As beauty enthusiasts, many of us may have thought about starting our own skincare or makeup line. The idea of putting our wish-list for beauty products into reality is indeed exciting. While many of us dreamt of this, how many of us actually stepped up and pursued it? In this feature, we introduce six beauty entrepreneurs to you; all with different backgrounds, but went against the odds to fulfil their dreams.
- From her kitchen to your dresser
- This 17-year-old has big ambitions
- Falling in love with a brand with an amazing heritage
- From casual hobby to passion, and now a business
- She said she wanted to own a beauty brand in university, and she did
- She worked up the ranks from receptionist to owner of trusted facial spa
From her kitchen to your dresser
Kendra Liew is that girl who concocts her own skin and hair care products using ingredients from the kitchen. In fact, she started doing so when she was in junior college; she’s the one who uses honey and yogurt on her face, and olive oil and banana puree in her hair.
Noticing that there’s a lack of affordable natural skincare options in Singapore, Kendra started Katfood. As a one-woman show and coming from a legal background, she has no experience creating a brand or running a business. “I had to learn how to design, how to do marketing, how to manage inventory, do procurement, and lots more,” she says.
But she manages to overcome these challenges through sheer determination. Now, Katfood has a cult following, and has been featured by several publications. And this is her mantra: “Do it! There is nothing worse than living with what-ifs and regrets. If you have a dream, pursue it as best as you can. Do not be afraid of failure – as the adage goes, it is better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all.”
If you want to try a product from Katfood, consider the one that Kendra loves most.
“I cannot live without our Cuckoo For Cocoa Dry Shampoo. As my hair tends to get oily by mid-day due to Singapore’s humid climate, I am very reliant on dry shampoo to freshen up my tresses and keep myself looking presentable and clean. Apart from being great for that purpose, our dry shampoo is also super easy to use as it is a brown powder, designed for quick blending into dark hair!”
Katfood retails at their online store.
This 17-year-old has big ambitions
What were you doing when you were 17? For Erin Alessandra Jung, she started her own makeup line, Candela Cosmetics.
“I’ve wanted to have my own makeup line since I first got into makeup as a kid. When I was a freshman in high school (14 years old), I wanted to create a makeup line for my final year project, so I began the summer before my final year of school (June 2015) and continued to pursue research and development in my Catalyst Project (independent course of study) at the Singapore American School.”
As a 17-year-old American, there were definitely obstacles thrown her way since she’s an atypical business founder in Singapore.
“It was hard to be taken seriously by others and to secure funding and support. I didn’t know much about drafting a business plan, or how to correctly market my products.”
Erin worked with mentors to come up with a business strategy and the brand was finally launched this month.
Erin has been a beauty YouTuber for the last seven years, and has tried hundreds of different products from many brands. She said that she hasn’t found her “holy grail” product. “Everything I liked would eventually break me out, and the natural alternatives lacked the colour payoff that I was used to,” Erin says. And this was what drove her to create her own “holy grail”.
Her two favourite products from Candela Cosmetics are: the Invigorating Coconut Water Foundation (SGD60). “It’s a perfect lightweight foundation for everyday use,” she raves, “it is non-greasy and so gentle I sometimes sleep in it if I’m too tired to take off my makeup.”
The other one is the Luxe Moisture Lipstick in Chase (SGD28), a matte tan marsala colour that she wears almost every day, which is wearable as an everyday school makeup.
To those of you who are want to start your own business, Erin advises: “Never give up! It’s harder for women to be taken seriously in fields of business and science, but hold your head up and go into things with confidence.”
She also recommends getting out of your comfort zone and practise presenting yourself confidently.
“Interact with more people because it opens up doors and be prepared to explain to the people you meet what your business idea is about.”
Candela Cosmetics retails at their online store.
Falling in love with a brand with an amazing heritage
Married to a French, Felicia Soh learnt from her husband about Crème Simon, a French brand that has a rich history and that pioneered the first beauty cream and brightening cream.
“It completely revolutionised the skincare market in the 20th century when unstable cold creams, ointments and salves dominated the market! In fact, Crème Simon marked the birth of modern cosmetology with its first natural healing cream,” Felicia gushes excitedly. She became a convert to the brand when she notice the difference the products made to her eczema-prone, sensitive skin.
Felicia counts the brand’s iconic Crème Universelle as one of her family’s favourites. This is a multi-purpose healing cream that she said has saved her on family vacations time and time again.
“My skin tends to break out if exposed to overly harsh climates, and when my baby girl had a sunburn, Crème Universelle accelerated the healing process and prevented scarring. It softens dry chapped lips instantly, and soothe angry insect bites too!” she raves.
From being a user, Felicia decided she wanted more people to know about the brand. She was attracted by the story of how the brand was started by the son of an apothecary, and later became a popular skincare brand that WWII pilots would stop over in the neutral country, Iceland, to obtain Crème Simon for their wives. “And we wanted to be part of that story!” she says.
The “mission” to bring Crème Simon to Asia isn’t an easy one. Felicia explains that the brand is not well-known in Asia, and the beauty industry is competitive, largely dominated with bigger players with huge budgets and resources, and the ability to enjoy economies of scale. “However, it forces us to be creative,” she says.
Part of this creativity was displayed through conducting pop-ups, roadshows and exhibitions – more cost-efficient ways to reach out to many – when the brand first launched in Singapore. Today, Crème Simon has its flagship counter at Robinsons Raffles City, and enjoys regional presence through Sephora Indonesia, Sephora Australia, and Lane Crawford in Hong Kong.
And her advice to those who are dreaming of starting a business? “Be prepared to live, breathe, dream about your business, so much so it feels like an extension of who you are. That’s why it is so important to pace yourself! Work may be consuming but do try to find balance in your life. Even your passion for work needs a break sometimes!”
From casual hobby to passion, and now a business
An engineering graduate, Cheryl Gan had absolutely zero knowledge in the aromatherapy industry before she started Mt. Sapola. Massaging her children and husband started off as a casual hobby, which later grew into a passion and she was actively trying to find natural premium-quality essential oils and home spa products. “When I realised that there was a lack of that in the market, I saw the opportunity to fill that huge void,” Cheryl says.
And when Cheryl has her heart set on making this a business, she went on to pursue further part-time studies while working, and graduated with a Diploma in Herbal Medicine and later, a Diploma in Anatomy and Physiology. She also bought equipment, such as microdermabrasion machines, for constant practice at home.
Manpower was an issue when she first started, it was challenging setting up a new store and headquarter as she was very new to the business. Another challenge she faced was in educating the local market about aromatherapy. “Not many people knew about essential oils so there weren’t many people actively searching for it. Even if they were, Mt. Sapola was not a well known brand yet, so our credibility also posed a challenge as well.”
The team got busy with educating their walk-in customers, and also incorporated giving hand massages into their service touch points. These efforts paid off, and today, Mt. Sapola has achieved a strong customer base of 30,000 VIP members.
So what is Cheryl’s favourite product from her own brand?
“It will be the Mt. Sapola Rose Floral Water (SGD36.90 for 65ml). It is made with 100% natural ingredients with no parabens, phthalates, petrochemicals, or synthetic chemicals. This goes with all our Mt. Sapola products.
It is a convenient and fast solution to keep my skin hydrated with my hectic work schedule. This is a quick hydration boost especially when we are constantly in a dry and air-conditioned environment.”
If you’re thinking of starting your own business, Cheryl advises: “Get yourself educated before starting your business, learn everything you can about the industry – the trends, consumers, competitors and if possible, get enrolled in courses to help deepen your knowledge. What I can say is that entrepreneurship isn’t easy, but having knowledge can greatly help in your decision-making choices.”
Mt. Sapola has several stores in Singapore. See all its locations here.
She said she wanted to own a beauty brand in university, and she did
Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy (the good kind), but Claire Au wrote in a university project that she wanted to have her own beauty brand. Now that Auolive has launched this month, she definitely has her dream come true.
This isn’t Claire’s first venture into business. In 2007, she started an F&B business, which entailed long business hours, making it hard for her to keep up with a multi-step beauty regimen. And as she was preparing for her wedding too, she started wondering whether she can find a skincare solution for busy mums and multi-tasking women.
While Claire has worked in a local skincare company before, it was different when it comes to starting her own skincare business. One of the top challenges was finding the right lab partner who understood their needs and what their brand stood for. They finally found a lab partner in Switzerland, while the manufacturing is done in Singapore, because of its high manufacturing standards and easier logistics.
After Auolive products were born, Claire also sees herself become more efficient. “I love my Day and Night Duo. The Day Glower allows me to get out of the house in the morning in 10 minutes. After cleansing, I put on the Day Glower and a bit of powder and I’m done with my skincare regimen because the Day Glower has moisturising, brightening, anti-ageing properties plus it’s also a sunblock and can act as a primer.
The same goes for the night. After a long day, after cleansing and applying the Night Booster (and not forgetting Eyes Lifter – my eye serum), I am done with my facial skincare regimen in 10 minutes and I’m ready for bed!”
Claire advises this for budding entrepreneurs: “Go for it but do your homework first. You need to have domain knowledge and be diligent. In business, you need to balance the big picture strategy with execution and the details. And make sure you find mentors who can guide you on this journey!”
Auolive products retail at its online store.
She worked up the ranks from receptionist to owner of trusted facial spa
Subrina Liew has been in the beauty industry for 12 years. She worked her way up the ranks from being a front desk receptionist to an expert who knows how to analyse different types of skin conditions, and what skincare ingredients and treatments work best for her customers.
Suffering from sensitive skin, Subrina had tried to find a salon that can improve her condition but to no avail. “Instead, I often faced ineffective results and unenjoyable experiences,” she says.
“I decided to put my frustrations into action, and started Caring Skin in 2013, realizing my dream in providing the first customer-focused facial spa.”
In Subrina’s research of finding good treatments, she decided to work with Laboratoire Dr Renaud, which uses quality plant-based ingredients and has many products and treatments that are beneficial for sensitive skin.
“I was convinced when I saw immediate results after doing their treatments on my skin; Caring Skin became their first Beauty Institute in Singapore.”
But finding a great partner isn’t the end of the challenges that lace the business. The competition in the beauty industry is tough and there’s a stigma associated with the industry because of hard-selling consultants and cheap quality facial treatments.
“You can google about facial treatments and read about countless bad experiences the public has, encountering unhappy and bad services during their facial treatments,” she says.
To overcome this challenge, Subrina first focused on a small group of customers whom she has already established trust with, and built a strong reputation through word-of-mouth. To build the service-oriented culture she envisions for Caring Skin, she set the example of personal consultation and close followups with her estheticians to make sure they’re delivering results.
“Through the years, I am glad that we managed to establish deep-rooted values about customer service and being known by our customers, the expert in sensitive and acne skin,” she says.
Subrina’s favourite treatment is the Rosa C3 by Laboratorie from Dr Renaud, a signature Caring Skin treatment that does wonders for her sensitive skin.”It is by far, the best desensitizing facial I have come across so far, especially when I could see immediate results in refining my broken dilated capillaries,” she gushes.
As for her advice to those who are thinking of starting a business, she says it’s persistence. “Especially when there may be well-meaning doubts thrown at you and you are unsure if you are able to overcome the obstacles. But with a persevering mindset and a positive heart, you will slowly but surely be where you want to be.”
Caring Skin is located at #07-07A International Building, along Orchard Road.