In this article

Most of us simply dream of bringing about a positive change to society, however, making it happen is a completely different thing.

But, for Kimmy Phuah, her desire to help home-based disadvantaged individuals (HDI) proved to be her calling in building a social enterprise.

The social enterprise called Krayon functions by providing HDIs with a marketplace and platform to market and sell their arts and crafts.

A splash of colour in a dull world

Kimmy shared that Krayon was founded on the premise of building a social business, and was inspired by mouth and foot painting artists who are often only able to sell their products through postal sales.

“We believe that there is an untapped segment of HDIs who deserve opportunities, hence we set out to create Krayon.” 

It was initially formed by Kimmy and two of her colleagues-turned-friends. As they were in their 40s to 50s and planning their semi-retirement from the corporate sector, they decided to take up the challenge.

“From our observation, there is a considerable group of talented disadvantaged individuals, who are unable to join NGO centres or art craft centres, due to lack of resources (family/ transportation) to bring them out to these centres,” explained Kimmy.

Image Credit: Krayon

Hence, to address this gap, Krayon was made to allow them to do what they do best at home.

Krayon was established in 2018 with only one HDI, a full-time director, and two part-time directors.

“We hit RM1,000 in sales with this HDI’s work, as we focused fully on her crafts. By 2019, we needed to achieve something bigger so we created our webstore.” 

However, the other two founders had to leave as they were facing financial challenges and had to relocate.

This meant that Kimmy became the key driver for Krayon and today does the sourcing of products, sales and marketing, artists and crafter management, as well as partner collaborations all by herself.

Image Credit: Krayon

Krayon eventually expanded their community to include home-based able bodied people and volunteer crafters for charity who are also able to resell their products on their store.

They include a tiffin decoupage crafter who is retired and prefers to work at home, and a handcrafted batu Seremban crafter who makes them to support orphanages.

Meet the makers

The Krayon store currently hosts a variety of products, from herbal tea bags to eco-friendly products. There is also a variety of handcrafted arts and crafts as well as paintings and merchandise.

These are created by four HDIs with whom the brand is currently working with.

Image Credit: Krayon

Their first onboarded HDI is Lan Jie, who is a cancer survivor and wheelchair-bound due to polio.

As she is in her mid-70s and stuck at home due to a lack of transport, she creates handcrafted beaded keychains which Krayon sells.

Image Credit: Eksentrika

The second is Tya Gem who is a cancer survivor and a victim of a traumatic car accident which led to her developing bipolar disorder. 

She paints and creates handcrafted soaps and cleansing gels using natural ingredients from her plants at home.

In an interview with Eksentrika, Tya shared that she believes that the act of channelling her creative side has become the healing process that assisted her journey towards well being.

“Art is very therapeutic for me because it lets me shift focus away from pain and the negative things that happened in my life.”

Image Credit: Krayon

The third is Tantiyana Sutan Shahril (Yana) who is a self-taught and full-time artist. She works exclusively in the abstract genre and paints using acrylic, spray paint, plus other compelling mediums. 

Her current signature art is scripture art based on scriptures from the Quran. She has exhibited her works in several art shows. Her husband, a stroke survivor, is now her main muse and inspiration to carry on what she does best in life.

Image Credit: Krayon

Meanwhile, the fourth and final one is Jong Poh, who was born with non-verbal autism. After becoming inspired by video game characters and animated videos on YouTube, he learnt to draw and paint with Microsoft Paint. 

With a computer mouse and his creativity alone, he has drawn over one hundred cartoon characters, with Super Mario Bros being his all-time favourite. His work has also been printed on shirts for events.

Marketplace of creativity

On their process of listing products, Kimmy shared that it “depends on the type and value of the craft.” 

“For our disabled artisan who specialises in handcrafting beaded keychains, we buy the finished items upfront then resell it at our mark-up price. This helps her and the family reap the profits directly.” 

Meanwhile, for other artworks, Krayon either buys them upfront and merchandises at their own costs, or they can also merchandise first then share the profits with the artist at a 2% royalty for every item sold.

Image Credit: Krayon

Sometimes, it can be a combination of both models, and depends on the value of the artwork and the competitiveness of the marked-up product.

“There is no one-size-fits-all, considerations are made based on the value of the art, value of the merchandise, and artists’ capacity/ productivity/availability,” said Kimmy.

Painting the future

Kimmy shared that Krayon will be going on a rebranding exercise in the coming months as she looks to expand the platform’s outreach to even more communities all around Malaysia and even beyond.

“Our position remains to be a platform for home-based disadvantaged individuals. In the past two to three years, our core business has been in the handmade crafts by local crafters, using sustainable/zero wastage efforts.” 

Apart from selling the products on their website, Krayon also sells the various items on Etsy.

Image Credit: Krayon

She shared that efforts to bring in the disadvantaged are based on word-of-mouth referrals and event participation.

So, they plan to increase the number of events that they hold for the disadvantaged and this includes hosting more workshops with their HDIs, event merchandising, and more live events.

Although donations are not their primary objective, Kimmy shared that they had a big event last year where part of the proceeds were given to their autistic artist to further his personal development. 

Image Credit: Krayon

“So far, our marketing efforts are on a one-to-one basis. We definitely want to offer corporates the opportunity to commercialise Jong Poh’s artworks.”

In the sea of social enterprises that exist in Malaysia, Krayon’s uniqueness comes in the way it functions—providing skillful disabled individuals who might have never been identified in the first place with a space to showcase their work, and earn a living.

There are already several other social enterprises that typically serve disadvantaged individuals, whether they are B40s, single Orang Asli mothers, or special needs children.

In a way, it can then be said that Krayon is further filling the gap for another portion of the disadvantaged community to earn their own living.

  • Learn more about Krayon here.
  • You can read about more social enterprises we’ve covered here.

Featured Image Credit: Krayon

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

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