what we could sell to achieve higher sales, practical questions that any self-respecting entrepreneur would ask. But as the day progressed, it became obvious to us that more important than the money earned were the intangible lessons that the kids gained. Lessons that went beyond what the school was teaching them. Here is a summary of some of the key take-aways we felt the kids had gleaned from their experience:

1) Speaking up and communicating with strangers.
  • This may not sound like a big deal. But for my painfully shy kids, who balk at even ordering their own meals at Mcdonalds, this was a huge step. Based on the sales revenue and average dollar per sale, we calculated that they must have approached at least 100 customers between them.
  • From our own experience and interaction with people at work, we knew that it was critical for our kids to learn to speak up and pick up good communication skills. This was a good first step.

2) Value of perseverance and hard work.
  • 5 hours of standing in hot, humid conditions, to sell your wares. I need not say more.

3) Coping with rejection and failure.
  • The first few rejections were tough on the kids. They were not used to selling, much less facing rejection after summoning the courage to approach strangers. I was glad that I had prepped them mentally about this. But I was even more glad that they had learnt to take rejections in their stride as the day progressed.
4) Learning the value of money.
  • Instead of spending their hard-earned money at the flea market, they learnt to barter-trade with the rest of the stall-owners to ‘purchase’ what they wanted.
  • The older two siblings were heard reprimanding their youngest sister for ‘wasting money’ when she bought a Kinder Bueno chocolate after the event. “What? It was so hard to earn that money and you wasted it on chocolate!!” (Hahahah…)
Girl power kidpreneurs!!!

5) Assessing people/customers and adopting appropriate strategies to convince them
  • This is a critical life skill. Not just in terms of how they might apply it to their careers but in general, it is an important skill that can be applied to all aspects of their lives. A life skill not taught in any textbooks but something that they had to learn through using their own judgment and experience.
  • We were pleasantly surprised that they could share with us their takeaways on effective sales strategies (e.g. always target young girls who are with their fathers. If you convince the young kids, most parents would buy for their kids. If you see a young Caucasian female, approach her to sell the hair braid…the list goes on.)

6) Learning to be creative and finding solutions to what people need
  • When the family spent one year in Palo Alto (aka Silicon Valley) some years back, one of the things that really struck us was how ‘entrepreneurial’ everyone was. By this, I do not mean that they were all starting businesses, but there was generally a strong can-do spirit of wanting to find solutions to improve not just their own lives but the lives of those around them. From the young kids we met in school to the adults, there was a strong sense of purpose and passion. We found ourselves asking what we could do to inculcate this in our kids, so that they will not grow up complaining all the time, feeling entitled, or expecting others (i.e. the government) to provide them with solutions.
  • Through participation in this event, I can see how events like these encourage the kids to think (if I may borrow the cliché term) out-of-the-box. More importantly, it sets them thinking about what kind of products/services would answer the needs of others, and how people were willing to pay for solutions or items that met their need.
Sentosa's Kids Flea complete with businessman suit aprons and certificates!
The verdict

So the parents obviously thought it was a worthwhile event and were glad that we enrolled the kids in it. But what did the kids have to say?

“Hmmm….it was really hard work….I don’t think I want to be a business person next time.”

“I am not sure which part of it I liked most, but I just liked it. I want to do it again next year!”

And I suppose the fact that they could not stop talking about it for the rest of the night, and the next day, must mean that they enjoyed it. :)

Thanks very much, Petrina! What a ride! Can't wait for a couple more years till the twins are older, and we'd be getting a booth ourselves! :)

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Impressive work - I think it's amazing that they lasted through 5 hours on the Sentosa Boardwalk and managed to keep their energy up the whole time.


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