While the use of note-taking apps or digital journals is on the rise, many of us still find satisfaction and joy in owning a tangible notebook in which we can pen down stuff.
Besides, experts have said time and time again that writing by hand helps us to remember details and note down only important information (since we can’t write as quickly as we type).
Summorie is one local stationery brand launched on 26 October 2018 that capitalises on the simple joy of owning a physical notebook, presenting Malaysians with the option to personalise theirs.
Taking The Initiative To Fill A Gap
The brand was conceptualised after its founders, Cynn Chua and Tang Pei Ying realised they were unable to find good quality notebooks in Malaysia. “At that time, it wasn’t common to have hand-stitched notebooks that are completely customisable to an individual’s use. As avid notebook users, we set off to design the perfect notebook that we wanted,” Ying told us.
They began working on Summorie’s product development and branding in September 2017, starting with what features they wanted, the aesthetics of their products, their brand messaging, and even the sourcing of materials for their notebook production.
Cynn and Ying’s backgrounds have played roles in their work with Summorie, with Cynn having grown up in a traditional stationery store and Ying having trained as a graphic designer with a focus on branding and design.
It wasn’t until Cynn met her husband whose family runs a binding business that she saw the opportunity to make her dream of opening a stationery store a reality. She then left her corporate career to learn about binding and production in the industry.
After she met Ying through mutual friends, they began discussing the new business idea, and Ying set to work on Summorie’s branding. They wanted to create notebooks based off of what they themselves would look for in one, and to fill the gap they found in the market—a lack of customisable notebooks that use lay-flat binding.
“What we truly wanted was a notebook that can open flat (hence no ring binding); quality paper with a weight of 80gsm or more; a simple, effortless yet chic design; a cover that is good for everyday use—not too colourful, cutesy or loud,” Ying said.
Putting Quality And Customers First
Cynn and Ying began the business with their own savings and proceeded to raise funds through partnerships with printers and suppliers, and are always on the lookout for investors.
Although Summorie has only been in business for slightly under a year, Ying said, “We have definitely been getting great response and support from our friends and fans. However, we can safely say that we have not met our profit goals yet.”
Much like any other businesses, Summorie faces challenges when it comes to production, quality checks, marketing and brand loyalty. One thing that they’re confident they can control is the standard of their products’ quality, and they’re always figuring out ways to improve their production process to adapt to production in quantities.
As a small startup, having returning customers is already an achievement in itself to Summorie, and Ying added that they’ve also been able to meet other like-minded notebook users who are also obsessed with lay-flat binding.
Summorie’s customer base can be categorised into end-users and corporate businesses. According to Ying, their end-user customers include college or university students, young working adults and working professionals.
Meanwhile, corporate businesses usually make use of Summorie’s notebook customisation. Although the response from their customers has been positive so far, Ying noted that it’s still difficult to convince Malaysians that Summorie’s locally-made notebooks are worth the buy.
“As local artisans, we understand that there is this stigma that locally-made products should be cheap. The same thought also translates to local products aren’t as high quality as the ones produced in other countries,” she said.
The truth is artisans and designers, and even printing companies put in a lot of effort and time to master their professional skills in their career. Their craft and experience are usually overlooked by most people when they look at the price of a product.
Keeping The Writing Tradition Alive
To promote familiarity with the different ways in which one can use a notebook, Summorie regularly organises workshops for people to get hands-on and creative with a physical pen and paper, which also encourages them to put away their gadgets for a while. Their latest workshop was a bullet journal one.
Contrary to what many might assume, Ying and Cynn have observed that the physical notebook industry is still growing. “We think there is still a particular charm and personal touch or creative output in penning down notes or ideas on pen and paper,” Ying explained.
In the expansion of their product range, Ying revealed that Summorie is planning to launch three new products including their first dated journal and an A4-sized notebook this year. “If everything goes well, hopefully our plan to have our first brick and mortar store in three years comes to pass.”
- You can read more of what we’ve written on notebooks here.
Featured Image Credit: Summorie