Patchariya Archvichai, HappyPills
“I studied Fashion Design at Bangkok University and worked during the summer break every year. At the end of my freshman year, I imported sunglasses from the US and sold them on Facebook. I spent a year in Florida as an exchange student in high school so I knew which brands I liked. I contacted those companies and asked for their wholesale prices. I put pictures and descriptions of those sunglasses on Facebook and collected pre-orders. I photographed my friends wearing various sunglasses and posted the pictures on Facebook. I made sure to take very nice pictures and write good captions. Once I got 40 pre-orders, I had 80 pairs of sunglasses shipped from the US. I bought 80 because some people don’t want to wait the 15 days to bring them over to Thailand. I sold about 400 sunglasses over a year then I stopped. That was my first business experience.”
“In my senior year I learned about fabric printing and my final project was to create 7 outfits for a student fashion show. As I was working with a factory to produce those outfits, I also started experimenting with fabric printing. Once I downloaded a picture of a hamburger from the internet, took it to the factory and printed it on fabric. I then stuffed it with polyester, stitched it and made my first pillow. I posted a picture on Instagram and my friends said that I should sell it because it looked good, like a real oversized hamburger. So I started giving it some serious thought. I wanted to create something that would make people happy but at the same time that could be used in real life, something that they could bring to the airport on long flights for example. And I wanted to have more designs. After eating a hamburger, people want to have dessert, I thought. So next I created a cupcake pillow. Then I added a few more designs until I had 70 pillows ready. I took pictures, wrote fun captions, posted them on Instagram and sold them all in one week.”
“People had never seen this kind of pillows before so they were very intrigued. I brought a pillow with me pretty much everywhere I went and people would stop me to ask where I had bought it. Sometimes I would just sell the pillows to them right there and then. To get more visibility, I found a way to get introduced to a local celebrity and posted pictures of him holding a few of my pillows. I was lucky because this person also owns a clothes business and wanted to have a personalized pillow for his store – a weed leaf. He ordered 100 pieces and that was my first wholesale order.”
“Until about 6 months ago, I made all pillows at home with the help of my mom and other family members. Also, my brother is an engineer and some of his construction workers helped me making pillows once they were done on the construction site. Now, I still buy the fabric myself but most of the work is done in factories. I use different factories for fabric printing and for assembling the pillows because I don’t want one single factory to know everything about producing my pillows from start to finish.”
“I sell about 600- 700 pillows per month between retail and wholesale operations. I sell online and on consignment at several malls in Bangkok and one retailer in Singapore. People often buy my pillows as gifts and want to see them before purchasing them so it’s hard to operate exclusively online. Instagram is my main platform, not so much Facebook anymore because it has changed its settings on who can see your posts and I don’t want to pay to boost them. Also, Instagram is better to reach potential customers beyond my network in Thailand. Anybody can see my posts and find me on Instagram, I just need to use the right hashtags. I also sell on Etsy and have my own website, which is used mainly by international clients. In the future, I would like to expand into home décor and open my own store.
“A lot of people have started copying my pillows and that’s been the biggest challenge for me. Usually, they make pillows of Thai food like ‘tom yum goong’ or ‘som tam’ pillows. I tried to differentiate my products by combining good, appealing pictures with a personalized story about the origin of each new design. For example, how I designed the Salmon pillow as I was reading and learning about Alaska. I think this has been a key factor and has brought me even customers that normally don’t really use pillows much but felt a connection through my stories. Also, I print with color imported from Japan that is non-toxic and can be used safely by small kids. I participated in a few TV shows, including the “100,000,000 Bath” show so some people know me from there and that of course helps.”