When the MCO first started back in March of 2020, we were all stuck at home with nothing to do and plenty of time to kill. Some of us (though not me) picked up new hobbies such as baking, woodworking, and more. My family even had a phase where they simply just baked various types of bread, but that fire burnt out for them soon after.
Meanwhile, others have turned these MCO pastimes into full-blown home businesses. One thing they share in common? These activities usually require you to wear an apron to protect your clothes, whether it’s from food spills or wood shavings.
A good quality one can last you a long time, and typically, it’s not an investment one would consider necessary to make if someone is just creating for fun, or just starting up their new business with other costs to handle. This then opens up a gifting opportunity, and it’s this market that CY Yau, co-founder of The Apron Maker, wants to target with their customisable aprons.
A clear advantage over the competition
CY readily admitted that customisable aprons are not an innovative idea. You can send your design to any clothing printing service, get it printed on an apron, and call it a day. But for hobbyists who find that traditional and regular aprons don’t fit their needs, either through the lack of pockets or customisability, CY sees their product having a clear advantage over the competition.
“We recognise that in the market, many are focusing on custom print, rather than making good quality aprons. That gives us the advantage when customers are looking for better options in making their own aprons or as a gift to friends,” said CY.
Depending on your profession, the quality of the apron can be crucial. Imagine if you’re working as a butcher, and all your aprons are hard to clean and stained with blood. Your customers might just walk out once they see that you can’t even manage the cleanliness of your aprons. And if you’re a carpenter, aprons are crucial for storing your handy tools when you’re working.
But the idea to start making customisable aprons was not from CY alone. The other two co-founders, Samantha and Mei Yi brought the idea to the table. Since CY runs a uniform apparel manufacturing company, the team has complete control over the materials and fabrics that go into an apron. This helps them ensure that each and every one of their products lives up to its name.
With CY’s manufacturing background, Samantha’s digital marketing experience, and Mei Yi’s product development prowess, the team leveraged their combined strengths to start the company.
Despite running his own manufacturing factory, he remarked that the team raised RM10,000 as capital from their own pockets to start the company. The trio then spent a year researching and understanding the market, and validating their product before finally launching The Apron Maker in January 2021.
During that time, CY revealed that they didn’t take any salary from the company and all the funds were used on product testing and samples. Since then, the company has grown to a team of 7.
Pulling back the stitching
Aside from the year taken to just validate their product, CY disclosed some of the hustle and bustle of running a company that only makes a single product. One of the biggest challenges they still face to this day is ensuring that they can deliver on a customer’s vision in terms of design and look.
With made-to-order aprons, the customers will first contact the team and get a quote. The quote can range from RM99.90 and above, after factoring in the fabric, printing, labour, logistics, and more. Then, the customer will relay their design ideas to the team.
The team’s in-house designers will then take the design, complete and visualise it for the customer. Once the design is approved by the customer, the team will get to printing, packaging, and delivering the apron. The whole process can be exhausting and time-consuming for the small team.
Additionally, since 80% of The Apron Maker’s customers are from the B2C market who buy the aprons as a gift, the team has to juggle multiple one-off aprons and deadlines to ensure the gifts arrive on time. However, CY said that they have noticed an uptick in orders from B2B customers recently. Overall, they sell about 300 aprons a month.
Adding more notches to their belts
Currently, The Apron Maker only has a few options available, but they’re working on increasing colour and print choices, CY said. At the same time, they’re working on creating an online design configuration to improve the design process for customers and the team.
Come 2022, they want to expand their services to neighbouring countries such as Singapore and Indonesia, as long as there is demand for their aprons. They’ve already ramped up their production capabilities, with the team sharing that they can make up to 100 aprons a day now.
Aprons are not the first gift idea that may come to one’s mind, but as mentioned earlier, the MCO has led to many starting creative businesses which could use an apron, and so a customisable one would make a thoughtful gift.
Though the pandemic has increased the pickup of these activities and businesses, these have been around since pre-pandemic times and will remain a thing far into the future. Since it’s not reliant on one particular short-lived trend, it could be concluded that The Apron Maker can enjoy business longevity as long as its growth plans are managed carefully.
Featured Image Credit: The Apron Maker