PETALING JAYA: As time passes, most, if not all, businesses must evolve to ensure they keep meeting their customers’ needs. That was what Komuniti Tukang Jahit (KTJ) realised last year.
KTJ is a social enterprise that aims to empower women, namely single mothers, including those with special needs and from vulnerable communities.
The people at KTJ empower these women by providing them with sustainable income opportunities through sewing job orders. During the pandemic, KTJ focussed on products such as face masks and sanitiser holders.
Gan Teck Hooi, 48, a co-founder of KTJ told FMT Lifestyle: “Last year, we saw a trend of shifting away from pandemic-related products. So, we understood that we had to start moving out from what we did best in the previous two years.”
So, Yap Sue Yii, the chief executive officer and the other founder of KTJ, put her creative skills to use to come up with products that are both pleasing to the eye and practical. And that was how the Kopitiam Series was born.
Paying tribute to some of Malaysia’s culinary delights, the Kopitiam Series comprises foldable tote bags bearing the motifs of kuih lapis, seri muka, angku kuih and nasi lemak as well coin pouches with kopi-o and teh tarik motifs.
Meticulously sewn – kopi-o is even depicted served in a vintage cup and saucer – the products are fun and eye-catching.
And that is exactly what Yap aimed to achieve as she realised it’s what their business-to-consumer (B2C) customers looked for.
“They want something novel that they can laugh or talk about. And we wanted to have that ‘wow’ factor,” Yap, 31, shared.
On what inspired her, Yap said: “I love food. I love Malaysian culture. And we also want to tap into the tourist market, so we asked ourselves: ‘what can they bring home that reminds them of Malaysian culture’?”
And because KTJ aims to practise responsible consumption by preventing wastage, some of the Kopitiam Series products are made with upcycled fabrics, and in so doing, they are giving added value to items previously intended for the bin.
Using the coin pouches as an example, Yap pointed out that the batik fabric on the back and the lining inside are made with upcycled fabrics.
To date, KTJ has a network of 70 active tailors who are all mothers. Gan said that they have trained over 270 women over the years.
Sharing an example about a tailor named Kak Azie who has been with them since the start, Yap said this woman has generated an income of RM33,000 through sewing from home.
“Some may say that over the few years, RM33,000 is not a lot. But to their family, it meant a lot especially during the pandemic,” Goh added.
To pay homage to the hardworking women in KTJ, there is another Malaysian symbol in some of the products – a Malayan tiger with her cub.
“Most of our products have the Malayan tiger, which is representative of our tailors, the protective mothers,” Yap explained.
And as they continue in their mission to empower more women, they are grateful for the support of Persatuan Pembangunan Artisans (PPA), a non-profit organisation that helps local artisans market their products. This is done through PPA’s online platform, retail outlets and pop-up events.
“It gives us a lot of opportunities to get exposure, visibility and opportunity to showcase our products,” Yap said.
Asked what keeps them going, Gan shared: “For me, it’s very simple: to make sure it’s a profitable business so we can continue.”
As for Yap, she said: “When we see growth and life-changing experiences within the community, it really moves us. Hearing those stories is what keeps me going.”
Read more PPA stories and get to know its artisans here.