Special thanks to Fiona from Travelloot for this intimate interview with us. It was such a pleasure to be interviewed by Fiona who share the same interest and she’s also a Classiky household product lover! Do check out her curated blog and Instagram for more stories and inspirations!
When we think about the entrepreneurs that inspire us, the companies, and individuals that come to mind not only focus on creating imaginative goods and services but also support and foster their local communities. Here's a new column where business folks bring people together, and I think they deserve an appreciative round of applause.
We start off with Tabiyo Shop: A hidden gem for traveler’s notebook and designer’s stationery in the quiet town of Seremban! I implore you to add some of these quieter, lesser-known towns into your itinerary because then, and only then, will you have a true appreciation for Malaysia as a whole.
Paying a visit to Tabiyo Shop, they have beautiful things to satisfy that Stationery lover in you. For all the papers, notebooks, and pens that you will love to hoard. Where you don’t have to travel so far out to Japan or Taiwan to find one. Make a trip to Tabiyo’s store in Seremban instead!
If you need a caffeine fix, you can pull up a seat and enjoy a carefully crafted cup of Guatemala Hunapu coffee at 2nd Space, an extension of Tabiyo prepared by Yen Fong and Lixian using curated beans. Specialty coffee industry is a fascinating one! More often than not do we find people from various backgrounds working in cafes, simply because they fell in love with Third Wave Coffee. It is fun, artisanal, local, and hipster. It’s developmental and progressive and building actual relationships. You’ll return from your trip and sit down in a cafe and tell your friend "You know, I sampled this coffee on my recent trip. It’s a brilliant hand-drip coffee from 2nd Space!"
Non-Coffee drinkers are not to be left out and be rewarded with a secret drinks menu, experimenting with handcrafted drinks such as blueberry kombucha and pineapple cordial.
Take your time to browse through their shop display (things that accompany our everyday lifestyle spaces and provide an element of decoration) peppered with beautiful flower and nature arrangements. The clean, quiet white space is also a lovely one with sunshine through the windows. That’s what they are.
Fiona: Hi Yen Fong, why and when did you decide to start Tabiyo? Congrats on celebrating Tabiyo's 8th Anniversary this June!
Yen Fong: I started Tabiyo in the year 2012. During college time, having my own business is always in my plan. After working for others for almost 6 years, I have finally met my “soulmate” - Traveler’s Notebook. I’m always fascinated by paper products. Every year-end, I’d get excited to visit bookstores for my yearly planner, I have all kinds of planners at that time. I got to know Traveler’s Notebook (or journalling community) through a Taiwanese magazine. There wasn’t anyone who is selling that back then and it just so happens that my friend managed to get me a set during her trip to Japan. I fell in love immediately when the actual product was in my hands. But then, I was wondering, what if I run out of refill?
I guess everything happens for a reason. During that time, I found myself starting to fall into a comfort zone with my full-time job. I felt I needed a change and a new goal, hence, that’s how Tabiyo started - with only a few SKUs from Traveler’s Notebook.
Fiona: What had you done before Tabiyo? Where do you create Tabiyo and 2nd Space from? Does your home ground inspire you?
Yen Fong: I finished my Interior Design course in Singapore and continued to work there for a few years. Then I decided to head back to Malaysia for good in the year 2010. I’m glad that I made the decision to come back because I do miss my beautiful hometown, Seremban, and Malaysia is also a good place for new business start-ups.
Fiona: How would you describe Tabiyo?
Yen Fong: I would say Tabiyo changes my life! I would never imagine one day I would be doing things that I love, I admire, I adore, and a job that I’d want to live in it.
Fiona: How does Tabiyo and 2nd Space come together?
Yen Fong: We have a lot of customers and friends from all over Malaysia who’s willing to travel for hours just to visit us. I felt that besides “shopping” for stationery, we could offer them a space to hang-out after long hours of driving. Me and my husband love to do cafe hopping back then, and to try hand-drip coffee is always on our list, hence, we thought why not we have a small corner to serve hand-drip coffee so that our customers would stay longer with us? That’s how we started 2nd Space with only a hand grinder, an electric kettle, Hario v60 / smart dripper, and selected beans. After a few months, I met Lixian (who’s also Tabiyo’s customer), we started to chat and found out that we share the same interest and vision towards coffee and our hometown. Together with her and my husband, a proper 2nd “space” is born.
Fiona: Each brand stocked at Tabiyo focuses on an inspiring story - how do you choose your brands? I’m a fan of Classiky and I own a couple of Classiky household items!
Yen Fong: I’d say it is quite simple - things that I love, stories behind every brand, and most importantly, things that I would use for myself and my family!
Fiona: Which has been your most popular item?
Yen Fong: Our hero product - Traveler’s Notebook!
Fiona: Do you have a favourite item in the shop?
Yen Fong: Can I say ALL? If I need to choose, I will choose Traveler’s Notebook.
Fiona: What if a customer asks you: “I don’t like coffee, but all my friends want to hang out at coffee shops. What do I order?”
Yen Fong: Our blooming tea is mild for non-coffee drinkers and pretty as you watch it bloom! Or if you’re more adventurous, try our homemade kombucha. They’re healthy fermented drinks packed with probiotics. It’s fizzy and sweet, refreshing for a warm day.
Fiona: What are the best small-talk questions to ask a barista while waiting for your drink to be prepared?
Yen Fong: Ask us about coffee, drinks or Seremban in general! Or anything you’re curious about, really. Don’t be intimidated, we’re quite friendly and happy to share everything that we know.
Fiona: What insights do baristas get into customers based on their coffee orders?
Yen Fong: Since we only serve pour-over coffee, we recommend it to anyone who is willing to give our coffee a try! You can sometimes tell if someone is more adventurous based on their coffee order, as we do serve some uncommon coffees that are processed differently. But generally, we do not hold too many opinions, as our primary goal is to connect with people and try to give them the best experience we can offer with coffee.
Fiona: If you were to share any words of wisdom with readers looking to start a creative business - what would you say?
Yen Fong: To start a business is like a life-time investment, if you are selling things like me, do sell things that you’d use! However having said that, I still feel it is better to have a positive mindset, you know just in case the things you curate don’t sell well, you can always keep them for your own use! :)
Fiona: What's been your highlight so far? It’s been a fruitful relationship in pairing journaling with coffee!
Yen Fong: Being able to do journaling in a stationery shop, pairing it with a cup of coffee or tea (best with cakes), and good music makes the perfect combo ever! At times, using a cup & saucer from the Classiky collection! No perfect sets of dishware necessary, just an artful blend of what I like and have on hand. "The table is the source of a shop's atmosphere, if it's set with love and attention, the shop and cafe transmit that feeling to customers."
Fiona: Finally, which food or handcrafted drink creation inspires you the most? And what items on the menu will you recommend to our readers?
Yen Fong: Our coffee, kombucha, and handcrafted drinks are all the results of inspirations of people around us. The never-ending learning process that we will continue to explore and experiment with. They’re also great conversation starters to connect us with our customers. Try our coffee, as we rotate our bean selections from different roasters from time to time. It’s amazing how different beans grown on different soils, climate, and the roast by different roasters bring out so many combinations of flavors!
In this ever-evolving and competitive field, the shop keeper is often a jack of all trades - entrepreneur and small business owner, but all savvy in visual merchandising, marketing, design, logistics and social media. This creative shopkeeper delves into what brings Tabiyo its unique character. I now have some insight from the professionals who are creating a very meaningful environment.
Closing with the Tabiyo Story:
Tabiyo was created with a simple wish – to collect stories. After a fateful discovery of the Traveler's Notebook years ago, we fell in love with the idea of preserving memories in marks, stains, and folds.
Instead of holding onto an object’s flawlessness, we let it live as we do. Through 7 am train rides and 7 pm coffee runs, we take pride in the scars that decorate its skin. Through being lost in the city and losing itself in nature. Through falling, but never breaking. Every impression, from the unruly blots of ink to the raw leather gash is a part of its narrative. From a lifeless item, it becomes an artifact of experiences, both bitter and sweet. A life story.
Soon, Tabiyo grew into a collective of quality and designer stationery that serves to tell that story. To the explorers, the artists, and the romantics, our products allow them to chronicle their life beyond red and blue lines. Drawing inspiration from wabi-sabi – the concept of beauty in imperfection – we found a different way of expressing character. And with these enduring creations, everyone can have stories that last.
Thank you for reading, and we wish you a great journey with the Traveler's Notebook!
Tabiyo Shop and 2nd Space
294, Jalan Tan Sri Manickavasagam, Seremban City 70200
Open: 11am to 5pm (Weekends)
Online 24/7 (International Shipping available)
Can I be a Contributing Writer? Yes you can! Travel Loot Stories is still an extension of Fiona, but it's also a platform of contributing writers and entrepreneurs, so it's not just my story.
Drop Fiona an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your pictures and stories if you’re passionate about "you do what you love".