The hobby of custom mechanical keyboards is a new obsession I’ve been exploring lately.
It’s only been a couple of months, but I’ve already made my first mistake by buying tactile switches for alpha keys that turned out to be too loud for someone typing at least 2,000 words a day.
In short, what that means is that I wished I had a place to test out a keyboard’s build before I made the purchase, which set me back by about RM70. I’d consider that to be a costly beginner’s mistake.
While the former is located in Penang and also serves coffee, Keebs Project would be a closer alternative for this PJ kid to visit, since it’s in Negeri Sembilan.
The state is also the hometown of Ivan, the founder behind Keebs Project, a business that began as a keyboard marketplace on Shopee about a year ago.
From URL to IRL
The ex-accountant got into the mechanical keyboard hobby when he got his first Techware Phantom TKL.
Like most mechanical keyboard enthusiasts, this led him down the path of researching the hobby to customise his own builds.
Ivan then recognised the opportunity in the market to sell mechanical keyboards and their components on Shopee, Instagram, and Facebook.
Looking at Keebs Project’s social media today, you’ll notice that the business has since found fans in Singapore and the Philippines, which is why it made sense for the marketplace to become a full-time commitment for Ivan.
When deciding what products to list, Ivan said that it comes down to market research and figuring out what customers want.
With over 230 products listed, Keebs Project is where you can find fully built keyboards, switches, stabilisers, lubes, keycaps, sound-dampening foam, and more.
Keebs Project adds new items to its product line every week, and will also make arrangements to sell products that are specifically requested by customers but aren’t already listed in the store.
“Slowly after a year of hard work and perseverance, we opened our own physical store for keyboards in Negeri Sembilan,” Ivan shared.
A necessary investment cost
The whole process of choosing a custom mechanical keyboard can be broken down into three steps:
- Choosing a keyboard layout (how many keys your keyboard has);
- Picking which switches you want (this contributes to the sound and feel of your typing experience);
- Keycaps (mainly contributes to how your keyboard looks).
Customers who visit Keebs Project’s store will get to sample all the available keyboard builds.
The keyboards can also be equipped with different varieties of switches and keycaps so customers can choose how they’d like their board according to personal preferences, before buying.
At the moment, Ivan is the sole person attending to visitors.
Despite the high capital and operational expenses that come with running a physical outlet to sell keyboard components, Ivan believes it’s an important investment to make.
“We feel that it is a necessity for us to provide a showroom for our customers, especially newcomers, to experience this hobby in person,” Ivan told Vulcan Post.
After all, while customers will know how a keyboard will look and sound from researching, they won’t actually know what the keyboard feels like through a computer screen.
A place to build, modify, and gather
Since opening on September 17, Ivan has seen foot traffic mostly pick up on the weekends from visitors who’ve heard about Keebs Project on Instagram and Shopee.
“There is an equal number of [keyboard] veterans to those who are new to this hobby coming to try our new boards and switches too,” he said.
Other than allowing customers to test keyboards, Keebs Project could also make a great space to host meetups, hangouts, and workshops for Malaysians in the keyboard community, which seems to be in line with the founder’s plans.
Ivan shared that he does have plans on hosting meetups, although the community in Malaysia is still nascent. (Based on my observations though, the local mechanical keyboard community is a pretty passionate bunch, so there should be no problem in gathering us up and clicking over our keyboard preferences.)
He also shared that he would consider running keyboard-related workshops as they can bring more people into the hobby of building custom mechanical keyboards.
“Other than that, we have provided spaces and tools for keyboard lovers to bring over their own keyboards to make some modifications to them,” Ivan added.
When asked about Ivan’s end goal for Keebs Project, he shared that he hopes to see it play a role in expanding the community, and perhaps even becoming a tourist attraction for newcomers to experience a new hobby.
Featured Image Credit: Keebs Project