Entrepreneurship in polytechnics: Final-year project becomes real business

(From left) Mr Chiang, Mr Ee, Ms Leong and Mr Leong had to learn how to make leather goods from scratch. Their efforts helped them chalk up a profit of $6,000 in six months.
(From left) Mr Chiang, Mr Ee, Ms Leong and Mr Leong had to learn how to make leather goods from scratch. Their efforts helped them chalk up a profit of $6,000 in six months.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Unlike their peers in S'pore Poly, team of four is continuing the work beyond graduation

After scouring through fashion websites and magazines to find out what's in vogue, a few poly students decided to set up Marshal - a business selling leather products - for their final-year project last year.

To stand out from competitors, the team of four Singapore Polytechnic (SP) business administration students also offer customisation services.

"Take a wallet, for instance. Buyers can decide how they want their wallet to look like, from its shape to the colour of thread used," said Mr Benedict Leong, 20.

 
 
 

This was a challenge, though, as the goods have to be handmade. Armed with only the basics from Design and Technology lessons in secondary school, the team had to learn the trade from scratch.

With SP's support, the members were attached to Mr Jason Liang, 38, owner of JMS Leather Atelier, a local company selling leather products, who taught them the skills.

Mr Liang said: "They were very eager to learn and could make card-holders and wallets within a short span of three months."

Besides mastering the trade, the team had to build a business.

"Knowledge we learnt in school such as marketing our product and accounting for our finances served us well ," said Mr Wayne Chiang, 21.

The team promoted its goods on social media platforms and contacted companies to seek business opportunities. The students obtained raw materials, like leather and thread, from factories recommended by their mentors.

Marshal has had encouraging results. It made $6,000 in profit in the past six months. Customers were mainly young people, adults and companies seeking door gifts for corporate events.

Products are priced from $20 to $30 for card-holders and $120 to $150 for wallets. They are sold online at www.marshalclutches.com

On their most daunting project, Ms Leong Yi Yin, 20, said: "We received an order of 150 card-holders for a company opening. For three days, we worked tirelessly, only stopping to rest and eat."

Unlike 90 per cent of their SP peers, who discontinue their businesses upon graduation, they plan to expand their product line beyond card-holders, wallets and keychains to larger items such as bags.

On how they envision the business to be in future, Mr Ee Jun Kai, 20, said: "We hope to have more employees, beyond just the four of us, to lighten the workload... We currently rent our workshop from our mentor. Hopefully, we will run our own workshop some day."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2016, with the headline 'Final-year project becomes real business'. Print Edition | Subscribe