Lockdown Lowdown: Somwaraporn Pichitpongchai on starting her accessories brand amidst a pandemic
As Bangkokians go through another round of lockdown, they have creatively adapted their homes to function as offices, gyms, art studios, and so much more. In our Lockdown Lowdown series, we talk to professionals from different areas of life to discuss how they are keeping on with their careers, what they are doing to stay sane during the new normal, and give us tips on how to live a better life at home.
It’s not an easy time for any small business right now, especially those deemed non-essential. But designer Somwaraporn ‘Soam’ Pichitpongchai knew that even in regular times, working as creative meant taking risks. One risk that certainly worked in her favour was launching sustainable accessories brand Muunsan amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
A culmination of her and her co-founder Pat ‘Sun’ Asawapirom’s shared love for gardening, nature, and home decoration, Muunsan is a lifestyle brand that goes beyond creating sustainable home accessories. At the heart of the brand is empowering women and local crafters to improve their living conditions while preserving their craft. We spoke to Soam recently where she shared her ups and downs of running an accessories brand during a pandemic. She also shares her vision of how she sees the community-focused brand transpiring into a social enterprise.
What do your days look like during this lockdown? Talk us a little through your daily routine during this time.
My daily routine is pretty simple. I put myself to work improving my home office. Deep cleaning is a necessary part of my routine because it makes me feel refreshed. I also like gardening. It’s soothing and lets me get in touch with nature more.
I’ve also been practicing the 8 precepts at home. As a Buddhist, to gain insights about yourself and gain inner strength towards unexpected things that are happening right now is necessary to me. I am considering volunteering to deliver food at the COVID camps like I did during the last lockdown in 2020. But since I am still not vaccinated, I’ll have to reconsider this.
How has COVID-19 and the lockdown affected your work?
To be honest, it hasn’t affected me much. My business partner and I started the brand during the previous lockdown in 2020. Since then, we have carefully prepared all the work processes, keeping in mind the possibility of living with this pandemic for a while. My guess is there might be another lockdown anytime soon.
Where do you find inspiration these days?
As a curious person, everything around me inspires me, especially from talking to people in my inner circle. I don’t really read magazines or watch TV. I found inspiration through books on miscellaneous topics. When I designed my products, I sat in cafes and watched how people used their bags. Setting a goal for each design and its efficiency for a specific usage is what inspires my work.
How do you stay motivated?
It may sound clichéd, but my customers keep me motivated. They are my cheerleaders. Whenever they give me positive responses or pick up on the tiniest details that I have delicately added to my designs, I feel amazing. My business partner also motivates me quietly through her stability, which in turn motivates me to stay focused. Without her, I wouldn’t have come this far.
Have you picked up any new hobbies or skills? What are they?
Coding! I did that for my brand’s online store. I am fond of attaining new skills. Whatever I don’t know I need to know. It doesn’t matter whether or not that is my interest. Curiosity helps me expand my horizons.
What is the first thing you will do once things go back to “normal”?
Dating. Wouldn’t it be nice to receive a hug and enjoy a nice dinner somewhere outside Bangkok? That’s the first thing that came to my mind.
What are your future plans for Muunsan?
I would like to increase the number of donations that come out of our monthly sales. I would love to do it for the poor, the hospitals, the elderly homes, and animal shelters one province at a time and hopefully in other countries. That was our objective for starting Muunsan, and we have to accomplish it. At the moment, we’re still a small business but we do what we can for our community first.
Lastly, a word of advice for other artists and small business owners during this time:
Sometimes it’s better to let go of the control and try to set a goal for the day instead of a bigger goal. Going slow and steady is my motto. Focus on the positives, because nothing is permanent. Frustration comes and goes.
I’m a true believer that if today is not okay, tomorrow will be better. If you can keep up the good work, you will earn recognition eventually. It’s just a matter of time. Additionally, do as much as you can without pressuring yourself. Be merciful toward those who are less fortunate and be grateful for your ability to pursue your passions. Give back to the community, and lastly, reflect on your future goals in life.