Entrepreneur

This S'pore Couple Revived The Dying Trade Of Bookbinding Into An Award-winning Startup

The era of digital is here, and everyday we see the increasing digitisation of everyday products, one of them being the book.

From paper and hardbacks to e-books, it’s not just stories going onto the web. Digital tools have made, and are making, notebooks irrelevant.

However, there’s one book-binding company that is still going strong today.

Not only has the brand tripled their revenue since they began in 2014, they are also set to open outlet #4 in Raffles City and are soon to begin their overseas expansion.

Book-Bynding In A Digital Age

Bynd Artisan is a local startup that began its journey in 2014 by entrepreneurial couple Winnie Chan and James Quan.

From the materials used in the book-binding to the design of the binder, Bynd Artisan provides a space where notebook aficionados can enjoy paper the way it was meant to done.

Their products aren’t just limited to books, and you can enjoy a variety of colours and designs here on their Facebook and Instagram page.

Image Credit: Bynd Artisan Instagram
Image Credit: Bynd Artisan Facebook

Bynd Artisan isn’t just another store, however – they hold regular workshops on book-binding, monogram painting, as well as botanical sketching.

Leather Crafting workshop / Bynd Artisan Instagram

Renewing The Family Business

Having spent 18 years in family business Grandluxe, Ms. Chan started Bynd Artisan well-versed in entrepreneurship and the stationery industry.

“Growing up, my ambition was to be my dad’s secretary,” she revealed candidly in a previous interview. With Bynd Artisan, she was perfectly aware of how uncertain the economic situation was.

“Building a sustainable business model became top priority. I focused on strengthening brand awareness and human capital issues to develop next gen leaders. I constantly tell our team we needed to focus on the future. Not tomorrow or next year but long term, to survive in this internet era.”

The initial challenges also taught the founders one thing – that being a copycat doesn’t work, an idea reiterated at Tech in Asia last week.

Ms. Chan shares that their initial branding did not work out as it failed to showcase their brand in a unique light.

Winnie Chan / Image Credit: Laughing Tigress

She noted that during that period, the ‘Support Local’ movement was picking up traction, so the team decided to change tactics.

Leveraging on their Asian roots and celebrating the craft as it is made Bynd Artisan so successful that they were awarded “Best Shopping Experience at the Singapore Tourism Awards 2017” and the most prestigious design accolade, “President’s Design Award – Design of the Year 2016.”

Another obstacle that they managed to overcome was about their staff.

Having worked on the Grandluxe factory floor for so long, the staff were “apprehensive to working on the frontline.

“Many were afraid to speak to customers, out of fear of saying the wrong things and conversing in English,” says Ms. Chan. But through constant encouragement and training, their staff slowly gained confidence to transform into “ambassadors of the brand.”

Embracing Irony

For the notebook and book-binding company, the team uses a wide array of digital tools.

From point of sales to inventory management, Ms. Chan shares how technology has allowed them to focus on core functions. This allows them to “concentrate on strategising the business and doing what [they] are good at.”

“The last thing we need is to be restrained by paperwork and day-to-day formalities,” she notes gravely.

One way Bynd Artisan is able to better utilise their time is with collaborations.

During SingaPlural 2017, they organised Project “Drawn From Our Own Device”, incorporating robotic technology so visitors could watch designs come to life, as well as try their hand at craftsmanship.

Bynd Artisan at SingaPlural 2017 / Image Credit: YouTube

Age Is Just A Number

Book-binding might be a traditional craft, but it certainly isn’t suffering a decline.

In her interview with Vulcan Post, Ms. Chan shares that their employee demographic is a healthy mix of both older and younger staff.

“As they understand and appreciate the beauty of craftsmanship, more Singaporeans are beginning to open up to traditional techniques.”

And this mix brings prime opportunities for growth, both for the younger workers and the older ones. Older workers pass on the skill of book-binding and leather crafting, thus preserving the heritage of artisanry.

Meanwhile, younger employees share about social media and technology, so that senior craftsmen an also interact with their customers on Instagram.

Master craftsman Chong Beng Cheng / Image Credit: The Peak

Drastic Change Needs To Be Made

“Drastic changes need to be made to create disruptive innovation,”  she says.

Bynd Artisan isn’t the only company that is affected by innovation today, and it definitely won’t be the last, and being a ‘traditional company’ does not excuse these brands from not catching up with the times.

“We have to make ourselves relevant in a digital world. We must accept and make use of technology and innovation to make ourselves more productive.”

You can check out Bynd Artisan’s main website, Facebook and Instagram pages here.

Featured Image Credit: Winnie Chan

 

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