Craftiviti’s products include homemade soaps and candles, with processes that are easy to follow
By AZALEA AZUAR
IF ANYTHING, the Movement Control Order (MCO) has somehow left us chained to the rhythm.
The song goes on and on, in repeat…
“Every day, we wake up, eat and head to our computers, and start our day working from home.” Once we’re done, we’d probably take a nap or binge-watch one of those favourite Korean dramas. Well, how much can you watch anyway?
Instead of getting consumed by boredom, the MCO period is actually an opportunity for us to get productive, which is starting a new hobby.
Starting out a new hobby has many benefits, especially in keeping your mental wellbeing in check.
For instance, you could get involved in a passion project that helps get your mind off matters. The more challenging the project is, the higher your concentration becomes.
As a matter of fact, your concentration becomes so great that you’d forget that you’re actually bored. After all, a hobby is also a way to squeeze our creative juices.
Some people are naturally more creative than others, but creativity is a skill that can also be learnt.
A simple hobby that you want to try is making crafts.
Embracing Homemade Products
Founded in 2015 by husband-wife couple, Eugene Tham and Leong Wei Yein, Craftiviti is a DIY enterprise which has been embracing and encouraging the idea of making your own products.
Among the products are homemade soaps and candles, with processes that are easy to follow.
“We initially opened our doors as a typical arts and craft materials provider, but within two years, we saw a growing wellness trend and started focusing on materials and ingredients for making DIY soaps and candles,” co-founder Leong spoke to The Malaysian Reserve via an email interview.
Since then, they have widened their range to provide other ingredients and tools for more personal skin and hair care products.
Such products include natural lip balms, beard waxes, ointments and bath bombs.
Craftiviti tried to keep their products using natural ingredients as much as possible.
For instance, cocoa butter, mango butter and even shea butter are used for their soap bases when it comes to soap-making. They also use high-quality clays for the masks and scrubs.
Leong said people are also becoming more ingredient-conscious and they’d check the labels on what they want or don’t want to apply on their skin.
Henceforth, consumers are heading towards a customisable approach, which is better since customers have full control of what ingredients they want to apply on their skin.
“When we first started, we didn’t even have the budget to instal a signage at our retail shop. We were practically unknown and our location itself was unassuming. We were located on the first floor of an office block, so no one expected a retail shop to be in such a location,” Leong added.
The Craftiviti team also had to make a lot of noise on all social media platforms in order to drive in traffic.
“As our product range grew and word of mouth increased, our loyal customer base also grew with it. Fans and customers often call us ‘a very dangerous place’ because they get lost in our shop and on our website for hours!” she said.
Finally, Craftiviti got its signage after three years.
Workshops to Check Out
Apart from DIY materials, Craftiviti also conducts its own workshops every weekend and on alternate Wednesdays.
“At the workshops, we teach participants how to use our products and raw ingredients to make their own soaps, candles, bath bombs and all types of natural DIY products, even your own natural lipsticks using pure beeswax, shea butter and essential oils,” Leong explained.
The couple also conduct workshops for therapeutic crafts, which help people to relax, stay centred and de-stressed.
According to Leong, Craftiviti’s workshops are focused on adults who are interested in making their own household and personal care products for their family and friends.
“The workshops also apply to those who would like to start their own small business selling handmade products.”
The most popular workshops among participants are the soap and candle-making projects.
“We also have workshops that teach you how to make your own natural skincare range such as lotions, clay masks, facial wash, bath bombs, body scrubs, lip balms and others using only natural plant-based ingredients,” Leong said.
She said the workshops have enabled participants to understand and experience making their own products in a clean, safe and effective way.
Since the implementation of the MCO, the usual workshops had to be cancelled.
Still, where there is a will, there is a way. Last week, Craftiviti conducted an online workshop via Facebook Live on April 7 for free.
“We chose soap-making as a topic because we wanted to demonstrate to viewers how easy it is to make their own varieties of soap using the melt and pour method. In real-time, we showed that it only took 12 minutes to make soap. That was something new to a lot of the viewers,” said Leong.
She was rather happy that day when the live video gained 12,500 reaches and 2,600 engagements.
“The session was meant for 60 minutes, but with at least 80 people staying back to ask questions, it went on for 90 minutes. We considered that a success as it was our very first live session and we didn’t know what to expect,” Leong added.
There will be more workshops via Facebook Live.
“We do this to help people stay occupied and teach them something new. So, while you are staying home for our country, you can also make healthy natural products for your wellness.”
Crafting for Good
Since all workshops have been cancelled due to the MCO, Craftiviti’s workshop space is now used as an assembly zone for making DIY face shields to be donated to the hospitals that are treating Covid-19 patients.
“Since Craftiviti was all about DIY, we knew we had to help at the very start of the MCO. So we contacted Cziplee whom we knew had the materials and St. John Ambulance of Malaysia because we needed their ambulance for logistics and manpower,” said Leong.
They reached out to a doctor friend who is currently one of the frontliners and let him try their first prototype.
When they received the approval from the doctor after a few tweaks, they began production.
Craftiviti released two videos on its YouTube channel on how to make the face shields, which are meant for St John Ambulance volunteers to learn how to make them according to the approved guidelines.
The process is simple. It only involves a plastic sheet, a 33cm elastic band, foam and a stapler or UHU Glue.
“At that time, we were in a rush to DIY as many shields as possible, so we needed the video as a guide. We started with UHU Glue, but the assembly took too long, so we moved to staplers, after checking with the good doctor, of course,” said Leong.
The videos are available at the links here, in which this one teaches you how to make the face shields using staplers, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bg7GYuZ8evM.
This one shows how to make them using UHU Glue instead, https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=WEZRjONem9M&t=10s.
So far, Craftiviti has managed to produce 8,800 DIY face shields and they have only 1,200 more to reach their pledged target.
“In total, with a combined effort from Cziplee and St John Ambulance, we have made, purchased and donated 28,000 pieces of face shields,” Leong said.
Among the hospitals that have received the face shields are Hospital Sungai Buloh, Hospital Kuala Lumpur (KL), Hospital Selayang, Hospital Kajang, Pusat Darah Negara, Klinik Kesihatan KL, Pejabat Kesi- hatan Daerah Petaling, Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Hospital Tuanku Jaafar, Seremban.
“The process is hard work and we are grateful to our team, volunteers and donors who have been toiling to reach these numbers. We are also grateful to all the frontliners who are putting themselves on the line to protect Malaysians,” Leong said.
The DIY face-shield community has grown since then, and Leong is rather pleased with the results.
“Because the DIY face shields take time, and hospitals were facing urgent shortages, Craftiviti and Cziplee have decided to break the donation drive into two phases, with Phase 1 aiming to get the shields out to hospitals urgently,” she added.
The first phase involved launching a public donation drive on March 24.
Within four days of the launch, Craftiviti managed to collect RM60,000 to purchase 6,000 factory medical grade face shields to be distributed to the hospitals within that week.
During the second phase, they launched a personal call for donations from their family and friends to raise RM10,000 in order to make 10,000 shields.
The donation drive was more than a success as they received more than RM17,000 instead!
“At the moment, we have sufficient funds to cover all material costs for DIY face shields and are looking for other personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies to purchase with the excess funds,” Leong said.
A viral video circulated on the Internet regarding the medical staff wearing DIY protection gear from everyday items such as dustbin liners, cling wrap and plastic bags due to a shortage of PPE worldwide.
While the self-made gear does not offer the full protection like PPE does, the medical frontliners have no choice but to wear them.
Every time they carry out a Covid-19 test or treat patients, they need to be suited up with the gear. It takes 30 minutes just to do it and after they’re done, they have to dispose of the suits.
Now imagine this — the medical frontliners go through four or five suits per day!
Coping with MCO
Leong said the whole situation is unprecedented and the MCO is expected to affect many in months to come.
“The MCO is necessary to flatten the curve, but many small and medium enterprises will suffer long after. We are fortunate to still have our e-commerce sales to minimise losses and we are so grateful for every online order that we receive which helps us sustain a little more,” she said.
She said so far, Craftiviti’s sales have dropped 80%, even with their e-commerce platform running.
“No matter the situation, we have assured our team that no one will be left behind and no one will be losing their jobs in the near future. As business owners, it is our responsibility to maintain the livelihoods of our employees for as long as we are able to,” said Leong.
They hope it will be business as usual after the MCO period, but they are being pragmatic about it.
Craftiviti has cut back on its expenses to ease their cash-flow and have frozen their headcounts.
At the same time, it is optimising its e-commerce website to anticipate the changing buyer behaviour.
“Our goal is to sustain and then slowly recover. 2020 has been quite a year.”
For more information, check out its website at craftiviti.com.