Bespoke. Artisanal. Distinctive. Describing Bizu’s handmade and homemade accessories are just the tip of the founder Sharon Chua’s finely-detailed iceberg. There’s a social element to everything she does.
Breaking new ground for both the style-conscious and socially-conscious
To founder Sharon Chua, Bizu is a humble start up, still in its infancy with a sole employee – herself. Bizu makes handmade and homemade jewellery. She also does her own product packaging; everything from hand painting the placards that back the earrings to manually embossing the foil stickers on her boxes. The boxes? She assembles them by hand too.
“Everything is done by me and everything is made to order,” Sharon says.
From top to bottom, Bizu is as personalized as it can get – the peak of contemporary, artisanal accessorizing.
Bizu’s online shop, one of the very few ways to buy Sharon’s jewellery, describes the brand as “whimsical” and “eclectic”. A more specific description is pastel-hued pleasantry-in-mood. Bizu is not your everyday mass-market jeweller trying to peddle “love” and “beauty” and “pretty,” no. Rather, it is a monument to the colours of pearlescent seafoam and smoothed limestone.
Officially launched on 1st November 2017, Bizu began with approximately 80 different bracelet designs. Sharon then moved into earrings and later necklaces. Soon, a series of clutch bags; currently in product development.
That’s because, not long ago, Sharon was still working Credit Suisse’s Philanthropy Advisory team for about 6 years. Pulling down a hefty salary while working with social enterprises and charity initiatives was almost the dream job.
“I left the bank at the end of 2016 to help with some family matters and pursue my dreams of starting something of my own,” Sharon recalls.
Sharon is interested in something she calls “transformational philanthropy”. She has many humane goals – and Bizu was not her first foray into enterprise with a social element. The first stint she tried right out of her bank job was a hair salon – with the slant of empowering women, whether from less-fortunate backgrounds or with physical or mental challenges.
That idea didn’t really take off – mainly in part to the groundswell of support she got from friends and family via her unique style of DIY.
Bizu’s inception came in the form of a wedding – but not Sharon’s wedding herself. A close friend, who proposed to his fiancée in a hot air balloon (cue rom-com music here), tasked Sharon with making centrepieces commemorating their nuptials. An even earlier stint with designing Halloween costumes had brought Sharon’s DIY arts-and-craft skills to the fore and he felt Sharon up to the challenge. Fast-forward 2 arduous weeks and multiple Daiso-trips later, Sharon had fashioned 12 miniature light-up hot-air balloons, all bespoke, all made from items found in the garden section of your local 2-dollar store.
Then came the jewellery.
After finding a Pinterest bracelet too pricey for what Sharon calls her “starving entrepreneur” period, she decided to save money and make it herself, just like the centrepieces. “So it didn't take much motivation other than purely wanting a new accessory, for me to buy all the necessary materials (which was still a fraction of the price of the retailing bracelet) and begin experimenting.”
She grew to love the process; the designing and creating. Then, people loved her creations.
Of the many plans she has for her brand’s products (to date, Bizu’s line totals about 40 types of earrings, 90 bracelets and 5 necklaces), is a return to the social element.
Always on the lookout for newer ideas (which she laughs about getting from Pinterest and Youtube) and newer materials (scrounging online markets), Sharon’s eye is constantly looking to integrate the help of others (likely because long nights spent beading just one of her iconic Thunderbird bracelets is hard on the back and shoulders) who can doubly benefit. “The idea for bizu was to develop a sustainable business and then outsource the production of the jewelry to marginalised groups of individuals,” she says.
The bags discussed earlier are her most prime example. “The other exciting development would be product expansion into clutches and bags using up-cycled fabrics, that will be handmade by a partner social enterprise in Malaysia,” Sharon says. Said non-profit recycles used Kimonos and Kimono belts, called Obis, in Japan (did we mention that Bizu is Japanese for ‘beads’?) The fabrics for a lot of said Kimonos are highest grade, fine-quality materials – so really, it’s upcycling. The non-profit, that helps disadvantaged women, takes the materials and makes them into other usable garments like aprons, and maybe Bizu’s first line of clutches.