Initiative: BATIK BOUTIQUE
City: Kuala Lumpur
Meeting Amy Blair was recommended to us by Kal from Tandemic. It was not easy to find Batik Boutique in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur, but it was definitely worth the effort. Amy is so full of energy and enthusiasm, that there is nothing more we could do than keeping our fingers crossed for her amazing job.
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 a room with toys for their kids, trying to solve that way two main reasons which prevent a lot of women from working.
Those women today, prepared by Batik Boutique, are creating amazing, beautiful products, starting from bags, clothes, till a variety of postcards and notebooks.
Each of our products is touched by so many hands. So much goes into 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.
Miracle is above all the change you can see in women working for Batik Boutique.
When I met her, Nor, mother of seven kids, 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.
Helping other people is the driving force of the company.
I would like to see Batik to be rewarded in the Malaysian market. I have a 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 a different attitude. I would love to go faster. Be more efficient. I learn here a lot of patience.
Patience and working together. That’s what we need to change the world.
Maybe you can’t change all the world with what you are doing, but you can change something around you. Sometimes I look outside and I see all those people and I feel overwhelmed, I can’t help everybody. Don’t let that feeling keeping you from helping even one person only. My company started out of desire to help one friend and now it’s growing to fifty of those friends. There is a saying in Malaysian which means a little bit, a little bit and it becomes a mountain. Don’t let the fear of thinking you can’t make an impact keep you from making whatever impact you can. If we all work together the world can be better. Everybody has his/her own part.
More about Batik Boutique: thebatikboutique.com