PETALING JAYA: Did you know that 373,213 local entities were registered under the online business category from March 1 to Oct 31 of 2020?
This data from the Companies Commission of Malaysia shows the effect the Covid-19 pandemic had on many, forcing them to consider other means of earning an income when they lost their jobs or experienced salary cuts.
Coupled with the rising cost of living today, many are still looking to online businesses to supplement their income.
But running a business of any size is tough. And for small-scale entrepreneurs, marketing and distributing their products to consumers is another headache.
This is where one not-for-profit organisation called Persatuan Pembangunan Artisans (PPA), or Artisans Development Association is lending a helping hand.
“It is a little initiative that four of us retirees started to help artisans,” Jade Lee, 65, one of the board members of the organisation, told FMT.
Lee is a veteran banker with a career spanning four decades. She retired in Dec 2019.
The other “retirees” are Adzhar Ibrahim, Chee Li Har, and Mohar Ibrahim, who between them have worked in telecommunications, airlines, banking, as well as oil and gas. All four serve on the board of PPA on a pro bono basis.
“What we thought we could do is help promote, market, and provide distribution for the artisans’ products so that they can reach a wider audience across the country,” Adzhar, 65, told FMT, adding that they aimed to do this through the extensive network of connections that they have built collectively over the years.
In short, there are three aspects to PPA’s mission:
- “Tumpang”: to enable artisans to “tumpang” or showcase their products and services on PPA’s e-commerce marketplace for free.
- “Sambung”: to connect artisans to corporate organisations.
- “Kembang”: to expand the artisans’ distribution channels.
“I started with 30 people who wanted to go online with their products. With the little experience that I had, I helped them do it,” Lee shared.
That was back in October 2020 when Lee started The Artisans Haven, a virtual marketplace that showcases local artisans and their handmade craft, together with her partner, Rosalie Lin.
Apart from the online platform, they also secured physical spaces at Damansara City (DC) Mall, The LINC KL, Malaysia Grand Bazaar, and Tokyo Street at Pavilion KL so customers can walk in and shop.
Looking back, she added that one of the hardest things to do in the early days was getting the message out about their initiative. “But once it got a footing, it was much easier.”
And so, from the 30 initial artisans, it grew to approximately 1,000 registered participants.
“When PPA was founded in May 2022, the website and shopping network were legally assigned to PPA,” she added.
According to Lee, sales range from between RM20,000 to RM50,000 per month. Profits, if any, are used to cover the costs for promotional programmes, pop-up stores, and resources for the four physical spaces.
Among the artisans is Aien Mokhtar, founder and chief perfumer of “OLFAC3 Perfumes”, who creates perfumes inspired by nature, people, places, and her personal experiences.
Another artisan is Dev Shadank, whose business, “Dion Harper Deco” offers beautiful tiffin carriers decorated by three single mothers.
Apart from individuals, PPA also works with charity organisations and social enterprises. “They know the people who can make the products, but they may not have the reach and the ability to promote. And that’s where we come in,” Adzhar said.
He said that although there are many individuals, small NGOs, and charities already working all over the country, PPA is looking at the entire Malaysia for their production capability and market.
“What we can probably do to help is to bring scale to the whole process. And, if it is possible, we would look outside of Malaysia too.”
One organisation they work with is “The Asli Co.”, a social enterprise that aims to improve the lives of orang asli mothers and their families.
There is also “The Tuyang Initiative”, a social enterprise that works with the Dayak communities in Sarawak through the responsible development and promotion of cultural talents, products, and services.
“We are growing our network so that Malaysians can support Malaysians and truly ‘beli lokal’,” Lee shared.
Adzhar added: “I think, sometimes, our gaze is too often outwardly focussed and we look at what’s happening elsewhere. We have admiration and respect for a lot of things outside of Malaysia.
“But the country itself has a lot of natural things, human skills, and talents that we think deserves a wider promotion and a lot of help.”
Check out PPA’s virtual platform here.
Current pop-up event: Lot 147, Eslite Spectrum at Starhill until May 31, 2023.
Read more PPA stories and get to know its artisans by clicking here.