It Wasn't Easy Convincing My Parents That My Paper Business Had A Future

"This is not my full-time job, but I hope it will be very soon."

Cover image via Paper Project by RJ

What do you do when your parents don't believe in your career choices? For 23-year-old Rong Jie, he believes you should not give up.

Rong Jie, or just 'RJ' as he refers himself to, has always been passionate about arts and crafts.

However, RJ had to make a compromise when it came to his education path. He ended up studying Economics for his degree at a local university in Kuala Lumpur.

"Coming from a family that does not believe in a career in the arts field, I had to pursue a different major (economics) for my tertiary education which they strongly believe that that would help venture into a career that has a “guaranteed future”. Nevertheless, I will never give up on my passion for arts and crafts," RJ said.

RJ was relentless, being mindful and doing things that he knows matter to him

While he studiously pursues a degree in Economics, RJ has also been involved in cultural arts for the past three years, performing in several plays and cultural dances.

"I wouldn’t say that I am very artistic, but I do love art and believe that art is what shapes our society today," he said.

Despite the scepticism from his family members, RJ founded his own part-time business, specialising in making paper arts

In December 2015, RJ founded 'Paper Project by RJ', an online business that focuses on selling paper-made products such as flowers and pop-up cards.

One of the best-selling product in this venture are the paper flowers. RJ said each product is "100% handmade with love".

Though he did not receive support from his family for his venture initially, the conflicting ideals did not stop RJ from initiating something that he has never seriously thought about before.

However, it isn't all rosy for RJ as he has to deal with the stereotypes that continue to plague the Asian society

The "doctor-lawyer-accountant" trinity is considered to be the "Asian mould", where Asian parents expect their child to choose a career path that is considered to be more "stable and safe".

This cultural expectation has been well-documented and still persists until today, where arts-related studies are least favoured.

Despite the discouragement from his family member, RJ continued to pursue his own interests and passions on the sidelines. What's even more challenging for Malacca-born is the fact that his business has been labelled as a "feminine trade" by others.

"People around me doubted my work. Especially my dad! He assumes it to be a 'feminine' venture, but in time he realised the hard work and time taken that I've put in pursuing this passion of mine," RJ said.

While he has gained the support from his loved ones and friends now, RJ still has a long road ahead of him. Time constraint is one of the hardest parts of this journey.

"As a student with a rather hectic schedule, I had to hibernate our startup during the exam seasons or when the assignments are piling up! Fortunately, my girlfriend offered to help out and we tried to be as active as we can," he explained.

"We do our best to allocate our timing wisely, from hunting materials downright to applying final touches to our products. Introducing the existence of our products to people was not an easy task."

Still, the couple has invested much time and effort into promoting their brand and products, from participating in flea markets and bazaars to running ads on social media.

"It is indeed rewarding when people start to recognise our products," RJ said.

Who would have thought that a simple idea of creating his own paper flowers for his girlfriend would have blossomed into a proper business venture?

"My girlfriend loves flowers and I would often get her fresh flowers. But at some point, I thought that something was lacking as I did not make the flowers myself. So I went online and search for alternatives and eventually discovered this hidden gem! Besides, it is more economical," RJ said.

"I immediately fell in love with the concept and started making it for people. My friends complimented my work and suggested that it could be a new business venture. And here we are now!"

RJ has been doing this for almost a year and the Mother's Day Project back in May has been the most successful so far, where they received overwhelming responses and their products were sold out within days.

"We were extremely thrilled as we felt appreciated and loved the feedback from our customers. Many came back for our Father's Day card a month later. We have also received good response from our Valentine's Day and Graduation Day projects."

"This is not my full-time job, but I hope it will be very soon."

Image via BFM

"I am a paper art enthusiast and I hope that someday I will bring an impact towards the appreciation of art in Malaysia, which is important in building the nation's community and economic development," RJ said.

It has been a tough but fulfilling journey for RJ so far.

One of the best moments he remembered most since starting Paper Projects by RJ was when customers, those from the older generation, provided the team with feedback and words of encouragement. showing their support and appreciating their artwork.

"I enjoyed how the origami flowers can put a smile on someone's face! But mostly when they appreciate the handcraft and give us words of encouragement, it's a big motivation!"

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Previously on Malaysian City Life #39, Raymond Lim shared his thoughts and feelings about his experience with the tragic fire at Hospital Sultanah Aminah: