K-pop marketplace for the fans, by the fans

A business idea came into law student Vera Sun's mind after she attended Korean pop celebrity Taeyang's White Night concert in 2017.

Ms Sun said: "I thought it would be amazing if there was a marketplace for K-pop fans where purchasing and selling products could be more convenient, since I had difficulty trying to buy Taeyang's fan merchandise before the concert."

That idea gave birth to KpopKart, an online marketplace where fans can buy and sell handmade products.

It is similar to Etsy, an American e-commerce website that mainly focuses on things like handmade, vintage and custom-made items.

The seed of an idea turned into a practical enterprise only after Ms Sun, who is studying at the Singapore Management University (SMU) law school, joined a business hackathon at the university.

The 20-year-old met Ms Janessa Sim, 20, at the hackathon and, later, Ms Moh Moh San, 25, who had valuable skills like coding. Together, they founded the company.

FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE

The theories that we had all learnt in school had no practical application on how we can scale a start-up with practically no money. The only 'professors' that we had were self-help books and entrepreneurs who had been there and done that, but... their opinions were merely food for thought.

MS VERA SUN, a law student at Singapore Management University, on the challenges of being an entrepreneur.

The early-stage start-up is one of 10 that have gone through a pre-accelerator launched by StartupX and Temasek earlier this year.

Ms Sun said one problem was that school in general does not teach students how to run their own businesses.

"The theories that we had all learnt in school had no practical application on how we can scale a start-up with practically no money.

"The only 'professors' that we had were self-help books and entrepreneurs who had been there and done that, but even for the latter, their opinions were merely food for thought," she said.

"(Much) of the time, decisions had to be made on our own, based on intuition and the knowledge of our own K-pop community.

"Because entrepreneurship itself is often a path to discover a new creation, the road is often less taken and we're on our own when it comes to making the most important decisions," she added.

The team tapped the SMU Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Acceleration Grant and received $5,000, but were not eligible for other agency grants because they did not have one founder working on the start-up full-time.

Despite these challenges, Ms Sun said she has big plans for her young start-up.

She said: "I hope to bring KpopKart to a global scale with a wider international audience.

"Since most of our customer base is already situated overseas in the United States, we are considering a move into a US-based accelerator to build our official website and mobile app.

"Building a product for K-pop fans will hopefully just be the beginning of the journey for us."

"In the event where we can scale successfully, we will also be looking to see if we can expand and provide our services to other fan bases in anime (Japanese animation) and Chinese pop," she said.