Izuana Meme Shop: Building a business around whimsical miniatures and merchandise

From the classic Good Morning towel-inspired pouch bag to the miniature Beras Wangi, Izuana Meme Shop’s unique collection is a quirky combination of humor, meme-culture references and everyday Bruneian life.

The Instagram-based business was founded by Siti Nor Izuana Ayob in October 2021 during the height of the pandemic.

When the 30-year-old first started, crafting was just a hobby, but as her anxiety and panic attacks around the pandemic increased, it became a way to relieve stress and combat her mental health.

According to Izuana, who is also a full-time cybersecurity awareness trainer, the Izuana Enterprise (informally known as meme shop) is a novelty gift or “joke” shop that sells items that reflect Bruneian culture.

“Some of the items are carefully handcrafted while some are imported but it does still celebrate our local culture and trend,” she said.

The creativepreneur would learn the different types of crafting techniques through social media platforms such as YouTube and TikTok serving as a source of inspiration for her.

She also shared that she loves the process of crafting because it is very relaxing and also therapeutic.

Talking about the inspiration behind the business, Izuana said that the idea came to her during the pandemic when she discovered the Japanese art of Chindōgu.

Chindōgu is a Japanese term that was originally coined by Kenji Kawakami which translates to “useless inventions” or “unusual tool,” from the words “chin”, meaning “unusual,” and “dōgu”.

“One of my inventions based on the Chindōgu method was the Sponge Ring. It was basically a portable sponge where you can bring around in case there is ever a dish-washing emergency,” she shared.

The Chindōgu-inspired products started out as a joke, but they soon grew from a series of “useless inventions” to customised gifts for friends and family.

“During the partial lockdown, I would then challenge myself to create at least one useless item per day and then would share the finished products to my friends as a joke,” she said.

According to Izuana, her first customised creation was the Money Box that was inspired by the Funko display box, making it look like a legitimate Funko Pop item at first glance

“The “Money Box” was also inspired by a Twitter post but I added the word “seringgit” to make it more relatable locally,” she said.

Money-making in miniature

Since establishing Izuana Meme Shop, the 30-year-old started experimenting with making miniature figurines out of recycled materials and clay churning out tiny and detailed recreations of local dishes. Her first miniature creation was the Mini Guni.

“My sister took a photo of the Mini Guni and uploaded it to her social media. it received positive responses up to the point that I couldn’t cater to the production and had to outsource it,” she shared.

Izuana would experiment with designs every day. From start to finish, it might take her hours or days, depending on the complexity of the designs.

The creativepreneur said that she enjoys the process of crafting miniatures from the rolling, and cutting to the polymer clay. She especially enjoys finding creative ways to use recycled items.

“Apart from buying materials, I also upcycle some items, for example, the liquid dripper from Newgene ART kit which I didn’t use but I feel bad throwing it away so I would use it for the gravy cup for my “jolibee” miniature,” she shared/

Image courtesy of Izuana Meme Shop

According to the creative entrepreneur, because of the intricate detail in the miniatures, each component takes a significant amount of time. One miniature piece, which Izuana said is her favorite, is the Mini Nasi Katok.

“The Mini Nasi Katok took a lot of my time. It is my personal favourite because it involves a lot of tools. For example, I have been afraid of using cutters my whole life, but ever since creating the nasi katok miniatures, that fear slowly fades,” she shared.

Prior to opening her business, she would share her creative journey and photos of her finished products on her social media.

Her hobby quickly grew into a budding business when Izuana noticed people were interested in her products after using social media to document her learning process.

The budding entrepreneur credits her friends and family for encouraging and supporting her to start the craft business.

“I managed to get some start-up money from my small circle of friends. They believed in me and wanted to be a part of the business. Not only that, but my cousin who has always been my inspiration when it comes to entrepreneurship also invested in the business,” she shared.

What started as a productive way to pass time slowly gained a sustainable following. Her dry humour and fun-loving products were getting attention.

With the success of her business, Izuana also managed to pay them all back from the sales she made from her meme-inspired products.

Following the growing number of followers and orders, the entrepreneur focuses on making various items that celebrate Brunei culture and identity, including kitchen magnet, clothing item, keychain and many more.

According to her, most of her products are inspired by humor and everyday Brunei life from the nostalgic Selipar Jamban to the yellow vaccination booklet to Jollibee Chickenjoy.

However, when asked about challenging aspects of the business, she said that although she enjoys the creative process, it is the administrative aspect she finds challenging.

“When the business starts getting serious, I am required to think about the menial tasks and paperwork. Doing the administrative stuff takes the fun out of it,” she shared.

As she had no background in business, the founder admits that she had a lot to learn.

“I had to constantly ask questions and do my own research as I am not familiar with finance and business administrative tasks. Eventually I realize it’s all about organizing and compartmentalizing my tasks. I would use a list making applications to help me sort my priorities,” she added.

Image courtesy of Izuana Meme Shop

Furthermore, Izuana Meme Shop also had its very first pop-up shop at SupaSave Mabohai last month.

Izuana shared that her favourite part of the pop-up event is that she gets to meet her customers face-to-face and interact with them.

“Based on my social media analytics, most of the people who “like” our crafts are either aged around 18-25. However, when I finally got to meet the customers who came to support us during the pop-up, most of them were slightly older,” she said.

Looking forward, she said she hopes to continue to keep creating more content for her Meme Shop and expanding its portfolio in fashion.

In the future, the local creativepreneur also hopes to open a brick-and-mortar souvenir store for customers to see the products up-close and pick directly.

“I hope to be the go-to souvenir shop for tourists and set up a physical joke shop for people to browse around the shop and have a good laugh,” she concluded.

Image courtesy of Izuana Meme Shop

This article was first published on 07 May 2022 in our Weekly Epaper issue 192 | More stories here


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