Many small businesses, especially home-based micro brands, often set up shop at bazaars and weekend fairs to establish themselves or guage customer response for new products. But when public gatherings were banned for few months, artisans that rely on face-to-face interactions and tactile experiences lost a major avenue to conduct business.
For Poptron CEO Brian Johnson Lowe, a frequent bazaar patron, he struggled to keep track of the brands he liked as they wouldn’t always be there at every event or the arrangement of booths would defer from time to time. So, he decided to create an e-commerce platform solely for local start-ups to accelerate their growth and create more accessibility.
Launched on September 4 , Poptron — a portmanteau combining the words ‘pop-up’, ‘trust’ and ‘online’ — features a growing list of micro and emerging brands that sell a variety of products, from fashion and skincare to furniture and food. Unlike other e-commerce platforms, sellers are screened and required to undergo a stringent checking process to ensure legitimacy and trustworthiness.
Many of the featured brands share ethical, responsible and socially conscious aspirations, with some that give back to the community and showcase local heritage and culture.
At the bazaar, you'll see several highly Instagrammable showrooms displaying products from Poptron. Visitors can find established brands such as Ana Tomy and Summorie in the study, Bingka KL and Nourish and Nibbs in the pantry and Rotan Lot and Tanoti Craft in the living room. All the items have a QR code, which upon scanning, leads the user directly to the product page at Poptron’s website. A mobile app is still in the works but it will still take a few more months. In the meantime, here are a few emerging brands that are worth checking out at the bazaar or online.
Over the years, macramé artist Hanisah Johari and architectural designer Ahmad Syahmi’s fibre studio has evolved to become one of the best places in KL to source for textile art. The husband-and-wife team are often recommended to clients who have a specific string art design in mind or an event that sports a bohemian theme. They have also been invited to create whimsical installations for major events, including last year’s Urbanscapes and Good Vibes Festival. Hanisah uses traditional hand techniques, such as knotting, hooking and weaving to create her expressive and fluid works. If you’re looking for a décor piece to soften up your space, consider hanging up a flowy macramé from Condiment Strings.
Chocolate lovers would be delighted to know that Cocova’s cocoa products are free from artificial flavourings, preservatives and gluten. Founders Euniece Quek and Jinli Chan, who are avid chocoholics themselves, rounded up three regional producers — from Malaysia, Vietnam and India — that make the best single-origin cocoa and experimented with minimal processing to retain its natural antioxidants. Cocova offers chocolate drinks, chocolate buttons and chocolate-coated nuts, which are perfect to snack on when you need a pick-me-up.
Quirky is the probably the best word that describes this bath and oral care brand. Aside from the eccentric packaging, Mandi’s products are concocted with scents and flavours that will leave you feeling and smelling good. Co-founded by recording artist Elizabeth Tan, the brand seeks to transform daily, ordinary routines into enjoyable experiences. We are particularly intrigued by the vanilla, strawberry and mint toothpaste.
Penangite Jezicca Yee’s line of botanically-inspired products are formulated with plant-based ingredients that are better for your body and the environment. From smoothing lip salves and hydrating face oils to cleansing soap bars and relaxing soy candles, the products are handmade in a Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) facility and packaged in reusable or recyclable materials. Many of Rad Alchemist’s products are also multipurpose so you get more bang for your buck.
Driven by a passion for change, the folks at Fireworks established a production cycle that works with sustainable, ethical and eco-friendly processes. Major elements of their shoes are handmade by skilled artisans from the Chambhar community, who have been traditionally involved in leatherwork for centuries. With each pair, you preserve the artisans’ crafting legacy, support sustainable fashion and provide income and infrastructural opportunities to rural Indian communities.
Supported by CIMB, the event has social distancing measures in place and masks are mandatory. Customers are also encouraged to have cashless transactions (Bonus: CIMB e Credit Card holders get extra discounts and rewards).