PETALING JAYA: Now that she’s retired, Nor Aini Kamaruddin gets to indulge in her hobby, and make some money out of it at the same time.
She turns the simple unassuming tiffin carrier into a work of art. “I call it my ‘Tiffin made with Luv’,” she tells FMT Business.
But it was a chance encounter with The Artisans Haven that has turned her pastime into a business.
“A friend introduced The Artisans Haven to me, and it has been a breakthrough. It’s very motivating when you get the opportunity to promote your crafts at events and expos,” she said.
Over and above that, she gets to sell her creations online. That means she does not have to worry about a huge financial outlay just to kickstart her business.
The Artisans Haven, the brainchild of banking and business management veteran Jade Lee, serves as the platform for small entrepreneurs who normally do not have access to bank loans to kick start a business nor the platform to market and sell their products.
The lack of access to business financing for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is not lost on the government.
In its 2019-2020 economic report, the finance ministry acknowledged that SMEs and start-ups continue to face challenges in securing bank loans mainly based on the assumption that they have inadequate cash flow to meet repayment obligations.
As a result, the small-scale entrepreneur quickly runs into a pressing matter: how to keep the lights on?
For Lee, this was an opportunity. “I thought it would be great if we could help them acquire the resources they need,” she told FMT Business.
In comes the aptly named The Artisans Haven, a virtual marketplace that showcases local artisans and their handmade craft.
Lee, who is co-founder and CEO of the enterprise, said one of her partners offered a fully functioning e-commerce site on which artisans could showcase their craft at no charge.
More than 1,000 “tenants” have already found room on the site.
The impact is far reaching. For instance, The Artisans Haven also promotes handicraft of the native communities of Sabah and Sarawak. In May, 17 of these artisans had their products showcased at the “Malaysian Artisans Celebrate Borneo” event at The Intermark Mall in Kuala Lumpur.
However, that is only part of what The Artisans Haven does for handicraft makers and the small businessman.
Lee also uses her extensive network of contacts in the corporate world to get a financial lifeline for these entrepreneurs.
She is opening doors to corporate support for them, to help them grow sustainably and competitively and she is doing this by offering them the digital tools and her personal knowledge of the industry.
She has secured space in shopping malls for the artisans to physically display their products and is now canvassing corporates to offer financial assistance to help the artisans promote their handicraft through the media.
“We will promote any product on our website. The condition is that the digital image and product description must be clear and concise,” Lee explained.
The Artisans Haven already has thousands of products in its portfolio but not all are featured on the website yet.
Lee explained that most of the artisans still do not have access to devices such as laptops or PCs to enable them to gain access to the website to showcase their products. However, she gave an assurance that effort is already under way to solve the problem.
“Going digital is now essential to promote products and services. Of course, the consumers will also like to know the story behind the product, like how it is made and who is the craftsman,” she said.
“These are the stories we want to tell to help the artisans develop. We believe a story builds a product,” Lee added.
Check out The Artisans Haven at market.artisanshaven.com.my.