PETALING JAYA: The onset of the pandemic in 2020 badly affected the cinema industry with no clear end in sight as lockdowns were prolonged.
For cinema industry employee, Dev Shadank, pay cuts meant he had to dip into his savings as a stop gap measure. More pressing was the need to find alternative means to supplement his income.
He didn’t want to venture into a home-based cooking or bakery business after seeing many of his friends already doing that.
“So, I decided to scroll through Facebook Marketplace and that’s when a beautiful découpagetiffin carrier caught my eye. They’re something different and would be lovely as gifts,” the 52-year-old told FMT.
For the unfamiliar, découpage is the art of cutting and pasting cut-outs to simulate painting on wood, metal, or glass surface. It is believed to have originated in France in the 17th century.
Besides being an eco-friendly solution to food takeaways which were popular during the lockdowns, Dev saw how these tiffin carriers could double-up as charming home decorative items.
Intrigued, he started researching more and found three single mothers who were skilled at making découpage tiffin carriers. “Although they had the skills, I saw a gap when it came to the marketing and reach of their products. So, that’s where I stepped in,” he shared.
He began to market these tiffin carriers over social media as a means to create more awareness. And it worked like a charm!
And as the number of orders gradually increased, he sourced for a supplier who could provide good quality tiffin carriers in bulk and more importantly, a reasonable price.
And that’s how his business, Dion Harper Deco was born in July 2021.
Customers can opt for either the two- or three-tiered tiffin carriers that come in two sizes: 12cm or 14cm in diameter. Meanwhile, the variety of découpage tissue designs, imported from Germany and Italy, include floral and geometric patterns.
Looking at how exquisite the designs are, it’s no surprise when Dev revealed it took great patience to make them as the process is time-consuming and tedious.
He explained that before the découpage tissues can be glued to a tiffin carrier, the surface must be sandpapered to a smooth finish. Then, six layers of varnish are applied, with each layer having to dry completely before the next was applied.
In December that year, “wrap-on” tiffin carriers were offered. These use 3M vinyl stickers instead of découpage tissues. “Customers can choose from an available range of sticker designs such as birds or flowers and even customise them by adding their names or logos on it,” he shared.
They are available in similar sizes with découpage tiffins, but are priced lower. And in the future, Dev shared that he hopes to market both types of tiffin carriers in the UK and Dubai. Other products include scented candles and Turkish printed ceramics.
And then last year, he discovered another business opportunity – although unrelated to home décor. In fact, he’s marketing a popular snack in the form of peanuts.
Cheekily named, “Going Nuts”, the peanuts are fried with dried chilli, garlic, curry powder or kaffir lime leaves, and mini anchovies.
A beautiful journey thus far
Describing his business as a “pandemic baby”, he admitted that there have been challenges along the way. Establishing a wider distribution channel is one of them, as Dev primarily uses social media and WhatsApp to garner sales.
Dion Harper Deco is now one of the small businesses under Persatuan Pembangunan Artisans (PPA). The NGO helps local artisans such as Dev promote their products through various channels. There is an online platform, pop-up events, and physical stores located throughout the Klang Valley.
“The team makes sure that the funds are rightfully channelled back to us. It’s been a great channel and platform, and they are very proactive to approach us when they have a pop-up event.”
So, how does he feel seeing his “pandemic baby” growing well? “It’s definitely been a learning curve, but it’s been a beautiful journey and I am blessed,” he said with a smile.
Read more PPA stories and get to know its artisans by clicking here.