I want her job: Szetoo from Stickerrific
Stickerrific owner Szetoo Weiwen tells us about her work, which involves handling beautiful stationery and having cats as colleagues
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Szetoo Weiwen and I run a little stationery and art-supplies store called Stickerrific in Jaya One, Petaling Jaya. I also teach art classes and design stationery for sale, besides being a full time momma of six adorable cats.
Tell us about your education and previous work experience.
It's very hard to define my career cause I did whatever came my way, but I studied Mass Communication at Tunku Abdul Rahman College, then spent most of my working life freelancing as a photographer and videographer (mainly weddings, travel and also food) and writer for travel, photography magazines and copywriting. I also ran photography workshops for a few brands and had an online blogshop selling clothes for two years. I was also a writer at a local online publication for six months before working with a Mediterranean restaurant doing their marketing and handling their catering for a year.
How did Stickerrific come about?
In 2013, my previous partner and I ran a photography centre, which we had to close down after a year because it didn't do too well. During this period, I sister gave me a traveller's notebook for my birthday, which I used to journal one of my trips. I used it as a sample in store for our photo scrapbooking service and people kept wanting to buy it! I spent whatever little I had saved at that time to purchase a little suitcase of products. Three years on, that little suitcase has evolved into the store you see today. My sister left her job last year to join me and together with two other colleagues and three cats – Luke, Leia and Chewie, all adopted from Jaya One – we make up Stickerrific.
Describe your typical work day.
Every morning I wake up at 7.59am (I am not kidding, the moment I get up and look at my phone that's what I see), reply any messages on Instagram and Facebook then I head down to the kitchen to feed my cats, do a little house cleaning and cook lunch. I get to the shop by 10am, feed our PR team (the store cats), start packing online orders and replying emails from the night before. At 11am we start cleaning the store, restocking products on the shelves and preparing the store for opening at noon. During opening hours we're busy serving customers, putting together materials for workshops, bar-coding and cataloguing products, creating samples and packing items. I also shoot photos of new products to post on our social media pages.
At 7pm, we close for the day and spend the next hour cleaning up and restocking the shelves. After a quick dinner, I pack online orders that came in during the day, cut stickers or work on commissioned works. I usually get home by 11pm, prep ingredients for cooking the next day, do some light reading before calling it a day.
What's challenging about your job?
The fact that we only have 24 hours in a day. There's just so much to do and never enough time. When you genuinely love what you do, the challenge is always figuring out how you can be better than yesterday.
What do you write in official forms that require you to name your occupation?
I don't like addressing myself as business owner because the reality is the business owns us, in a good way. I mostly write Retail Assistant, Purchaser or Teacher, it varies depending on what I've done most that week.
How do you tell people what you do, and how do they react?
I'd say "I work in retail, sell stationery." Their reaction: "Oh, like Popular is it?"
What do people often misunderstand about your job?
That we have a good life because we only open seven hours a day. People forget that we also run an online store so it's technically two shops that we're operating and there are only four of us here. We often end up being at the store up to 16 hours a day most days of the week.
How many people have you met who share the same job?
We've met many people who own retail businesses – art or otherwise – who visit our store. We also have many awesome consignors who create their own products for sale. It's nice to see that some of them end up quitting their day jobs to work on their craft full time. We hope to grow together because they've also taught us that if your dream job doesn't exist, sometimes you have to go out there and create it.
Would you recommend others to go down the same route?
I used to be a pessimist, afraid of change, speaking to people terrified me (years of freelancing resulted in severe social handicap), I found it difficult to articulate my feelings and thoughts, I cared too much and would feel hurt easily when faced with betrayal (so immature) and I was no risk taker. So in theory, someone with my characteristics would be doomed to fail. Yet here we are. We're still here. So yes, I believe that anyone can do what we do, but you have to know when to admit you're wrong and then you'll have the opportunity to make good.
Do you ever get bored?
There was a period where I found work repetitive and I was slowly becoming both jaded and depressed. There were days where I kept drowning myself in work just so I'd keep myself from wallowing in misery. I'd tell myself, "You have amazing customers, business is getting stable, why can't you just suck it up and be grateful?"
And then I realised it wasn't that I didn't love what I did, but that the very thing I loved was slowly eating me inside. One day I woke up and realised that if I didn't reply emails immediately, no one would kill me so I started taking things easy and slowing down my pace. I started challenging myself creatively by saying yes to opportunities. One of my favourite quotes is "Always do what you're afraid to do." In other words, say yes first, figure out later! When you spend all your time being negative, you miss out on so many open doors. One of my favourite things in the world is packing parcels for customers and I have a little ritual whereby I wish the recipients of these parcels all the luck and happiness in the world as I seal them up.
In an alternate universe, what would you be doing?
I would be writing, cooking and doing photography, which is what I was doing before Stickerrific. I also wanted to have a shelter for cats with a vegetarian café on the side – who knows, that might still be possible.