A natural social enterprise that adorns Malaysian youth


Shaqira Ramli and her husband first started selling handmade tapestries from India at bazaars across western Malaysia, and later ran knitting workshops under their brand, Bohomys.

But because of the pandemic, their business that depended on personal interactions had to be stopped. To make matters worse, they lost almost RM20K on the day the first MCO was announced due to the cancellation of their workshops.

“The pandemic hit us hard and I got lost for a while. But I knew I had two children who needed me and I had to work hard for them, ”Shaqira recalled.

“It was devastating because that same year we decided on this full time job and we had to do a workshop for Langkawi Art Biennale. ”

Art has always been her calling

Before Bohomys, Shaqira was in the event industry, which she found really stressful and demanding. “I was pregnant with my first baby when I decided to leave work because I had really bad morning sickness and I couldn’t devote myself to work,” she recalled.

When she left the stress with a career in events, Shaqira felt it only made sense to go back to what she loved to do most – art. Although they first sold handmade works of art from others, Shaqira and her husband later found a niche they were passionate about in making natural colors for ties and teaching others about it.

Transmitting Wisdom Related to Fans / Picture of Merit: Bohomys

“From the beginning, it was always a show for two people. My husband supports hard work, and I am an artist. We are currently at a house in Putra Heights, Selangor. ”

“We were very active in the bazaars, especially in Penang. Sometime in 2017, my friend who is the organizer Local house in Penang asked if we could teach at the Butterworth Fringe Festival along with the Georgetown Festival. I said without hesitation that, ”Shaqira pointed out some memorable moments in her artistic career.

Good use of old connections

Bohomys ’pivot started in July 2020, and it started when Shaqira and her husband decided to start selling their natural binding dye as products. Prior to this, they only taught and sold sets of natural dyes.

What goes into their ready-made sets of natural colors / Picture of merit: Bohomys

Having previously worked in the event industry, Shaqira was aware that favoring events (small gifts given at events) usually has a short lifespan. They were cheap, but they also had little use before they were thrown away.

Knowing that they could offer something more significant to the event organizers, Syaqira and her husband began to approach them to present their natural binding products. They managed to order their first order (bags, corporate t-shirts and masks) shortly after the pivot and realized they would need more tailors.

Excerpts from their artistic process / Picture of merit: Bohomys

“When we started doing event services, we realized that while we were getting more orders, people were also losing jobs and sales. So we met with a local youth tailor and hired her to sew our products after we dyed our fabrics, ”Shaqira shared, adding that many young people like her have so much potential but lack training.

Following that engagement, Shaqira decided to launch what is still their mainstay today, a social enterprise for empowering and training young people to earn better through their Upskill, Create and Earn program which started in September 2020.

Raising youth through natural binding color

From their pivot, they added 2 people to the team through the program: the aforementioned tailor and another local. They have another person on the team who helps with the dyeing process, but is not actively involved in the apprenticeship program.

“We see ourselves as a bridge to discover markets that they never thought they could reach before. We want to prove that even small tailors can sell in the upper class markets, which actually happened during our Bazaar Audience in May, ”Shaqira explained to the Vulcan Post.

Syafiqah and Mahfuzah, youth under the apprenticeship of Bohomys / Image courtesy of: Bohomys

Among the plans they need to advance these young people are to export their jobs abroad, find ways they can work with MATRADE, as well as introduce them to larger markets in general.

That said, young people are not required to work with them full time and still run their tailoring small businesses.

“We are currently focusing on young people from a nearby urban village near our place. We believe that only those who want to change will be able to benefit the most from this project. So we have to prove to them that this works, ”Syaqira shared.

They failed to board more tailors due to MCO restrictions, but found that the two tailors recorded a 30% revenue growth from working with Bohomys and earning about 200-500 RM per month. However, the OKK reduced their income a bit.

Finding different colors of colors in nature / Image credited for making: Bohomys

Keeping her mood despite the fights

Since the first MCO, Shaqira has faced increased prices and sometimes could not procure some supplies, and shared that her fabric supplier could not open her shop for a short time.

Bringing natural colors into our everyday roles / Picture of merit: Bohomys

This limits them to being able to make only bags, T-shirts, masks and scarves in the meantime, but when their fabric supplier can work again, they are considering introducing more clothing.

“We are currently in negotiations with some parties who would like to support our program and open a community skills center in Kampung Kuala Sungai Bar, Puchong, where young people can learn skills that are not limited to tailoring, but many others at no cost, so this it helps them earn better right after the MCO, ”she shared their future plans.

Impression of the good old days / Picture of merit: Bohomys

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In times like these, shifting from a profit-based business to a social enterprise is not something you would always hear about, given how many SMEs are looking to maximize what little profit they can for now.

Although training and employing young people for their business to speed up production is one of the solutions to combat the pandemic, the disadvantage is still the personal constraint they face, given the nature of their business.

We don’t have secure solutions, but there may be ways Bohomys can digitize the program to reach more young people and find different ways to offer its customers their binding products.

  • You can learn more about Bohomys here.
  • You can read about more social enterprises that we have covered here.

Credits for featured paintings: Shaqira Ramli, founder of Bohomys

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