Interview with Bebello, Asia's New Handmade Marketplace
Bebello is a New Online Marketplace for Original Handmade Designers launching soon in Hong Kong. Tell us about Bebello. What inspired you to start it?
Having grown up in Australia, one of my favourite things to do on a weekend was to attend a local designer market and was always amazed by the delicious artisanal foods, beautiful handcrafted products from local designers and great entertainment on offer. What really inspired me was experiencing the excitement that I saw in all the artists and designers at these markets and to see what it meant to them to be doing what they love and to dedicate their life to what they were passionate about. They felt so much joy seeing people enjoy their creations, it was a happiness that's worth so much more than the money alone. Having lived in Hong Kong for the last few years, I found it hard to find the same types of products in one place, so I decided to combine my interest in design, technology and business to create an online marketplace that put together all the best local designers, and provide a way for people to discover original products in a easy and fun way and to also support passionate local designers in doing what they loved.
What's your personal background?
I have been in various technology roles across Asia and Europe helping large companies implement their enterprise technology systems. I was born and raised in Australia, and have spent some time in the UK and now call Hong Kong my new home. I am a passionate foodie and love to cook and try out new recipes at home. After having lived in Europe, I also learnt to appreciate what makes good design.
Who should be using your service? How much does it cost?
Designers in Asia who seek to reach out to an local and international community of admirers and fans. Customers who are seeking to shop for original and distinctive products or be inspired by workshops and acquiring new skills. For both customers and artists our platform is free to join, and artists only pay us a commission upon each successful transaction.
Tell us about the handcraft market in HK and in Asia.
There is certainly a growing amount of interest in handicrafts in Hong Kong. Certainly there is been a shift in the last few years, and what was a cottage industry made up of a small number of indie designers which setup their workshops in industrial buildings and community craft centres and sold their products at the occasional designer market, has now become a robust and more mainstream industry comprised of boutique designer stores, regular weekend markets, co-working spaces dedicated to crafting, and communities focused on promoting the culture of locally handmade products. Although, Hong Kong is a fairly new entrant to handicrafts, the industry overall is alot of room to grow and learn from other communities across Asia. More established handicraft communities exist in Taiwan, Japan and Korea in so called "centres of design" where consumers are more accustomed to buying from local designers and support the value of "supporting local" and this is much more engrained in local culture. Perhaps this comes from the philosophy in teaching children DIY at home and to nurture and encourage creativity from a young age. These other countries have a much more established handcraft ecosystem, with designers dedicating their lives to their craft and many designers even quit their day jobs to focus on their craft. This amount of passion and dedication means a pure focus on perfecting ones craft and ultimately is rewarded by customers coming back to buy again and paying the price for a higher quality, original and distinctive product.
What do you think of the startup scene in HK? What's good, what can be improved?
I think the HK startup scene is very exciting, dynamic and supportive environment which has a good mix of "east meets west" opportunities to collaborate with many internationally minded people. I like the fact that there are now many workshops, support groups and co-working spaces to help startups to grow, however I still think in some areas in areas like funding and financing it still remains a challenging area for startups to get past the so called "valley of death" with many having to prove solid traction before receiving any investment. Perhaps, as the local startup community gains more recognition as a result of increase in activity and successful exits from HK startups, the investor community will be more open to investing in teams and ideas in the early stages of development.
What are some HK handmade businesses you admire?
I really admire the innovativeness of hk handmade businesses to do so much with so little. I really like handmade businesses that reinvent old crafts and position them in new ways that make them more accessible. Take for example, EONIQ which is a company who wants to provide anyone with the ability to "build you own watch", a concept that usually involves thousands of dollars and a specialist watchmaker by your side, is now accessible to anyone. This is really an innovation I think and reinvents the old artform of watchmaking. Another artist, IBILITY who create crochet DIY boxsets, which allows anyone without any knowledge of crochet, to create these custom pieces that combine basic crochet skills with other materials into trendy and wearable DIY fashion accessories. These designers have put the magic back into DIY and made it accessible to people where these crafting skills have previously been difficult to acquire and required specialist skills.
What's next for Bebello?
Our team is working hard to launch our innovative new designer marketplace this year, and initially we will launch in Hong Kong, and then expand our service to other major centres of design across Asia. Our focus is to provide the best online platform for talented original designers in Asia to reach out and share their story and products with a global community of fans and to promote the vibrant original design culture in Asia around the world.
Interview with Alexander Wu, the founder of BeBello, a unique online designer marketplace providing a way to discover, shop and experience original products and workshops from across Asia. He is also the co-founder of the Hong Kong Handmade Community, an organization which is started to nurture and support talented designers to reach their dreams of running sustainable handmade businesses. He is passionate about the intersection of design, technology and business.