A simple idea by three Ngee Ann Polytechnic students helps schoolmates from low-income families earn extra income.
Ngee Ann Polytechnic students Tan Song Jie, Grace Goh and Tan Jia Hui, all 20, started their ice cream business, 8 Fahrenheit based on the motto they learned at church, “to find a need and meet it, to find a hurt and heal it.”
Located at Block 72 of the Ngee Ann Polytechnic campus in Clementi, the business was conceptualized to help students from low-income families by hiring them as employees in their on-campus ice-cream shop, allowing them to have a convenient, flexible avenue to earn extra income.
Greeted by their cheerful blue and white décor, we stopped by their store to grab a bite of some moist chocolate brownie topped with Earl Grey ice-cream and chatted with two of the founders, Grace Goh and Tan Jia Hui.
What made you decide on championing the causes of students from low-income families?
Grace Goh: All of us are from the School of Business and Social Enterprise, so it has always been our passion to be able to start something to help the community at large.
Tan Jia Hui: The decision to help low-income students also holds a deeper meaning for Song Jie. He came from a low-income family because his father passed away when he was young. His mother was the sole breadwinner, raising three boys on her own.
Grace Goh: When he was in secondary school, he had to take on a part-time job selling ice-cream door-to-door. He understood the pains of students who had to work while studying. That’s one of the reasons we started this shop on campus, to provide a flexible working arrangement schedule for students to earn extra income.
Was it difficult looking for funding and starting up the business?
TJH: We started by joining competitions … from there we slowly conceptualised our idea and eventually proposed it to our lecturers. We finally won the “Be Your Own Boss” competition from Entrepreneurs Connect and they gave us S$3,000 in funding to set up at the school.
GG: Money-wise, it was a big reach into our pockets. We’re only students and our savings are only that much. In any business, even in one that’s this small, it requires quite a sizeable sum of money. In the real world it will probably cost five times more, but even with this we are trying to scrimp and save in whichever way possible.
What plans do you have for the future of your company?
TJH: Our lease ends in two years, so we hope to give our juniors a feel of the business. Leaving a legacy is not about the money we earn but about impacting the generations. Other than that we also want to expand our business to the different campuses in Singapore. At the same time we want to leave this shop as a cash cow. Our focus will still be corporate sales, where a large sum of the profits will be earned through catered events.
Any advice you can share for those wanting to start their own social enterprise?
GG: Don’t give up! It’s very overwhelming in the beginning, you know that it’s going to be a lot of work, and you try to prepare yourself, but you can never fully prepare yourself for the things you’re going to do, so you need to have complete faith in your business that it will grow, and that what you are doing is good.
Also, don’t be daunted by the monetary sum! I mean you don’t to have all the skills and all the knowledge and all the money before you start. Most importantly, as long as you have the passion, I’m sure you’ll be able to find a way to do it.
Ok what’s the craziest ice cream flavour you can think of?
TJH: Curry! Sambal chilli! Cold and hot …
How do you take your ice cream?
GG: We eat the leftovers in the tub.
TJH: I prefer it on a waffle.
GG: I prefer mine in the cup, fuss-free.
Most number of scoops you’ve sold in a day?
TJH: 10 tubs … in three days nearly, 1,000 cups.
GG: That was some crazy times.
We noticed you have a lot of mismatched plates …
TJH: Our shop theme is actually blue and white.
GG: We got them for about 70 cents from a thrift shop. It’s a bit off, but we wanted to budget a bit! Now we mostly use disposable plates, because most of the ice-cream is takeaway.