Wed, Mar 02, 2011 - Page 13 News List

Handmade in Taiwan

New start-up Web site Pinkoi seeks to give Taiwanese independent designers an e-commerce platform that will bring them global exposure

by Catherine Shu  /  Staff Reporter

Brand 20/20’s Hexagon Extensity necklaces, which are made out of brass and accented with Swarovski or glass beads, were a best-selling item in Pinkoi’s booth during December’s Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco.

Photo courtesy of Pinkoi

When Peter Yen (顏君庭) worked as a software developer in Silicon Valley, one of his favorite things to do on days off was shop for handicrafts. Yen explored craft fairs with his wife, or browsed Etsy (, an online marketplace for handmade items.

But when he searched for a similar Web site that featured independent designers from his home country, however, Yen came up empty-handed.

“There are so many designers working in every corner of Taiwan, but we didn’t have a single platform that would bring them all together,” he says.

Sensing a market niche, Yen left his job at Yahoo and moved back to Taipei, where he formed a start-up team with Web developer Mike Lee (李讓) and graphic designer Maibelle Lin (林怡君). The trio created Pinkoi (, which they hope will give Taiwan’s independent designers worldwide exposure. (The site’s name is a combination of “pink” and “koi” — pink as a nod to the site’s mostly female target audience and koi because it is a symbol of good luck.)

The Web site, which went live in October and is now in beta stage, currently has about 2,000 items listed by more than 100 designers. The team plans to add 400 more vendors by the end of the year. Pinkoi will be available soon in simplified Chinese and English to attract an international audience.

Before Pinkoi launched, its founders spent a year visiting craft fairs like Simple Market (簡單市集) and studios to woo designers from around the country.

At first some were skeptical.

“They said, ‘Oh, here is another business guy and every business guy tries to make money off me,’” Yen says. “I had to convince them that we are different.”

Dozen Lee (李易達) of Mozi Dozen (木子到森), which is based in Tainan and makes wooden home accessories, says he was wary of pitches by other companies and design agents. But after talking to Yen, he decided to sell his items online for the first time on Pinkoi.

On the Net: An English-language version of Pinkoi will be launched during the second quarter of this year. Before then, English-speaking shoppers can contact the Pinkoi team online for assistance

“They have really thought about how to make sure that value is returned to the designers who work with them,” Dozen Lee says.

Listing on Pinkoi is currently free; the Web site takes 10 percent of an item’s price if it sells. To make Pinkoi accessible to designers with little experience in online marketing, Lin created a simple, uncluttered site layout that puts the focus on product photos. Vendors can upload pictures and edit listings in batches.

Vinka Yang (楊士翔) of Twine Studio (繭裹設計), which makes jewelry and clothing from organic materials, says Pinkoi is a welcome alternative to other e-commerce sites like Yahoo Auctions Taiwan (奇摩拍賣), Ruten (露天拍賣) and PChome Online (網路家庭).

“We didn’t have anything like this in Taiwan before,” Yang says. The two-person design team of Twine, which has small shops in Taipei and Taichung, tried Yahoo Auctions Taiwan, but found that making sure their handmade wares stood out from thousands of mass-manufactured items was too time-consuming.

“We’d given up on selling on the Internet. That’s something we stopped pursuing long ago,” Yang says. “But now we have an online platform.”

Yen says the Etsy site is a source of inspiration for Pinkoi. Founded in 2005, US-based Etsy now has 7.2 million members, more than 400,000 of whom have opened stores. Pinkoi’s founders believe their site has the potential to become as successful as Etsy, but in a different region.

“Pinkoi has a lot of opportunities in the Asian market. Etsy is focused on Western countries and they haven’t really entered Asia yet,” says Yen, adding that he is open to working with Etsy in the future.

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