We talked to Lisa Omarali, co-founder of Planner Market BN (@PlannerMarketBN), owner of @PaperandPics and admin for the planner community account @PlannerAddictBrunei. She shared over email the importance of the planner community. We at Just Bruneians feel that pop-ups like Planner Market BN (PM) are vital to the creative economy, and actively give an outlet for local creativity through stickers, planners and more!

Lisa Omarali, co-founder of Planner Market BN. (Photos: Faiq Airuddin)

PB has been organizing pop-up vendor events since 2017, a community for local vendors to sell organizing stationery, crafting materials, stickers and related items. Since it was established it has gone from strength to strength, with Planner Market 8 held at Peak Performance with over 40 vendors. The Planner Market event outgrew its initial venue by attracting more vendors and members of the public at every pop-up. Then the pandemic struck earlier this year leaving a diary-shaped hole in their otherwise packed calendar. The stationery and planner community wasn’t hit as hard as others and they are looking to bounce back with events at the tail end of 2020. Look out for them!

[Interview was edited for clarity. For Part Two of the interview, visit JustBruneians.com]

Planner Market: Beginnings and expectations

Could you share how the Planner Market began? For the first event in 2017, was it the result of a smaller stationery and crafting community?

In 2017, another vendor (@createwithem) invited me to join an event at Mabohai Shopping Complex. It was a mixture of crafts, stationery and food vendors. After that she was inactive due to personal reasons, so I decided to organize markets via Mabohai, but I focused more and more on stationery vendors to position PM events as stationery-focused only. Planner Market is by stationery lovers for stationery lovers.

Tile Paintings sold at Planner Market

What were your expectations of the first-ever Planner Market in March 2017?

When we first started, a lot of visitors were the crowds who normally visit Toys “R” Us or Supasave and not necessarily because of our event. A lot of the early events were more of introductions and building the community.

You shared that the early vendor markets were about ‘building the community’. How important is that aspect now to the Planner Market? As big as it has gotten now, how do you keep a sense of community?

It still is community-first at its core. The community can get ideas from vendors’ personal or planner accounts, or from our community Instagram @PlannerAddictBrunei. We also have a Whatsapp group where vendors share troubleshooting tips (for crafting machines) or if other vendors have a certain item that customers asked about.

There is zero drama and we genuinely look forward to events, so we can socialize with each other in person on top of our interactions on Whatsapp.

On why the Planner Market is such a success

Vendors are quite happy with our events. PM is organized together with vendors’ preferences and availability. PM is actually where our own vendors socialise and purchase from each other, being stationery lovers themselves. We love to check out what’s new, support each other and generally be the first customers before the event officially starts.

Planner Market is community-first

On Planner Market 8 their largest pop-up event

The start of the year began with Planner Market 8, which I believe was your largest market. How did you plan it and what was the public reaction?

Planner Market 8 was a huge success. We started planning, making stock, and ordering items in October, as we knew things from the US would be delayed due to Black Friday/Christmas mails. In terms of crowds, it was basically non-stop until 6pm+ though unfortunately due to some vendors being from KB, they had to leave early. We make use of Instagram to promote and I believe some vendors were friends with some social influencers, including Aming Gunawan who was also one of our vendors.

Restrictions related to the COVID-19 Pandemic

We were more frustrated with mail problems rather than event restrictions, as most of us are owners of cubes or websites or sell via Instagram. Items were massively delayed or had to be cancelled and refunded. We had to resort to using premium mail carriers in order to ensure our items arrive on time, and this increased prices significantly.

Not having the PM events wasn’t as bad (as I think other industries might be affected like food/services). We know our products are seasonal, as during Puasa or Raya we will not be as active. We usually target January and August as our main big events.

You mentioned that some item prices have increased due to shipping, how have customers reacted to this change?

Yes, some shops explained and produced screenshots of DHL/FedEx tracking, as well as cancelled and refunded orders that never arrived. This way, customers can make their educated decision-making.

*Visit Lisa’s Paper and Pics online shop at shop.paperandpics.com. Part Two of the interview is up on JustBruneians.com.