Hands on Klay on scaling a home-based craft business in Singapore

8 min read
Ler Ka Leng

For Singapore-based Hands on Klay founder Samantha Chua, starting her own home-based craft business was a leap of faith.

Still, her hard work paid off. After running a successful home-based clay making craft business, she started her first retail outlet in 2020. Hands on Klay now runs a variety of polymer art clay making workshops to people of all ages.

Let's dive into Samantha's story to learn how she built a business out of her passion project!

Setting up her first home-based craft business

Hands On Klay began as a passion project. When looking for interesting activities to engage themselves in Singapore, Samantha and her husband decided to create their own activity.

"We strongly believe in empowering people, and it is always good to learn something to improve oneself, whether it be for additional source of income or passion."

In the midst of their pursuit, they discovered the benefits of clay making. Besides being a therapeutic craft, clay is a flexible medium, allowing creators to express their creativity in many ways. Through clay making, Samantha hopes to create a fun & relaxing environment, where people could unwind from the hustle and bustle.

Before starting Hands on Klay, Samantha was working in her dream job as a flight attendant with Singapore Airlines. Giving up her dream job to start her own business was a huge step, and the path hasn't always been the easiest. Despite knowing the challenges ahead, Samantha knew she was ready to scale her hobby into her livelihood.

In Nov 2018, Hands On Klay was officially launched and Samantha conducted its first ever polymer clay making workshop.

"This journey has been filled with lots of ups and downs and so much uncertainty, but it has definitely shaped me into a much stronger person."

At Hands on Klay, the experience of crafting matters most

Looking back at the very first workshop, Samantha recalled that the entire session took almost 6 hours! Most people are unable to spend that much time in crafting their art piece. With that, the team looked into refining the curriculum to make it less intensive. Soon after, demand for these classes started to increase.

In a crowded market where many brands are offering a variety of handmade crafts in Singapore, Hands on Klay is committed to delivering good workshop sessions. In these sessions, participants focus on the creation process.

For Samantha, Hands on Klay's focus on the experience of crafting is the key differentiating factor. Even as they started out as a home-based craft business, what truly mattered was bringing the craft of clay making to all their customers. They hope that through clay making, people are able to forge bonds, enjoy themselves with their loved ones and learn something new!

In the past few years, Hands on Klay has played host to many groups of people who created their first polymer clay accessory or art piece. For Samantha, it is gratifying to see people spending happy and quality time with their loved ones at a workshop. However, one memory stood out strongly.

For me, one of the most heart-warming encounter is when two fathers surprised their daughters with our workshop. They actually went through the whole session with their daughters, and the father’s end product was a gift for their wives. The thought was really sweet and memorable for us!

From their humble home studio to a retail outlet in the heart of Singapore's shopping district, Hands on Klay now prides itself as the only brand in Singapore to provide an integrated shopping and learning experience for their customers.

Start small: small steps add up, and the journey matters

Hands on Klay started as a home-based business, but Samantha had big plans for it at the onset. Referencing some of her favourite brands, she aspired to have a successful large business with lots of following.

However, looking back, Samantha realized the importance of managing expectations and charting her own journey. Piling on these expectations discouraged her and constantly reminded her that her business is small. As time went by, these thoughts became exhausting and took away the enjoyment of running her business.

Instead, she took small steps, taking it one step at a time. When there was an increase in demand for workshops, Samantha rented her first small studio at a co-working space. In 2020, after 2.5 years of hard work, Hands on Klay opened its first flagship retail store. Situated in Orchard Road, the heart of Singapore's shopping district, it was a convenient space for people to experience the joy of clay making.

From a home based craft business to their first store, Hands on Klay's journey was a triumphant moment for Samantha.

"It was a dream come true for me, as I could share this experience of polymer clay making with more people now!"

Samantha is now fully focused on charting her own journey with Hands on Klay. For her, it is important to enjoy the process, and make her own way instead of letting others tell her where should be.

Taking Hands on Klay online: building an online presence with GoDaddy

For Samantha, a website is the foundation of Hand on Klay's online presence. Given that Hands on Klay started out as a home based crafts business, it was essential that Singapore-based customers were able to find them online.

On top of that, handsonklay.com is the digital front door for the business, where people could find out more about the brand and classes that were being offered. With GoDaddy's Website Builder, Samantha was able to utilize the easy-to-use templates and dashboard to build her own website, and manage class bookings and enquiries easily.

As a lean team, Samantha was looking for a one-stop shop solution and decided to pick GoDaddy. For her, GoDaddy provides her with all the help and tools that she needs for Hands on Klay. Since then, it has been easy for her to manage her business online!

The future of Hands on Klay: from Singapore to beyond

During the pandemic, the business took a hit as many people cancelled or rescheduled classes due to circuit breaker. That did not deter Samantha. Her team countered this challenge quickly by launching DIY kits and conducting virtual workshops. Soon, they were seeing customers beyond the shores of Singapore and started receiving more group bookings from institutions. This has helped the business to grow to its current healthy stage.

Reflecting on her entrepreneurship journey, Samantha finds it to be an occasionally lonely one, filled with ups and downs. One of the most challenging moments she faced was opening Hands on Klay's first retail outlet in 2020. Embarking on that journey in the midst of the pandemic as a mother of a new born child, it was a period of struggle. However, as always, tough times don't last but tough people do!

You want to look back in the future, and be proud of each and every milestone of yours! Honestly, within all the struggles there’s such a beauty to it. Whatever you are working hard for – ultimately you know it’s worth it because it's something that you can call yours.

When asked if she has any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, Samantha encourages them to have perseverance. The journey takes time, and it is important to press on! On top of that, finding a mentor could help to make the process much easier.

While more clay making workshops have since popped up around Singapore, Samantha is looking ahead. She is constantly thinking of ways Hands on Klay can do better for their customers. Looking into the future, Samantha hopes to bring the enjoyment of clay making to more people and expand her business beyond Singapore.

Feeling inspired and want to get started on your website?

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Editor's Note: If you're just getting started on your online business and need some help, check out our resources below!