Freya is the energetic toddler of Janith & Poornima. And it was all her, that inspired Janith & Poornima to create the Sri Lanka’s first kid-friendly subscription box KIDSActive Kit in 2018.
“When Freya was 2 and a half years, we started getting her these toys and activities for her to play with. But we wanted to get her toys which sparked her creativity and activities which supported self play. But it was difficult to find some of these craftings in Sri Lanka as it was either not available or the price tag was a bit high. So we started reading up online on how to make these crafts and activities by ourselves. We used to go to shops hunting for these little little materials we needed.” Poornima told VyaparaLK.
When Janith suggested starting a business with this new found inspiration, Poornima also jumped at the chance to support him. What the two parents didn’t know, however, was that on the road to success they would have to face incredible challenges. That didn’t stop them though. The company, which has now grown to provide different tiers of subscriptions, different types of KIDSActive Kits and now about to release their own android mobile app.
Janith & Poornima talked to VyaparaLK about how they overcame difficult obstacles to help parents with preschoolers to better support the developmental areas of their children.
Since it’s still a new concept in Sri Lanka, tell us about KIDSActive Kit.
Poornima: KIDSActive kit is a monthly subscription box which contains activities and crafts for preschoolers. These activities and crafts provide a fun environment for the children to learn and support their early developmental areas. With new activities been introduced every month, parents can keep their young ones entertained all throughout the subscription plan. Plus, we include all materials required for each craft or activity.
You are parents to a toddler and managing your own Business. What is your work dynamic with each other?
Janith: Well, Poornima is employed with a full time job. So most of the KIDSActive functions are managed by me. Plus taking care of a very energetic, hyped toddler would also not support our day to day chores (both laughing). Running a business is definitely challenging, so we’re lucky to have each other for support through life’s challenges—both professionally and personally. Our relationship on and off the business works well because we respect, value and trust each other. Like any strong marital relationship, we’ve learned how to communicate effectively.
How did you manage to find the required funding to start KIDSActive?
Janith: We started the business with only the little money we had saved up and with borrowings we did from our family. When I was drafting the initial plan for the business, we looked at the current opportunities and the scalability of our business model. I read up a lot of online materials including both local and international businesses and how they handled their startup age.
One which inspired me was that of a video I watched. It was a closed group discussion where the moderator asked this particular question, “how do you find capital for your startup?” from the participants. Everyone was suggesting different ways of bringing investment to their startup. But one individual said something which made me think otherwise.
This person said to the moderator that he would start his business with the little money he has and not look for any external capital. Even with the last $1000 he has. If he wants, he will reach out to his family and ask to borrow some money. And that he may start his business slow but it will be steady as his whole attention will be to grow the business and not just to find money to repay the initial investors. Then he went on to say that, when his startup is steady and in manageable status, he could look in to scale the business as there would be investors offering him opportunities instead of him looking for them.
So with this, we also started the business with no external investment; even though there were a couple of good offers. We use a lot of open source software and applications in our business to reduce the operational costs. From graphic designing, our website, or even the Android App which we are just about to release are all made inhouse. We got the hosting facility for our website from an ex colleague of mine for free. So we found ways to start our business with no external capital. But definitely we will look at future opportunities when we are ready to scale our business.
During the process of getting KIDSActive off the ground, you experienced serious challenges. How did you push through and continue to support your company?
Janith: At the time we got the idea of starting our own venture, I was unemployed and hunting for opportunities. But we took that long and hard discussion that I should start KIDSActive with Poornima’s support. But the start was difficult. We only had a little savings left with us and 20,000 rupees which I borrowed from my parents.
Some days I used to stay up late to finish the kits and get them ready for the next day deliveries. And Poornima would join with me around midnight after her work is finished to support. There were days that she would work with me throughout the night and start her work the next day with no sleep. We had countless number of days where our sleep was just 2 or 3 hours a day.
We saw no profit generating from the business in the first 6 months. Whatever came from the business was put back to the business. During that time, our life was like a roller coaster. Some months were difficult as the business didn’t generate any profits, and we just barely made through the operational costs.
When did you first feel successful?
Poornima: To be honest, it’s hard for us to think about a single point in time where we felt we were successful. I like to think that we’ve achieved many goals, but there is still much more for us to accomplish. I feel successful every time we have a parent or child share with us how they’ve learned so much with KIDSActive Kit.
What’s next for KIDSActive?
Janith: We are in the process of launching our Android App on 1st October. It’s also completely done in house and we are excited about the features it brings to the parents. The App will feature free downloadables of color papers, worksheets and quick reads on tips and guides. There are other features like supporting multi languages which will be introduced in the coming months. We hope it will be a first time experience for many Sri Lankan parents with preschoolers.