On cardboard boxes and chasing dreams

  • Business
  • Saturday, 12 Oct 2013

How tapping the power of the masses can go a long way in funding your project

EXACTLY two years ago on this day, a nine-year-old boy had the best day of his life when over a thousand people showed up at his dad’s store, chanting “We came to play!” I recently stumbled upon a video called Caine’s Arcade that showed an extraordinary little boy who had a dream of starting his own arcade.

Using cardboard boxes, Caine began building an elaborate cardboard arcade inside his dad’s used auto parts store. Everything from a ring toss stand, a basketball hoop shot, to a pinball machine was recreated by Caine entirely out of cardboard boxes and everyday items. Staying true to the arcade style concept, when a player wins a game, Caine would crawl into the back of the machine and dispense tokens to the winners.

The arcade, however, wasn’t just fun and games for this little boy. Caine charged a dollar for four turns at each game or for two dollars you could buy a “Fun Pass” that gave you 500 turns to play. The young capitalist certainly had “Promotions 101” down to pat. But despite his passion towards building his cardboard empire, Caine wasn’t getting any visitors to his arcade.

His father’s store had few walk-in customers as he had turned to eBay to sell most of his auto parts. One day, Caine had his first customer, Nirvan Mullick, a partner at a Los Angeles-based creative agency. He came into the store to buy a car knob but instead ended up buying a “Fun Pass”. Fascinated by the boy’s passion towards his business, Mullick made a 11-minute film called Caine’s Arcade and decided to surprise Caine by organising a flash mob of people to gather in front of his father’s shop to play at his arcade. Through the power of social media, on Oct 5, 2011 thousands of people gathered to play at Caine’s arcade.

Watching the video, I was amazed to see the power of creativity and entrepreneurship displayed by this smart nine-year-old. Launched in April 2012, Caine’s Arcade has received over 7 million views and led Mulick to start Imagination Foundation, a non-profit aimed at funding creativity among children. He also managed to raise well over US$230,000 for Caine’s college fund, contributed by online donors who wanted him to further his education and achieve greater things.

The Internet has opened up a world of possibilities of funding a new generation of dreamers into doers. Getting a bank loan or reaching out to cynical venture capitalist for startup money is no longer the only option for someone to get funding for their project.

Crowdfunding, or collaborative funding via the web, is a growing trend among today’s new generation of entrepreneurs. A recent report by Forbes stated the crowdfunding industry raised US$2.7bil last year, funding more then one million individual campaigns globally.

I had first heard about crowdfunding late last year when I read an article about a group of MIT graduates who wanted to develop a new line of business suits which employed the same technology found in Nasa’s space suits. The line, which they branded as Ministry of Supply, was supposed to be adaptive to your body and help control perspiration, body odour and wrinkling.

Using the crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter, they posted a video and outlined their idea to launch Ministry of Supply. People were convinced by the idea and the team raised almost US$400,000 more then what they had set out to raise.

I recently heard from an ex-colleague of mine based in Singapore, who had also turned to crowdfunding to fund her new business venture. Hosting a video outlining her business plan on crowdfunding platform Crimso, she aimed at collecting funds for her new online portal, Cherrywrap which would deliver stylish maternity clothes to modern mums of today.

I had not seen as many examples of this in Asia, and I thought her move was great, what better way then to turn to your existing network of friends and family to help launch your project. Apart from getting funding, it was another great way for her to get the word out on her soon to be launched brand.

Today’s technology has opened up various avenues for us to tap into crafting out our own path. For those of you inspired to kickstart your dream, here are five lessons for entrepreneurs written by 9-year-old Caine on his blog:

1. Be nice to customers.

2. Do a business that is fun.

3. Do not give up. (Caine circled and underlined this one three times)

4. Start with what you have.

5. Use recycled stuff.

To celebrate Caine’s flash mob experience, Oct 5 is marked as “The International Day of Play” by the Imagination Foundation. Children all around the world are encouraged create and play using cardboard, recycled materials, and their imagination. Find out more on this at www.cardboardchallenge.com

Former journalist MALATI SINIAH used to cover news in the Ad&Marketing world. She now lives and breathes it through the running of a new online youth portal. Connect with her on Twitter at @mala_tee and let her know your thoughts on crowd funding or you could just tell her your favourite arcade game.

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Business , Malati , entreprenuers , crowdfunding


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