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If you’ve ever had to buy bedsheets, you’ll know that a quality, high thread count set from a reputable brand will cost you quite a hefty amount.

This is something that 28-year-old Lee Jia Wei knows well. After all, this is exactly why he created his own solution, Gaias.

Previously working in the curtain sales industry, Jia Wei decided to venture into entrepreneurship in 2019.

Based in Johor, Gaias started out by selling a plethora of fabric-based items, such as bean bags, luggage bags, and bed linens.

“However, we found that bed linens had better sales compared to other categories,” Jia Wei shared. “Hence, we decided to stop selling other products and focus on developing high-quality bed linens. We worked to refine our existing bed linens and make them more exquisite.”

The founder later shared this move arguably saved the company. Having invested around RM100,000 into the business initially, the team had lost nearly 90% of it before focusing all the remaining funds on bed sheets.

With this pivot, Jia Wei shared that they managed to make a comeback.

Image Credit: Gaias

Having done his research, he noticed that the retail prices of bed linens are generally high and not very transparent. He has even seen lower-end products marked up, then unethically marketed as being 50% off just to attract customers.

“This is very misleading to consumers,” he said. “When you want to buy a slightly higher quality product, you don’t know where to start.”

With that in mind, he set off to create Gaias, a direct-to-consumer brand that prioritises affordability while maintaining a premium quality.

An exclusive product

The name Gaias comes from the Greek goddess Gaia, who is often referred to as Mother Earth. This name thus represents the brand’s respect and appreciation for the environment, Jia Wei explained.

In the beginning, Gaias only offered pre-orders, which worked out well.   

“This model has relatively low costs, without brand premiums, inventory pressure, intermediaries, or rental costs,” Jia Wei explained. “The cost savings are passed on to our customers, and since we manufacture our own bed linens, the production costs are relatively lower.”

One thing that sets Gaias apart is that it works with exclusive tailors and manufacturers who handcraft the sheets for them. However, this business model sounds like it would be more expensive compared to working with an automated production line.

Image Credit: Gaias

“We once considered a fully automated production line, but after visiting some of the big textile factories, we found that it is not suitable for our existing fabrics,” Jia Wei said.

He also shared that automated production lines are more suitable for relatively low-end textiles. Plus, the main cost of their bed linen is not in the production cost, but rather the fabric, which accounts for 90% of the cost.

“Pure handwork also satisfies the demand for custom-made orders,” Jia Wei said. “So, currently, we do not have plans to fully automate our production.”

Making their bed and lying in it

With other brands such as Kapas Living, Hooga, and Akemi easily accessible online, Gaias is in a rather saturated and thus competitive industry.

Yet, Jia Wei believes that Gaias is in an advantageous position.

Image Credit: Gaias

“A good bed linen is not something you can determine just by feeling it,” he said. “It requires a real experience, sleeping on it for a month, and washing it a few times to prove that it is suitable for you. To address this issue, we offer a 100-day free trial, which is the only one of its kind in Malaysia.”

During the trial period, customers are not only allowed to sleep on the bed linen, but also wash it.

Other than that, Gaias offers customisable bed linen sizes for customers who might have an oddly sized bed.

The team also offers a free swatch service for online sales so customers can better see the colour and texture of Gaias’ products.

Compare and contrast

Gaias’ bestseller, the Signature Soft Cotton Sheet Set is priced at RM199 for single beds, without a quilt cover. At 300 thread count, this is on the lower end as far as premium bedsheets go.

Coming to its defense, Gaias’ website claims that when the team started designing their sheets, they realised that higher thread count doesn’t always mean higher quality.

“In fact, more threads can actually make sheets heavier and less breathable,” the website reads.

For a country like Malaysia, breathability does seem like a good thing.

Meanwhile, at Kapas Living, its Extra-Long Staple Cotton Fitted Bedsheet Set is RM189 without discounts, but its cotton bolstercase will run you an additional RM55. Kapas Living’s bedsheets boast a higher 400 thread count.

Image Credit: Gaias

However, Hooga seems to offer a much more affordable option at RM139 for its super single bedsheet sets (20% wider than the usual single bed). With a high 880 thread count, it uses cotton sateen, a material that’s also made with cotton fibres but supposedly has a more satin-y sheen.

In any case, between these brands, Gaias appears to be the only one offering a 100-day free trial, so customers can feel free to try it out to see whether it measures up to their expectations.

Stepping into the offline world

An ecommerce business first, Gaias’ main sales channel is through online means.

However, it’s been trying to expand its offline presence, which proves to be challenging as the costs are relatively higher.

The team thus works with offline partners to sell their bedsheets. This year, they plan to increase the number of offline partners so more customers can experience the products in person.

“We have been very cautious and slow in each step we take,” Jia Wei expressed. “I need more experience to accelerate our progress.” And that’s not a bad strategy to take at all.

  • Learn more about Gaias here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Gaias

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)