Takapuna Grammar school friends Toby Downs and Tataiarangi Baker, 13, started an e-commerce business to stop their parents buying them gifts they did not want. Downs talks smart gifting and donating 25 per cent of profits to charity.
What does your business do?
Gifteen (gifteen.co) is an online shop. The premise of it is parents will go there to buy presents and gifts for their kids so we've got our curators which are other teenagers - me and Tatai and two of our friends - who find products, put them on the website and review them. We're giving parents a little bit of a nudge in a way to say this is cool stuff and what we want. The way we have done our business is that we're sourcing our products from different suppliers and when we get an order we tell them and they'll ship it off directly to that customer.
What was the motivation for starting it?
We got the idea a few months ago and then the website launched recently at the end of October. I've been friends with Tatai for a few years and so we were both kind of sick of the presents we were getting from our parents, and we wanted to take it into our own hands, and help show them this what we want, so we decided we'd help all of the parents at the same time and created Gifteen.
Have you always been business-minded?
Personally I just wanted something to do and I think Tatai did too. My dad is quite into business, he works with businesses with NZTE so I've been heavily influenced by that. I've always had a bit of a drive to start a business and get something going because it fills me with purpose and makes me feel really cool about it.
How many orders does Gifteen receive each week?
Right now we're still in the starting up phase and making sure people know about us. Rather than orders we're trying to get visits to our websites so people know, and we hope it will kick off a little bit more. We've had a few decent orders, but we're focusing on visits right now more than anything and we're hoping those people will come back at the time when they need our service.
There were a few delays. We were looking to launch a little bit earlier than October but we're on track now. It was a plan of ours to get started before Christmas.
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Have you had to spend any money to get the business running?
It's been reasonably low in terms of expenses. My dad has been helping us out with that, there has been a little bit of low investment and we should hopefully make that back quite quickly - just a few hundred dollars, not a significant amount at all. My brother is a graphic designer so me and him collaborated and built the website together.
What are your goals and long-term plans for Gifteen?
I want Gifteen to be something quite big and hopefully it will be quite widely used and known. My short-term goal is to get parents using it and then long term I hope it will keep growing and get better and we can improve our knowledge of business. My goal, personally, is to be walking down the street and hear someone say my company's name without knowing it's me.
How many hours each week do you spend on the business?
We're spending quite a decent amount of time, we're trying to put everything into it to get it really cool. I'm probably spending five to 10 hours a week to try to maintain everything and keep everything going, and looking at other websites to see how they are doing it. I'm also contacting other companies to see if they want to collaborate.
When we wake up if we have any new orders we process them and throughout the day in our breaks during school we'll process any quick orders or do anything with customer service that we can help with. Weekends and after school me and Tatai try to catch up as much as we can and talk about the business and how we can improve it.
Right now we're working with a charity to donate some of our profits to. We're going to donate 25 per cent of our profits to teenager charity Canteen. I've had a few people in my family deal with cancer and I thought it would be really amazing to help people, and it ties in with our business model quite well, and it is a really amazing cause to support, I really love what they are doing. Right now we're looking to donate monthly.
What's been the reaction to the business?
My parents are happy and excited that I'm doing something rather than just sitting at home and playing Xbox. The response has been overwhelmingly positive with people loving the idea. We've had a lot of people show interest in it. At school all of my friends have thought it is so cool, and my parents have been amazing and supportive about it.
What have you learned from running Gifteen?
I've learned how e-commerce works, how commerce works, how to design websites, general business skills. Even basic stuff that's helped me in maths such as understanding how profits work.
What advice do you give to other young people who want to start their own business?
Give it a go because you learn so much - I've already learned so much. Start something that you find fun and give it a go.