From the time Ben and Joanne were dating, they knew that they had a shared desire to start a craft business. It took them some time to set this plan in action – which Ben attributes to “a lot of name changes, planning, and (also) some procrastination” – before Frus was finally born on 1 April, 2014.
Frus, whose work I was acquainted with over several Public Garden visits, started off at its first pop-up with only stickers and postcards on sale. Since then, their product range has expanded to include a greater variety of other items such as tote bags, greeting cards, embroidery patches and pins.
Pronounced “Froos”, the couple share that Frus is a representation of the phrase “FRom: US,” and is born out of the passion that (they) have for crafted works. In addition, Frus also serves as a platform for them to share their works with people beyond their circle of friends.
Creative Work: A Source of Joy
Ben, who has “always been doing illustrations for (their) friends” on special occasions such as birthdays and weddings, tells me that these creations have been met with “many positive responses” from its recipients.
“We love how a simple portrait or an illustration can put a smile on someone(‘s face). Just by seeing the joy our work brings (motivation for) us to continue what we do,” he explains.
Nonetheless, facing challenges in running a business is inevitable. For the couple, this comes in the form of having to manage their respective day jobs alongside Frus – in addition to becoming new parents, having welcomed their first child last October.
“(Finding) time to work on Frus can become pretty tough,” admits Ben.
Despite the challenges, the couple’s most treasured aspect of running this business comes from seeing their works bring smiles to the faces of people – Ben shares that because happiness is contagious, this drives them to “work harder and create more goodies.”
Inspiration Is Everywhere
What, then, is the inspiration behind the Frus duo’s designs?
“As cliche as it may sound, we do get our inspiration from literally everywhere!”
For example, their products, which include the quirky A to Z Local Food Series stickers, are mostly food-related – because they love to eat! Likewise, other common features in their designs – including cats, dinosaurs, superheroes, and people they speak to are chosen because these things ignite and inspire their creativity.
Frus also takes custom orders for illustrations and infographics – these are based on the real-life experiences and stories of clients who request for them.
“We love how both of them use simple lines to create very captivating illustrations,” Ben tells me.
Along the way, Frus has encountered memorable experiences along the journey – for example, when they recently created a customized infographic for their client’s son on his first birthday. The couple wanted to celebrate some of their son’s milestones in the past year in the form of illustrations.
“What was special was that they (first) approached us to do a customised infographic when they were getting married. The illustration was displayed at their wedding banquet. Hence, in a way, we feel like we are growing together with them – and that is something extremely special to us,” explains Ben.
On a separate but equally memorable front, it is also a special moment for the Frus duo when they “see how (their) works can spark conversations, and bring back memories for people who have picked (them) up.”
“We love observing our customers (when they are) choosing which stickers to buy at our pop-ups.”
“For example, a simple chicken rice sticker can bring out many interesting interactions with their friends and family.”
Ben shares that although the customer may be buying a humble sticker, the stickers elicit interesting conversations – such as when customers recall a really good version of the dish they had encountered before, or when it brings to mind that the dish is the favourite food of a loved one.
Other interesting responses that the team has received from their customers can include exclamations like, “Wah, I feel like eating chicken rice for dinner!”
Taking Stock Of The Journey Thus Far
What, then, does the Frus duo consider as their proudest achievement?
“Seeing how we have grown from our first pop up with only stickers and post cards to having a wider range of products, (and to) see familiar faces at our pop ups and returning customers for our customised portraits and infographics,” Ben tells me.
Looking ahead, while the Frus product range has grown since its early days, the duo hope to continue growing – expanding their range of products beyond paper products, for instance.
“Working with textile(s) is something that we are exploring at the moment,” says Ben.
For now, you can catch Frus at the upcoming Public Garden Consumer Trade Show, which will be held at Suntec Convention Hall 403 on the weekend of May 19 & 20.