It is no secret that many of the products we consume are manufactured behind closed doors, thus we do not see the process and materials that go into their creation.
As co-founders of Luveco, Chia Shanq Yeet and Mica Lee conveyed, “Many of the products you buy from malls are made from really nasty stuff. Coming from a background of biotech, it was really scary to discover that more than 90% of the market merchandise contained harmful substances.”
With this in mind, the married couple wanted to create a marketplace where genuine eco-friendly brands could come together and share the same honest values they hold in high regard.
These brands are vetted and filtered to see if they truly do fit Luveco’s values before becoming an official partner.
“Being science graduates, we learned some of the unethical things going on behind-the-scenes, especially with big corporations and couldn’t accept it. That’s why we founded Luveco—to combine all brands under one platform synonymous to the H.O.N.E.S.T values.”
At Luveco Marketplace, they bring you the goods with a solid promise—they deliver, manufacture, and sell all products with honest origins—meaning High Values, Organic, Natural, Eco-Friendly, Sustainable, and EThical.
Their determination to live a green lifestyle also stems from Mica’s respiratory problems as she is hypersensitive to dogs, milk, MSG, dust, and more allergies that would not do well in a polluted environment.
The Past Was A Lesson
Before the couple launched Luveco, they actually began another startup also dealing with eco-friendly materials.
However, things were not going well at that time and they had to cease operations after 2 years.
“We have truly experienced the risk of marketing new brand into Malaysia and the high cost of stock holding, especially when there is lack of experience and funding.”
“Hence, we are now just operating the marketplace platform (where its features are fully under our control), and leveraging off the stock holding power of the makers and distributors of the relevant brand in the region.
For a while, they moved back into the family business and focused on building their finances but their enterprising spirit was never at rest.
“The idea for Luveco Marketplace was formed at the end of 2014, therefore we started the platform development but stuck with our full-time jobs. By then, our finances were stable as we had saved up enough capital,” Shanq Yeet said, who manages the digital marketing and business development of the startup.
“We started with RM150k all from our own savings—and we’re still pouring money into its development,” he added. “Because of that, we have to keep our full-time jobs for an income to support Luveco.”
The Present Is An Uphill Struggle
Their efforts to run an eco-friendly business is as difficult as it sounds—they completed the platform in April 2017, and soft-launched in May.
Along the road, there have been bumps and blocks on the way, as one would come to expect when managing a bootstrapped startup.
“We did not believe it at first but family members are the biggest obstacle to our entrepreneurial journey.”
“It is not that they are stopping us physically, but the emotional challenge coming from the negative comments and pessimistic attitudes can really be detrimental to our startup—it is like riding on an ’emotional roller coaster’ almost every day.”
Besides being told that no one would want to buy their products online from a “website when it has no reputation”, relatives also said, “Alibaba is dominating the market, I don’t think you have enough money to compete with them, better get out before it is too late.”
One of the comments which they consider the worst was, “Young man, I know what you are doing, I have seen the same in Silicon Valley. Don’t waste your time, no matter what you have done and invested in, just close it down, don’t look back and go get a good job like a banker or something.”
“It is really discouraging and it does challenge our will to keep it going as it always prompts us to question the viability of our business model and if we have sufficient experience in making it possible.”
However, they gave credit to supportive friends instead, who helped out with business referrals, recommendations, and even relevant news.
Even with all the criticism they face, the couple insists on pushing on and keep themselves sane by looking at success stories of other startups and factual information on the e-commerce market.
“Back then, there were no serious platforms for green and healthy products to reach the market. People are more health-conscious now, but it is still hard for them to adopt green products because of the high cost and skepticism.”
“Right now we are focusing on an educational approach, because there is no point in pushing if it is not something they believe in. In a worst-case scenario, it will result in an angry customer and one less sale.”
The Future Is A Marathon
They’re still facing a constant challenge; they see a regular flow of visitors to their site, but the sales conversion is less than 1%.
The main challenge they think they need to overcome is getting enough meaningful traction and raising awareness about their platform.
“The feedback we get from people we talk to was that there is a lack of variety. Hence we are now just focusing primarily on creating awareness and growing our supply side.”
They are currently planning to open up cross-border supply and purchase for Singapore, Indonesia, and Hong Kong. The couple also sees a lot of opportunity in Malaysia, and they’re in for the long haul.
The couple is under no illusion that they’re going to be successful immediately. They estimate about 3 to 5 years to achieve a meaningful number and an eventual break even, without major investors.
“We are looking to run lean in this long marathon to reach the day where the value-for-money healthy, natural and green products (especially those produced locally) are easily available across all the countries in the ASEAN region.”