He’s 18 years old and he wants to make his small idea a grand success.
The idea first came about when Ian Goh, a student at Temasek Polytechnic noticed many of his friends were running micro-businesses online.
Looking to bring like-minded student entrepreneurs together for a charitable cause, Ian founded Project Blanc – where youths who run small businesses donate a portion of their profits to charity.
“Blanc was derived after several rounds of brainstorming with words such as ‘blank slate’ and ‘market’. The idea behind the blank slate was to create a platform with no specific guidelines or restrictions for youths to join or push for a cause,” Ian tells The Pride.
Recently, Project Blanc partnered with HCSA Community Services to raise funds on giving.sg. HCSA’s mission is to help various groups including ex-offenders, teenage girls who have been victims of abuse and single-parent families.
Ian says: “Project Blanc also provides these small businesses with a platform to earn some revenue, whilst creating a ripple effect of concerted effort towards helping the needy.”
Tough at the beginning
Starting Project Blanc from scratch was tough for Ian. He had to juggle his Interior Architecture and Design studies and the programme. The first step: Setting up the online platform and trying to recruit youth stores and their communities took time and effort.
Ian shares: “As an online campaign, the hardest challenge we’ve faced is to gain attention and engage communities in our project. The main goal is to get people to stop and read up about us online, and the tricky part is that there’s no way to engage them in person, so there must be a good pull for the general community.”
“Initially I was worried that no one would respond to my outreach efforts via word of mouth and online channels like Telegram and Instagram.
“The breakthrough was when a store owner contacted the page on her own, saying that she saw other stores promoting the campaign and that she would love to join in. I remember being extremely happy and excited that the campaign was being noticed. It was probably my proudest moment,” says Ian.
He adds: “There were a few hitches when store owners didn’t know what they were getting into and were hesitant. But it gained traction eventually. After almost 1.5 months, we had a sizable circle of store owners engaged in the project.”
All is needed is a will to help
Project Blanc was founded on the idea of flexibility and being open to everyone.
“We believe that everyone can play a part to help others in any small way and all it takes is some commitment and a willingness to help,” shares Ian.
The project embodies this flexibility by allowing participating stores to choose how much they wish to donate, ranging from 30 to 60% of their profits.
“This helps break the idea that someone must be able to contribute a lot to be able to help others,” says Ian.
Along his journey, Ian is also grateful to the many store owners who shared tips and information that helped to provide new avenues of outreach and audience interaction.
Ian tells The Pride: “The initial store owners who joined were friends that I contacted, and they were willing to help grow the campaign too.
“In the long run, we hope to show people that even with the ‘little bit’ that they can give, they can make this a community-driven project where the sum of everyone’s contribution makes a greater final product.”
Project Blanc’s fundraising efforts ended on July 14, raising a total of $471 for HCSA Community Services.
Passion for social causes continues
Doing this purely on a pro bono basis, Ian says he is happy to be able to spend his time growing the idea. He has also contributed a small amount of money to keep the project going.
He says: “My greatest satisfaction was being able to bring together so many stores and uniting them under a common cause. I was really focused on the idea that every little bit from each person in the community can lend a lot of aid to those who need it, so I never turned away or pressured a store that said they wouldn’t be able to contribute much.”
Ian is looking to take Project Blanc to greater heights and launch more campaigns, especially during the school holidays where he would have more time to develop the programme.
He shares: “I started off with Blanc being a project, but I believe it has the potential to develop into an organisation that can drive new campaigns and social causes in future.”
“As of now, I am registered with Singapore International Foundation’s Young Social Entrepreneurs and will be undergoing workshops and mentoring sessions, with pitching for funding in future.
“If I am successful, it could allow me to scale up and work in with bigger, more diverse communities. But for now, I will be doing my part in the community with my newfound platform by aiding other store owners and entrepreneurs!”
Ian will be joining one of the youth entrepreneurs, Lihui Yee, of Charlye & Co. for a fundraiser for Project Blanc’s next project, which is to raise funds for food charity Food from the Heart.
Here are some of the young entrepreneurs in Project Blanc explaining their hopes and dreams in their own words:
Lihui Yee, business student at National University of Singapore, founded @Charlye.co
Believing in the concept of self-love, Li Hui started Charlye & Co to create a community where young women can showcase their talents under its #Charlyefamily initiative. Besides being a fashion e-commerce brand, it also shares inspiring stories of young women on its own platform called “Girls Unite”.
Li Hui believes in giving back to the local community and regularly partners with local non-profit organisations to raise funds and awareness for its respective causes.
“I hope that my brand is able to bring a smile to someone during these trying times,” she tells The Pride.
“Charlye & Co. hopes to inspire and empower youths and the community. We have been trying to spread the message to our target audience by sharing stories of inspiring people and through fundraisers.”
Lukas Lee, Product and Industrial Design student at Temasek Polytechnic, founded @Pretticreatures
Lukas tells The Pride: “I joined Project Blanc as I wanted to give back to the community and help the vulnerable communities through my art! Giving to others has also always been an important part of my life.”
As the artist behind @Pretticreatures, Lukas creates all the artwork and stickers of his online store. Creating art has always been an interest to him where he draws to de-stress and as a means of self-expression. Being in design school has exposed Lukas to people with similar interests and passions in design, that helped affirm his pursuit of a design career in the future.
“Even though the art industry may not be as well-established, I am happy to be able to work on my art through @Pretticreatures,” shares Lucas.
“@Pretticreatures hopes to embrace the odd and wild, allowing others to see beauty in everything around us!”
Mandy Tan, dance diploma student at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, founded @shopidklh
Besides a love for dancing, Mandy is also highly interested in e-commerce and set up @shopidklh, an online thrift store that aims to repurpose old clothes while raising funds and awareness for different causes in Singapore. Mandy likened dancing to entrepreneurship where both dancers and entrepreneurs need qualities like perseverance and patience.
“My brand’s mission is to give back to the society and help the community in ways that i can, which is in line with Project Blanc’s beliefs and message which made me want to be a part of it.”
“Shopidklh hopes to be able to continue working with organisations to help the community and show our support, and inspire more people to do the same!”
Nicole Lee, finance undergraduate at Nanyang Technological University, founded @daytonabluues
Her store initially started out from a Telegram channel but has now expanded its reach to Instagram. Identifying up-cycling as a trend, Nicole intends to branch into reworked fashion pieces in the near future. To Nicole, every effort counts. She believes that even if one has very little, they can still give, and contribute to a greater good.
“To support a good cause as is Project Blanc. I personally identify with the aims of the project to deliver aid to those who are having a harder time powering through the Covid 19 situation.”
“@daytonabluues hope to spread the word and encourage other local businesses/individuals to extend help to those who need it as long as they have the ability to do so.”
Alicia Ang, creative writing student at Singapore Polytechnic, founded @illogicalextreme
Alicia hopes to spread the word about slow fashion and sustainability through @illogicalextreme. The environmental advocate sells thrifted and reworked clothing as part of a passion project that mostly focuses on plus-sized fashion. Alicia is passionate about helping others and believes that “no action is too small to make a difference”.
“To give to those who need it, with like-minded individuals that are working towards the same goal and all have a passion for helping others.”