The high-end stationery market has been dominated by Japanese and European companies. When I was working in a premium stationery store, the products sold mostly came from Japanese brands.
Their popularity stemmed from how even a product as simple as a notebook was built exceptionally, with pages that are bleed and smudge-proof, valuable qualities for those who take notes with gel pens.
So, when I came across Noteism, a company that claims to check those boxes through its stone paper notebooks, I was surprised to learn it was created by a Malaysian brand.
Furthermore, its Stonebook Collection is said to be waterproof, tear-resistant, bleed-proof, and more, offering the enthusiastic journaling community benefits that were too good to ignore. Is it any wonder then that Noteism was able to amass a six-figure revenue just two weeks after launching its first product on August 31, 2021 (real patriotic, by the way)?
Inspired by Japanese stationery
Noteism is a brand under a translation and copywriting service, Translife Group that was founded by Aery Goh. He personally has a deep passion for premium stationery after studying and working in Japan for over 6 years.
When he returned, he realised that Malaysia doesn’t have a popular stationery product as Japan does with brands like Pilot and Zebra. He thought it’d be worth building one with a mission to grow it into a well-known international brand someday.
The idea to create a notebook that was also waterproof came about as water damage to notebooks from leaks, spills, and rain are common problems he believes most have faced.
Once he learnt about the technology of stone paper, he was convinced and made it the main material for his product.
Building upon past experiences
Other benefits of stone paper include its friction-free pages that allow pens to glide across the pages smoothly, and that prevents ink from bleeding through.
This works because there is no grain direction on stone paper, unlike paper made from trees. It also makes stone paper pages tear-proof.
To add, stone paper is said to be environmentally friendlier than conventional paper because it doesn’t use plant fibres as raw material, which means there are no trees cut.
“[Stone paper] isn’t a new technology, [as] it’s existed for over 20 years,” Aery told Vulcan Post. “But unfortunately up to today, many people are still not aware and not adopting the technology widely.”
For those curious: Stone paper is manufactured from calcium carbonate bonded with high-density polyethylene resin, giving it a strong and paper-like quality. It is also referred to as bio-plastic paper, mineral paper, or rich mineral paper.
A reason for its absence can be attributed to its high manufacturing cost. Producing stone paper is also more complicated according to Aery, who decided to take on the challenge to create a version of his own.
To kickstart the project in the midst of MCO 3.0, Aery purchased over a thousand types of papers and various notebook materials online.
With no formal experience in designing premium notebooks, he made multiple prototypes, relying on his recollections of good quality stationery he’s previously used.
Since he had a goal to launch a product in the shortest amount of time, he worked from dusk till dawn designing and looking for a factory that could produce the prototypes for him.
After a month and hundreds of prototypes, Aery was able to launch his first finished product, the double-ring Stonebook.
Offering premium experiences at affordable prices
As mentioned, one of the bigger challenges in launching the brand was the expensive manufacturing costs, which Noteism currently outsources to overseas brands.
“The general Malaysian consumer will not be able to afford [the notebook] if we were to kickstart with ready-stocks for sale. Hence, we opted for a pre-order model to bring down the cost,” explained Aery.
“I bootstrapped [Noteism] with a few thousand Ringgit because I engineered the business model in such a way where the sales revenue generated from pre-orders would be sufficient to fund our initial production cost, marketing, and also the next stage research and development.”
It can be said that this strategy was the catalyst for Noteism’s swift takeoff. Even for its newest product, Penciless—a leadless pencil made of graphite—the brand was able to sell all its 3,000 units within a fortnight.
Aery decided to initially price the double-ring Stonebook at RM39.90 as he understood that Malaysians wouldn’t spend more than RM50 to buy a quality notebook. Today though, the double-ring Stonebook costs RM49.90, but is sold at its original price while on sale.
Compared to other offerings for similar products online, you’d find that Noteism’s prices are actually the most affordable. This is because there aren’t any other Malaysian businesses that we could find offering stone paper notebooks.
Hence, it can be said that Noteism is pioneering such stationery products on our shores, making them more accessible to those who still enjoy using stationery. With minimalist designs, Noteism’s stationery caters to professionals and students alike.
Appealing to international markets
On average, Noteism is able to produce up to 1,000 to 5,000 notebooks a day, depending on its Stonebook’s design which comes in four variations. Aery reported that the company is already selling over a thousand notebooks per month.
In the next three years, he envisions that Noteism will expand its product line to create more sustainable stationery and lifestyle gadget products. The team will also work on upgrading their existing product designs.
Seeing that its products are already getting orders from customers overseas, building a strong international presence could be in the bag for Noteism.
“To expand overseas effectively, [an] online channel alone is insufficient. Hence, we will look for potential distributors in different regions,” added Aery.
Featured Image Credit: Aery Goh, founder of Noteism