Quality natural skincare products without extortionate costs, the Penang way

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Soaps packaged enticingly!Soaps packaged enticingly!

Amidst the growing awareness and keenness to adopt a healthier lifestyle, consumers are turning to more “natural” products. Do-it-yourself (DIY) skincare products are becoming increasingly popular, with tutorials on forums/blogs and Youtube having a big impact in encouraging individuals to try their hand at making their own natural skincare products.

Natural products are a lot easier to get hold of than chemicals, in the sense that there are less restrictions and regulations that individuals have to meet. It is much easier for the public to obtain natural ingredients – for example, honey, milk and turmeric are readily available in most kitchens – and use them to produce skincare that they can use themselves and share with family and friends.

Unfortunately, many of the ingredients that are easily available off the shelf in the UK, US and Australia are rarely seen and mostly overpriced in Malaysia, if they can even be found. It was the hunt for natural beeswax and shea butter that led us to Global Organics Personal Care, which has a retail outlet in Penang called The Soap Cellar (pic).

products at The Soap Cellar

Global Organics Personal Care (GOPC) co-founder and managing director Daniel Khoo says: “Our business aims to supply these [natural] ingredients to individuals, allowing the public to produce their own skincare at home without extortionate costs.”

“Items like cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol and Polysorbates are not easily found on supermarket shelves. As we stock them in our raw materials section, our customers are now able to practice what they see on the internet, in their home, safely and easily. Other products, like sunscreen are commonly purchasable, but very expensive off the shelf. We sell the ingredients for sunscreen at reasonable prices. Many of our customers are getting more and more adventurous; they are beginning to produce their own sunscreen and other products too,” Khoo shares.

He says that as Malaysians grow wiser about chemicals in skincare products, the demand for milder, less invasive products grow too, forcing the skincare industry to work on new recipes and formulas. However, when it comes to natural skincare, there is one major issue for all large industries – natural products incur higher costs of production as cheap chemical fillers cannot be wantonly applied to make the products in mass. “The prices keep rising as the big corporations need to pay for advertising etc. as well. This makes a good headway for small companies like us, as well as individuals, to start producing their own natural products.”

Uncompromised dedication

essential oilsGOPC was formed in 2011 but opened its retail outlet in Penang in May 2013 after dedicating the first 1.5 years in renovations and in building its workroom, storage and sourcing/importation of raw materials, essential oils (pic), base oils, etc.

Why Penang? Penang is home for Khoo and partner Candy Chan. Though Khoo grew up and is a permanent resident of the UK, he found that going back to Penang has given him the sense of belonging.

“We wanted to start a business that supplies goods that people want, but can’t easily buy. A niche market really, but not some branded products sold at high prices. It’s bringing a traditional British idea of homemade skincare to Malaysians who are occasionally spending thousands on skincare that they shouldn’t have to spend on. In UK, the same products we see selling here are sold at only half the price and yet, they have five times more spending power than we do. So, by importing the raw materials, we can make the products here and sell close to the same prices as in the UK, with the quality being just as good,” Khoo says.

Kuala Lumpur has a huge market and sales could shoot through the roof. But being very comfortable in Penang, the duo thought it would be a better idea to start from home. “Maybe in the future, we’ll open a second branch there. But as our business has led us to supply hotels, boutique hotels, small businesses, and many more, our plan to open a second branch will have to be delayed until we can regulate the supplies to our customers. Our dedication must not be compromised for the sake of just making money.”

Indeed, Khoo and Chan are very hands on and believe that paying heed to their customers’ feedback and suggestions was the way to grow. Given the duo’s friendly nature, and dedication and zeal to the trade, it is not surprising that many of their customers have become friends. “We sometimes see them outside on our off day, we come and visit us, not for buying anything, but just to say hi and have a chat. This is what makes us smile throughout the day.”

Customers are also invaluable in new product creations, as the duo discovered. “We try to create great products, but as there are only two of us, our ideas can only stretch so far,” Khoo says, adding that the company will soon have a new range of products coming out. “We won’t say what it is yet…we don’t really want to spoil the fun!”

Besides the retail outlet, Khoo and Chan also run an online business. “There are days that are quiet in our store, but our online sales are stacking up. When we first started, we used to get sales only from the websites such as lelong.com.my. Today, our own website www.globalorganics.com.my drives in traffic, and sales are doing well.

Some 40% of the group sales come from its retail outlet, 35% from online sales, and the rest from corporate sales, which is also growing, albeit at a slower rate.

Most of its trade sales are to customers who have been to its store before and after using its products found that they too can implement them into their own businesses. “I expect the corporate sales to grow, but it will take time and consistency.”

Soaps… not cakes!Soaps… not cakes!

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