Small Business Saturday is upon us and we’d like to take this opportunity to shout out some amazing local brands that have made their mark in the entrepreneurial world! When the going gets tough, the small business founder gets going – and how they make it work!
This Small Business Saturday, we shine the spotlight on some of Poptron’s amazing brand founders, and hear their perspectives on why it’s not always about the price point – sometimes, it’s worth paying a tiny bit more for a beautiful item made with love!
Price Vs Quality: The Eternal Debate
No matter how you swing it, handcrafted items lovingly produced by local brands will always trump mass-produced goods. These products bear not only the hard work, heart, and soul of entrepreneurs and small business founders – they are also frequently of high quality, crafted with thought to fill needs and serve purposes.
Malisse, Founder of BOBBLE
As head of Malaysia’s very first eco-organic period wellness company, Malisse is a strong believer in catalysing change and democratising access to safer period care. She’s founded, and is CEO of BOBBLE, a purpose-driven brand currently aligned with 5 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The challenge: Providing better education on periods and menstrual wellbeing – among other things. The contender: women who share Malisse’s incredible vision and mission.
Woman On A Mission
Having survived cancer, Malisse finds strength in being a mum (she’s currently mum to two, and is looking forward to welcoming a third in January 2023), and draws strength from her family in living her supercharged life. She sits on the Board of Advisors for Lean In Malaysia, and is an avid supporter and advocate for women’s health, supporting women and youth in their career development. To say that she’s an overachiever with huge goals is an understatement – and make no mistake about that, we are absolutely floored.
“Launching BOBBLE came with the intention to both disrupt this industry for the better, which still carries so much stigma and taboo, and do our part for our children to ensure accessibility for all menstruators.”Malisse, Founder of BOBBLE
Sharing her experiences on why and how she came to start her small business this small business Saturday, Malisse tells us that she first began becoming more conscious of what her family was consuming in 2017, when she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment. “This included period care. As a liner and tampon user for most of my adult life, I tried to find an organic cotton option that was both safer for the body and for the environment. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an alternative in Southeast Asia(!), and upon discovering that a lot of generic brands are made with chemicals that are considered volatile organic compounds (VOCs), an alarm went off.”
A Second Chance At Purpose
Upon successfully completing chemotherapy, Malisse took her second chance in life and sought to do something with purpose.
Asked about what impact she hopes BOBBLE will leave on the world, Malisse adds: “I’d like to see period talk being normalised and instead, give rise to all menstruators having access to safer period products and updated education in this space. This will enable them to make better, informed decisions on what they choose to use for the 30-40 years of their menstruating lives.”
While the benefits of products that are good for the body and the environment will always come with higher costs, Malisse believes that the good far outweighs the bad.
“Investing in our health will bring ROI for our overall well-being in the long run.”Malisse, Founder of BOBBLE
And as a bonafide success story where entrepreneurship goes, she has this to share: “Be clear and grounded in your purpose behind your business. It will set you apart from the competition, and be a compass for you during tough times.”
Sharon, Founder of Feithe
Founded by Sharon Chai, Feithe is a jewellery brand that has stolen into the hearts (and intentions) of avid fans with an amazing assortment of crystal-based gold-filled showstoppers. “We’re imbued with the intention of empowerment, growth, and self-betterment, featuring crystals and charms,” Sharon shares. “We also have a sister brand called Living by Feithe that offers household companions for your home.”
A Home And A Safe Space
Keenly attuned to energy and how it affects our emotions and thoughts, Sharon hopes to create a safe space for healing, growing, and bonding with the community. “Our Feithe studio is a home for many occasions – hosting workshops, sharing sessions, and tarot reading – for this exact purpose.”
With numerous beautiful things to discover, scrolling through the brand’s unique plethora of handcrafted products feels like a walk in sunlight, where one might glean insight into their own emotions or be filled with a sudden surge of inexplicable joy. Endless possibilities abound at Feithe, and that’s only half the charm.
“I’ve grown with the brand for many years now, and with everything I’ve learned, I’d like to share with those around me. Feithe reminds me of how far I’ve come, through the highs and lows, to where I am today.”Sharon, Founder of Feithe
Echoing the journey of life that many entrepreneurs face, Sharon is no stranger to the lows – and it is her feithe (pun 100% intended) that has carried her through the rocky waters to present day. “It’s my companion through new beginnings, and I hope it does the same to you.”
On Choosing Quality
Feithe’s products are built for longevity, surely appealing to those who prefer quality to quantity. Crafted of gold-filled stainless steel, Sharon’s jewellery pieces are water-resistant, which means one can easily keep their little slice of heaven and comfort on at all times – in the bath and everywhere else in between. “I believe that each person resonates with an object in their own unique way,” Sharon shares.
“Some may find a higher priced item to be more valuable in terms of exclusivity and quality, while others would think a cheaper product is more valuable in terms of quantity. Personally, I would rather invest in quality items for its longevity, and the craftsmanship behind it.”Sharon, Founder of Feithe
With Small Business Saturday on the horizon, Sharon, who has certainly built her brand for success, has nothing but positive reinforcement to share. “Have a little Feithe! The entrepreneurial journey is not easy but it’s about showing up every day and knowing that these small steps will lead to bigger ones. It’s important to know that you’re never alone as well. Business owners like us stick together and support each other, we face similar challenges anyway, why not do it together?”
Asteen, Founder of AZPA
Once a Doctor of Medicine, founder of AZPA Asteen has led a life filled with numerous exciting adventures. “I transitioned into the aviation industry overseas,” She tells us of her life after her foray into the world of medicine, “And in the meantime, started a bubble tea franchise as well in 2018. Later on, I decided to fully concentrate on entrepreneurship and started AZPA when I returned to Malaysia in 2021.”
Rekindling Olfactory Memories
As to why she founded AZPA, the prolific, personable entrepreneur cites a deep desire to create an elegant luxurious experience and make it accessible to people from all walks of life. After all, Asteen is a strong believer that everybody is deserving of that inimitable feeling of being special.
“All these big brands charge excessively to sell the lifestyle to only the elite. We try to personalise all our orders, because everyone deserves to feel special once in a while, and know that their products are not just produced blindly in mass quantities.”Asteen, Founder of AZPA
In chasing her desire, Asteen injected life and personality into her small business. “AZPA is a bespoke brand that specialises in creating quality and luxurious design home fragrances,” She shares. “Our products are carefully tailored to deliver a mellow, calming, yet memorable scent.”
Scent is widely known as one of the top stimulators of memory. It makes sense then that AZPA’s fragrances are aimed at rekindling our most important, beloved memories, helping to bring us back to people, places, and times we have known and loved.
“AZPA helps to trigger little time capsules in our minds, and help to unleash the memories of times, places, or people, and make them ready to be explored again. For those who buy our products as gifts for special someones, we hope that our sincerity in customisation and personalisation can touch the hearts of the recipients!”Asteen, Founder of AZPA
For the foundling small business, this charismatic powerhouse has these words of wisdom to share, shining a spotlight on the fact that success is often hard-earned: “Nothing is easy in life, nor is it fair. Passion alone will not take you far. It takes a lot of hard work and perseverance.”
Jasmine, Founder of The Good Fat Co
It would be remiss of us to not make a nut-related pun, and so here it is: You’d have to be nuts to pass The Good Fat Co‘s delectably appealing assortment of nut butters by. As co-founder of The Good Fat Co, Jasmine believes in helping people to make the right decisions when it comes to food. “We want to educate everyone on better living through healthier eating,” She shares – then adds, “Making better food choices, knowing what your food is made of, to decide what is good or bad for you.”
Providing A Better Alternative
The Good Fat Co’s vast array of butters are most definitely good, to be certain. From more widely-available butters like peanut, almond, and most recently walnut to unique offerings the likes of pecan, pistachio, and pumpkin seed, the brand’s range of products incorporate the whole package: deliciousness, health, the impact of being incredibly well-marketed and visually conceptualised, and high-quality ingredients.
“From my travels, I noticed that good quality comes from decisions made on ingredients, preparation process, and packaging, and I knew we could do this right in our backyard. This set the impetus for our brand – creating good quality food right at home.”Jasmine, Founder of The Good Fat Co
With numerous cheaper alternatives available in the market, The Good Fat Co nonetheless manages to shine, having secured a niche for themselves among purveyors of quality. “I think at the end of the day, you get what you pay for, and every consumer understands this,” Jasmine shares. Clearly a champion for better ingredients and accountability to consumers, Jasmine goes on to add:
“My thoughts are that we need to create better options for the consumers to choose from, and the rest really is in the hands of the consumers.”Jasmine, Founder of The Good Fat Co
Ultimately, Jasmine’s hopes for her small business veer towards making an impact on the local business scene by showing entrepreneurs that it’s possible to have international standards with products made in a local environment. “It’s a bumpy ride with lots of ups and downs,” She tells us. “Enjoy your ups and learn from the downs, and always be open to work with other small businesses! As much as many say that being an entrepreneur is a lonely road, it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Sonya, Founder of Coco Onya
Mother of two, professional brand and marketing strategist, part-time entrepreneur and bonafide curl queen, Sonya is the founder of Coco Onya Curls, a three-year-old Malaysia-based and grown small business that produces products for those passionate about curly hair. “We understand that curly hair is fragile and needs special care,” Sonya shares with us. “
Our mission is to encourage curly-haired people of all textures to embrace their unique natural curls in a fun way – no hassle and stress free!”Sonya, Founder of Coco Onya
Now having brought to life a brand with amazing products that look and smell as vibrant as they sound, Sonya’s curly-haired story nonetheless began with strife. “Growing up, I had tight curly locks which easily brought on bullying and constant name-calling, which really hit my self-confidence. I felt ashamed and helpless, because during my time, there was no way my mum could ever find the right product or regime to tame and manage my hair,” She reminisces.
Sonya would then go on to spend many years taming her luscious curls with a straightener, and it wasn’t until she gave birth to her first child, Sophie, that she realised: She didn’t want Sophie to go through the name-calling and bullying that she did.
“My main driving force is to help all curly-haired women, men, and kids to be confident in their curls, and to feel proud and great about their crown with Coco Onya products.”Sonya, Founder of Coco Onya
While Coco Onya’s products may cost only a little bit more than drugstore brands, the proof is in the pudding where quality is concerned. Sonya shares that “Paying a higher price is like investing in something that is good, which you won’t regret later. This is completely opposite with mass-produced products, where producers might use alternative methods and ingredients to be cost-efficient, and these can be harmful to us.”
Inspiring Those Who Run The World: Curls!
Ultimately, Sonya hopes that her small business will inspire all curly haired folks to be proud of their locks. “We hope to change the community mindset on curly hair, as Asians are generally known for straight silky hair – and this can influence the younger generation to change their hair. I want us all to start loving our curls, and to remember that curls are not frizzy, and that it just needs to be treated the right way to fully shine!”
For Small Business Saturday, Sonya’s words of wisdom will certainly hit home for aspiring entrepreneurs. “All of us may have different journeys, but our mail goal is the same: to help everyone who needs our services and values.”
Michelle, Co-Owner of The Pal Studio
While strictly not the original founders of The Pal Studio (Previously Coven Studio), Michelle and her partner Sarah have certainly taken the reins on the brand, and today, have made it their home and their pride and joy. As a lover of arts and crafts, Michelle had always wanted to get into the business sector.
For small business Saturday, Michelle shares the story of how she came to buy the business. “My college friend and I have been talking for a long time about how to get into it (the small business sector). We wanted to do something related to crafting and artisanal goods. We believe it was destiny that brought us to Batrisya, the previous owner, who was selling her business due to personal reasons.”
Taking Over The Reins
Michelle was sold. “She invested a lot into making high quality candles, and wanted to be environmentally friendly – from packaging to the resources used in making the candles. We were immediately invested into continuing her aspirations,” Michelle shares. “To have high-quality candles, and to be environmentally friendly.”
Carrying on from Batrisya’s good work has proven to be rewarding, if difficult. The Coven’s candles are known to fill a space with their heavenly perfume within minutes of being lit, with wooden wicks that emit a soft, comfortingly homey crackling sound reminiscent of fireplaces in winter cabins. In times like these, it’s impossible to imagine that anyone would, or could ever want to pay less for a product of lower quality.
Michelle certainly agrees.
“Honestly, I bought so many scented candles that were made from low quality materials, and I could barely smell anything when I walked into the room. We believe that in order to achieve that scented candle you dream of having – with a strong scent you can smell just a few minutes after lighting up – it has to be of good quality, and good quality comes at a higher price.”Michelle, Owner of The Pal Studio
Asked on the impact she hopes the brand will make on the world, Michelle shares, “I hope we can have a customer-based relationship. We believe it is important to treat every customer like they matter, and not just as another number. In doing so, we can show the customers like they are a part of our brand.” Certainly true, indeed – and an incredibly good mindset to take where all entrepreneurs are concerned. “Nothing is easy, especially starting a business,” She concludes. “The beginning feels tough, but honestly, the process, the journey – it’s all worth it to hear a customer say, ‘Your candles smell amazing and I am planning to repurchase’.”
Have you encountered any of these brands, or tried their products? What’s your favourite microbrand? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow us on our social channels for more fun content, tips, and stories on your favourite local brands!