As consumers are becoming more vigilant in their shopping practices and the demand for an eco-friendly lifestyle continues to grow in the sultanate, Kaimana Living recently opened its second branch in the heart of Kuala Belait.
Following the success of its first store in Mabohai Shopping Complex in 2021, this year the low-waste store has expanded its presence with a second store located at Jalan Bunga Rambai in KB town marking a milestone in the growth of the homegrown business.
Founders Trish Lai and Tiffany Lai shared that the company’s goal in opening Kaimana at Kuala Belait was to help fill a void she saw in the community when it came to finding options for zero-waste lifestyle products that come in reusable and refillable packaging.
“We wanted to open in Kuala Belait because we saw an opportunity here to bring Kaimana as this type of shop doesn’t exist in the area. During the pandemic, we had many delivery requests to Seria and KB, so we knew we eventually wanted to open a physical store here,” Trish explained.
The second store stocks a similar variety of plastic-free, ethically sourced and responsibly packaged everyday products. as the Mabohai store.
“Our store in Mabohai is like our fancier location, while our KB store is more fresh and fun. We do carry all the same products in both locations, and soon Seria and KB customers can choose pickup and delivery options from our new KB branch for the same delivery prices as our Mabohai location in Bandar,” she added.
From Mersaktiba soap saver to Wilmax Jars, the shelves of the new store are lined with plastic-free essentials and sustainable alternatives for everyday goods that are good for the customers’ use as well as the environment.
Trish shared that the new store has more than 1000 eco-friendly products, with over 35 varieties of sustainable brands.
Every item at the store is designed to be reusable and low-waste to help customers replace everyday household disposables.
Moreover, at the heart of the store is its refill station, which offers a range of refillable liquids like shampoos and body care products.
Customers are encouraged to bring their own containers or containers bought in the store such as glass jars and bags, and refill them directly from the refill station.
Besides that, the new store also offers a wide variety of its signature premium loose-leaf tea and flavors — from the traditional Earl Grey to the Golden Apple Spice.
Not only that, but the company is also on a mission to lend support to small local green businesses.
The shop currently houses products from local independent makers who share the same green mindset such as The Natural Bar, Then There Were Two, tnc. candle studio and many more.
With a mission, the concept store aims to make green living accessible in the community by focusing on refillable products and introducing low to zero-waste products.
“We hope by opening another store in Kuala Belait we are able to raise more awareness with customers on how to shop for low waste, how refilling their products can be easy and cost-effective considering the quality of our products,” she said.
When asked why they chose the location, the cousin shared that Kuala Belait town is a prime location which is a popular place for budding businesses, making it an ideal site for the newly opened business.
“We happened to come across this location for rent, and seeing that the Beanery Cafe which is quite popular is located in the same building, and then Simply U is also here, it was a great place to open Kaimana as it has great foot traffic from the businesses in front,” she explained.
One small step for the environment, one giant leap for Kaimana
Kaimana is more than just a store. They want to help teach the community about living sustainably and how doing so can better the future for generations to come.
Beyond just selling low-waste products, the company also carries out various initiatives for the environment, such as inviting customers to bring their own containers to refill and raising awareness of the harmful effects of plastic pollution.
‘Kaimana’, which comes from the Hawaiian word meaning “the power of the sea”, reflects the collective vision of Trish Lai and Tiffany Lai. Each is driven by a personal goal to help make the world more viable for future generations.
Both Trish and Tiffany are passionate about helping the community to become plastic-free and eliminate single-use plastics.
In 2021, the cousins had the vision to bring more visibility to the concept of refill stores, as well as more eco-friendly and plastic-free products
The ecopreneurs first created Kaimana as an online sustainability store during the height of the pandemic. A few months later, the two ecopreneurs eventually opened their first physical low-waste concept store in Mabohai.
Since then, the community responses have been positive, Trish shared. She also said that the support they have received has been essential to the company’s growth.
Now, with a second location in Kuala Belait, she hopes more people will be interested in making mindful shopping a habit and encouraging a low-waste lifestyle.
“We learned a lot during all these changes from Covid. Kaimana opened our first store in Mabohai just before the first wave hit, and since then we have been constantly learning about shopping patterns, spending habits, what the market here is interested in, etc,” Trish said.
“We haven’t made any major changes, we’re just constantly evolving based on customer feedback and requests while trying to continue to stay true to our overall mission of waste reduction,” she added.
To persuade more people to eliminate waste pollution, Trish also underlined the importance of collaboration between different sectors so that they can expand the positive impact they want to have on the environment as well as the economy
“We want to really stress the importance of the involvement of the government, introducing laws and regulations that have a positive impact but also ensuring that the laws and regulations are supported by the appropriate infrastructure,” she said.
“For example, why do we not have a national waste management system? All organic and non-organic waste is mixed together and simply sent to a landfill. Brunei, despite having one of the smallest populations in Southeast Asia, we’re the highest producers of waste per person,” she further highlighted.
Like many green businesses, there are always challenges and Kaimana has been a great learning experience for the duo young ecopreneurs.
“The biggest challenges we face are how do we try to keep our prices reasonable in the midst of the rising costs of inflation and logistics? Our shipping costs in general since Covid began have shot up by 30 percent to 40 percent And Brunei generally is an expensive place to get products into since our market and volumes are small.
“Other challenges are also keeping our customer service levels to high standards, when we first started, the co-founders were in the shop helping customers a lot and now with our expansion and new team members, it will take a lot of training to get the customer service up to a level that we, the co-founders, are satisfied with. We’re confident we’ll get there eventually”
As for future plans, Kaimana still hopes to become the go-to store where people are looking for good quality, reusable and eco-conscious products.
In terms of social mission, Kaimana plans on conducting a Period Poverty study in Brunei, which according to the ecopreneur there is a lack of data regarding the cause.
“This is a big focus and project for us as one of the big reasons why we started Kaimana was to create a business that can reinvest back into our community and make positive change and impact,” Trish said.
The founders also hope to use Kaimana to evolve the conversation around low waste and sustainability in the future.
The store also plans on offering monthly workshops where they will be hosting talks about sustainability and how to adapt to a low-waste lifestyle.
“We also want to be able to do more fun learning type of in-person workshops that we haven’t been able to confidently do yet because of Covid. Like how to make cold process soap, natural lip balms, body butter, etc,” she said.
“A business like Kaimana is only one small solution but it’s definitely not enough in order to truly make a change in our current climate crisis. And it’s important to remember that the most vulnerable communities that actually produce the least amount of waste, are the ones that suffer the most from our climate crisis. So it’s our responsibility as the ones who have more privilege, to take the steps required when we can,” Trish said.
“We hope as our business grows, we can then grow our commitment to these types of projects that contribute to genuine change,” she concluded.
THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN