Late last year Tiny Tapir was contacted by a group of enthusiastic Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar students who were doing a blog project on Environmental Issues.
Here’s the interview that we had :
Tête-à-tête with Tiny Tapir
December 12, 2008 by ktjglobaldebates
BY SYARIFAH SYAHIRAH
I’ve recently spoken to one half of the dynamic duo behind Tiny Tapir, Li Chan. Tiny Tapir is a small scale environmental-friendly store situated in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. Don’t fret if you’re not in the area, because Tiny Tapir has an online based store that is now shipping overseas as well.
Tiny Tapir is the product of an idea initiated between two sisters. The idea came about when they were discussing how to improve upon their current consumption of products, and how they could reduce waste and lastly, how to return to a state of ’nature like’. These eventually shaped the 3 main aims of Tiny Tapir, which are:
- to promote Eco-friendly lifestyle changes everyone can easily incorporate into daily life
- to Support Women, by Providing a gateway for small businesses, work at home mothers and hand-crafters to sell their products
- to Raise Awareness of healthy alternatives to mainstream products and practices (e.g. through Natural Parenting techniques like Baby-wearing, Breast-feeding and Cooking for Toddlers)
Hence ,they have been researching and coming up with products that would have a better and minimal effect for the world in general – by using less toxic materials such as plastic an using more eco-friendly material like cloth instead.
Below is the interview I had with Li Chan.
Q. Of your 3 main aims, do you feel that you have accomplished them over these years?
A. We’ve only had Tiny Tapir up and running since 4/2008, previously it was a different animal.
We have accomplished the 3 main aims up to an extent since 4/2008. Hopefully every time we make a sale, we are enabling someone to act in a more eco-conscious manner. (down to even our recycled packaging)
We still support mainly women / family based businesses, even if it’s not in Malaysia. The economic slowdown has meant some of our plans had to be scaled back due to capital concerns, but it just means that the Malaysian initiative is a bit slower.
We sponsored the Malaysian Babywearers International Babywearing Meet here in KL and also contributed prizes to them. We also still hold the breastfeeding seminars, so the 3rd objective is also on track.
Q. Do you feel that your products have been much benefit for your potential buyers?
A. Hopefully yes! Although, you would have to ask my past buyers to see if they benefitted. I would not be in this business if I did not feel passionately about the benefit of the products we stock – either the benefit in terms of supporting the people behind the products or in the buyers using the products every day.
Q. What do you feel has been your biggest success from the establishment of Tiny Tapir?
A. That the Tiny Tapir name is becoming better known and that more people are becoming aware of the less damaging choices they have in their daily life. I’m especially proud of selling the cloth pads and menstrual cups!
Q. Why did you decide you use the tapir as your branding name and image?
A. The Tapir is quite unique in the world and it’s a well known Malaysian animal. I liked the alliteration of Tiny Tapir, as well as the look of the baby Tapir, so it all fit rather well. Also we’re all about taking Tiny steps to sustainable living because we recognize that radical change is difficult if not impossible to engender in people – we just want to plant the seed. The logo needed to be eye catching and yet simple to replicate – for example the logo looks great in just black and white which is more sustainable than printing many colors in promotional brochures.
Q. Do you have a specific group of people you target to buy your products or is generally everyone able to be involved?
A. I would love for everyone to be involved! We have a wide range of products to appeal to both the budget minded to those who are willing to pay more for better quality and more functions. We try to have fair trade and small business products in the store though, and that means higher cost and therefore price – sometimes in Malaysia local consumers are not willing to pay the premium needed for fair labor practices and quality. So it’s a daily experience explaining what exactly fair labor is and why, at the end of the day, it’s better to pay out the obvious cost now rather than suffer the consequences in the future. It’s a challenge every day to find products that are sustainable and fair while still being cheap.
Q. Finally, in support to our climate change petition, do you feel that you have produced a sufficient range of products that would help to contribute to combating climate change?
A. No, of course not. At the end of the day, products are not what is going to turn the tide against climate change – people’s attitudes are. The products are out there for everyone to use already, but it’s a question of using them in a way that reduces waste and conserves energy so that climate change can be slowed. In other words, there is no product that is going to solve the climate change problem – it’s all up to human action. We just want to perhaps nudge people to realize that by making being eco-conscious a bit more interesting and easy.
Be sure to check out their great blog – some really good pieces on the local environmental movement here in Malaysia.