IT would seem that these 16-year-olds were followers of the philosophy held by late business mogul, J. Paul Getty, who is known for his strategy – “Find a need and fill it.”
This concept of finding out what their customers need and filling it is what brought success to these students of SMK Subang Utama when the company that they formed, Pinnacles Enterprise, bagged three out of four awards at the American Malaysian Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) Young Enterprise Programme 2005 Achievers Showcase.
Its managing director Nicollette Ng Yu Li said their product idea comes from observing what their customer need and tailoring their product accordingly.
“During Sports Day, students are always looking for ways to cool themselves when under the sweltering heat. We knew that to stand out among the competitors, we had to do something different and so we sold cold, refreshing hankies,” said Nicollette.
“We also noticed that our teachers are always carrying scraps of paper with writings all over. We thought that if we made and sold notebook during Teacher’s Day, it would be of use to our teachers and we’d be able to make money too,” said Assistant Research & Development Manager Ng Vei Vern with a grin.
The team also sold their company T-shirts and beautiful jewellery boxes made from recycled milk cartons. Nine months later and mentored by their corporate sponsor GE Engines, they made RM6,000 from their product sales and walked away with The Best Enterprise Award, The Best Annual Report Award, and The Best Use of Information and Communications Technology Award.
Vei Vern said the initial stage of forming the company was their most challenging period.
“We had no previous experience in running a business and we thought it would be just like running any other school society like the Leo or Interact. All we could think of was profit, profit and profit.
“Then our mentors from GE Engine said: “Hey! you are a company, not just a money-making organisation, so act like one!”
“That made us realise that the company is for our customer and shareholder. One of our goals then was to return 100% dividend on earnings and capital to our shareholders,” she said.
As with any business, the team faced several challenges, which included a race against time and dealing with the haze, which slowed down their business for a while.
“We were racing to build a successful business within the time span of eight months and the haze actually cost us three weeks of sales as we were not allowed outdoor activities because the air quality was so bad. “Not only were schools closed for two days, we had to put a stop to our mobile booths where we sold our products during recess and before the start of school. Even our weekly company meetings were interrupted,” said Vei Vern.
Citigroup country chief officer and Citibank Bhd chief executive officer Piyush Gupta said he is impressed by what the students achieved in eight months.
Citibank is the sponsor of The Best Product Award and The Best Annual Report Award. “As the CEO of a Fortune 500 company in Malaysia, what I do day to day is no different. The scale might be different but the concept is the same,” he said.
US Ambassador to Malaysia Christopher J. LaFleur attended the Young Enterprise Programme 2005 Achievers Showcase.