BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – After launching in August 2020 as an online retailer, Kaimana, a lifestyle store dedicated to low-impact living, has opened its first storefront at the Mabohai Shopping Complex.
The shop stocks over 600 household, storage and personal care products, along with a range of food items and premium loose teas.
With the low-waste movement gaining popular momentum in Brunei over the past two years, the founders of Kaimana decided to make the leap from online sales and doing the occasional pop-up to opening a brick-and-mortar location.
“I was sensing a shift in how things were being done in Brunei in terms of businesses. I see a lot of young entrepreneurs setting up really exciting businesses… and with the ban on plastic bags at supermarkets I felt there was a renewed focus on sustainable living,” said Trisha Lai, who founded Kaimana along with her sister Tracy and cousin Tiffany.
“We really wanted to open a store because it could be a space to actually try and build community. We plan on working with a lot of other Brunei NGOs to host workshops around sustainability around low-waste living.”
Tiffany added that a physical store was always on the cards, but they moved up their timeline when their e-store received an enthusiastic response from customers.
“During the pop-ups, a lot of people said they have to feel the products, and they get the opportunity to talk to us to learn more about the product – online you don’t really have that same experience.”
Among the most popular items are the washable silicone Stasher bags, which offer an alternative to single-use zip-loc bags, and the loose-leaf teas, sold in reusable glass containers, which have become the anchor product for the store.
Tracy, who says she is the most passionate about Kaimana’s tea offerings, said consumers often don’t realise how much waste is involved in the ways teas are packaged and sold in supermarkets.
“A lot of tea bags actually have microplastics, they also have little staples in them and are individually packed in sachets, or it’s wrapped in plastic inside a box. Whereas for us we will give you that premium tea without the waste.”
As part of its low-waste ethos, Kaimana has adopted a refill business model for its teas and personal care products including shampoos, conditioners and body washes.
“Our focus is refillables,” said Trisha. “To be able to say you can avoid throwing away another plastic container, and that you can come to Kaimana and refill your products.”
“We want to educate consumers on the life cycle of these products and we would never bring in something that you use once and you dump it after. So we’re trying to go towards a circular economy instead of the current linear model of extract, use and then dump it into the landfill.”
Kaimana has also set up a corner for sustainably made Bruneian products including reusable diapers from Chubby Phat Kisses, toilet rolls made from recycled paper produced by EnEvo and all-natural beauty products by The Natural Bar.
The founders hope to expand their product offerings to include more Bruneian and Southeast Asian products in order to reduce the carbon footprint of importing products from further afield.
Tracy added that it was important to make the products accessible to the local market through affordable pricing.
“At the moment we’ve only touched the surface level of what we think Brunei needs,” said Tracy. “There are things that we want to bring in which a lot of people have never seen before.
“By having a physical store, customers can come in and do the refills and we can explain it to them – there’s always that more personal touch when you have a physical store.”