Updated: Aug 2, 2021
It all started about 4 - 5 years ago. We decided that we needed to reduce the amount of waste that we produce every week - partly because we were too lazy to bring it out but more importantly because well there is #noplanetb!
So, we took a serious look at our lifestyle and started to make changes. As millennial as we are, we first looked at what single-used items we regularly buy and use. Then we researched for alternatives.
Among the first items, that we tried to replace with reusable, more sustainable alternatives were wrapping papers and aluminium foil. This is how we came across Saffron & Serai with her beautifully handmade beeswax wrappers. They look pretty, can be used for months without having to apply new wax again and are #handmadeinmalaysia. By now we have several wrappers from this brand in different sizes.
It makes us happy to see how more and more Malaysians promote the #zerowastelifestyle by making it easy and accessible through their innovative products. Often these products have traces of their local heritage and culture. That makes them all the more special.
Saffron and Serai is definitely one of those businesses. We can just encourage everyone to check out the website and get your own set of zerowaste #beeswaxwrappers. By the way, aside from beeswaxwrappers, this one-woman-strong business based in Kuala Lumpur also sells bowls and cutleries made of coconut and handwoven items made of Mengkuang.
Click here to get to Saffran and Serai's Online Store. Before you do that though, find out more from the founder here.
How did you come up with this idea?
I have always wanted to create something that I can call my own but nothing really came to me for a long time. It all started 2 years ago when I was working in Saudi Arabia as an interior designer 16h a day. I was exhausted from the long days and grew increasingly frustrated about the fact that I am dedicating so much valuable lifetime to someone else.
Upon my return to London, I started working on my business. First I created a brandname. I used this as my motivational trigger and relied a lot on Pinterest in the beginning to source for ideas. After searching for a while, I came a cross these pillows with arabesque and Turkish patterns and I remembered having some samples left from fabrics that we worked with at my previous company.
I decided to start with that and gave them a second life. When the lockdown hit, I realised how much I miss my family and so a year ago in July 2020, I decided to move back to Malaysia for good.
After coming back here, I started noticing how Batik seems to slowly come back into fashion. I grew up seeing only my grandparents wear it. The younger generations considered it as old fashion.
This is changing. I see so many brands promoting batik fashion now and that is great! In the interior design world however, batik has yet to find its place. That got me thinking. Batik can actually be elegant and contemporary. It can add a touch of culture and exotic to wherever you use it in your home. I thought about what items that I could make that are eco-friendly and reusable all while bringing a piece of Malaysian culture into people’s home.
What are you hoping your business will look like in the future?
I have one guiding principle: Think global, act local. So, my goal is it to promote locally made products from the region globally. That means two things for me:
First, I am hoping to build more connections with local communities in Malaysia like the Orang Asli and other Southeast Asian countries and help them sell handmade, eco-friendly products.
Second I want sell the products in the region and beyond. That being said, my goal is also to keep the prices reasonable. I want people being able to afford buying these products to incentivise them to actually make that change away from single-use items towards sustainable and reusable items.
Through what channels are you selling your products?
Everything you have on your website looks great. Our alltime favourites however, are the beeswax wrappers. We use them on a daily basis for almost everything food related.
How did you get into beeswax wrappers?
I first saw the trend of using beeswax wrappers in the UK. They have become really popular there. Environmental consciousness is still a new concept here in Malaysia. I believe however, that we have to start somewhere.
Why not with stylish kitchen necessities like wrappers made from batik and beeswax?
I soon started experimenting. After being either too oily or too sticky I finally got it right. My mum helped me test them. Thanks to her feedback I found the perfect recipe for my beeswax wrappers.
How do you source your materials?
All beeswax that I use is certified to be used in contact with food. But I do not want to stop there. I am now looking to purchase organic beeswax including for my refresher bars that I sell for customers to apply new wax on the sheets that they have bought from me. That unfortunately is hard to find.
Get your refresher bars here.
Tell me more about the refresher bars? That is interesting.
Our Beeswax refresher bar are handmade with our signature wax blend. They can help you refresh your old and worn beeswax wraps. It makes the wrappers that you already own last longer or allows you to create your own wrappers with your own fabric!
How about the Batik?
I was originally hoping to source my #batik from the villages in Terengganu. They still make them there by hand. Unfortunately, two problems occurred. #handmadebatik is very expensive and many straight out refused selling to me because they did not want their batik being used for food items when at the same time Malaysians wear their fabrics in the form of shirts and skirts.
There are plenty advantages. Here are some...
Starting a business is scary. That is what holds many people back from doing so. How was your experience?
I started my business during lockdown. What I did is I set myself goals and a timeline to learn new skills that I would need to grow my business. Its lockdown, I told myself that I have nothing else to do and so there is no excuse. I learned a lot from online courses and instagram. Sewing for example, I learned with the help of Russian seamstresses. They are incredibly detail oriented in their work. Everything numbers, I learn from my mum. She is an accountant by profession and also has a cake business. Her knowledge and experience is very valuable to me.
What do you recommend to other people out there dreaming about starting their own businesses?
There is two things that I have learned so far from my journey as an entrepreneur:
Think outside the box
When you come across a challenge that seem to big to tackle - allow yourself to freak out for 1 -2 days - but then sit down and start somewhere.