The petals of various flowers in red, yellow and pink hover suspended in translucent plastic moulded into various shapes to make key chains, necklaces and combs with a fresh look and design brought to you by Afina – a Cambodian woman who was brought up in Malaysia.
Afina, now 24, lived in Malaysia with her Cambodian parents after they got jobs there and relocated 23 years ago when Afina was 10 months old. She just moved back to Cambodia six years ago at the age of 18.
Her designs – featuring real flowers inside – have tugged on the heart strings of Afina’s customers, who are mostly teenage girls, young women or people buying gifts for them who want something that is cute, inexpensive and unique.
The “Floral craft” online shop first opened in October, 2021. Afina learned to make these items from one of her Malaysian friends who sells handmade craft items there and now supplies Afina with everything she needs from Malaysia.
“I’ve been in love with this kind of cute stuff since I was studying in Malaysia. The students in Malaysia really love this sentimental sort of thing but I haven’t seen as much of it in Cambodia. Then one day I came across one of my Malaysian friends who had posted on Facebook about selling these sweet designs. She said she can sell up to 100 of them per day.
“I was intrigued so I messaged her asking what exactly she’s got that is selling so well. She was nice about it and willing to share her business secrets with me and even teach me. I was happy to have the opportunity so I learned about it from her online.
“Then I remembered that my mom in Malaysia would be visiting me in Cambodia soon and I told my friend to send some of the materials with her so that I could test the waters to see if I could possibly make these items. Once I had the materials in my hands it was actually really easy so I started a business to sell this stuff online,” Afina says.
The process for making these eye-catching handmade items was explained in detail by Afina, but basically she has moulds in the shape of different items like combs and pendants – all sorts of things. She follows a recipe to make a substance that starts out as a liquid that can be poured into the moulds, but after about 12 hours it hardens and becomes clear and crystal-like. She adds the dried flowers into the moulds while it is still liquid and when it hardens they become frozen inside.
She has no samples in her stock – everything needs to be preordered. Every item is made to order and then wrapped and sent to the customer the next day, typically.
“I once got so many orders in a day that I didn’t sleep all night so I could finish them and send them out the next day, but I kept going and felt refreshed because I love what I’m doing and there aren’t very many people who are able to do something they love,” Afina says.
Her business is doing well so far and her customers have given her a lot of positive feedback. Some of them start out ordering a necklace and before long they’ve purchased one of every item she has moulds for and they start suggesting other things she could try to make, but she’d need to make or buy the moulds first.
Afina says that the support is encouraging and overwhelming and she’s excited to have happened upon a product that people seem to have real enthusiasm for.
“I’m a mother of two little children, so I’m quite busy, but all of the happy customers really motivate me to work harder. I hope very soon I will be able to release more designs like book covers, earrings and even a clock,” she says.
The items are unique in that they have a glass-like luster and clarity but you can make just about anything out of the versatile plastic-like stuff. Afina says she can make or buy a mould and then add-in any sort of decoration or object imaginable to create new products that are attractive and fun.
Her customers range in age between 15-35 years old and have mostly been Cambodians, but she also has had Indian and French customers as well.
Currently the shop only has key chains, hair combs and necklaces available at prices that range from $4-$8. She has a standard three-day wait for delivery now, having learned from her previous all-nighters to give herself some breathing room.
“I sometimes finish later or earlier, but I want to keep the three day wait for when I receive loads of orders all in one day so that I have enough time to get it all done,” she says.
The business has been doing quite well and now that she’s running out of materials, so she is trying to get her friends to send her more materials from Malaysia.
She says bright colours like red and pink are the ones most requested by patrons. And she wants to get more moulds for the items she has so she can make more of them at once, plus all kinds of new moulds for new items.
“With only four or five moulds now I can make up to 10 items per day. With more moulds I can make more and carry all sorts of different items,” says Afina.
Afina says she doesn’t consider any of the work difficult because she loves what she’s doing and it keeps her productive from day-to-day.
“If I were to talk about my challenges, I would say my two babies are my biggest challenge. But my business is doing quite alright, although of course there are problems that come with every path you walk down,” she says.
She says she isn’t worrying about making any future plans regarding her business aside from getting more moulds and more materials, but the opportunity to have other people’s shops stock her items would be a possible next step.
“We can’t just want to open the shop and then one opens up for us. It’s never that simple. Besides, I enjoy working at home now and selling things online so that I can also look after my two children. I’m pretty excited to see how much I can make doing that first,” she says.
For more information Floral Craft can be contacted via Facebook: @floralcraft.kh