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Most people tend to pick up a hobby upon retiring. It’s a natural progression as we’re humans that spend decades of our lives dedicated to doing something (AKA working), and to suddenly stop can feel… odd. 

Some may choose to pick up gardening, golfing, or the like. Typically, we like cultivating past interests that were neglected due to time constraints.

Not one to conform to the norms, Rozaili opted to start a new hobby in woodworking. And as luck would have it, this turned into a business with his young daughter, Sophiya.

With Rozaili leading production and design, Sophiya handles customer enquiries and marketing.

This is the humble story of Jai.Woodworks.

Image Credit: Jai.Woodworks

Bringing home new experiences

Having lived and worked abroad for some years, Rozaili was inspired by the use of wood and vintage rustic designed homewares. The kind that you would find in the US, Europe, or Scandinavian countries. 

Looking around, it appeared that these designs were not commonly found in Malaysian stores. So he took it upon himself to experiment and create his own pieces. 

Speaking proudly, Rozaili told Vulcan Post, “Everything was completely self-taught through extensive research, hands-on experience, and lots of trial and error.”  

It started off as a project to fulfil his wife’s “many, many requests” for little bibs and bobs, like a tray, cutlery holder, and table centrepiece. But with more experience, it turned into something bigger. 

Image Credit: Jai.Woodworks

“[Jai.Woodworks] sort of organically grew into a small business,” the founder said. “It goes without saying that my wife played the most important role in all of this. She was my first and most loyal customer, and harshest critic,” he joked.

Of course, Rozaili didn’t walk into the startup blindly though. He had extensive experience in corporate management that proved to be beneficial when running the brand. It also helped that he’s an advocate for social entrepreneurship. 

This explains how Sophiya decided to get into the thick of things.

She had just returned from Australia upon graduating in economics when she chose to join hands with her dad. 

“[I had] always wanted to venture into building a startup and simultaneously gaining some firsthand experience. So that’s when we decided to take the next step and bring Jai.Woodworks online.” 

Image Credit: Jai.Woodworks

Carving up a new hobby

The Jai.Woodworks brand was established in April, 2021. And you’re correct to presume that it was a result of the pandemic. With the endless MCOs leaving everyone home-bound, Rozaili turned to woodworking and technique painting to fill the time. 

For now, the brand primarily focuses on selling serving trays, table centrepieces, charcuterie boards, keepsake boxes, cutlery holders, and bottle caddies. 

They’re all made from locally-sourced pine wood, which is suitable for indoor usage and has a beautiful wood grain. Rozaili explained that the desired rustic look is achievable by choosing this type of wood.

Each of them is made-to-order with the occasional ready-made stock. Jai.Woodworks’ collection ranges from RM50 to RM250. Some would say that’s quite a reasonable price considering that they’re handmade practical decor.

However, it currently does not offer the service of making entirely new custom pieces as they prefer to stick to their specialised designs. 

Image Credit: Jai.Woodworks

The designs are inspired by the different aesthetics Rozaili and Sophiya had seen on their travels abroad. 

“It’s an amalgamation of all of our adventures and experiences, and we are dedicated to the idea of bringing it home and localising it for the Malaysian market,” the founder said.

One of the brand’s more distinctive products is its Mediterranean serving tray. It features patterned decals with designs that resemble ceramic tiles. Rozaili assured that they’re built for solid, long-term use. 

When asked why they opted for patterned decals instead of ceramic tiles, the working retiree said it was due to the added weight. 

“The ceramic tiles would make the trays very heavy, which would make the tray impractical in its purpose. That’s not to say that we’re completely closed off to the idea of using ceramic tiles though. It’s definitely something we have our eye on in the future.” 

Image Credit: Jai.Woodworks

Trying their best to nail it

The brand currently operates exclusively on Instagram as they find it the best platform to showcase their products. The social media channel also makes it easier to communicate with customers, especially due to the products’ customised nature. 

Although, they also just had the brand’s first pop-up booth at RIUH last December. Sophiya described it as a full-fledged family effort. 

“My dad worked every day to produce enough ready-made items for the booth, my sister and I manned the booth and made sales, and my mom was our biggest cheerleader.” 

It turned out to be an eye-opening experience as, she added, “We learnt a lot from it and met some really cool people along the way!” The pop-up event also allowed the brand’s prospective customers to touch and feel their products before making a purchase. 

Image Credit: Jai.Woodworks

Understanding the importance of that in the purchasing decision, the duo plan to participate in more pop-up markets to increase customer and brand exposure. 

Besides that, they also plan to partner up with local stores. They’re hoping to provide Jai.Woodworks’ products to local F&B enterprises.

But eventually, Rozaili and Sophiya are looking to expand their collections to become big enough to have a physical store. 

Their approach to launching new products is to take their time experimenting with durability and quality. “We want to ensure that we are creating products that are high quality, [that] we would use ourselves, and that we’re happy with,” the father-and-daughter duo concluded. 

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

Featured Image Credit: Jai.Woodworks

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

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

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