By SMU School of Accountancy Social Media Team
‘Oppa‘ and ‘Saranghaeyo‘. Hands up if you recognise these Korean words.
Love it or hate, it, K-pop is everywhere and its influence has definitely left its mark. Arguably one of the most successful representations of cultural hegemony in modern history, K-pop fans spread across the globe, breaking down national, cultural, language and age barriers.
Recognising the business opportunity that such a global fanbase presented, three young K-pop fans in SMU, whose love for K-pop is rivalled only by their business acumen, decided to turn their passion into a venture.
SMU Accountancy student Janessa Sim and her partners started an online marketplace selling fan-made K-pop merchandise called KpopKart, designing it as a one-stop solution to buy and sell K-pop merchandise for fans from anywhere in the world. She shares their story below.
Three young enterprising K-pop fans—Vera Sun, Janessa Sim and Moh Moh San!
Q. We understand that you and your business partners have come up with an innovative way to turn your passion and love into an enterprising venture! Can you share with us what this business is about?
Janessa: KpopKart is the first ever K-pop marketplace for fans all around the world to buy and sell K-pop merchandise. We offer fans the security of buying merchandise online through PayPal and tracked shipping, as well as the wide variety from various artists across the world. Additionally, we aim to foster community on our platform by creating a sense of belonging for our artists and site users.
Q: Where did this idea of creating a unique marketplace for customised K-pop merchandise come about?
Janessa: As a K-pop fan, I found it rather difficult to buy K-pop merchandise. As K-pop merchandise are not widely available in physical stores around Singapore as well as many parts of the world, many fans like me resort to going online to search for merchandise to buy. This merchandise can range from official albums to fan-made products such as fan art, enamel pins, keychains, stickers and many more. Searching for the merchandise is rather difficult as artists are scattered all over the internet on various social media platforms, marketplaces or their own websites. I’ve often tried sourcing for them on Twitter, one of the most popular platforms K-pop fans use, but there are also a lot of scams happening there. Hence, it is hard to find reliable and legitimate artists to get my K-pop merchandise from.
Displaying samples of their available merchandise
Q: With such a niche target market, did you have difficulties attracting funding/investors and how did you overcome that?
Janessa: Targeting the niche market of K-pop was not a popular move to make. In fact, we received numerous sceptical comments about the scalability of the idea. However, with growing statistics of the K-pop market as well as increasing consumer demand for niche/personalized products, we believed in the huge potential of growth for KpopKart.
Being part of the SMU Institute of Innovation & Entrepreneurship’s (IIE) BIG intake as well as the StartupX accelerator programme organised by Temasek and Startup weekend, we got the opportunity to talk to industry professionals and investors, and to learn various skills ranging from pitching to marketing to strategy. This helped us to gain a stronger foothold in the entrepreneurial scene and to increase awareness of KpopKart. Additionally, with the knowledge gleaned from workshops and conversations with mentors, we managed to formulate a clearer strategy for our business as well as put in place more concrete plans with measurable results. This helped investors gain more confidence in our execution as young entrepreneurs.
We also participated in NUS’s UNICON 2019 where we clinched the title of Grand Champions and SMU’s P.A.K Challenge 2019 where we clinched 1st Runner up. These titles help contribute to our credentials, boosting our business model’s feasibility and potential.
Impressing judges at NUS Unicon 2019
Q: How do you think your background in SMU and the School of Accountancy has helped you in this business venture so far?
Janessa: I believe that without being in SMU, I would have never gotten this opportunity to start KpopKart.
The idea of KpopKart started in January 2018 when I joined Real Business Weekend with Vera Sun. We decided to try out something new and joined this business competition without any preparation. Vera, being a huge K-pop fan and an avid buyer of K-pop merchandise, proposed the initial idea of a K-pop marketplace which I found extremely interesting. As Vera and I shared common interests in K-pop and deeply believed in the huge market potential for our idea, we continued with our idea after the competition. With the support of SMU IIE and a strong passion to help fellow K-pop fans, we developed our idea by conducting the necessary market research to create the right product and eventually set up a K-pop fashion e-commerce for our users.
Being an accountancy student equips me with the financial knowledge needed to run the business. The modules that I have taken in SMU have helped me greatly with budgeting—tracking and estimating expenses, and financial projections for fundraising. Other modules that I have taken have also contributed to how I approach the various parts of KpopKart’s business development.
Q: Last but not least, can you tell us more about where you see KpopKart in the future and how you think it can gain a foothold in e-commerce?
Janessa: For KpopKart, we believe in the value of community. KpopKart is a platform that was created by fans for fans. As such, our customers trust us to create the best product for them. Many of the artists that have moved over from other marketplace platforms appreciate the sense of community present on our platform and find comfort and trust in the way we run our business.
We are currently developing new community tools to enhance our platform’s social aspect and build the stickiness that our users have to our platform.
With the right attitude and approach, the girls managed to push their business idea to investors