Blooming business in gifts from the heart


  • Education
  • Sunday, 09 Feb 2003

Life is a bed of roses as students,inspired by Cupid,cash in on a market of die-hardromantics.JOANNE LIM reports 

A MESSAGE in a bottle reads: You’re the song in my life, the rose of my heart, and the candle that lights my world. – From your secret admirer, XYZ 

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, guys are plucking up the courage to woo and wow, while girls in turn can’t wait to be swept off their feet by Prince Charming. It’s the one day of the year expressly designed to allow love-struck guys and gals to let their real feelings show in the most romantic of ways. 

In less than a week, the sweet smell of roses and chocolates will linger in the air at schools, colleges and campuses. As guys go hunting for the cheapest gifts in town (a single rose will cost RM15!), girls will be seen clutching precious stalks of flowers. 

A BRUSH WITH LOVE: Students, like Ash Sin Hun Liang contribute time, energy and even raw materials to make the items on sale.

However, if you think only florists and gift shops will be reaping profits this Valentine’s Day, think again. Students in various schools, colleges and universities want their share of the pie.  

From a Form Five class to a college newsletter club, students are all out to raise funds for their school or society, or to donate the proceeds to charity this Cupid season. 

Creative and enterprising, they admit to being culprits in exploiting the overly commercialised Valentine’s Day – but so what? Through research and experience, these students are tapping into a booming market – couples in love and those revelling in the dating game. 

Valentine’s Day is very much an “in-thing” for these youngsters. 

“It’s a good excuse to make the day special and significant,” says KDU College X’Press newsletter editor-in-chief Lee Wey June, 18. 

“Almost everyone will be looking forward to it, especially teenagers our age. We’ll be wondering what to buy for others, what we’ll get in return, and what to wear,” says the psychology major at the School of International Transfer Programmes. 

Wey June knows what she’ll be wearing on Valentine’s Day – a Cupid outfit as an X’Press Love Messenger. 

”We want people to identify us as Cupids when we make our deliveries to the lucky recipients. We may be wearing bandanas, temporary tattoos, and even carry a bow and arrow!” she adds. 

The X’Press group are selling six items: roses, love tiles, colour tubes, cute candles, customised compact discs, and photo frames. Each comes with a personalised dedication and free delivery on campus. 

 

Twenty creative members of X’Press had intense brainstorming sessions to churn out ideas for the most unique products. 

“It has to be attention-grabbing, a fusion between something unique yet common, and with the lowest price tag possible,” Wey June says. 

As music is the top seller among teenagers, the team decided on personalised CDs. Priced at RM2.50, each CD allows students to choose five of their favourite songs from a list of 100 music titles ranging from oldies to the latest hits. Using a CD-Writer, the songs are copied onto the disc, which is then decorated with love stickers and a personalised dedication. 

“This is ideal for a girl to present to a guy as it is more acceptable to men and more masculine in nature. Most guys are embarrassed to walk around with roses,” adds Wey June. 

Club member Tang Kai Wen, 18, disagrees, saying the rose is his favourite gift on Valentine’s Day. “If I receive a rose, I would parade around with it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of when you’re loved by someone. I would be proud,” he says, adding that roses symbolise love. 

The club will sell roses at RM4 per stalk, much cheaper than the market price on Feb 14. 

Using an idea originating from the Middle East, the students are also mixing chalk with salt to create rainbow colours and using it to fill up tubes with a paper dedication inserted inside. Sealed with wax, the RM3 Colour Tubes can only be opened by the recipient. 

X’Press assistant editor Evonne Ching, 18, found a creative way to make use of unused tiles in her house. She donated 25 tiles to the club for making Love Tiles, with dedications written on a colourful spray-painted surface.  

“It works as a paperweight and a coaster,” says Evonne, whose mother works for a tile manufacturer. “Our customers prefer handmade gifts as they are more meaningful and personalised compared to the usual balloons and chocolates.” 

All items on sale are handmade and it takes strong teamwork to successfully pull off such a project. 

“We are very supportive of each other, very enthusiastic and dedicated. Not only are we members of a club, we are close friends,” adds Wey June. 

Production of the items commenced two weeks before the big day and the members met during their free time to complete them, while orders started rolling in from Feb 5. X’Press Love Messengers will be delivering these heart-warming gifts on Feb 13 and 14.  

But why do you need Valentine’s Day to show love when you can do it any other day? 

Says Evonne: “It’s a special day of the month to remember those we love, and for friends and family to get together. People who don’t know how to express their feelings easily can take this opportunity to show they are thankful for having each other. 

“Our members donated a lot of time and money towards this project. We hope it will reap profits to benefit those in need.” 

As there is no paid labour and only minimal capital, the students hope to reap 100% profit. All proceeds will go towards the college’s 20th anniversary charity drive.  

For Indonesian student Nursirwan Soemadi, 20, being a part of the Cupid team is an experience to treasure. 

“I’ve never done this before and I like making the cards because they are all very personalised and creatively done,” says Nursirwan who has been in Malaysia for over a year. 

Engineering student Fazari Mutalib, 18, says Valentine’s Day is for everyone who loves anyone. “It’s a great day for people to show affection. It’s a day not just limited to couples but friends and families too.” 

More than just a thinly-veiled capitalist plot to raise money, Valentine’s Day projects give young entrepreneurs experience in doing market research and devising viable business plans. 

Evonne says the project is a good opportunity for her to gain practical business experience and learn economics by setting affordable yet profitable pricing. 

“It was very professionally planned and we took into account everything needed to start a short-term business,” she adds. 

To market their products, these students use banners, posters, mass electronic mailing, and word-of-mouth. 

“It’s a blossoming business but most importantly, it’s a beautiful celebration of love and affection,” says Wey June. 

 

Not missing out on love, university students are finding every reason to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Your loved ones will love this, reads a banner stuck on a basket that will be filled with candies for sale on Feb 14. 

“Everyone knows students our age are more into Valentine’s Day than anyone else. Many of those older than us have passed the phase of celebrating Valentine’s Day and the younger generation is only beginning to experience it,” says student college president Alvin Leong (not his real name).  

Excited executive committee members of a student college at a local university will devote the entire day to song dedications, flowers, and candies. 

“Students will be able to dedicate songs to one another which will be played by our very own deejay. We will also provide free delivery for flowers and candies, apart from selling them at our Love Hut,” adds Alvin. 

The Love Hut – a stall decorated with heart-shaped origami – will be set up specially to sell Valentine gifts.  

Apart from that, students can pay RM1 for a song dedication. “We get all sorts of dedications, some naughty, some funny; but the majority are way too corny!” he observes. 

Among creatively written dedications are: “Be mine, be my Valentine”, “My love for you is a once in a lifetime offer”, “No regrets”, “Thank you for being my friend for so long. Now can we move on?” And, of course, the perennial “Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and so are you.” 

Alvin says that anonymous secret admirers send the bulk of such dedications, while “others just want to torture the deejay and hear him read out their soppy love dedications to the entire college.”  

As girls are not allowed in the vicinity of the guys’ college and vice versa, student representatives from each college will collect the orders and deliver the gifts.  

Catering for students from all 14 colleges in the university is good business, says Alvin. 

He adds: “It’s been our tradition to sell flowers, candies and have song dedications on Valentine’s Day. It’s a good thing, too, because the college becomes more lively and people tend to be more responsive to one another. 

“We see people filled with various emotions and feelings, girls flattered by the attention and guys behaving like Romeos when they manage to melt a girl’s heart.” 

Money raised will go towards the college’s annual gatherings and festival celebrations. The college recently spent RM600 to host a Chinese New Year barbecue lunch.  

 

Class monitor Rebecca Chong and her assistant Sandra Priya (not their real names) are taking advantage of Valentine’s Day to raise funds nine months ahead of time for the annual year-end class party. 

From baking to handicraft, these fifth formers have it all planned. 

“We want to make it a splashing party this year and need a lot of money to do that. We will also use the money to purchase gifts for our teachers and souvenirs for each class member,” says Rebecca. 

Taking orders a week in advance, these students are anticipating a huge demand for items in their “Cupid’s Giftshop”. 

“Many of our friends from different classes are interested in our products and some even share their creative ideas with us. Before deciding on what to do, we conducted a small-scale market research to find out what students would like us to sell,” she adds. 

Three days before Valentine’s Day, all 40 of their classmates in Five Science One will be meeting after school hours to prepare items for sale. Their favourite product is a small teddy bear holding three red roses and a banner across its chest with the words: You’re special

“It’s a joint effort by all the students in our class and we will be making cards, bookmarks, origami stars and hearts, as well as baking heart-shaped cookies and chocolate brownies. We have a really excellent business plan set up for V-day,” she says. 

All cards and bookmarks will be personalised and students can request for a name and message to be creatively written on these items.  

Another efficient service provided by these students is a “class-delivery” service where items ordered and paid for in advance can be delivered free-of-charge. 

“Some students are shy to be seen giving gifts to each other and would rather have us deliver items for them,” says Priya. 

As expected, the majority of their clients will be schoolmates and teachers. 

“Most students will take this opportunity to send Valentines to their teachers as a sign of gratitude for guiding us, teaching us, and caring for us. It’s another way of saying thank you apart from celebrating Teacher’s Day. Teachers may purchase gifts to bring home to their loved ones, their families,” adds Priya. 

What does Valentine’s Day mean to students her age? 

“It’s not about intimate romance or love, but a sincere appreciation of friendship,” she says.  

Whatever way Valentine’s Day is celebrated this year, one thing is for sure – these students will be having fun letting their creative juices flow. RM10 for a piece of love cake, anyone?  

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