From rags to riches

Her advice for youths is to go for your passion and dreams. — Sunpix by Zulfadhli Zaki
YToday is currently streaming around 3,000 events from universities and colleges. — Pix courtesy of Jazz Tan
She was 14 when she came up with the idea of keeping kids off the streets by helping them raise funds. — Sunpix by Zulfadhli Zaki

LIFE immediately became rough for both Jazz Tan and her mother after her father's passing in late 2003 as they were both relying on him for funds. It forced her to work and study at the same time to survive.

Besides working at places selling prepaid cards and washing plates at a kopitiam, Tan worked hard in school and received a full scholarship to further her studies in computer engineering.

That episode prompted Tan to make helping the younger generation in terms of funding her life goal. She was 14 when she came up with the idea of keeping kids off the streets by helping them raise funds and putting them into healthy activities as well as funding any events they would like to do.

Despite having a scholarship, Tan applied for a PTPTN loan which she used to build her business. Today, she is the CEO of Youths Today Sdn Bhd (YToday), a sponsorship and event matchmaking platform for youths and brands.

Established for more than five years, it has been a haven for students to jumpstart their events. The platform targets those between 18 and 25 years old, and is working with over 100 universities and colleges in Malaysia.

"We have a student reach of around 500,000, and we have gathered different brands who have committed a marketing budget with us which we can use to fund all types of student activities," Tan said.

Coming from Penang, Tan moved to Kuala Lumpur at the age of 20 because all the sponsors are mainly here.

How did you build your company?

We want to build an online youth development platform that all youth can turn to. This was our initial idea when we first started eight years back.

Previously we were organising and running youth events while getting the students to fund it manually; meaning we did it on a small scale without the online platform. We then realised to expand and globalise this company, we cannot continue to do things like before.

That is when we developed our platform, youthstoday.com, where we help manage events. Right now, we are streaming around 2,000 to 3,000 events from universities and colleges. Our system helps to sort out the events and match them to the sponsors.

My vision and mission for the company is to help keep kids off the streets by placing them in healthy activities through fund raising.

How is the company doing?

We recently received funding from Gobi Partners, and raised our first million. We are in Philippines and Indonesia and right now, we are thinking of expanding to Singapore.

How do you plan to expand your company?

There are two parts to the expansion – vertical and horizontal. What we are doing now is a vertical growth where we want to be really good at what we do. We want to imprint the brand in the minds of youths today, and we want to build all the necessary tools to help youths develop in terms of their projects and their reach as well as their career path in the future.

Only then we will expand horizontally which means how do we diversify?

Between five and 10 years from now all the students on our platform will be young adults. What will we do next? Sponsorship is one of the elements, but what else can we do next? I think, we will give ourselves three years to expand vertically before expanding horizontally.

What's your advice for the younger generation?

Go for your passion and dreams. If there is something you really want to do, we will be there to support you. We are one platform for them to fall into. If you have a dream or passion, it can be done. You just have to put your heart and soul into it.