#HHWT Explorers: Meet The Inspiring Founders Behind This Mobile Bookshop In New Zealand


Cheng Sim •  Mar 20, 2021

Immersing ourselves in our passion for books is one thing - getting the chance to set up a mobile bookshop in New Zealand is another! So we were so excited to learn about Bright Ink, an amazing mobile bookshop in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Founded by Natasya and Annie, two friends who share the same passion for books and arts, the mobile bookshop was brought together by a crowdfunding campaign. After receiving more than half of the minimum target amount, they brought home a Nissan Caravan, stock it up with books, and visit the Remarkables Market in Queenstown and other markets within the Lakes district. Keep reading to find out more about the inspiring founders behind Bright Ink!

Can you tell us more about yourself?

Natasya: Hi, my name is Natasya Zambri and I'm 24 years old. I was born in Malacca, raised in Penang Island. I came to New Zealand in 2016 to pursue my studies, then graduated in 2018 from the University of Auckland with a bachelor of commerce, majoring in Accounting and Commercial Law. As a teenage girl, I've always had a vision of having my own business, be it small or big. After a year and seven months working within the financial department, I thought it would not be such a bad idea to combine both my passion and “expertise”. I still very much enjoy the accounting and business side of things that are related to my field.

Annie: Hi I’m Annie. I was born in the U.S. and am now a Permanent Resident of New Zealand. I graduated from university in the states and decided to go on an adventure that landed me in beautiful New Zealand. I have always loved books and wanted to be my own boss. Bright Ink has surrounded me by books (my house is full of them) and given Natasya and me the chance to create, problem solve, and see the results firsthand.

How did the name Bright Ink come about?

Bright: We want to spread the message that each person has something to offer to the world. We want to convey the beautiful message of how bright each and every one of us can be once we know how to express ourselves.

Ink: In addition to selling ink-printed secondhand books, we intend to provide a safe, creative space where people of all ages are able to untame themselves and create something as simple as words on a piece of paper.

What inspired you to set up a mobile bookshop in Queenstown?

Natasya: I remember when I was still in school, my parents would get me presents whenever I got good grades or placed first in class due to academic excellence. What it seemed back then, normal kids would want toys or electronic gadgets, but I wanted books. What inspired me, I guess, was a combination of passions I have for books and arts, making use of my commerce degree and wanting to contribute back to the community in Queenstown. I truly believe Queenstown is the place I found myself and thought providing a gift, a bookstore specifically, would be a nice gesture. Queenstown is such a touristy place and I think the pandemic has made us realize there is a need to provide

We met at our former workplace and used to hang out after work/during the weekends for brunches and outdoor fun. In mid-2020, we decided to attend Spanish class together and following one of these classes this idea came about. We were chatting about what to do with our lives and just found this shared passion we had.

How long did it take for you to set up Bright Ink? What was the process like?

The conversation happened some time in August and we had our first meeting then. The biggest questions were “where do we start?” and “how are we going to get the help we need?” We searched for any funding programs that were being offered. We were excited to complete a 30-page business plan and proposal to share with potential funders and flesh out all of our ideas. The search of a perfect van started in August too.

By September, things were in full business mode and we decided to take a leap of faith and hire an accountant, fill out a lot of paperwork and get incorporated by October. We then purchased domain names and hosts to build a website. By the end of November, we decided to run a 4-week crowdfunding campaign via PledgeMe. We had a target to reach a minimum of $7,000 NZD. With this platform, if you do not reach your minimum target, you don’t receive any of the pledged money. We are happy to report we received more than half of the minimum target amount within 24 hours. We closed out the campaign a week before Christmas and successfully raised a total of $7,130. The funds from the campaign were used to convert the van and buy our first stock of books.

In December, we brought home our Nissan Caravan. We started to make plans for the van and decided to open up shop by mid February.

What's the most challenging part about setting up Bright Ink?

The most challenging part so far has been arranging the work on the van and designing the interior. We have learned a lot in a very short amount of time. We are always happy to accept support, advice and assistance from our peers and fellow business owners.

What kind of books do you sell? Do you have a favourite book/genre?

We selectively curate titles in a variety of genres. We have general fiction, memoirs, general non-fiction, adventure, crime and thriller, young adult and children’s books. We have found the locals have been enjoying an array of non-fiction books.

Natasya: I enjoy cult classics and my all time favorite book is On The Road by Jack Kerouac. My favorite book from the ‘Recently Read’ pile is All Men Want to Know by Nina Bouraoui. I've always been a fiction girl but recently I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction books!

Annie: I enjoy memoirs and autobiographies as well as feminist science-fiction. A book I have recently enjoyed is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

What makes Bright Ink different from the other pop-up bookshops?

Bright Ink intends to provide the platform of promoting local artists' artworks.

What makes the reading culture in New Zealand different from Malaysia? What can Malaysians do to improve our reading culture back home?

Natasya: Every country has a different set of cultures and upbringings. New Zealand has implemented a systematic way of making reading effective. From my casual observation working as a librarian in Queenstown, the community tends to inculcate themselves to read since young and this is most definitely passed on to their children. The children are encouraged by heaps of reading challenges with prizes and spend much less time indoors with electronic gadgets as that is the lifestyle in Queenstown. Families will have days out in the library together and on average, would have 50 books checked out for one child. Infants as little as 3 months old have their own library cards. This same goes for senior citizens. You would see old folks' home vans popping up at the library with their patrons, and with their canes, rush to hunt for books, which is quite refreshing to see.

Malaysian’s reading culture has definitely improved from time to time. I am happy to know that it is one of the Southeast Asia countries that has the highest literacy rate. I remember we have DEAR programs and Buku Nilam classes back in primary and high schools. Students were encouraged to sit in the library and aim to read at least two books in a week. I suppose the biggest distraction for Malaysian would be the advancement of digital media, especially from the Internet and how children are frequently exposed to tablets instead of books. When I was 11, I started reading Adult Fiction books instead of Children's Fiction/ Young Adult. I did not know there were reading levels which we have to follow thoroughly (baby books, children’s picture books, children’s first chapter books, children's fiction and non-fiction, young adult and adult fiction and non-fictions).

What's your favourite part about operating Bright Ink?

Our favourite part so far has been bringing smiles to people’s faces and sharing the love of books. We’re overwhelmed with the massive support from the community. Hanging out in the van and knowing we can have a cheeky read of any book we choose is pretty great too.

Where can we spot Bright Ink in Queenstown? Do you have plans to set up more mobile bookshops in New Zealand?

Credit: Bright Ink on Facebook

We visit the Remarkables Market each week in Queenstown, pop up at a couple of different markets within the Lakes District and are in search of a more permanent location. We would definitely love to have more than one shop and are always looking to the future with our decision-making.

What are your future plans for Bright Ink?

Bright Ink’s future plans include having our very own brick-and-mortar shop with our van parked outside. We want to be one of the pioneers providing a safe creative space in Queenstown.

To find out more about Bright Ink, check out their Facebook and Instagram! Dreaming of travelling to New Zealand once the situation gets better? Check out our recommended reads below!

All photos are courtesy by Bright Ink.