Online business is child's play

JOHN ANTHONY
Last updated 05:00 07/06/2014
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Simply Clever Toys co-owners and brothers Matthew Dawson (left) and Jacob Dawson (right).

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Having built an online toy-selling business with a global reach of millions, its young entrepreneurial owners are selling up to fund new ventures.

Auckland brothers Matthew Dawson, 18, and Jacob Dawson, 20, started Simply Clever Toys in 2010 and last year won the Auckland West award in the ANZ Flying Start Business Plan Competition.

The home-schooled pair source toys mostly from the United States, make fun videos of the toys in use, and then on-sell them using their completely online business.

Jacob Dawson said a full valuation had not been completed on the business yet but they hoped to sell it for about $30,000.

Simply Clever Toys has 17,000 YouTube subscribers, more than 4000 newsletter subscribers and more than 2000 fans on Facebook.

Their YouTube video "Magnetic Thinking Putty" has had 11.3 million views. Last year, Simply Clever Toys made sales of about $55,000 and currently had about about 40 products on offer, Jacob Dawson said.

The beauty of Simply Clever Toys was that, because it was cloud-based, it could be run from anywhere in the world, he said.

The website received between 20,000 and 60,000 unique visitors each month.

Jacob Dawson said he was now focusing on product design and Matthew wanted to focus on film.

Why did you decide to start your own business? Starting my own business felt like the normal thing to do. Both my mum and dad are entrepreneurs, so it runs in the family. We were home-schooled and were always encouraged to follow our interests. Mine was business, so my parents supported me in that.

What is the best way of knowing whether an idea is worth pursuing? First, you've got to honestly ask yourself: "would I spend my money on this if I were the customer?" Also, your idea must fix a problem or fulfil a passion that people have.

How do you attract new customers? To successfully advertise online you must get good at content marketing. This is regularly producing interesting, high-quality content that your customers will find helpful or entertaining.

What is the best piece of business advice you have received? Just start! I know that sounds like a cliche but it's so true.

If you have a great idea, the best thing you can do is start. Write down what you need to find out, start testing your market and start writing your business plan.

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Describe one attribute you consider essential to becoming a successful entrepreneur. Perseverance. When things turn to custard, and they will, you must have the perseverance to push through and find the solution.

What have you sacrificed to be an entrepreneur? I have sacrificed the normal teenager's social life because you are hard at work on your latest business idea.

Another thing is that your friends don't always understand. I think the common view is that young people should go to university or get a proper job and work their way up.

What have you gained from being an entrepreneur? A new way of looking at life. As an entrepreneur you live in a risky yet exciting world where you know you can do anything you want and follow your passion.

Who is your "business guru", or who do you admire, and why? My most important one would be my father. He has worked for himself since the age of 22. He is currently a business coach, who is also into the online world, and without him I probably would have never become an entrepreneur.

What is one thing readers would be surprised to learn about you? I have always wanted to have my own business that designs its own products. That dream is now becoming a reality as I am now in the middle of designing my first product and launching a new business venture. 

- Fairfax Media

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