It started with a WhatsApp message, as many things do nowadays.
Deseiree was eating pickled tuhau, and was struck with an idea: Why not use it in body care products?
She messaged her cousin, Marion and that was the birth of Love, Lusie.
Tuhau is not an ingredient many West Malaysians are aware of, but for the Kadazans and many people in East Malaysia, it’s a popular traditional food. The Ibans call it ‘tepus’, Kelabits call it ‘tubu nanung’ and the Kadazan, Dusun and Murut of Sabah call it ‘tuhau’.
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A type of wild ginger, Etlingera (E.coccinea) does not have an English name. You can cook it in dishes or eat it as a pickle.
According to the team, the idea of using tuhau for a purpose besides consumption is not entirely new. They explained, “Besides for consumption, natives have been using this plant to heal wounds, cure stomachache as well as remove body odour for post-partum women.”
However, we have to rewind the Love, Lusie story a little, back to their childhood.
When We Were Young
The team said, “We’ve decided on the name Love, Lusie after agreeing that we should name it after our beloved grandmother, Lusinah. Being strong, inspiring and strict to traditions, it is only fair that we honour her as the queen of the family.”
Deseiree and Marion have many fond memories of their grandmother, including riding a water buffalo by her side on the paddy field, fishing for Tilapia in a river and going to the local market every weekend.
Lusinah was also the person who introduced tuhau to the pair, as she made pickled tuhau and served it at family gatherings.
It wasn’t love at first bite for the girls when it came to tuhau though. Both Deiseree and Marion admitted to only growing to enjoy tuhau in their teenage years. They explained, “Tuhau has a very strong and distinct smell not many can accept.”
From An Idea To A Business
Of course, moving from an idea to execution isn’t that easy, but the Love, Lusie team had family support in the form of a cousin who has been conducting clinical research on the plant for a few years.
He was able to extract the tuhau essence, which they now use in their body care products. According to the team, tuhau is an effective ingredient as it has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties that are good for the skin.
However, as mentioned earlier, tuhau does have a smell that not many would be comfortable with eating, let alone rubbing all over their skin.
Marion told Vulcan Post what they did to overcome that. “At first, we were a bit cautious about how the strong distinct scent of tuhau would affect our product. But after conducting some R&D and experimentation, we were able to separate the scent from the extract itself,” she said.
The products don’t actually require large quantities of tuhau. Marion said, “Each body scrub contains enough tuhau extract to keep the skin healthy. You only need a small amount because the extract is pure tuhau extract.”
The cousins don’t work full-time on Love, Lusie yet. Deiseree juggles being a stay-at-home mother and a full-time freelance UX developer. She also worked in advertising agencies as a graphic designer, a web developer and an online marketeer and has developed websites for both local and international companies. She put these skills to use for Love, Lusie and designed the packaging, built the website and set up the e-commerce store by herself.
Marion is currently a full-time student, but she has worked in the hospitality & tourism industry and in retail. With her previous experience of working in sales & marketing, she currently handles cost breakdowns, product marketing and market research.
Growth For The Future
Since they just launched in June 2016, they’re still a relatively young business. They shared with Vulcan Post their hopes for future growth.
“We’re exclusively online but we’ve had our debut public appearance at the Vive Green Market bazaar on the 18th of September. We are also planning to have them sold on shelves in physical stores,” said Deseiree.
As their product is one-of-a-kind and made from a locally sourced and produced ingredient, they believe that it has a lot of potential to appeal to Malaysians, and are working on their strategy along those lines. Marion said, “We believe that this ingredient will market itself through its benefits. Other than that, we are focusing more towards social media marketing, taking inspirations from many companies worldwide which have done so and became successful through this strategy. ”
Love, Lusie also does door gifts for events and are open to make customised products for their clients. Having recently developed facial scrubs, they’re in the midst of researching other forms of beauty products.
In closing, Vulcan Post asked Love, Lusie what would their grandmother think of their product?
They answered, “Incorporating tuhau into body care products and making it into a unique local product would make her immensely proud of us.”