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Sep 25, 2013

Maszni and Her Beaded Shoes (Kasut Manek)


“The beads have to be painstakingly sewn by hand one bead at a time. A simple design takes about 4-6 days to complete, working 5 hours a day. A more complex design sometimes consumes a month of human labour.”
Category: News
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By Eddie Beck | September 25, 2013
Source: Free Malaysia Today

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Maszni Abdul Aziz got into making beaded shoes purely by accident. Quitting her job as the production clerk with Yodoshi Malleable (M) Sdn Bhd to care for her three young children, Maszni, 44, was looking for something to do that will generate income to help with family finances.

Living in Umbai, a small fishing village 20 km south of Malacca City, did not offer her with much economic opportunities. But then, she observed her Chinese neighbour was quietly making and selling beaded shoes and she decided to follow their example.

The rest, they say, is history.

That was 10 years ago. Starting off with RM100 capital to buy Japanese-made beads, Maszni modest Sparkle Beads Enterprise grew into a decent size company with four workers and a monthly production of between 8-10 shoes.

“Beaded shoes cannot be mass produced as much as I want them to be,” Maszni told FMT.

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“The beads have to be painstakingly sewn by hand one bead at a time. A simple design takes about 4-6 days to complete, working 5 hours a day. A more complex design sometimes consumes a month of human labour,” she admits. Sewing beads is a labour of love, really!

The rewards are handsome too. A pair of beaded shoes or in the Baba jargon kasut manik-manik retails for more than RM250 and a pair of complex-designed shoes can sell as high as RM800.

She started selling her shoes to friends and relatives and soon words of her finely-crafted shoes spread. Now she has gone international.

“Sales are picking up as I have done promotions in Singapore and Tokyo,” she said. In Tokyo a simple-designed pair sells for RM800. The Japanese are simply amazed their beads can be turned into a pair of delicately and intrinsically designed shoes.

Despite having only secondary education, no formal business training, no bank loans and no government handouts, Maszni have made it, so to speak. She has a flair of a salesman and good business acumen.

Not only she makes her own shoes, she also does her own advertising and promotion, making her an all-in-one self-made woman.

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Beside the money aspect of the business, Maszni ventures into this business because as she readily admits, “I want to keep the tradition of bead making alive in Malacca. This ancient tradecraft is slowing fading away as young people of today have no interest in it. They prefer to work in a factory where they can draw a monthly salary of RM900.”

Compare that to the remuneration a bead sewer gets – a meagre RM80 for a design that takes 4 days to complete. Sewing beads is painstaking, laborious, and daunting work.

Bead making is confined to the three Straits Settlement states of Penang, Malacca and Singapore. In Penang it is virtually non-existent and that leaves Malacca and Singapore. In Malacca bead making is thriving, mostly in family and home-based business.

Despite being pricey, beaded shoes are popular here in Malacca and Singapore, worn mostly by Nyonyas during festive occasions and weddings. A good pair of beaded shoes is a highly prized possession.

On her future plans, Maszni says plans to expand the production by going to Indonesia to get Indonesians sew beads there and bring them back home here to complete her final phase of production. But she has to sort out the intricacies of logistics first and that will take time.

In the meantime, she is exploring all avenues to widen her market. She has found her niche and she is happy to make it this far.