AESOS Lai owns “I Love KL”, a premium souvenir gift shop, and also Sunshine Kingdom, an award winning durian-centric cafe that went bust last year due to the pandemic.
Border closures and the implementation of the movement control order (MCO) took a toll on his business, which depended mainly on tourists.
Many consumers also cut down spending to essential products only due to loss of jobs and pay cuts.
“For 17 months, there was no business. We were suffering in silence but we had to be positive about the future,” he said.
“However, The Artisans Haven (TAH) has brought us back to relevance and exposure, and because of the platform, we are still ‘seen’ around,” said Lai, who recently launched Spiderman apparel, that has sustainable, anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties.
“TAH is one of the active platforms that reaches out to thousands, and perhaps millions in the future,” he said, adding that the platform not only promotes local products but also the people behind the products and highlights the stories of real people.
The online platform has been helping a total of 250 brands, mostly belonging to Malaysian artisans, especially during the current challenging times.
It is a bastion of hope for artisans to showcase their talent and sell one-of-a-kind handcraft items, made in a small batches.
“Handmade is heart-made,” said TAH chief executive officer and co-founder Jade Lee.
The e-commerce platform launched #HandmadeisHeart made with a pledge of RM1 million in sales for its tenants in the next 12 months, supported by a transformed full-fledged e-commerce website interface and several major collaborations with corporations.
“We all know that it takes a lot of heart and passion to create something. Many local artisans turned to their passion and craft for livelihood when the Covid-19 pandemic hit,” Jade said.
She added the handmade artisan sector became a lifeline, especially to those who had suddenly lost their jobs.
To meet their needs, TAH was established in September last year by Jade and TAH’s co-founder, Rosalie Lin, who is also its brand and PR adviser.
Initially, TAH was set up with the objective of creating an artisan’s digital mall to showcase the rich diversity of their products and talent to customers throughout Malaysia.
“We started with 30 tenants and over the months, we grew to 250 tenants. Currently, we are growing at a rate of 50 new tenants each month, and we expect to have more than 1,000 tenants in the next 12 months,” said Jade.
“We are not just a platform, which just puts up the products. We tell the story behind a particular product. Nowadays, consumers like to talk about the story when they purchase a product,” said Rosalie.
She spoke of a product that was made by a woman who had a corporate job, and who later turned her hobby into a business.
“We also do customisation,” said Rosalie, adding that this sets their platform apart from others.