Gifts are the one thing I always find myself struggling with. Whatever the person seems to need or want, they usually already have it.
Then the default is something generic and boring like a mug or flowers.
Realising the struggle to find pretty gifts that could be personalised, had sentimental value and were long-lasting, Faris and Zatil looked to overseas startups for inspiration.
There, they found that personalised star maps were being created as meaningful gifts, and decided to be the very first Malaysian startup to offer this product.
In January 2020, Stars Above Us was born.
Their goal? To introduce personalised star maps as the ultimate gift that solves the pain points of choosing a gift, and that can also be used as home décor.
The gift market is huge but lacks in variety, Faris said, and coupled with his and Zatil’s personal struggles of gift buying (which he believed many others faced), they were reassured that the business would take off.
It ain’t rocket science
That being said, their product isn’t anything complex.
It’s a map that shows the alignment of the stars at a certain place and time, and can be generated for special events like your first date, your wedding day, or the birth of your first child, for example.
Under the generated map which is shaped either as a circle or a heart (Stars Above Us’ two current designs), you can then add a title that describes what the star map represents.
Faris ran us through the process.
It starts with generating the star map using the given location and date.
Open source planetarium software is used to generate the star catalogue which renders the positions of the stars based on your selected map.
After that, it’s edited to enhance the quality, and this is also when a title, poster border, star map border, grid options, and constellation options will be added as per a customer’s request.
Then it’s all printed on high-quality photo paper.
All in all, the entire process usually takes up to a week to complete.
Ensuring stellar quality
I found the star maps to be rather costly for what they are at RM179.90-RM299.90 depending on size (or RM99 if you opt for only a soft copy), so I asked Faris how they justify it.
“Personalisation comes with a cost of time and creativity. Every piece of product we deliver is different,” he replied.
“We have invested a lot of time perfecting our design and are always happy to cater to any extra requests from our customers.”
Secondly, the quality of paper they use for printing is similar to what you’d find in a wedding photo album.
They’ve also invested thousands in their printing machine, which isn’t your ordinary document printing one.
“This printer is what photographers use to print their art and sell for thousands of dollars,” Faris described.
Thirdly, customers can choose to have their star map framed, and that wooden frame is specially crafted for Stars Above Us.
“When you hold it, it is solid and has a weight to it. It feels sturdy in your grasp and gives you this premium feeling. That is the quality that we deliver,” he added.
The other key costs that the price covers is the careful wrapping of your gift, its shipping fee, delivery box, bubble wrap, and other shipping related aspects that come up to RM30 per shipment due to size.
Lastly, there is marketing for the brand to consider. “This takes up around 10-15% of the price and will continue to be at this level for a while in this early phase of the company,” Faris said.
“Bottom line is, yes you can get the star maps cheaper if you buy the soft copy and print the map yourself, but you won’t get the designs that we offer, and not the same quality for sure.”
As he said, at the end of the day, quality speaks for itself.
When the stars align
On average, Stars Above Us brings in RM10,000-RM15,000 monthly revenue, with profits too.
“There is opportunity to ramp up the marketing and sales but we want to do it steadily to ensure we can keep up with the orders,” Faris shared.
Their target by Q4 2020 is to increase revenue by 50% in order to help out the economy by providing the needy with jobs.
For example, they already have two housewives earning some income by being in their sales team.
Currently, they’re shipping to Singapore and Brunei outside of Malaysia, albeit at a costly price.
One solution for this that Faris and Zatil have identified is to open a fulfilment centre in each country to reduce cost and overall product pricing.
As for other growth plans, Faris excitedly shared, “We also have another slightly different product to be introduced in our business plan, but the star map will still be our main product.”
Featured Image Credit: Faris & Zatil, co-founders of Stars Above Us