By THO XIN YI email@example.com
THE SHOPPER stopped in her tracks while walking past Qhatijah Mohd Said’s stall at the weekend bazaar at The Curve in Petaling Jaya recently.
“What are these?” she asked, referring to the colourful fabric pads laid out on a small table.
To explain better, Qhatijah lined a pair of pink underwear with one of the pads and buttoned the “wings” together, clearly showing their function.
“I have customers asking me if these are sleep masks, covers for fridge door handle and even insoles for shoes!” the 34-year-old Qhatijah said.
The mistake is forgivable, since the products — reusable sanitary pads — are not widely used in Malaysia.
Qhatijah, a mother of three, first came across the cloth pads about six years ago when she was looking for cloth diapers for her children on the Internet.
She wanted to know how a cloth diaper would feel for a baby, so she decided to give cloth pads a try.
Her experience with the cloth pads purchased from websites in the US led her to discover that they are not suitable for the tropical climate, and bamboo velour and bamboo fleece are better materials than synthetic fleece.
“Cloth pads allow menstrual blood to flow naturally. They smell less and you won’t feel sticky. Unlike disposable sanitary towels, cloth ones contain no absorbent gel,” Qhatijah said.
She tried making a cloth pad for herself after some research on the Internet. The prototype was hand-sewn because she did not know how to operate a sewing machine.
When she shared the item proudly on Facebook, it generated interest among her friends.
“I made more and gave them away, and then started to sell them when I realised there was a market for such products,” Qhatijah recalled.
With RM40,000 as capital, the accountant by profession registered the business and purchased the materials and equipment needed.
She learned to use her mum’s sewing machine and later invested in an industrial sewing machine to cope with the demand.
“I started with batik because the fabric gets softer after use, and it’s sturdy as well. I also use English cotton for the cuteness factor,” she said.
There is a waterproof layer in the pads to prevent leakage. Cleaning the pads is also not as tricky as many would have imagined.
“Rinse it under running water and it can be sent into the washing machine. To remove stains, use sodium bicardonate or dry it under the sun — it’s a natural bleach,” she said.
Qhatijah, who takes care of the accounts of a family business, works from home. That gives her the opportunity to produce the cloth pads after she has attended to all her children’s needs.
Her sales were initially restricted to Facebook and her blog until she rented a space at The Curve’s weekend bazaar last November.
A purple banner that reads “Bisky Bosky Cloth Pads” was hung above her stall.
The unique name, as Qhatijah pointed out, did not mean anything, but something that her son came up with randomly.
“He was jumping up and down in the car one day, saying that he had to catch ‘Bisky Bosky’.
“My husband and I thought it was his imaginary friend, but it turned out to be the light reflection off watches and jewellery on the car interior,” she shared.
Qhatijah’s customers are mostly mothers who, like herself, are eager to have a feel of a product similar to cloth diapers.
Her reusable pads come in four sizes — panty liners, light, regular and heavy — and they are priced between RM10 and RM35.
The pads are also sold wholesale and Qhatijah has around 50 buyers on her books.
“I sell 500 to 700 pieces of cloth pads a month, and each has a profit margin of 50%,” Qhatijah said.
Her ambition is to open a factory in the future to manufacture the cloth pads, while her ultimate goal is to make the Earth greener.
“I want to educate the public about cloth pads. Together, we need to reduce waste for the Earth.
“Disposable sanitary pads take up to 100 years to decompose, and they are not even comfortable to begin with,” she concluded.