Enter the world of maps with The Map Hatter
KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — For the travel enthusiast, maps spell out possibilities. Whether it is to satisfy your wanderlust or thirst for knowledge, there is something magical about maps.
Travel agent Juliana Ibrahim, 38, has been collecting them for 15 years! With the bad economic times and as travel agencies are a sunset industry, Juliana decided to start her own map business under The Map Hatter.
That cool name is thanks to her clever 11-year-old son Omar who loves puns. Juliana fervently believes that maps are definitely the thing now especially since many have taken to travel as a lifestyle.
She adds, “Well, why not maps as everyone is selling hijabs nowadays and it is kinda related to my work. Everybody likes to travel and I think geography is sexy as it’s nice to test yourself… like, what is the capital for Latvia?”
The Map Hatter started business in December 2015 via the social media networks. “In the beginning, it was a Facebook thing.” She also reaches a larger audience via her website even though she is based out of town.
“I am 100 per cent online as I am based in Seremban and we deliver worldwide.” Usually her customers come from all over Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. Enquiries have also come from as far as Mexico. In addition, Juliana also started to participate in various bazaars from February 2016 to get the word out about her business.
She adds, “Bazaars are the new shopping culture in KL.” Currently she also retails her maps at Cziplee in Bangsar and Brunei.
In the early stage of the business, she only carried lithograph printed maps. Unlike our usual digital printed maps that projects a flat look, these eye-catching maps are printed on silk-coated paper with special inks that gives it an almost smudgy and 3D effect.
Juliana adds, “When you frame it there is no need to put glass over it as it will be glaring. You can dust it with a feather duster or wipe it clean with a cloth. It is great for schools or geography at home.”
The maps are sourced from The Future Mapping Company, a 10-year-old company based in Greenwich that has a strong foothold in the US market. They have also appointed The Map Hatter as their sole retailer for South-east Asia for their maps.
“In the beginning, it was tough as not a lot of people knew about lithograph maps and I had to explain a lot and it was very exhausting for me.” Later, Juliana’s husband suggested she expand her variety by selling knick knacks such as stationery and books with the map theme.
Juliana also carries wrapping papers depicting old maps from an Italian American company, Cavallini Papers & Co. Inc, that can also be used as posters. She is also the appointed wholesaler for their products.
In addition, The Map Hatter also sells magnetic maps from The Future Mapping Company — an adventurous way to pinpoint all the countries you have visited or even treat it like a dart game to discover the next country to visit. “It is fun, interactive and a great gift for everybody,” said Juliana.
Most of The Map Hatter’s products are things she also owns. She adds, “I pretty much bring in things that I like.”
The Map Hatter’s maps range from RM200 for the silk-paper ones to RM1,200 so people often think twice before purchasing them. “My stuff is like Marmite; you either like it or not.”
So far, her customers are of varied ages. Usually the 25 years old and above like the fun concept of the magnetic maps while those who are in their 40s will buy it to teach their children.
She adds that the maps are versatile, “It can be both; educational and decorative.” There was a 70-year-old customer who kept asking her questions since he is from the generation that loves geography. Her most interesting customer is Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah. He had chanced on her booth at Alice Smith school last month and bought up most of her maps to decorate his library.
Juliana admits she’s totally crazy about maps to the extent that even her underwear is world map themed! With her personal picks, she is extremely fussy. “I believe I have exquisite eyes when it comes to maps so I am pretty anal about it. If I really like it, I will get it.”
Some of the items she has an eye out for includes the beautiful Swarvoski crystal globes-cum-lamps by a German company. The crystal encrusted globes literally light up your world. In the future, should she have her own brick-and-mortar shop, she hopes to retail these globes.
When it comes to her travel agency work, expect the unusual with the adventurous Juliana who has travelled to 53 countries and lists Bhutan as her favourite of all time. She’s organised many tours including one to Tunisia where people get to visit the Star Wars movie locations.
One of her most fascinating tours is “Couture”, a fashion tour that lets you experience the work that goes behind fashion houses and jewellers in Paris. Local fashion designer Rizalman took that tour.
Juliana also sells a range of travel cardigans fashioned from the Middle East serban under her brand, Cardilogy. Made from lightweight cotton, they are perfect to keep you warm during your flights and are easy to pack.
The Map Hatter will also be participating in Seek & Keep Artisan Market at Bangsar Shopping Centre on April 16. Visit their booth from 10am to 9pm to pick up all your map needs.