JOHOR BARU, July 16 — Blessed with an entrepreneurial streak, Khairul Adzwan Khairullah started his home-based business krlbrands back in 2008.
The acronym stands for kraft paper, rustic theme and linen cloth — core materials and the concept behind the design of his handcrafted works.
Fast forward to present day and Khairul who works as a mechanical design engineer has a finger in every pie.
Under the krlbrands umbrella, there are various brands focusing on baby accessories, home decor items and even the building of brick-less homes!
He has also roped in his wife, Nurhidayah binti Abu Bakar (Anur) after their 2015 marriage. The enterprising couple juggle day jobs while krlbrands is a passion project for them.
Khairul who hails from Pontian, Johor started crafting for his personal use when he was still studying. His first foray saw him selling bags, pouches, poster designs and printed cards.
He also took the initiative to expand his own skills by learning how to do digital work such as designing logos and posters. In college, he was also a member of a multimedia crew; this led him to hone his skills in branding identity.
“The business started from reused materials such as old picture frames and extra pieces of cloth. When a few items were sold and profits were gained from the sales, I started using a small scale machine to make more designs and that was how krlframe started,” said Khairul.
Under krlframe, Khairul had various art frame designs with quotes, Harry Potter-inspired logos and even football team logos.
One of their popular designs was an assortment of letters from the board game Scrabble that meant you could spell out quotes or even your name. These were also translated into throw pillows.
After five years in the business, krlbrands moved online and focused on selling custom-made goods. “As long as we know how to do it and have the supplies and machine capability, we have no problem turning our customer’s imagination into reality,” he said.
Later Khairul realised that not all of his handcrafted goods were sellable. The enterprising man started to do market research and fine-tuned his product line to suit the market’s needs.
This included goods that are useful to people and fresh to the market. Upcycling as well as designing using new materials, Khairul came up with items such as candles in jars, pillows and home decor items under the krlcraft brand.
Another idea was a T-shirt line emblazoned with quotes for devoted followers. Marketed under krlmerch, this was also to reward their customers for supporting the brand.
“To appreciate our followers, especially regular customers, I created merchandise of our own. Not all our followers are craft lovers — some of them are pure supporters on social media who know the value of our creations,” said Khairul.
In addition, there is also a DIY line that includes home decoration projects. This includes a marble wall clock or even a leather plank shelf; both are easy and stylish ways to jazz up your home.
In 2015, the year that Khairul and Anur tied the knot, they started to notice that baby products were very popular. Even though the couple don’t have any children of their own, they decided to pursue this business opportunity.
“We started thelittlekrl because of the market trend at that time. We both also know how to sew the baby bibs,” said Anur who picked up her sewing skills from her mother-in-law.
After a year of R&D, they launched thelittlekrl that focuses on hand sewn baby accessories. Since babies tend to make a mess when they are eating, an essential piece is the baby bib.
The brand offers two versions to suit your baby’s personality. For a more feminine look, their Exclusive Bib exudes a delicate vintage look with lace details on the fringe.
They also offer the Bandana Bib, a multi-function accessory that not only can catch the baby’s drool but act as a fashionable add-on to any outfit.
With their perky prints, these bibs are easy to secure with snap-on buttons. You can also personalise the bibs with your baby’s name.
One of the key pieces in thelittlekrl’s collection is the baby barefoot sandals which were inspired by Australian home-based crafters. “We follow a lot of crafters around the world to see the trend, fashion directions and new inventions. In Malaysia, we are among the earliest crafters who made this.
“The intention is more towards fashion rather than purpose. It can be worn starting from toddlers to two-year-olds. It is made to match other baby accessories from head to toe,” said Khairul. The brand also carries handmade headbands with flowers.
Recently Khairul also branched out to building houses. Under krlmultibina, it is a collaborative project with his retired father who wanted to offer affordable homes.
“Materials, techniques are based from his experience working in the industry. We meet local clients, propose the home layout idea, and once agreed, we start hiring people on contract to build the home,” said Khairul.
Rather than bricks, ready made cement boards and steel frames are used to build the homes. According to Khairul, not many suppliers sell these products but he prefers this method since it can be easily installed.
“Firstly, concrete reinforced steel hollow vertical shafts are used as the base pillar. There must be two layers of cement boards — each wall will be filled with heat reflective and sound absorbing materials.
“We can still use the conventional windows and doors. It may sound like a DIY home but the cost of the cement boards is still worth more than hundreds of bricks, installation time and even labour costs,” said Khairul.
The couple also offers services like arranging a romantic candlelit dinner at a local restaurant, picnics and parties. Time is usually spent during their week nights and weekends to complete orders or reply to enquiries.
A timeline is also given to customers to ensure that they meet their orders in a timely fashion since each item needs to be planned ahead. “Luckily, we have good customers who understand our job and accept the timeline provided,” said Khairul.
When it comes to crafting, Khairul finds it rewarding to meet other like-minded individuals. He adds, “To be in the circle of crafters is interesting. You will see a lot of beautiful stuff, how they turn an unused material to unexpected products, how time should be appreciated and stuff like that.
“These crafters do not see profit as a core element but they really enjoy people who appreciate their work and cool stuff they made.” Being a veteran in the industry, he has also offered to help new entrepreneurs to get their footing in the business.
“We can share the supplies, what is the market’s taste and create a product using both ideas and expertise,” he said.
“People know us mostly on social media. Based on our insight information, Instagram is the most effective medium to show what we are doing, announce sales or producst we have and of course, ordering,” said Khairul.
Another avenue they use to promote their goods is Carousell, an online marketplace app that has a worldwide potential. Later this year, Khairul hopes to introduce his own curated space for his products.
Krlbrands’ best-selling items vary. A couple of years ago it was the Scrabble cushion pillow that saw customers from clinics, hotels and even famous bloggers.
Now, the popular items are the baby bibs and baby headbands from thelittlekrl. Another bestseller is the Malaysian map poster — minimalist black and white illustrated maps that show various cities in Malaysia.
The krlbrands products range from RM5 to RM100 while their services start from RM150 to RM500. If you want to know the pricing of krlmultibina, drop them a line to find out more.