Handy Garden: Tips for Small Businesses’ Online Operation

10 2015 | Issue 10
Text/Yuki Ieong and Lam Kuan Long

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“Internet platforms can make local brands more well-known, but it does not guarantee revenue,” said Aster Lam, person-in-charge of Handy Garden, a brand that customises precious metal jewelries for clients.


Handy Garden is a workshop that manufactures precious metals. From melting, casting, polishing to mosaic, it can take over ten hours to make a pure-silver ring.


Aster shares the process and background of the making of accessories for her clients on social media platforms. “Long-distance relationships, confessing of feelings, a gift for firstborn sons, etc., there is a unique story behind every piece of accessory,” she said.


It is easy to find shops that sell different handmade products on Facebook, as social media is the primary platform for small businesses in Macao to promote themselves. There are not many workshops that designs and customises precious metal in Macao, which is the special feature of Handy Garden. Aster is a full-time teacher and spends a lot of time to run her workshop after work. She discusses designs with clients, and hold classes for silverware making. Aster posts product shots and photos of the classes online, and the promotional effect is significant on the internet—one or two clients out of ten are from Hong Kong or Taiwan. But Aster confessed that it is very time consuming to reply to reservations online, discuss styles and explain costs. She has heard of subsidies that can be applied to launch a website, but she didn’t apply for it because she lacks online marketing experience and is not familiar with website operations.


Before starting her own workshop, Aster used to run a stall in the Taipa Flea Market, and foreigners were among her customers’ mix. She kept in touch with these foreign customers on the internet. It has been more than a year since she started her workshop, and her business has broken even and the reservation volume is satisfactory. Aster thought that dedicated websites are not applicable to Macao’s creative and culture consumers. “One of the reasons is that Macao people do not support local brands and think there is no consumption value in them. They think foreign brands are better, thus local creative and culture products are only supported mutually by those in the industry. Macao people are willing to buy products by designers from other countries, even if they are not famous.”


Aster added that online shopping is not yet very popular in Macao. Most consumers still wish to have a look on the product in person before making a decision. “Merely posting accessories photos online without actually instructing and producing them in person is not enough to retain clients,” she said. She thought that her workshop is able to go on only because precious metals have their own value, and it was successful to package them with clients’ real stories.


Aster is still relying solely on social media as promotion platform, and believes that good wine needs no bush—even if she is not part of any local designer group or organisation, her products will attract customers as long as she does a good job. Aster noted that there are plenty of internet platforms that unify designers in Hong Kong. Not only do they update new products by designers online, they also organise events like creative and cultural markets frequently, which allows designers to interact with clients directly and stimulate consumption. Macao’s creative and culture platforms still remain in the stage of merely providing information online. Aster said: “I will only consider developing my own website if I still have the ambition to step out of Macao in the future.”