Adrian Cheong enjoys cooking; he’s even tried his hand at making cheese and chee cheong fan from scratch. One day, he was struck by an idea: Food isn’t the only thing that can be made in the kitchen.
He did his research and found that there was a gap in the market that he felt he could fill and make use of his knowledge and skill set. Thus, The Apothecary Malaysia was born, selling hand-crafted solid cologne.
Adrian was candid in admitting that the idea itself is neither new nor original. “The idea isn’t new but is relatively young since my closest competitors were only 2–3 years old in the US.”
However, he saw Asia as an untapped market since solid colognes aren’t common here. He also felt that personally it was a product that he wanted to have around. “The product really makes sense to me since I use fragrance too and to carry a bottle to travel with me is too much of a hassle,” he said. He designed the boxes to be compact and light and so can be easily carried in handbags or even pockets with little difficulty.
What Makes A Cologne For The Modern Man
All the colognes from The Apothecary Malaysia are made in Malaysia with locally sourced ingredients. Adrian told Vulcan Post, “We happen to have a wealth of natural resources in the form of herbs and spices. Also, I work with a local supplier who produces most of his oils locally so it’s easier for me to conduct quality control instead of working with somebody out of the country.”
The products are applied like a balm and are alcohol-free. They are solid at room temperature, though it should be noted that extreme heat melts them. Adrian explained that the product could be made more solid, but that would sacrifice the quality of scent.
Apothecaries were the pharmacists of the past, who hawked wares such as snake oil, cough medicine and multi-coloured elixirs of dubious origins. Adrian admires their entrepreneurial spirit and their marketing prowess and so chose to name his company after them. He said, “We want to be that, always experimenting and always introducing products that really excite people. A lot of their products were rubbish in the end but there were few products which we still use today, like Coca Cola.”
At moment, he describes himself as a one-man-army though he has some help in the form of a part-timer who handles social media and a creative designer who helps create the sleek, modern look that characterises The Apothecary Malaysia now. He has ambitions to expand their product range and even try to produce other men’s grooming products.
Although many of the scents seem more directed towards the males of the species with names like ‘Maverick’, ‘Colossus’ and ‘Hotshot’, there is also a product named ‘Cleopatra’, which is described on the website as, “A fresh floral fragrance with the seductive scent of Golden Sandalwood.”
We were curious as to why a sudden ‘feminine’ cologne would be on a website that bills itself as “We are the Modern Apothecary for the Modern Man.”
He explained, “Primarily our products are for men’s grooming, but ever since our launch we have many female customers demanding for us to create fragrances for them too.”
He further clarified, “Actually the ‘Modern Man’ refers to ‘Mankind or Human’ but we figure it would be weird to name it Modern Mankind or Modern Human, so we stuck to Man.”
Making A Name For Themselves
The Apothecary Malaysia started retailing last November 2015. According to Adrian, “We started with just 20 boxes in that month. Today our sales are averaging on 200–250 boxes per month. Our strongest market is actually Hong Kong, followed by Malaysia and Taiwan.”
They take the quality of their product very seriously, and this shows even in how they lovingly describe their packaging: “Our embossed logo on the lid, along with the printed craft paper label on the underside (the craft paper gets rougher with friction and prolonged usage), act as grips, so sliding is made easy for opening and closure.”
Adrian’s words are further confirmation of the pride he holds in his product. He said, “We pretty much destroyed any preconception or misconception that Malaysian products are low quality and poor in design. In fact, many customers were wowed by our products and design.”
One interesting thing to note about The Apothecary Malaysia is that they have quite a few customers who bought their products online without smelling the cologne first.
Adrian believes that it’s the design and the concept of the product that attracted them to make the purchase without having encountered the product in real life. He said, “All of our products represent a character that a particular customer associates to or they want to associate to. Plus the scent profiles give them a hint of what they like. Bottom line, good copy!” They’re also looking for more stores to partner with to carry their product.
Right now, The Apothecary Malaysia is still bootstrapping and exploring angel investors to further expand their brand. Adrian said, “I am very careful with where I spend in terms of marketing. I have to make sure we do not overspend and we get every value we can for every buck we spend.”
The cologne currently retails from RM59.90 & above and can be bought online or from some stockists around Malaysia. The Apothecary Malaysia is also currently running a special promotion where customers can get 30% off online purchases.
Feature image credit: The Apothecary Malaysia