Mother and daughter join forces to launch an online site selling innovative products for the active ageing population, and at the same time breaking stereotypes to bring a fresh perspective to senior products.
BY: Eleanor Yap
A new business idea has come into the fold and it is being led by a senior, Audrey Lai, and her daughter, Eugenia. They are reaching out to an under-served market – selling senior-related products online and they are hoping their formula is a winner. Agelessonline find out more:
Can you share how you got interested in the senior sector and what made you and your mother decide to start HAF Box? When did you launch your site?
The idea to go into the silver industry was conceived in 2006 when we were searching for a functional gift for my grandmother’s 70th birthday but could not find anything in the market that did not scream old or dull.
As you know, we live in a fast-paced society, and consumer products are targeted mainly at the young crowd, while the seniors have to make do to with limited options in the market. It was then we discovered that the products for senior consumers was an under-served market and briefly joked about starting a company to cater to this market and improve the options available to seniors.
In the same year with this heightened awareness, we started to take note of articles in the papers (we still have them neatly kept in a folder) and online write-ups, on how the silver segment is an untapped pool that most companies tend to ignore – worldwide in general, let alone Singapore. Through the years, we actively continued to study the trend of the silver market in Singapore as well as overseas, pull resources to gather information and consider going into the silver industry seriously.
About a year ago, we went full force into working on HAF Box and in early February, we launched our site.
Can you explain the name of your site?
HAF is a play on the word “have”, meaning to possess or to receive; Box represents a collection of quality products that customers will be proud to purchase and reward their loved ones with.
How young are both of you?
Audrey is in her 50s and Eugenia is in her mid 20s. Audrey represents the target-end users while Eugenia represents the children of the active agers – a good team to give insight and opportunities to reach out to both groups.
What is your mission of your site?
The mission of our site and company is to cater to the changing needs and desires of today’s sophisticated active agers through our innovative products and to educate society at large that ageing can be done with grace and style.
Can you explain why you don’t carry a lot of medical products for elderly?
Medical products are definitely on our cards, but we are holding out for a while more due to the different phases of focus that we have lined up.
Currently we have listed about 40 products on our online retail site, but there are definitely more to come! Our products include fashionable walking canes, durable walking sticks, high-grade cosmopolitan magnifiers, and more.
Are they mostly for the fragile or the healthy?
Between the two, it is skewed towards the healthy. With HAF Box’s target group being the active agers, our products centre around those who are more mobile, and those who desire to continue their independence.
How do you source for your products? Where do they come from? Do you buy in bulk?
Attending international trade fairs and using the Internet are our main platforms for sourcing products for HAF Box.
Attending trade fairs can be costly but we do so very selectively. As for the Internet, it’s the most economical and you can easily link up with suppliers via online methods. Regardless of the platform for sourcing, there is always risk involve. But the Internet is the fastest and most economical way to connect.
The products HAF Box carries are from Germany, Taiwan, USA, India and Italy. For certain items we do have to buy in bulk due to the supplier/manufacture’s requirement; for some they do allow for a smaller quantity order. As a new company, we do not have too much of a bargaining chip yet, but we have been blessed with reasonable suppliers thus far.
What criteria do you use in your selection?
We have drawn up a list of guidelines on the elements to incorporate in our selection process, of which the main ones are: high-quality, function and aesthetics.
Quality: We place a lot of emphasis on quality as product safety is of primary importance, and building consumer trust in this area for our brand is a top priority.
Function: The product being able to enhance or improve the standard of living for our target market is the basis in the selection process
Aesthetics: We want customers to feel good and confident about themselves when using the products from HAF Box. My grandmother previously refused to use a walking cane because it makes her look older than she feels. But with the fashionable walking canes that we bring in, she’s spoilt for choice!
HAF Box is proud to present the active agers with exciting options. It has been proven time and again, that when you look good, you feel good. And HAF Box aims to be the catalyst in encouraging that positive outlook for the active agers.
Are there other local sites that are doing the same thing?
There are local sites that cater to the silver segment, but their approach and focus seem to vary from HAF Box for now.
So how has been the response? If slow, can you explain why?
As expected, response has been slow, but we went in knowing that the pick-up will take a while, (if not a long while) as the market is still in its infancy. And the HAF Box site has only been up for three weeks (laughs).
When do you think things will pick-up?
Like any start-ups with a plan in hand, a lot of marketing will be needed to get the word out on our website. We are looking at three months for things to pick up.
How much have you both invested on the site?
We prefer not to disclose the figures, but it’s in the range of five-figures.
Where do you get your funding?
Current investment is solely from the savings of the both of us. Don’t be fooled, it’s an almost equal share. Audrey being the mother and a business partner does not mean funding is fully covered by her (laughs). We have also applied for a SPRING grant and we really hope that will work out well for us.
How much percentage of the product do you profit?
How do you market your site?
On a broad scope we will be making use of both traditional and new media (e.g. social platforms, search engine advertisements) to capture our target audience. We will also be participating in the upcoming 50plus exhibition at Singapore Expo in March so do look out for us!
What are your goals for your site in say five years?
To be the leading provider of innovative and quality products to the active ageing population in Singapore, and be able to give back to society in a well-thought out way.
Anything else to add?
We have added a birthday reminder feature on our website for members (who sign up an account with us) to input in up to 10 birthdays or special dates.
This will serve well for anyone with a busy schedule, or one who could make use of a nudge. An e-mail reminder will be sent out a week before the birthday, and members can browse through our online retail to pick out something special and useful for their loved ones.