CEO Series

What This Mother And Entrepreneur Has Done After Enduring Weeks Of Zero Sales

  • Kinder Soaps is a brand of handcrafted soaps started by Michelle Ho in 2009 that produces products with all-natural ingredients.
  • Michelle originally started making soap as a solution for her daughter’s eczema problems, but now sells her products both online and offline, with a proper studio and shop located in Damansara Jaya.

When she found her daughter Andrea displaying symptoms of eczema, Kinder Soaps founder Michelle Ho decided that she would not let her itch, scratch, and suffer.

“I immediately found myself desperate to do something, anything, to make those patches go away because I grew up with eczema as a child and I know how uncomfortable it can be,” she said on her website. “I remember the scarring, the itching, weeping sores, and the countless rounds of applying steroid creams that would work for a while but left my skin dark and thinned.”

So she decided to directly deal with the problem by making her own soap, only because she couldn’t find a suitable alternative in the market—anything that touted itself as “natural” basically meant anything without unpronounceable ingredients, while other options contained unnecessary colouring, fragrances, and stabilisers.

“The average person may be able to tolerate all those ingredients,” she said. “But for someone with sensitive skin, I thought it would make sense to use products that were free from such chemicals to see how the skin would react to it.”

“After a month of searching, I clearly remember telling myself that I couldn’t wait any longer, and decided to try making my own soap for Andrea.”

A Pure Process

Since starting her soap-making journey in 2009, Michelle has taken her passion and turned it into a full-fledged business, with a proper space in Damansara Jaya now set up to facilitate the production of her natural soap products.

The studio in Damansara Jaya / Image Credit: Kinder Soaps
Image Credit: Kinder Soaps

Working with a team of four part-timers, Michelle explains that she employs a soap-making method commonly known as a “cold process” that allows for more control over ingredients and the retention of benefits from natural ingredients such as herbs, butters, and oils.

“From its raw, liquid form, soap usually takes 18 to 24 hours to harden sufficiently before we can slice them into bars,” she explained. “After that we leave them to ‘cure’ for about three to four weeks to allow them to dry out and get milder, before packaging or storing them in the shop, where they can be sold to clients.”

Image Credit: Kinder Soaps

This all-natural ethos even translates into their packaging, which Michelle explained was a painstaking process that led to Kinder Soaps eventually creating a cotton wrap infused with beeswax and resins instead of plastic wrappers, making their products much more eco-friendly overall.

“It isn’t the perfect packaging option, and it may not be particularly pretty,” she said. “But we see that there is still value in its ability to help us drastically cut down the amount of plastic packaging we use for our own soap bars, which will ultimately end up in landfills.”

Image Credit: Kinder Soaps

Consumers can get Kinder Soaps products from their main store (in the same location as their studio), as well as from their online shop, with choices all catered towards different skin types. For example, there are soaps and shampoos for dry to oily skin, as well as some specially formulated for kids and infants. And for all of these, Michelle insists on sourcing ingredients from suppliers who are properly certified.

“I look for suppliers who are able to provide the necessary documentation—certificates of analysis for each batch, technical data sheets, material safety data sheets, and allergen declarations for example,” she explained.

Most of these suppliers come from Europe, the US, or Australia, with Michelle also occasionally turning to several reputable local companies whenever they find themselves in a pinch.

Hand-Making It Big

So far, according to Michelle, business for Kinder Soaps has been pretty encouraging as of late.

“We have been growing slowly, but steadily through the years,” she said. “Monthly revenue can swing between RM5,000 during low months to almost RM20,000 when we receive a whole bunch of contract manufacturing orders at a go.”

This steady growth, Michelle thinks, is thanks to a strong demand for artisanal hand-made goods locally.

“Handcrafted goods in general have their own appeal vis-à-vis high street retail brands,” she said. “There has been a marked increase in local businesses offering soapmaking and other skin-care related classes along with suppliers for the raw materials, which in turn has supported a growing number of home-based skincare makers turned entrepreneurs.”

But not content to rest on her laurels, Michelle is still trying to grow her business further by doing more online marketing and extending her network to include more distributors as well as smaller cosmetics makers in Malaysia.

“We are also trying to reach out to other handcrafted cosmetics producers who would like to take their home-based businesses up a notch,” she said.

“We can help get them properly notified with the NPRA (National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency), as we are an approved cosmetics manufacturer under NPRA that complies with the ASEAN Goods Manufacturing Process for Cosmetics.”

A Kinder Outlook

As for future plans, Michelle says that she intends for Kinder Soaps to continue on its journey to “help customers find relief for their skin issues” via quality all-natural skincare products, as well as to help small-scale artisan cosmetics makers get notified with the NPRA and get them to create more eco-friendly products.

“We encourage more cosmetics makers to also consider their environmental impact and actively find ways to reduce waste in all areas of our respective businesses,” she stated.

Michelle (middle) appearing on NTV7’s Bella in 2015 / Image Credit: Kinder Soaps

Certainly, Kinder Soaps has come a long way since it first began.

From having periods with absolutely zero sales, to painstakingly trying to create nature-friendly packaging for their products, all the way to finally making a name for themselves as a legit soap-making company, Michelle said that the journey has taught her plenty—not least the importance of having a good team to journey with.

“If you want to grow fast, build a good team you can trust around you from day one,” she said. “Going it alone may be satisfying, but eventually you will need to rely on the expertise of people who are better than you at certain things, in order to serve more clients.”

Adding on to this, Michelle also had more advice for those facing difficulties in growing their business.

“When you come across challenges or obstacles in your business—and you most certainly will—always fall back to the reason why you started doing it in the first place,” she offered. “Which decision is in line with your ‘why’?”

“It’s quite likely that the one that most closely matches your raison d’être (most important purpose) will be the path that will lead you to a sense of peace,” she added.

“This will in turn allow you to continue to have the energy to serve your clients, loved ones, and community.”

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Feature Image Credit: Kinder Soaps

 

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