KUALA LUMPUR – Khatijah Abdullah used to think that the only way old newspapers could benefit her was if she sold them to the “paper lama” (old newspaper) collector.
The 42-year-old would lament the little money she received in exchange for it, but figured it was better than having it pile up in the corner of her tiny livingroom.
If the newspapers were not sold, the Orang Asli woman from the Jakun tribe would use it to wrap food or as a mat of sorts.
She started changing her views on the usefulness of old newspapers after attending a course by the National Population and Family Development Board in 2008.
Until then, it had never occurred to her that old newspapers could be transformed into handicraft products with good commercial value.
NOT SOMETHING TYPICAL
“This free course has really opened up my eyes to the beneficial things that we can make from everyday things, like old newspapers,” she said to Bernama.
Participants turned old newspapers into baskets, beautiful table lamps and flowerpots.
These newspaper crafts are all the rage in the crafting world today. Thus, it is no surprise that such products have such good commercial value and are simply flying off the shelves.
Khatijah, in acknowledging the bright business prospects of the product, set up Khatijah Enterprise to market her products.
“I wanted to produce something different than the usual Orang Asli handicrafts in the market. After many attempts, I have finally managed create items of intricate workmanship.
“My weaving skills, honed all these while through creating Orang Asli handicraft, has really helped me in making fine newspaper crafts,” she said.
Khatijah, when met at the 2014 Orang Asli Entrepreneur Carnival, recently, said she initially ventured into newspaper crafts as a means of supplementing her household income.
Her beautiful handicraft were initially used as interior decoration, but started gaining the attention of those in her neighbourhood in Bukit Sekilau near Kuantan, Pahang.
The orders started pouring in, multiplying into the thousands during the wedding seasons. It was when it started to get overwhelming that she decided to take steps to improve her capacity and production.
“Majority of my clients are Singaporean tourists, who do not mind paying a little extra for my handiwork,” she said.
THEIR OWN BRAND
To fulfill the overwhelming demand, Khatijah decided invite her cousin Siti Aishah Abdullah, 44, to become her business partner and help expand the business.
“I have watched her diligently learn the trade and contribute variations to the designs, so I decided to completely hand over to her the production of newspaper crafts.
“As for me, I am currently focusing of handicrafts made from seashells as well as on making herbs for women,” she said.
To distinguish their business from other newspaper crafters, they studied marketing strategies, the trend of consumer demands, the latest designs and focused on fusing traditional and contemporary concepts.
To create a distinction with their products, they studied colour trends and sold their products under the brand name “Khaty Craft”.
With only a modest capital of glue, dye, cutters and newspaper, they have managed to come up with hundreds of products in a matter of days.
“It only takes two days to create a large basket. However, I keep the quality in check as I want my customers to be satisfied,” said Siti Aishah.
Besides being environmentally-friendly, she said that when done correctly, newspaper crafts are as durable as those made from rattan or bamboo.
It was therefore hardly surprising when some customers thought that their items, sold as low as RM5.90 a piece, were made from bamboo.
Today, Khatijah and Siti Aishah earn a modest income of between RM800 and RM1,000 a month.
They acknowledged that although not much, it helped lighten the burden of their household expenditures.
“Besides joining the carboot sale at UTC Pahang every Friday and Sunday, I also actively sell at carnivals,” Siti Aishah said.
Those interested in placing an order can do so by contacting her at 010-908 3703.
The Orang Asli Entrepreneurship Carnival was introduced in 2009. This year’s event was held on Oct 30 at a shopping centre in KL for four days, with the aim of helping promote products created by the Orang Asli community. – BERNAMA