While year end seasons are celebrative and festive, it’s also highly introspective and reflective. Many individuals start to set new goals for the year ahead: get healthier, make more money, improve grades, find a new relationship, etc.
For our Batik Boutique team, goals are good; they’re what get us from good to great, no doubt... But we believe—the real secret to long-lasting persevering growth lies in connecting with and finding your “Ikigai”. The popular term Ikigai (生き甲斐) compounds two Japanese words: iki (生き) meaning “alive” and gai meaning (甲斐) “values”. It means: “a reason for living” or “living with purpose”.
In this article, we want to reflect on what made (and continues to keep our business) “alive”. All the activities we’ve busied ourselves with over the past year wasn’t just about chasing goals; it was about focusing on endeavors that brought us a sense of joy, purpose and fulfilment. We believe that when more humans focus on their “Ikigai” rather than pursuing New Year’s Resolutions, that act in itself creates a paradigm shift that transforms the way you approach life, inside out.
Here’s reflecting on the momentous year that was 2020:
Retail Challenges: Powering On To Support Artisans
The Batik Boutique story and whole idea of our business began when our Founder, Amy, not only fell in love with the beautiful craft of Batik, but also with the artisans who help keep the heritage of batik alive. From a tiny community of 3 artisans, Batik Boutique has grown to support the livelihoods of 100 artisans. This is our ikigai and driving force.
Glocal e-Commerce: The Way Forward
2020 did not go easy on our business, as with most retailers amid the global pandemic. Our boutiques were closed for two long months. Business stalled when our production centre also had to be shut down during MCO, plus we had to face numerous logistical horrors. Despite these challenges, we are incredibly grateful to have still grown as a company, and continued to invest in building our online business, which continues to support our budding community of artisans.
Through thebatikboutique.com, we’ve shipped more Malaysian made batik products globally than ever before, including thousands of reusable face masks to individuals, families and corporate clients. We also donated 2,000 fabric face masks to low-income housing areas and refugees within Malaysia to help flatten the curve and do our part to care of one another.
Behind all these efforts are the seamstresses who make it possible: Batik Boutique funds a sewing centre which supports 10 women who come from the B40 segment and are mostly mothers. Note: Malaysians are categorised into three different income groups: Top 20% (T20), Middle 40% (M40), and Bottom 40% (B40). Our guiding mission is to provide them with skills training and economic opportunities so they can provide for their families.
Covid Response: Sewing Over 15,000 Pieces of PPE Gear for Frontliners
Never in a million years would we have thought that “sewing” could help save countless precious lives… then when Covid-19 hit. During the peak of the pandemic, there was a global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) including in Malaysia, which are essential for protecting medical frontliners’ exposure to the virus when treating patients.
Partnering with other social enterprises and corporates who made donations, we pivoted our business when it mattered most. We started using industrial cutting machines to cut through stacks of fabric at a go and sewing thousands of PPE apparels at rapid pace, to be delivered to hospitals in and around Kuala Lumpur. “Sewing” held new meaning to our seamstresses: knowing that each protective gear could save a life.
Treating Strangers As One Of Our Own
Shangri-la used the term to define their unique approach to hospitality, but the original term had biblical origins: “To treat a stranger as one of our own / To treat a foreigner the same as a native.” During MCO, our team supplied 400 weekly bags of groceries to refugees, on top of thousands of protective reusable face masks. Batik Boutique also supports 2 refugee children from Afghanistan in pursuing their education. It’s the little we can do that goes a long way towards helping communities who are far from home.
As we wrap up on an eventful 2020 and head into the next year with renewed optimism, we take joy in remembering our purpose: Beyond a retailer of batik products that’s loved by thousands of customers around the world, we’re a creator of job opportunities for batik artisans; a weaver of dreams for local Malaysian women and mothers, young and old, everywhere.
Covid-19 further taught us that—when the going gets tough, the tough gets sewing! Being heat pressed into tight corners only solidifies our fervour to do (and be) better. As we pause amid year-end holidays to remember our ikigai, we hope that you too will find time to recalibrate, and find meaning in your life, family, career, or business… Seasons greetings and warmest wishes for a purpose-led new year 2021 from our family to yours.
The Batik Boutique