365 days later… Snug Monsters!
Co-authored with Ritvvij Parrikh.
On a rainy day in August 2021, we ordered a few cups of Matcha from Starbucks. The delivery came in robust cardboard packaging.
Sabi, our 5-year-old, took the trashed packaging boxes for craft. After a few hours, she came back with three rainbow-colored boxes that had a cute monster drawn on them. Our reaction as parents was that it was wonderful.
That’s when she exclaimed, “I want to start my own business like you and sell these Monster Boxes. Wouldn’t these make good decoration pieces?”
We smiled, got her a cup of warm milk, sat her down, and started explaining to her. For a product to be business-worthy, she needs to build a product that is useful to people, uses raw material that she has easy access to, and finally it should be easy for her to produce in bulk independently. Her Monster Boxes did not meet the criteria.
Sabi was sad and pressed on that she did not have any other ideas. We asked her to keep looking for ideas in things she loved doing. A week, or maybe two, had passed by. We had forgotten about the incident but she hadn’t.
One day, she returned from school and said, “I know what business I want to do. I love reading books. Others read too. I want to sell monster bookmarks because they are useful!”
From here on, guiding her became easier.
On September 5th 2021, the next Sunday, we prototyped different styles of bookmarks.
One was a vertical tower and the other one snug fit onto the page. She decided to go with the snug design because it did not fall off as easily. She also wanted to retain the Monster theme and so the product got named — “Snug Monster.”
We also drew different forms of monsters. Some had Ninja paint below their eyes, while others had blood coming out of its mouth. We decided to go with a monster that was not scary.
With the design finalized, we started constructing the first one. We took sheets of paper, folded it, drew the monster and started painting it.
Next, we asked her to talk to everyone she knew and seek feedback on the product and design. From these conversations, she realized that children her age preferred the yellow and pink colors compared to blue, white, and brown. She also realized that some people did not read books and it did not make sense selling to them.
She also received other feedback that we guided her wasn’t worth taking. The first was a suggestion to expand beyond the monster theme and make bunny bookmarks and the second was to introduce more colors and sizes.
By the end of two months, she had made and sold over 40 Snug Monsters to almost everyone she knew — our cook, her school teachers, neighbors, doctors, school friends, colony friends, and Karate friends.
By now, the novelty of starting a business had passed. She had earned money for the first time and had also finished selling to everyone she knew. She was now satisfied and with it lost interest in the project.
Over the coming months, we kept nudging her to make some more. First she gifted some to her cousins for Diwali. Later, when Dhara’s cousin’s wedding came, Sabi gifted Snug Monsters to the couple as a wedding gift.
Few months later, it was her sixth birthday. This was the first time in years that she was back in school and she wanted to celebrate her birthday with everyone — her grandparents, her school friends, her colony friends, and her Karate friends.
We nudged her to personally make a return gift for everyone. So she made a snug monster bookmark, a greeting card, and a dagger for fifty people.
During this phase, she streamlined her manufacturing process. She stopped wasting paper and now could produce four Snug Monsters from each sheet. Additionally, instead of painting the monster, she now started using sketch pens and crayons, which was faster.
Again, a couple of months passed by with no action.
On August 1st 2022, after almost two years, the Global Shapers Community was meeting in person. Members from five other Hubs — Delhi, Gurugram, Hyderabad, San Francisco, Palo Alto — were meeting up at The Quorum in Gurugram.
As the curator of the Gurugram Hub and the host, Dhara had to attend. However, I had a separate engagement too that evening. So she decided to take Sabi along. To keep her engaged, Dhara asked her to pack up some of her Snug Monsters and try to sell them while she hosted the event. It was a safe space. Dhara knew everyone.
In the meet, every hub was coming to the stage and presenting their projects in 5–10 minutes. At the end of it, Sabi took the stage and presented Snug Monsters. Here’s her pitch.
Snug Monster: Pitch at The Quorum, Gurgaon
Snug Monster: Demo at The Quorum, Gurgaon
That day she sold ₹70 worth of product. More importantly, she realized that she could in fact sell to strangers!! The tiger had tasted blood.
The first Sunday
Everyone in the family loves nature! We closely relate to the Japanese concept of shinrin yoku and spend whatever time we get out in nature. Most Sundays we go out for long walks.
However, the Sunday after the Global Shapers event, Sabi was determined that she wanted to sell Snug Monsters at Nehru Park.
All week she mass-produced another 60 Snug Monsters.
Come Sunday, she was ready. We helped her make a poster, took her table, and set up a make-shift stall in the park.
She was both determined and nervous. Her first lead stopped by and said, “Hi, what’s your name?” Sabi froze and immediately blanked out. He asked what are you selling? She did not reply. He moved on.
After a few attempts, she got the hang of it and started conversing with people. During these conversations, she realized the easiest way to stop people from walking or jogging was to ask them, “Do you read books?” and if they would say no, she would ask, “Do you have friends who read books?”
Eventually, on day 1, she sold product worth ₹750.
The next two Sundays
She was determined to improve for the next Sunday. People asked her a lot of questions she had not anticipated. Questions like:
- How are the bookmarks priced?
- Why do you have three different prices?
- Why did you choose the name Snug Monsters?
- Why did you create Snug Monsters?
- I don’t have cash. What should I do?
- What will you do with this money?
- Do you come here every weekend?
So we got her to write all of these frequently asked questions in her journal and prepare answers.
In her second and third Sunday, she realized that most of her customers were grandparents who would buy for their grand children, young parents, and expats.
Some even posted on their social profiles to promote her.
Where do we stand now?
By the fourth Sunday, she was confident and happy.
Revenue. Her revenue has stabilized at ₹500–700 per Sunday. We still have not taught her the concept of Cost of Goods Sold and hence she considers all her revenue as profit.
So far she has collected ₹3000 and her monthly revenue is at ₹2000. Last week, she paid a part of her monthly Karate fees.
Here’s why we continue to encourage her
- Sticking to one thing. Children have many creative ideas and get easily distracted. Her Karate classes, reading books, and now Snug Monsters are among the very few things that she has stuck to for over a year.
- Journaling. At this age, children don’t have much reason to write. Snug Monsters is one activity for which she needs to maintain notes, accounts, customer names, etc.
- Planning ahead. Every week, she manufactures 100 Snug Monsters in advance for the coming Sunday. This is teaching delayed gratification.
- Putting in the work. She needs to sit in one place and endure the boredom of repetitive tasks to manufacture her 100 Snugs. Similarly, selling can be a mundane task too. She needs to repeat the same pitch every single time.
- Accepting rejection. Only 1 out of three walkers at the park stop and listen to her. On her first day, she got agitated when people wouldn’t stop. Over time she has come to accept rejections and focus on the next lead.
- Realizing the utility of math. Multiplication is helpful to calculate the price when a customer purchases multiple units, for example seven ₹5 Snug Monsters. Subtraction is helpful to calculate how much money she needs to return back.