A few years ago, Seng Bouyky, having trouble deciding about presents, asked her friend Lim Kanika about great gifts for colleagues. Their brainstorming led to Bouyky opting for local handmade products to showcase thoughtfulness and originality.
The two then embarked on a little mission where they sought to find local crafters. Their excursion led them to discover the many crafters who continue to preserve traditional skills and crafts in the Kingdom, providing a variety of beautiful and ingenious designs
for customers who are on the hunt for something that’s not factory-made or manufactured.
However, the lack of marketing skills has left the country’s local artisans struggling to compete. Noting the issue, Bouyky and Kanika were faced with one question: How can they revive
the waning presence of local handicrafts?
Finally, in February last year, the ladies took to digital marketing, launching a website and a social media page by which they could promote and sell the products. Thus, “Sepak” was born.
At present, Sepak is helping local communities by showcasing their carefully crafted products. Bouyky and Kanika say the platform was created to fit the modern shopping trend where people buy things and commodities with just a touch of the screen.
Thinking of every little detail, the online shop’s name had also gone through a series of brainstorming. Previously called “Ladybug Gifts”, the name was changed to a Cambodian word that connects more with the local artisans. Hence in October, the page was rebranded to “Sepak”, a name innovated from the Khmer word sepakam, which means “handicraft”.
“We are now working with approximately 30 groups of crafters to supply the demand for their products. Most of them, are women aged 30 and up from provinces including Siem Reap, Svay Rieng and Kampong Thom,” says Kanika.
While handicrafts sold in Sepak are pre-made, the shop also accepts orders for customised products. Their selection of products, as seen on their Facebook page and website, offers a wide range of handmade items – from home appurtenance to bags and accessories – that’s sure to stir the interest of any customer.
“Most of our customers are locals who wish to support the crafters. On average, we sell between 100 and 200 items a month, which is a good figure,” says Bouyky, noting that the demand continues to rise gradually despite the pandemic.
“Many local crafters have expressed their joy for having our platform as means to promote their business,” says Kanika.
She continues that with already over a year in operation, Sepak has managed to gather plenty of key takeaways in the market, identifying where the demand lies to support and strengthen the presence of local artisans and handicrafts.
“Many local crafters live in poverty and depend on their craftwork to survive, in addition to their agricultural jobs. The income generated from handmade products could help not only the local economic growth but also reduce the need for migration,” says Kanika.
“Honestly speaking, the quality of locally handmade products out there is great. Although their designing skill is, admittedly, still limited, they are capable of learning and adapting fast. Our craft partners have so far shown improvements in their designing skills and technique which makes us optimistic that they can soon expand their market to the international arena,” she says.
Despite their achievements, Bouyky and Kanika assure their support for local artisans does not end with the 30 groups they are currently partnered with. In fact, Sepak remains on the lookout for possible partnerships with other crafters in the Kingdom.
“We encourage them to continue their livelihood as it does promote traditional careers in our country,” says Bouyky.
“We are open to all interested local crafters to contact us should they wish to expand or find their market,” she adds.
Bouyky says Sepak prides a unique made-to-order option, as well as a request for personalised packaging befitting of special occasions.
Sepak provides retail and also wholesale products to all customers across the country, with the prices starting from $3. Door-to-door delivery is also available – an option which may be favoured now more than ever by customers who wish to stay in the confines of their homes.