Author’s blurb: I’ve suffered from chronic skin problems my whole life and have tried various products claiming to work wonders on those with skin diseases, to no avail. It wasn’t until I was properly educated by a compassionate dermatologist about my condition that I could seek the right treatment to control the problem.
Natural skincare products have been highly sought after to alleviate skin problems from acne, eczema, and psoriasis, to simply oily and combination skin types.
A few years ago, Sulie struggled with chronic eczema that led her to quit her job. Unable to find products she could use safely on her sensitive skin, her doctor suggested she try an alternative in the form of natural ingredients.
Diving into research, she handcrafted her own skincare products using ingredients she could easily source from the backyard of her village, Melugu in Simanggang, Sarawak. There, she met a bee farmer who revealed that half of Melugu farmers earned under RM200 per month from their yield.
Hence, Sluvi was born with a two-pronged solution in mind:
- Create natural skincare products that are safe for people, especially those with sensitive skin;
- Empower farmers by sourcing ingredients from them and increasing their income.
Since launching in 2018, the business has been named as one of the winners of 2018’s Sarawak Shell LiveWIRE programme and has been supported by accelerator programmes held by MaGIC.
Increasing farmers’ income by 300%
Upon getting the social enterprise up and running, Sulie told Vulcan Post that the farmers in her village weren’t exactly jumping on her bandwagon. “We tried spreading the news through word of mouth, social media, phone calls, but after 1 month plus, no one showed up,” Sulie recalled.
“We believe those farmers didn’t trust how legit our company was. So we decided to go on the ground and meet with the villagers from house-to-house to explain what our project was all about.”
While time-consuming, it was all worth it as the 4 families working with Sluvi today have increased their income by 300%, earning between RM850 to RM1,200 per month. The team also trains their farmers on sustainable farming techniques to mitigate the use of pesticides in their plantations while increasing yield.
These farmers consist of single mothers, elderly widowers, unemployed young adults and fathers in the village areas. “Most of our beneficiaries didn’t have other jobs before and just depended on government financial aid which is still not sufficient to support their family,” explained Sulie.
“All this time, they did not realise what the natural plants they were growing in the backyard could do for them, until Sluvi gave them the idea to utilise them as ingredients in our products. By having more income through Sluvi, life could be better for them.”
Less is more
All priced at RM22 each, Sluvi’s product line comprises Stingless Bee Honey Face & Body Soap, Aloe Green Tea Face Mask, Rice Face Mask, and Lemon Coffee Body Scrub. They can also be found in-stores from their stockists, Shine Pharmacy, Farm Direct Shop, and Ranee Artisan Gallery.
Back in 2018 however, Sulie told Vulcan Post that they originally launched the business selling 10 products, packaged in ziplock paper bags to accommodate their low capital of RM800. “We thought that with more variety of products, it will make the customers excited to browse the items,” shared Sulie.
The plan backfired; choice paralysis tainted customers instead. This went on for 6 months before the team realised it was a waste to produce that many products since it cost them more money than it gained.
Cutting their product variants down has helped them focus more on garnering sales and profits, while continuously improving production quality from Sulie’s home kitchen. “We learnt the hard way,” said Sulie.
Thus far, they’ve been able to bring in average revenue of between RM12,000 and RM15,000 per month within the past year. Sulie shared that about 60% of customers are from Sabah and Sarawak, 30% are from Peninsular Malaysia, while the remaining 10% are from overseas consumers who found them on social media.
Still striving to improve the lives of farmers
In 3 years’ time, Sulie is hoping to increase her partnered farmers’ income to at least RM2,000 per month, through agricultural training and workshops conducted by the team at Sluvi. She’s also looking to impact 15 families and educate more Malaysian consumers about the benefits of natural skincare products.
“Our long-term goal is to create a better farming ecosystem in Sarawak villages. Through this project, the farmers could have sustainable income, improve their skill and knowledge in farming, produce quality natural ingredients and have job training experiences,” she added.
Sluvi is looking to expand its product range and secure more B2B clients and retailers from the hotels, spa and beauty industries. For her company’s operations, product development, and marketing purposes, Sulie intends to raise RM100,000.
Bottom line: Over time, I found that skin problems are actually a very common issue. Personally, I noticed that at least 2 people in my friend group of 6 suffer from them. And though Sluvi’s products have helped Sulie’s own eczema, she acknowledges that they may not work the same for everyone, which is to be expected of any product in general.
Featured Image Credit: Sulie Abell, CEO of Sluvi