When Emilia Tan first tried her hand at making batik art in Redang Island many years ago, it was love at first sight.
“I was there with my classmates and I was fascinated by it. I started to find out more about batik,” she said.
She later enrolled in a textile and fashion design diploma course at the Malaysian Institute of Art and learned how to make batik.
Subsequently, she uploaded photos of her batik art online.
To her surprise, she received an invitation to hold a solo exhibition.
“I merely wanted to share my work with others, I didn’t expect to be invited to hold an exhibition.
“As I did not have enough batik art, I asked my classmates to help me out,” the 33-year-old said.
She collected a 30% commission from them.
The organisers were impressed with her work and they bought many of her designs.
This was how she found her “first pot of gold”.
“I discovered I could earn money this way and continued with what I did.”
Some may say she was lucky, but she begged to differ. She said: “Chance favours the prepared.”
The exhibition was a launching pad for her to participate in other exhibitions.
She credits Royal Selangor for being a driving force during her early days as an entrepreneur.
“Royal Selangor used batik for packaging and ordered my designs in bulk.”
Royal Selangor also held many themed exhibitions yearly and with Tan’s good rapport with the company, she was invited to set up a booth at their events.
With her experience as a student reporter for Sin Chew Daily, she utilised the media to promote her work.
Tan subsequently established My Batik magazine in 2009.
“At that time, not many knew about batik art and its culture. Hence, I wanted to provide an avenue to promote it and educate the public.
“At the same time, the revenue generated from advertisements also supplemented my income,” she said.
She later had the opportunity to operate a souvenir shop and café at the National Textile Museum in Kuala Lumpur.
At first, she thought it would be an honour to be part of the museum.
However, she later found out that the business was not lucrative.
The museum was not strategically located, parking fees were expensive, there were not many visitors and it was difficult to hire staff.
“After two years there, I felt lost,” she confessed.
She later got to know the Yayasan Seni land owner and Sen Heng Electric (KL) Sdn Bhd director Lim Kim Yew, who provided her valuable business advice.
“At first, I only rented part of Yayasan Seni as I did not dare to close my outlet at the museum.
“But after talking to Lim, who was one of my customers, he suggested that I choose the current venue over the museum,” she said.
Lim told her that it would be better for her to operate at Yayasan Seni as she would have direct contact with her customers.
She heeded his advice and closed the business at the museum. She relocated her outlet to 333, Persiaran Ritchie off Jalan Ritchie, Kuala Lumpur in 2012.
It subsequently became a one-stop batik center where batik is produced. The new outfit also has a café where people can enjoy their coffee.
“It also has ample parking space for those who are interested in stopping over to look at my products.”
She said the café is an added service.
“Some may just come for coffee but the increase in traffic also increases business opportunities,” she said.
On top of that, workshops were held for people to learn more about batik.
“I am not keen on (collaborating with tour agents to get) tourist groups, as commissions for tour guides are quite high.”
Tan said the number of tourists buying her batik was not encouraging and she could end up making a loss if she pays the tour guides to promote her place.
For more information, visit www.mybatik.com
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