Furniture made by disabled workers a big hit

Although they tend to work at a slower pace, their handiwork and workmanship are on a par with able-bodied carpenters

By NOORAZLINA JINDEH / Pic BERNAMA

AZMAN Saidin felt like his whole world was crashing down around him following a road accident in April 2017.

He worked as a paramedic at a hotel in Langkawi and was returning home from work in a friend’s car one evening when they were involved in a collision with another vehicle, which left him with a badly injured kneecap on his left leg.

Unable to walk properly, Azman had to stop working and nearly went into depression, but he snapped out of it when he realised that he had to remain strong for the sake of his young, motherless daughter as his wife had passed away after giving birth to her.

Azman, 38, who walks with the help of a pair of crutches, and his daughter, who is now seven, returned to their village in Tuaran, about 33km from the state capital Kota Kinabalu, to begin anew.

Today, he runs a successful furniture-making business out of a simple zinc-roofed workshop located in the compound of his house at Kampung Baru Selaud in Tuaran, Sabah. The interesting thing is, all his workers have learning disorders and it was a deliberate move on his part to employ only people with disabilities.

“I want to prove that the disabled can make furniture as competently as normal people,” he told Bernama, adding that he currently has 22 workers aged between 20 and 40.

He said although they tend to work at a slower pace, their handiwork and workmanship are on a par with able-bodied carpenters.

Good Business During MCO

The demand for Azman’s furnishings increased during the MCO period after he promoted his workshop on Facebook, for which he uses the name ‘As Custiumania’ (pic: Bernama)

At his workshop, opened in November last year and named Pusat Latihan dan Amali Orang Kurang Upaya (Training Centre for People With Disabilities), Azman and his workers produce a range of home furniture such as bed frames, cupboards, sofa sets, chairs, kitchen cabinets and interior décor items — all made of pinewood imported from New Zealand and sold under his brand name, Azman’s Pine Product.

Azman, who does not impose any workmanship charge on his furniture, said the demand for his furnishings increased during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period after he started to promote his workshop on his Facebook account, for which he uses the name “As Custiumania”.

“During the MCO period, we were receiving 45 to 80 orders a week compared to just eight to 10 prior to the MCO. However, there was some delay in delivering the finished products to our customers as we didn’t have enough pinewood stock and workers to make the furniture,” he said.

Asked how he went into the furniture-making business, Azman, who is a Bajau and has a degree in Homeopathic Medical Science from Open University Malaysia, said after he returned to his hometown three years ago, he seriously considered starting a business of his own and decided to go into furniture production.

“To tell the truth, I had no skills or experience in making any kind of furniture. I had no formal training either. I learned it myself,” he said, adding that what really motivated him to start the venture was the thought of helping disabled people in Tuaran and other districts in Sabah to earn a living.

Started With RM500

Azman and his workers produce a range of home furniture such as bed frames, cupboards, sofa sets, chairs, kitchen cabinets and interior décor items (pic: Bernama)

Azman said to get his business going, he spent RM500 to buy some pinewood and built a shoe rack, cupboard and bed frame on his own to serve as his “showpieces”.

“I chose pinewood for my furniture because its natural wood grain pattern beautifies the furniture we make. All we need to do is rub some varnish on it… no painting is required,” he said.

Azman, who is now raking in about RM40,000 a month from his business, said initially he used to promote his furniture at shopping complexes and since then, he has been getting orders from not only Tuaran, but also Kota Kinabalu and other districts.

In fact, he even receives orders from Sarawak, Peninsular Malaysia and Brunei with all shipping costs borne by the customers.

Azman said his workers have been trained in carpentry by two skilled carpenters, one of whom was from Keningau and the other Tuaran.

“Since my workers have learning disabilities, they are taught carpentry through practical training and no theory lessons are involved,” he said, adding that his customers are very satisfied with the quality of workmanship of the furniture made at his workshop. — Bernama