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Our3Q – Batik Boutique, Malaysia

Amy – founder of Batik Boutique, place that provides fair fashion, home goods and gifts that empower the people behind each product.

 

Q1: What do you appreciate yourself in the business mainly for?

The story of Nore, mother of seven kids. When I met her, they had only one motorbike for 8 people. She was really desperate and she never smiled. We started to work with her. She had a sewing machine and even when it broke she borrowed another one from somebody. She really wanted to change her life and it inspired me to turn this initiative into a business. Right now she has a car, her husband opened a bus business to bring kids from school, thanks to the money they were able to save. We also invested in a dental program, she has all new set of teeth our company paid for. Before she basically had no teeth and she is only 35. This dental program changed her life, the relation with husband and children, she stands taller, smiles all the time. She is a completely different person today. Recently she also told me that for the first time in her life she was able to give money to a friend who needed it and that was so accomplishing for her. She was always the one in need, and now she could help somebody else.

 

Q2: What is the biggest challenge for you now?

Each of our products is touched by so many hands. So much goes to each piece. The number of people who dye it, wash it, hang it, and so on. Then when it comes to us, we pass it in hands of other people who do stitching and sewing and quality checking, packaging, labeling… so many people involved! It’s the beauty of what we are doing but also such a big headache. We are working with artists in villages which is so much different than working in the city or with corporates. They are not business people, they are artists. We are working also with low income workers. And then we are selling to people with high income or corporate which work on very fast time line. Trying to merge all of those together, producing things on time with a certain quality is…magic every time it happens, it’s really a miracle. But we do it.

 

Q3: What advice do you have for yourself in this situation?

Keep growing in impact and size. I would like to see Batik to be rewarded in the Malaysian market. I have tourism background and that’s one of the reason I started this company: I couldn’t buy here anything really local. I hope that people who want to buy something local, they will come to Batik Boutique. And I want to inspire other that you can do business and do good at the same time. That would be my personal success, especially considering Malaysian companies. And then we want to work with more and more women, I would like to see thousand of them working for us; that moment I will really feel the impact, that what we are doing matters. To achieve that we just need more contracts, more business opportunities, more staff. But at the same time we can’t push too much, force people before they are really ready to grow. It’s quite difficult for me as westerner, with different attitude. I would love to go faster. Be more efficient. I learn here a lot of patience.

 

Would you like to add something else?

The story of Batik Boutique started because I met one single mum, who happened to live in a particular housing area. It was 5 minutes down the street I lived. I paid her to teach me a little bit of the local language. She came to my house every day. When I started to understand the language, I started to understand also her story. I was a new mum that time and I realized how hard it is to raise a kid, and I have good a husband, while she was a single mum. We became friends, and our company started because of this friendship, I wanted to help her. Then I found out there are so many women like her in the same area, so we opened a center there. Several of those women had sewing machines in their homes. At the beginning we based on that, on what they could do at home: simple scarves and things like that. Then we opened a proper factory, close to their houses, so they don’t have problem with transportation. We also organized room with toys for their kids, trying to solve that way two main reasons which prevent a lot of women from working. Now we also work with a group of volunteers who organize different events and activities for children.

 

The questions were asked on our behalf by Anna and Andrea from How to (ex) change the world.

exchangebabel.com

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 6th January, 2016

ID: 033/100

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