Syazwani Hj Rosli
Starting with less than BND200 for her business model, founder of handnfootcasting.bn Monica binti Jamil proved that small businesses can survive in the ever-challenging competitive environment if the passion is there.
“My passion in art started in secondary school and I’ve been doing it ever since, on and off. I’ve been involved with different kinds of things having to do with arts such as face painting, nail art, rock art, clay art and others. I’ve attended numerous pop up events in the past to sell my artistic crafts. It was such an amazing experience. I just love anything art-related,” she said.
In 2016, Monica was intrigued to learn more on the business principles needed to establish a successful venture, especially for start-ups. She joined Kolej International Graduate Studies (KIGS) and studied Business Administration as an undergraduate. All that she learnt helped her to strategise, prepare and plan her idea in venturing into something new and different – something that wasn’t being done.
The first thing that came to mind was setting a target market – babies and mothers –because this was the highest market around the world. That’s when handnfootcasting.bn started. Her idea was a business service that takes casting of babies’ and toddlers’ hands and feet and make them as a truly unique keepsake for parents to cherish.
“I’ve been thinking about it (casting) since the longest time. I actually didn’t know that such a service existed and wasn’t sure about it. I had a list of wants but had no idea how to turn it into the kind of business I wanted to run. I did a tremendous amount of research on it and shared my idea with my fiancé and family. They supported me fully with what I had been dreaming of,” she said.
Her fiancé and co-founder of handnfootcasting.bn Caleb Leong said that it was all new to him when Monica shared her idea because he was not into art but supported her all the way through. He helped her with her research before they managed start the business last year.
“At that time, I only had less than BND200 to start the business but I was determined to make it happen because this is what I have been dreaming of. I wanted this to be something that I love, to achieve my dream,” she said.
All material needed for the casting are flown in from overseas because they could not find any local suppliers as of now. Asked about the ingredients of the casting materials when used on babies’ sensitive skin, they responded that they use non-toxic materials and that they are safe to be used for babies.
The paste, Monica explained, is capable of producing fine details, down to creases in hands and finger nails and other minute parts, so it is best for the babies or toddlers to not move while their hands and feet are in the paste.
Learning to cast in the beginning was a bit daunting, they both said. It required a lot of practice, trial and error. They did it to their family members to learn more and improve their techniques and skills, and managed to improvise slowly as their business progressed.
Asked about the casting process, they said their business would require them to visit their clients’ houses to do moulding for the casting and it usually takes them less than half an hour. “The mould only takes under two minutes to set. What makes the process longer is keeping the baby or toddler to stay still and not move around much during the molding process.
“There are times they would move aggressively and break the mould. So we will have to do it all over again,” she said.
Not wanting to bear any losses, they began to strategise. Caleb said that the easiest time to take a cast is when the baby or child is asleep or relaxed. When they are awake, the only thing that they can do is to distract them while being moulded.
Monica shared that her favourite part of the job is meeting the clients and leaving as friends, meeting their babies and handing them the sculptures that have come together in the frame box.
“We hope that this can become our full time business in the future so that it can help us cover our expenses at times. Since we started, we have managed to save up and were able to fund our engagement ceremony recently. So basically our next target is to get married in the future,” they said.
Asked about her next step with her business, Monica said that her future plan is to get into face sculpting, hoping that she will be able to do so in the future.
Sharing tips and pointers, Caleb and Monica advised those who would like to start their own business to just start small and build up style and client base. “Never give up on finding and achieving your dreams,” added Monica.