It’s a known fact that having babies in Singapore is very expensive.
There are a lot of costs you need to expect when you’re expecting (pun intended), from pre-natal checkups to the actual delivery of the baby.
Once the baby is born, there is another set of costs to think about.
The first parenting year can get especially financially taxing. Beyond milk and diapers, there are also other expenditures such as pram, baby carriers, child car seats, baby crib and clothes.
As parents themselves, both Kenneth Tan and Tay Shixian completely related to this dilemma.
When Shixian was pregnant with a son three years ago, Kenneth’s colleague jokingly said that they could rent one of her four strollers which was sitting in her storeroom.
What was meant to be a mere joke sparked into a business idea, with the duo launching a pram-sharing service in Singapore.
Retaining their day jobs in the finance industry — Kenneth’s a bank executive and Shixian’s an accountant — the couple invested $40,000 to start up PramShare.
Don’t Buy Multiple Strollers, Rent Instead
According to Kenneth, PramShare offers rental of baby gears such as strollers, child car seats and baby cribs, to children of different ages to cater to different needs.
Young children need different strollers for different stages of growth: infancy stage, when they can sit upright, and when they become a toddler.
Instead of buying multiple strollers (which cost $500 on average), why not rent them instead?
“At the same time, we also help to move idling baby gear for higher utilisation and educate [parents] on responsible disposal,” he added.
As part of their sustainability agenda, PramShare sources for second-hand strollers, buying them from Carousell or directly from parents in their network.
Pram rental on their platform starts from $69 for a month (~$2.30 a day), with an additional $100 security deposit per item.
Shorter rental durations cost more — from $49/week ($7 a day) to $29/day.
Customers can make their booking and payment online. They’ll be issued a locker and its PIN number, which they can use to self-collect the equipments at their convenience.
The lockers are located at their office in Pioneer, which is open 24/7. Customers can also opt for delivery for an additional fee of $18.
Their rental service, be it one-time or subscription-based, helps parents to save money in the long run.
“Furthermore, with cleaning and servicing as some of the benefits for a subscriber, it gives parents full coverage throughout the usage of the baby gear.”
S’porean Parents Still Not Open To Pram-Sharing
In a separate interview with Young Parents, Shixian described their entrepreneurial journey as one laden with trials and errors, which has a “steep learning curve”.
The 31-year-old couple had started out from their 85 square-metre HDB flat in Queenstown, bootstrapping to buy an inventory of two to three strollers.
They kept their business agile, gradually expanding their inventory as more orders pour in.
When their flat started getting filled with baby gears, they rented a two-storey unit in Jurong to serve as their office and storage space.
Currently, they have about 200+ strollers in their inventory.
They started off doing ad-hoc rental to tourists and response were “good and healthy” as most tourists from the West have embraced, or are at least familiar with the sharing economy.
Thanks to social media and offline recommendation by hoteliers, they managed to get their brand name out.
“We visited the concierges of every hotel in Singapore and requested them to stock up on our brochures at the counter. Most obliged, without charging us a single cent,” Kenneth told Young Parents.
However, PramShare’s growth in general has been very “slow” at 15% year-on-year.
Their users are mostly tourists and the expatriate community here in Singapore, but it has been difficult to attract local parents to use their service.
“There are two distinct groups of customers. Majority of our customer base are from the expatriate community whom are very used to moving from countries to countries, and certainly comfortable with using rented items. The key question here is when will the locals be ready?”
“I would say that particularly for baby gear sharing in Singapore, the curious local resident is now still trying out this novel concept. I foresee that it will take another two years before the mass market is ready to be a part of this new concept of baby gear sharing.”
He added that hygiene concerns might be a barrier. Since their assets are not brand new, many parents tend to think of their equipments as “dirty”.
Besides rental services, the couple is exploring another monetisation model with ‘Consign & Earn’.
This new service aims to help parents make money off their idling strollers and car seats. PramShare will either acquired these used items, or allow customers to find a renter via their platform.
It was trialled in 2018, but the actual consignment process will only begin this March. To date, they’ve gotten over 50 submissions.
For now, both Kenneth and wife are still bootstrapping their startup, but they expect to break even by the end of next year.
They Also Wash Prams From $60
Just a month after the inception of PramShare, the couple launched a subsidiary business called PramWash.
It all started because one of their customers had requested them to wash his stroller for him. Although they had no expertise in doing so, they accepted the job anyway and later realised that such pram-washing services already exist in the United States, Australia and Dubai.
Like pram-sharing, the couple noticed that there was no such service in Singapore. They wanted to bridge this gap and specialise in the cleaning of baby equipments like strollers, car seats, baby cots and baby carriers.
Moreover, many parents are frustrated at the idea of cleaning prams because they find it troublesome and time-consuming.
Food remnants for instance, are typically stuck in hard-to-reach areas and it takes a lot of effort to dismantle a stroller to clean the fabric and all detachable compartments.
Despite the fuss, regular cleaning of prams and baby car seats are necessary because stains and spills can create a breeding ground for germs and bacteria over time, which can create an unhealthy environment for the child.
No high-end cleaning equipment or bleach is involved in the cleaning process as the latter can ruin the material and foam inserts.
Instead, PramWash do things in a foolproof, old-school way: plenty of soaking and scrubbing.
It may be laborious, but it gets the job done and effectively removes most, if not all, of the stubborn stains.
PramWash fees starts from $25 for baby carriers, and $60 onwards for strollers.
And unlike PramShare, PramWash gains a higher traction with 200% growth year-on-year.
“Conceptually, cleaning of strollers is to solve parent’s immediate problem and [the results are visibly] noticeable, hence parents are [more] open to [the idea of] PramWash,” explained Kenneth.
Although PramShare’s growth pales in comparison, he is confident that it will “be on the front seat this year”. They are taking baby steps (no pun intended), and remain optimistic of the business’ future.
“[We want to] reach out to more prospect and share our values and mission to improve [our customers’] journey of parenthood.”
People Is The Pillar Of A Company
When asked about their struggles, they said that challenges were aplenty, especially since they were new to the business landscape.
Starting out, they had to juggle multiple hats since they had no hires then.
Kenneth recounted to Young Parents the early days when he took on both delivery and cleaning jobs: “My evenings would be spent delivering the required items to customers around the island, and later washing the equipment until late in the night.”
Things have taken a positive turn now as PramShare has grown to a team of 10 employees, with the bulk of it being part-timers.
“Hiring is tough, it is difficult to find cleaners, especially young men who would want to do the job. Some of the strollers are really bulky and heavy, and a male cleaner would be of [great] help.”
“Our female cleaners are full-time mothers who work for extra income, but they are bound by emergencies at home [so] more male staff are definitely welcome!”
To alleviate their manpower problem, the couple have even approached the prison service with offers of cleaning jobs for ex-convicts.
Sharing a piece of business advice to fellow entrepreneurs, Kenneth said: “You need to treat the staff well, respect them and their lifestyle before expecting them to fight for your company.”
Featured Image Credit: PramWash