Wedding Magazine

The Rise of a Wedding Stationery Empire

chiqweddings 2011.03.16 12:03:02
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A wedding invitation card may just be an invitation note to you, but when you’re about to choose a magnificent design to boast your wedding to the world, you’ll find there is so much more to wedding stationery design than you think. Chiq Weddings speaks to the founder of Sunflower International, an industry leader and pioneer in wedding stationery about the driving force behind Sunflower International’s precise, intricate and detailed workmanship.

Hailing from Teluk Intan, Perak, Jeffri Lim as a young boy had loved art. But coming from a traditional and academic family, it was unthinkable to take on anything artistic, so he became a medical professional. Upon graduation, he became a pharmacist and was earning the big bucks. It was a life most people dream about. However, that wasn’t fulfilling enough for Jeffri as he had still yearned to engage in something art-related. 

Jeffri had spent 15-years as a marketing pharmacist at a Fortune 500 multinational company. At the peak of his career, he decided to take a bold step and pursue his passion in art. Now, 18 years from when he first started designing cards, Jeffri’s empire has grown in size and recognition:

CW: What made you drop your five-figure salary to start a wedding stationery business?

JL: I wanted to do something of my own, something I enjoyed for a change; something I was passionate about. The way I founded Sunflower was kind of accidental. Somebody showed me a card and told me “this card has a turnover of 20 million”, but when I saw the card (made by a brand leader at the time) I thought wow, I can do much better than that. And I literally started tomorrow. 

I basically wanted to challenge all the norms in card-making. What people said couldn’t be done, I wanted to challenge it.

CW: What kind of greeting cards did you make out of the norm?

JL: People said it was crazy to make black greeting cards for Raya, so I became the first to do it. I also created the first Braille greeting cards in Malaysia for the blind, and made plenty of charity cards. We also created the two-in-one greeting cards for Kongsi Raya. Other greeting card vendors didn’t really like the idea because instead of having a customer buy two cards they’d only buy one so their sales volume dropped. But at that time I was a new player so I had nothing to lose!  

CW: Tell us more about the charity cards…

JL: Sunflower was quite innovative with the charity cards in a sense where the money received for the cards go straight to the charity concerned. The profits are paid directly to the charity, unlike some who pay their staff or company their share before donating the remains, so the money for charity always reaches the charities late. But charities need the money like, yesterday. Know what I mean?

CW: Is Sunflower involved in charities in a huge way?

JL: We believe in giving back to society. And of course we want to help them. We have so far chosen Dyslexia education as a beneficiary, Kiwanis, Down Syndrome Association, and other smaller charities. We’ve also given a lot to the national kidney foundation of Malaysia to help subsidize dialysis or help them in their education projects.  

CW: What other kinds of wedding stationery does Sunflower offer? 

JL: We have wedding favors, gift packaging designs, angpows and angpow boxes. Most recently, we have developed a range of eco friendly cards for those who prefer it. 

CW: Your success makes your products appear pricey. What is your price range like?

JL: Our stationeries are actually affordable. It really depends on the intricacy of the artwork a customer chooses to have. We also have seasonal offers and a mass-produced range for the more budget concerned customers. However, most of our customers opt to custom-make their wedding cards, and if the volume is high then the price isn’t so bad, but if it’s low volume then the cost divided and material wastage is higher. Some designs involve a lot of wastage. But most of the time, our customers are willing to spend to get the design they want. 

CW: What makes your customers decide to spend a bit more at Sunflower, for a design they want?

JL: Coming from a medical background, I have been trained to be very professional in my job. Similarly at Sunflower we instill professionalism in the way we develop our product and the way we treat our customers. We don’t copy other people’s designs and we don’t take shortcuts when it comes to the quality of the product. 

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As you can see from most of our designs, they are very elaborate; a lot of input is researched, and that costs a lot of money. The materials we use are also top of the range. To top it off we work very closely with our customers, and follow up with them a lot just to ensure we deliver the best results. 

CW: It sounds like a lot that goes into the preparation process! What’s the most expensive card ever created by Sunflower?

JL: Our most expensive wedding card was RM37.80, and the couple ordered 1500 cards! It was made from acrylic and Polypropylene and this was so unique! Nobody had ever used it before.It was for a very elaborate, multimillion-dollar wedding about 3 years ago… definitely one of the weddings of the year.

CW: Who are your major clientele?

JL: Well I have been so far fortunate to have very good clientele. When I began, most of them were KLSE companies. Apart from individuals who know what they want and appreciate our passion for design and quality, our clientele also included Datuks, Datins, ministers, politicians, royalty, singers from Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei , and of course our local talent, celebrity chefs, socialite families, basically glamorous people who would spare no expense for their weddings.  

CW: What is the personality of your clientele, on average?

JL: Most of our clients are English-speaking, educated and have been exposed to many other wedding ideas. It’s not a matter of money, but more of how much they have researched the wedding market. Most of our clients appreciate designs which are clean, unique, fine and detailed. Sunflower’s key tagline is dynamic, vibrant, and trendy. 

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CW: Do you think brides and grooms should be frugal when it comes to choosing wedding card designs?

JL: Frugality is good. Most Asian brides can be quite calculative when it comes to weddings. But I believe a bridal couple shouldn’t stinge too much. If you’re going to begin a life with each other, don’t start it by throwing in lousy things. A couple should know how important they are to each other, and people should know how important the wedding is to the couple. After all, you don’t get married everyday! This is a once-in-your-lifetime thing so you should do it with a bang, not bust.  As you go through your married years, you will go through ups and downs and recount how much this person was worth to you. 

You’ll remember how special your wedding day was and THIS is the sort of thing you look forward to reminiscing. Something like an invitation card could remind you of the intricacy and the steps you took to select the best, and you’ll remember the joy you felt selecting the right card and restaurant/hotel. Everything should be memorable! You definitely don’t want to say that you went to the Yellow Pages and chose the cheapest thing you could find. How romantic and exciting could that have been? You are what you put into your marriage. If you put in something so forgettable at the start, what does that reflect on your marriage?

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CW: Most people don’t see how important a wedding invitation card is. Tell us how important the role of a wedding card is…

JL: I believe that wedding invitation cards are one of the most important cards you’ll ever send out in your life. Birthday and other greeting cards are sent out all the time but you can only expect to send a wedding invitation card once (hopefully) in your life! People overlook this. You are communicating with your guests through your wedding invitation card. The design, intricacy and feel of the card will give your guests an idea of what your wedding ‘event’ will look like and what to expect. Your wedding card is like a marketing tool, you’re marketing your wedding. If there are a few big weddings around your wedding date and you want people to come to yours, surely you need a design or wedding card theme that pops! You need something to grab their attention and want to make it to your wedding! 

For more Sunflower designs visit their page on ChiqWeddings and book an appointment now!

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