Ever heard the word ‘batik‘ before? It’s a traditional art painting on cloth and have been around for as long as I know in the southeast Asian region. The process of batik is very fancy and artistic, with candle wax and all sorts of tool (they use calligraphic candle wax pen to draw it’s called tjanting; you should really google it up if you’re not sure what it is).
Anyway, during Spring term I had the opportunity to introduce batik to my university. It is really amazing how the university provide various opportunities so we can discover potentials and push our limits. The scheme I joined was the SU Enterprise Space Scheme, a scheme that allows me to run my own business for a few weeks. So, what is this scheme all about ?
Got an entrepreneurial idea but not sure how or where to start? That is where the Students’ Union comes in. Basically I submitted my idea and draft a proposal with budget and costs (that was quite a tricky part for me). Once it is approved by the SU, we start rolling. I got my team of volunteers and set up a timetable for everyone. Since I was tied with two other on-campus jobs, I had to rely a lot on my team with the sales. They were really supportive though which is great because in business without a good team you’ll probably have a hard time making things work. Once I got my inventories shipped over from Malaysia, I started moving in to the shop. Yes, we do get a shop, it’s sort of like a pop up shop idea so it’s ours for a few weeks. In my case, Batiks was open for a duration of six weeks. We sold various kinds of products ranging from £1 to £15. I even had the chance to sell my batik tops I personally sew back when I was home for the summer!
Overall, I must say the experience taught me a lot. It was fun, interesting even especially on days when we make good sales and the whatsapp group will be buzzing with excitement. But there are times that it can be very challenging too. I had a hard time setting the selling price to ensure that it is not too expensive for students and at the same time take into account the cost and VAT tax. Creating a schedule was not easy because everyone is available at different time and sometimes there are last minute changes they can’t make it to the shop. It taught me about how to always have a backup plan in case the original plan don’t work and trust me juggling between three work including the batik shop and studying and participating in a society disciplined me well enough to manage time, prioritize and always plan ahead. I have this book I carry around so I can write down notes about the things I have to do, what time I have to be at the office or report for duty. My Spring term was indeed crazy and hectic. But I know people who have done more and I truly respect their will power. I must say that running an actual shop is not only about sales and profit. I learned about management- managing people, inventory and also managing promotion. It’s not a one man show anymore and I have to take into account a lot of other things before making decisions. Of course I gained some good lessons on how to use the cash EPOS system which was something I’ve always wanted to learn. It’s amazing how this experience taught me to be more open and gave me the chance to meet and communicate with various people in university.
I especially enjoy seeing people use the things I sell, knowing that they own a piece of Malaysia, my home country. I want people to realize that doesn’t mean we are moving towards the technology and innovation era we don’t have to focus on culture anymore. Without the culture, we are just like others as culture is part of who we are. It’s what makes us different. That was why I chose batik for the scheme. I could have sold something else that was easier to manage but I wanted to show the world about batik, educate them about our culture. The whole process wasn’t easy even from the start as I had to shipped the products, get my parents’ help from Malaysia to buy the products on my behalf and even sort the courier procedures. But if you ask me to do it again, I would still choose batik as my main concept.
So that was my batik experience. I had a good time joining the scheme and it gave me a firsthand experience on what is it like to run my own business and shop. Despite the challenges and the tight schedule, I must say that it was an awesome scheme to join and I would have regretted if I didn’t take part in it. I’ve always been interested about sewing and now I can say that I’m one step closer to be ready to have my own sewing cafe in the future.
Check out our page Batiks if you want to see the range of designs and clothes. We even made a video on the different ways to wear a batik pareo/sarong !