Young Upstarts

All about entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, ideas, innovation, and small business.

Pushcart Entrepreneurship

pushcart

(pushcart stall outside National Library for rental)

Pushcarts – selling all manner of products – are now a common sight in Singapore. These OMOs (one-man operations) can be found almost everywhere, including in crowded outdoor areas and within even more crowded shopping centres!

An acquaintance recently asked me what I thought about pushcart businesses, as she was considering starting one. I’ve summarised the essence of our discussion as follows:

1. Selling the Right Products

Having the right products make or break your pushcart business. Consider the following points:

Targeting the right market. Remember that the passing crowd in Raffles City Shopping Centre is very different from the one in Hougang Mall, so pick the right product for the right place. We hear that the pushcarts ones selling jewellery in Raffles City Shopping Centre does a roaring trade, considering the largely female, executive crowd in that area. On the other hand, a $5 bra-and-panty set would probably sell better in the latter than the former.

Product positioning. I’ve seen some sell accounting software, insurance and investment tools from pushcarts. Riiiight… what were they thinking? When I buy such products, I want to get it from a credible source I trust and not from a pushcart vendor. I’d imagine that their business would’ve been poor.

Does it require me to try? Sell products whose function and aesthetics are immediately evident. Clothes don’t sell particularly well from pushcarts because there is no way for them to try for size and cut.

Limited display and storage space. This means that large bulky items are out of the question. 4 large feathery cushions and you’re pretty much outta space. So go for small items, where you can display a larger variety that appeals to a larger audience.

2. Pricing – Not Too High, Not Too Low

Do you really think many people would buy a really expensive product – a Gucci handbag (authentic ones, at least) – from a pushcart? The idea is to encourage impulse buying – don’t make them stop to really think about the cost of their impending purchase. That is the reason why one of the best-selling products is handmade jewellery priced below $10. Most women don’t blink over paying $10 for a pretty brooch or cute bracelet.

Price your goods such that it makes it easy for people to pay. $9.99 may make your product look cheaper (as opposed to $10.00), but don’t make them fiddle for coins or notes. Go for $1, $2, $5 or $10 permutations. They are likely to be in a hurry, and you don’t want to wrestle with loose change either.

3. Location, Location, Location

Many pushcart vendors think that the best places are those with the heaviest traffic flow. Wrong. Heavy traffic means that people are usually in a hurry and are simply rushing (or worse, pushed along) to their destinations. I’d pick cul-de-sacs and corners, spots where the terrain helps keep people near your pushcart for those critical few seconds so that your products catch their eye.

Similarly, one of the best places would be just outside the restrooms! You may be squeamish, but think of how you can capitalise on the fact that there’s going to be a long queue for the ladies’ restrooms. Their gal friends, husbands and boyfriends are hanging outside waiting – right next to your pushcart. It’s a near captive audience. $$.

4. Pushcart, Pull Strategy

Passers-by are, well, passing by. They may not be in a shopping mood. You need attract people to your pushcart, yet not appear too pushy (pun fully intended). Clear, attractive signage is mandatory. Make it clear what you’re offering, and at what price. Let your signs do the talking.

Some people believe in hiring SWTs (sweet young things, also known as pretty girls) to attract passers-by. I’m not saying that it doesn’t work, but make sure your products appeal to the audience that will be drawn to your pushcart (horny army boys, sleazy ah-peks etc).

Being too pushy is counter-productive. Remember, since pushcarts are small, personal space can be quite limited. Ask me too many questions, and I’m going to walk away.

Pushcarts are a great way for people to start their journey into business and entrepreneurship. Being an OMO forces you to be heavily involved every aspect of business, from accounting and operations to customer service. Many businesses started from a pushcart stall. Maybe yours can too!

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link

The increased use of mobile phones leads people to get unique ringtones for their cell phones. Many mobile users like music ringtones and they love to download latest ringtones. Now days, mp3 ringtones are also getting popularity in youngsters. But, many ringtone lovers like to make their own ringtones by using any ringtone software which are easily available free of cost.

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Young Upstarts is a business and technology blog that champions new ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship. It focuses on highlighting young people and small businesses, celebrating their vision and role in changing the world with their ideas, products and services.

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  • don

    Halo is there by any chance you might know how do i get a push cart in sentosa?

  • Daniel

    Hi all,

    What you see in the list is all I have. If it’s not there, it’s not there.

    Feel free to contribute contact details for other locations if you have.

    And sorry, I don’t search out contact details on anybody’s behalf – this is simply community service and I don’t make money from this. Now, if you offer to pay me to do your research for you, that’ll be a different story.

    Otherwise, all the best.

  • http://sg-creations.blogspot.com/ Sophine

    Dear Daniel

    I just want to say I am so thankful that I bumped into your article. You have all the answers to my questions which have me thinking over and over for months without rational answers. Products, quality, display, location, market, packaging and pricing all these have me pulling hair for months! I did researchs, read up books, but they were more for overseas’ market rather than us, asia.

    The consumer’s mentality are so much different form ours. What is handmade, handcraft jewelry? Local consumers do not bother with these, to them these are no different from factory-made (mass production). Quality? Majority of local do not go for quality, but quantity. Correct me if I am wrong, this is what I have learnt over my craft booth. But I still believe there is still a minority who really appreciate hand craft jewelry out there.

    Sorry for taking your time, just wanted to thank you for your wonderful articles!

    Warmest regards

  • Daniel

    Hi Sophine,

    I am glad that the article helped you as much as I enjoyed writing it.

    Do keep in mind that markets shouldn’t be generalized – when it comes to jewelry, there will be consumers who go for cheaper, mass-produced items as well as those who prefer handcrafted, unique pieces.

    From observation (my wife is an avid shopper who buys a lot of costume and real jewelry to my constant dismay), when it comes to jewelry it’s all a matter about personal taste for design. Only then will they consider if the item is out of their budget. You’ll seldom find someone who buys a piece of jewelry that don’t they like just because it’s cheaper than the one they do like.

    What this means is that there will be a market for handcrafted jewelry – the question is how you find the shopper most interested in your designs.

    All the best!

  • http://onepinkdot.livejournal.com sharon

    Hi, how much does it cost to rent a pushcart in a shopping centre? I’m currently selling female apparel on a blogshop & have been thinking of renting a pushcart to garner offline business.

    Thanks!

  • Daniel

    Hi Sharon,

    Cost of rental of pushcarts can vary greatly depending on the shopping centre. Also, most contracts forbid operators to reveal their rentals so it will be difficult to get people to share with you how much rent they pay.

    If I would hazard a guess, it will range from $1.5k to $4k depending on location of the shopping centre. I’d advise you to check directly with the malls you’re interested in.

  • Memi

    Hi Daniel

    I salute you for your generosity to share your wealth of ideas to young entreprenuers. Thank you for sharing the genius in you.

    Btw, I and my husband are Filipinos with PR status in the country. We are quite interested to bring to Singapore a hit street food business from the PHilippines. This basically includes a push cart, deep frying pan and the foodies (squid ball, fish ball and “kikiam” to name a few). I have been researching for some basic infor from the net. Gone to ACRA’s site and AVA site and got helpful information but Im mostly overwhelmed with the information that it got.

    I have read the article above and found your article smart, direct to the point and practical. thank you again… this put still.

    Im writing here cos obviously i need some basic help on the following

    1) We have already identified the location where the business would most likely prosper. Can you suggest what is the next step to do? Should we prepare all docs (including the business proposal) and head straight to ACRA to check our options when securing a business permit? or better yet proceed to the management of the property where we want to do the business?

    2) I got friends who are willing to help me write the business proposal but would appreciate if you can refer me any link where we can read sample food cart business proposals?

    I guess these are enough questions for a starter like us.

    Thank you for your time and hope to hear from you soon.

    Cheers

    Memi

    2)

  • Daniel

    Hi Memi,

    The first thing I’d recommend you to read is this:
    http://www.business.gov.sg/NR/rdonlyres/06030A45-6CCF-45BC-8F2C-F2833D5D44B4/6514/entrepreneurguide.pdf

    It’s written in 2005, but most if not all of the information is still appropriate. I’d also advise you to talk to someone from ACRA – they are really helpful in helping you understand the needs of starting and incorporating the right business entity type for your food shop.

    The next steps are to start looking at acquiring a food permit while you negotiate with venue landlords:
    http://www.business.gov.sg/EN/Industries/FoodNBeverage/LicencesNPermits/OperatingFNBOutlets/fnb_lp_FoodShop.htm

    If I were you, I wouldn’t put too much stock into putting together a perfect business plan, unless you’re using that to seek financing. Otherwise, it’s just a guide for you to check if you’re on track with the business.

    Once you’re up and running, let me know. I’d love to blog about it here as well as on my food blog http://www.danandesther.com!

    All the best!

  • Dexter Emlen

    Hi Daniel,

    I can’t seem to find any answer to my doubts regarding my pushcart business.
    My friend and i, we are trying to start a small pushcart business.

    Do we need any kind of license?

    Do we need to go to any department to find out all this instead?

    What’s the difference between a registered business and a non-registered business?

    Does that means we have to register our pushcart business?

    And is there any more other things that we should know?

    I’m sorry i asked so much as my friend and i are really stuck. It will be greatly appreciated if you can give us some advices or somewhere where we can get our answers.

    You can also reply to my e-mail if you don’t mind.

    Thank you for your time daniel and thanks for the wonderful article, it really helps!

    With regards,
    Dexter.

    • Arielle

      Alongside selling your items on pushcarts, you can join Rakuten under IM Holdings for a much lower subscription rate, and you gain an additional sales revenue and a wider target market.

      Contact me at arielle.chan@imf.com.sg

  • Dexter Emlen

    Hi Daniel,

    I can’t seem to find any answer to my doubts regarding my pushcart business.
    My friend and i, we are trying to start a small pushcart business.

    Do we need any kind of license?

    Do we need to go to any department to find out all this instead?

    What’s the difference between a registered business and a non-registered business?

    Does that means we have to register our pushcart business?

    And is there any more other things that we should know?

    I’m sorry i asked so much as my friend and i are really stuck. It will be greatly appreciated if you can give us some advices or somewhere where we can get our answers.

    You can also reply to my e-mail if you don’t mind.

    Thank you for your time daniel and thanks for the wonderful article, it really helps!

    With regards,
    Dexter.

    • Daniel

      Hi Dexter,

      I’ll answer your questions in steps:

      1. License – You’ll only need a license depending on the type of product you intend to sell from a pushcart. Food, perishables and, of course, restricted items require permits. You can find out more here:
      http://www.business.gov.sg/EN/StartingUp/LicencesNPermits/GettingHelpOn/lp_find.htm

      2. A registered business means that you have registered a company with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority of Singapore as either a sole proprietor/partnership, company, or a limited liability partnership. You can find out more here:
      http://www.acra.gov.sg/

      3. Whether you register your business before starting a pushcart business is up to you. However, some landlords require you to be registered before leasing pushcart space to you in their malls. Also, most suppliers rather deal with a company than individuals before selling you stock. I highly recommend it though, it enforces financial discipline in accounting and governance.

      4. There are probably many things you need to know, but the above is a start. Take time to go through those sites as they will help you in your thinking. My first piece of advice is to put together a proper business plan. Selling products is easy – making a business out of selling products may not be.

      All the best for your new pushcart venture!

      Daniel

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/AAG2OOQAFTGWDAPRHON3OANGS4 JL

    Hi, 
    anyone keen to share a push cart in town, must be selling hair claw, hair pin, hair band
    etc….to doll up the look with these pcs. 
    if you are interested and got ready stock to kick off, pls email jenny11lim@yahoo:disqus .com.sg thks

  • Arielle

    Alongside selling your items on pushcarts, you can join Rakuten under IM Holdings for a much lower subscription rate, and you gain an additional sales revenue and a wider target market.

    Contact me at arielle.chan@imf.com.sg