Aery Goh has always been a fan of stationery. “When I was studying in Japan, I liked to collect premium stationery items.” When he returned to Malaysia, he found a gap in the market, where exclusive stationery was not readily available, and Noteism was born.
“We have some affordable and cheap stationery brands everyone is using, especially in school, but we don’t really have high-end ones. My intention is to introduce a Malaysian premium stationery brand that can enter the overseas market.”
Goh’s two core values for Noteism are innovation and eco-friendliness. Launched last August, its first product is stonebook, a notebook made from stone paper. The tree-free paper, consisting of carbon and hydrogen atoms, burns completely to water and carbon dioxide without releasing toxic gases. It has also been proven to be longer-lasting than traditional wood pulp paper, as it is resistant to water, oil and tearing.
“The technology itself is not new. It’s been around for more than 20 years, but stone paper hadn’t really been marketed in Malaysia as well as other countries. I could see its potential and the benefits it would bring to our environment. I felt I needed to introduce stone paper in our country. We don’t have to use wood — the usual material for making paper. Now, we have an alternative that can be found in abundance around us,” Goh says.
He believes it is not enough to just pledge to plant. “Although the industry uses papers certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, where trees are planted, grown and harvested in a responsible manner, it is still insufficient.”
During the research process, he had considered different types of eco-friendly papers for his brand. The raw materials used to make papers were widely available in China and Taiwan. “I spent a lot of time, money and effort researching and sourcing the materials from manufacturers in those two countries. I requested all the manufacturers in China from different provinces that I have good relationships with to deliver the samples to my house. My conclusion was that stone paper would be the best option to start with,” he says.
Goh also started a donation drive for medical frontliners as soon as he received feedback from friends who worked in the field about how convenient the books were for them. “They told me they used a lot of notebooks. Given the situation we are in right now, however, they have to throw away the books after they attend to patients in restricted areas to avoid the spread of the virus. Since our notebooks can be sanitised, a friend asked whether I was interested in donating the stonebooks to frontliners.”
A large volume from 1,000 stonebooks donated was distributed to the Ministry of Health Malaysia.
Another interesting product that Noteism has come up with is the Penciless. Goh used to think the idea of writing on paper using metal-tip pencils was ridiculous because the technology at the time was not as advanced as it is today. “To me, it was a gimmick because the darkness of the ink was lighter than HB. It was as if people had to scratch the paper in order to write.”
Yet, he saw the advantages of metal-tip pencils. One tip is equal to 100 pieces of regular wood pencils and this fact was in line with his vision to carry Noteism as an environmentally friendly and progressive brand. He contacted suppliers from around the world and managed to find one that produces metal tips as dark as HB. “We believe it is a significant breakthrough because not only do we want to be kind to the environment, but we also want to produce high-quality products that are acceptable to the general public.
“I redesigned the raw materials and was able to produce metal tips in a shade similar to HB, together with magnetic caps as the safety mechanism for the Penciless. Again, my intention was to reduce the cutting of trees, besides eliminating the hassle of sharpening a pencil.”
Noteism produces 1,000 stonebooks and 5,000 Penciless pencils in each production run. The brand has come a long way since its inception — it started with pre-orders from customers to reduce cost and avoid wastage, before proceeding to order in bulk upon welcoming more patrons. “I was not sure whether this would work, and the stonebooks were especially quite expensive for the Malaysian market.” Preparing the books in bulk then was a luxury the brand could not afford.
Running an enterprise is not something alien to Goh, as he is also managing other businesses such as a translation agency and an online education platform. The experienced businessman had all the preparation done 1½ months before launching Noteism. The name is a celebration of people who love notebooks, and Goh wants to provide a space for stationery lovers to explore their interest together.
Noteism has introduced more innovative products, including erasable pens, as well as journals and planners made of stone paper. The products are available at Kinokuniya in KLCC. “I want Noteism to be the leading eco-friendly stationery brand in Malaysia while also playing an important role in the international market,” he says.
This article first appeared on Feb 28, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.