Crafting a hopeful future: Sasibai Kimis, founder of Earth Heir, is a prime example of an entrepreneurial hero who's not afraid to push boundaries and reimagine success.
Ipoh-born Sasi moved to Kuala Lumpur when she was 6 years old. She studied in Singapore, the US and the UK, and lived in Africa before coming back to Malaysia about 7 years ago. Since then, she has been based in the capital city. Her background is in banking and non-profit development work.
Working in finance, Sasi started toying with the idea of making an impact on society. “I want to understand how to make a bigger difference in the lives of others,” she said.
Earth Heir is a Malaysian social enterprise founded on an appreciation for traditional artisans and contemporary design. Its vision is to preserve and celebrate craftsmanship by stewarding both people and nature as heirs of the earth.
The company produces gift packages and luxury handcrafted accessories with a focus on heritage preservation, sustaining the livelihoods of the communities it works with, and minimizing environmental impacts.
The engagement involves travelling to the artisans’ locations in order to not only understand the craft process but also learn about the challenges the artisans face.
The trips allow the Earth Heir stakeholders to assess the general livelihood conditions of the craftspeople to arrange for the best way to work with and help them.
Artisans affiliated with Earth Heir operate in workshops with good working conditions or in the comfort of their own homes. Enabling artisans to work in their villages helps reduce the outflow of young people into the cities, where they are more vulnerable to exploitation.
Sasi’s most vivid memory of her motivation that led to the formation of Earth Heir was of working in the rural villages of Kampong Thom in Cambodia in 2011.
“I saw the work of the artisans and how many of them were not able to make enough to continue in their craftsmanship trade, and I began to buy their pieces to sell to friends and family in Malaysia and in the US. It started as a hobby until I was encouraged by a mentor (Dato’ Dr Kim Tan, an impact investor) to start making it into a real business to develop sustainable change,” Sasi explained.
“Empowering artisans to earn a living wage locally will strengthen the community. The home environment is especially beneficial to mothers and fathers needing to care for children or elderly parents.
“For the few artisans we partner with who work in cities, we have visited each workshop to ensure good, safe working environments,” said Sasi.
Besides Cambodia, the project is also being carried out in Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Uzbekistan.
In Malaysia, the company has collaborated with a batik group based in Rawang, a Kenyah tribe member in Miri, embellishment experts and designers in Selangor, a social enterprise working with songket in Kuching, a bookbinding specialist in Kuala Lumpur, mengkuang weavers in Terengganu, the Mah Meri tribe in Selangor and many others.
Earth Heir is also aiming to ensure the preservation of craft-making by ensuring that young people carry on making an effort to learn the traditional skills and keep the art alive.
In addition to championing ethical consumption, the organization aspires to encourage other social entrepreneurs on their journey.
“I hope that Earth Heir might be an example for the creation of sustainable social enterprises to showcase that pursuing a triple bottom line approach is what makes the most business sense,” added Sasi.
Earth Heir sells various bags, purses, accessories, shawls and clothes that are made by artisans, underprivileged groups or disadvantaged persons. To buy its products online or to find out about the retail outlets selling the products, visit earthheir.com.
102, Lorong Mamanda 2, Ampang Point
68000 Ampang, Selangor
Tel: +6013-211 7994