“Two things were defining moments for me: strangers purchasing my products, and checking my budget sheet and seeing that I had broken even,” said Yin Li about her 2-month old business, Pebbles + Herbs.
Simply put, Pebbles + Herbs is an online store on Instagram and Etsy selling handmade botanical accessories. Crafted by Yin Li, they’re made from fresh flowers and leaves that are sculpted in resin to become jewellery and keychains.
The creator at heart gets her validation from seeing her trinkets come to life while watching customers adore them. That, to her, is what makes the business worth running.
In fact, Yin Li left her full-time job during a global pandemic in pursuit of her craft. She told Vulcan Post, “Towards the end of a wild year in 2020, I decided to take a break and try out this project I had in mind.”
A One-Woman Show
Having obsessed over photography for a long time, when it came to finding a “proper job”, digital marketing fell into place for Yin Li. Over the past 5 years or so, she’s been a digital marketer for an arts festival and an international jewellery brand.
Having a foot in the creative industry, Yin Li’s no stranger to freelancing. So in addition to pursuing her photography dream, she worked on Pebbles + Herbs in the evenings and over the weekends.
I’m still pretty amazed that all my skill sets could come together for this venture. I create the products, photograph them, work on its branding, e-commerce shop listing, and marketing all by myself. Having said that, it’s still a never-ending journey to learn and explore.
Yin Li, founder of Pebbles + Herbs.
The trinkets can cost between RM32 for a pair of earrings to RM68 for a necklace. To determine its price range, she’d survey the market to find out how much consumers were willing to pay for similar products. Spreadsheets are her go-to when it comes to managing business expenses.
And conscientious expenditure has served her well. As mentioned earlier, Pebbles + Herbs managed to break even after a rough 2 months of existence.
That’s what’s given Yin Li the confidence to keep her business running, despite never having full control over how the products will turn out in the end.
A Natural At Her Craft
Wholly self-taught, her botanical trinkets are built on trial-and-error. This is especially so for the flower’s preservation.
By using fresh botanicals in her products, certain shrubs may look fine the moment they’re moulded in the resin, but may brown after a few weeks.
The struggle in working with fresh botanicals comes from how there’s always a chance of it changing and oxidising. It’s unlike buying a porcelain cup that’ll look the same even after 100 years, according to Yin Li.
“So I usually hold onto the pendants for about a week before photographing and listing them on my store as I don’t want customers to feel cheated,” she explained.
After crafting them for several months now, she’s learnt to filter and only pick foliages that dry aptly and lasts longer.
Initially, she’d pick up any stray flower, then stick them into its mould while still fresh. This wasn’t advisable as resin releases heat while curing and would “cook” the botanicals as they contain water in them.
Despite reading about this in her research, she went ahead anyway, curious to try it herself. A handful of flowers would survive and remain vibrant, while many didn’t.
Purchasing some silica gel was her oracle. When buried in the sand-like chemical, the fresh botanicals would dry out, allowing them to retain their colours.
Of course, it would be easier if Yin Li simply bought ready-made dried flowers online. But the novelty of Pebbles + Herbs came from being handmade with local plants sourced by its maker.
Crafting Them Batch By Batch
The flowers used are mostly gathered around her surroundings and from her little sky garden. Once in a while, fresh flowers are bought from florists.
The accessories are made in small batches of around 10 pieces each time. They’re then dried out for a day or two and sculpted in resin, which takes about 20 hours to harden.
Yin Li would only attach them onto a necklace or keychain when orders come in, so as to manage her inventory and stockpile.
Thus far, Pebbles + Herbs hasn’t received any bulk orders yet, but Yin Li is prepared to offer them on a pre-order basis to manage customers’ expectations when the time comes.
For now, she’s focused on marketing to reach a wider audience in her target market. On top of advertising on Facebook and Instagram, she’s looking to improve engagement and converting audiences into buyers.
In the long run, her priority is to gain a consistent income through sales from Pebbles + Herbs.
“I don’t plan to scale too big due to sustainability reasons as I wouldn’t be able to pick my own flowers then, but being able to put out a new batch of products and have them all sell out within a day or two would be nice,” she said.
Featured Image Credit: Yin Li, founder of Pebbles + Herbs