There's more to The Asli Co. than beautiful potted succulents
The chic handmade pots, which sell at RM110 for a set of three including succulents, are made by stay-at-home mothers from the Orang Asli community in Serendah, Selangor.
What makes the social enterprise even more impressive is that the pots are made sustainably, from plastic cups that have been thrown away.
Founders Jason Wee and Lim Xin Yu had been building houses in Orang Asli villages with Epic for a decade when the idea for The Asli Co. occurred to them
"We had made an arrangement of succulents that people liked and asked us to replicate for them. The pot we used was RM60, so we thought about sourcing nice and cheap pots before realising we could make our own," Jason told SAYS.
"Then we thought that it's a win-win situation if we asked our Orang Asli friends to do it for a living," he said.
According to Jason, married women in Orang Asli villages have limited job opportunities as they need to be home to care for their children
Since it was founded in January 2019, The Asli Co. employs two Orang Asli stay-at-home mothers, Anisah and Ayu.
While their husbands make about RM800 to RM1,200 a month "if they're lucky," Jason revealed that the ladies can make up to RM500 a week from their own homes if there is a high demand.
While Jason and Xin Yu taught them the basics to making succulent pots, the women rely on their own creativity to cater to requests from customers
"They're very passionate and innovative. We tell them what their customers want, and they'll find ways to do it. If there's anything else they need to know, they'll learn on YouTube and figure it out," Jason said.
The founder shared that when they received an order for particularly large pots, the ladies experimented by dipping old rags in cement and placed them over buckets to dry.
For the most part, Ayu and Anisah make small succulent pots from materials littered around their village
In the early days of The Asli Co., the partners were frequent "dumpster divers".
Now, if the ladies cannot find enough cups to match the amount of orders, Jason asks local businesses if they have any used plastic cups to spare, which will then be brought for recycling.
"We use a lot of Tealive cups!" he told SAYS.
Local business owners also help the social enterprise by displaying the potted succulents at their shops.
In addition to helping Ayu and Anisah, the founders wanted to tackle the water supply issues faced by Orang Asli communities
"We've seen their water supply while working on the house-building projects with Epic. It wasn't clean," Jason said.
30% of The Asli Co.'s profits go to the Community Development Fund by Epic, which provides Orang Asli families with water filtration systems for clean water.
The Asli Co. are in the midst of developing kuih-themed soaps and macrame plant hangers to be sold in addition to the potted succulents
The partners also plan to find other entrepreneurs who are willing to teach the Orang Asli women their craft.
"We hope to work with skilled entrepreneurs who would like to collaborate and make an impact in fighting poverty," Jason said.
Once there is a higher demand for The Asli Co.'s products, they hope to one day reach 10,000 Orang Asli families throughout Malaysia.
If you're inspired to practice a more sustainable way of living, check out this zero waste store Petaling Jaya:
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