MEET: Joel Leong of Haystakt

Joel at Haystakt’s popup store within retail store Temporium, which sold ornamental paper collars and paperweights from Desinere.

Joel Leong is one of the founders of the online marketplace for artisan products, Haystakt. Joel and his buddy, Melvin Teong, started Haystakt in 2012, as they noticed a significant growth in the number of independent craftsmen (makers) in Singapore.

“Initially, we just wanted to provide a space for local makers,” Joel says, “but we evolved as we went along.” Now, Haystakt.com houses 100 independent makers (mainly from Asia, but also from Europe and the US) and attracts 40,000 unique visitors a month.

“We’re looking for stories,” comments Joel on how the site is curated. “We like makers who engage in small batch production not as a marketing gimmick, but so they can control the quality and craftsmanship of each item.” He singles out The Workshop Gallery by Singapore-Spain design collective Outofstock, which produces only 20 of its copper vases at a time because it chooses to work with a local metal craftsman.

While Haystakt uses the Internet to connect maker and buyers, Joel says that they cannot lose the human touch. As a result, they have an online editorial component within Haystakt that highlights a handful of makers every month. He has found that products by the faces featured, always sell.

Sharing what he’s learnt running an online start-up, Joel shares, “when Haystakt started, we simply went with our intuition. But now, we’re crazy about analytics because we need to respond to our customers.”

“Another surprising lesson we learnt is that pretty designs don’t always sell,” he adds.