" RAN & NONG Creations is no ordinary business. There's no work politics or sales targets to be achieved here. "
Instead, it is a prime example of how one housewife's pastime, her insightful children and the Internet can spiral outwards across communities to touch other women and rejuvenate a craft that seems outdated - knitwear.
"It all started as a hobby," Nur Rahmah Ranong Abdullah said in the backroom of her workshop at Twin Tower Centre in Kuching.
With a hubby whose career requires the family to travel, she found herself in Capetown, South Africa, with nothing to do. After nine years in the hotel industry, she wasn't prepared to just let her mind go idle.
Although she didn't know how to knit or crochet, she found friends and discovered the art.
"Raw materials were so accessible there," she said.
The next chapter in her exodus would be Jakarta, Indonesia, the home of artistic traditions.
She worked on baby booties initially, drawing inspiration from her children.
"I didn't think anything of it at first but when my children saw them, they asked: Mum! Why don't you sell it online?"
They created a website for her with her youngest daughter, Nadin, as her model. Much like any good idea, a simple sale of baby booties to a woman in Mexico grew into creating adult-sized shawls, and then creating to order.
Before long, her hobby turned into a viable, personal business.
"Since then, knitting has blossomed into something more than just a passion," Ranong said.
From crocheting and knitting, she also adds other skills to the list like smocking and tatting - skills she uses today to train and teach others.
"It's an on-going project. We got to know more people and I began teaching working mothers, housewives and adults of all ages."
When she noticed the trend of mothers bringing their children with them to her centre, she got the inspiration to open up to children as well.
"My husband and I learned that knitting, especially for kids, not only has a calming effect but also a physiological effect that enhances your motor skills," she said.
With the coming school holidays, her centre is open for children.
"What we want are the skills we can produce from here for the European market. That's our long-term direction. The shop is a spin-off from that. I also create my own designs and am looking to trademark my creations - Ran & Nong Creations."
For people who come to her classes and want to do more, she is also open to teach them to become independent and self-reliant businesswomen in their own right.
"I'm tapping into rural areas through the Kementerian Kemajuan and aiming at people who may be less academic but strong in vocational skills."
Ranong is always open to inspiration, new ideas and making use of her hometown's natural resources to make truly Sarawakian products.
"We have a lot of natural products and resources. When we go back to Ba Kelalan, we look around and think about what else can be done. They have the skills but they don't have the guidance or the direction. Or they may think that there's no market for their skills."
What Ranong does then is sell their products on her website.
"With the e-kasih programme, the rural people can benefit from the government programme. We help to spearhead and provide them a platform through which to sell their products," she said, adding that her ultimate goal is for these craftswomen to become self-reliant in business.
"Hopefully from there, they can learn the tricks of the trade like marketing, packaging and how to export their products."
She also looks forward to imparting her skills.
"If I had to go somewhere, I'd like to have somebody else here to take up where I left off. The skills aren't mine alone."
Meanwhile, she is also looking at expanding into a beauty and spa academy.
While she is already accredited with Mustika Ratu certification in spa management, she does not have the accreditation to teach others yet.
Much like her home-handicraft business, her massage therapy is also inspired by her daily life. She learned to massage her daughter from babyhood, and now she's looking to turning her spa into an academy.
"It's more focused on holistic wellness. Currently I have created a Murut hot-stone massage which will help warm and loosen up tight muscles. Since we have so many raw materials here, in time, I will look into creating essential oils from our natural resources."
Eventually she hopes to teach her skills in spa management and basic massage therapy to others.
"I want to streamline and project a better image on how a spa should be run," she said, relating that her small scale beauty house is open exclusively for women.
Ranong's modules and syllabi are based on basic, intermediate and advanced.
"Each of the basic classes comprises four sessions of an hour each. Within each module, they will produce handmade scarves and whatever they produce we market and retail it out."
Even though they may be called 'classes', her modest boutique provides a relaxing environment where people can find new business opportunities, renewed friendship and kinship.
Ran & Nong Creations is open daily from 9am to 6pm.
Source: Borneo Post Online
Sunday, November 28, 2010