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How this M’sian startup hit a 229% revenue growth in 2020 amidst production struggles

It’s been 6 years since Jesrina Arshad co-founded wellness lifestyle brand PurelyB with Stephanie Looi. In that time, it’s gone through several iterations, from first being an unmonetised content platform to becoming a marketplace for health and wellness products.

But PurelyB’s first attempt at e-commerce soon grew stagnant, and the team pulled the plug on it. Fast forward to 2020, and PurelyB has since revamped its e-commerce operations while still keeping up the quality of its educational content.

Today, the site carries both its own products and those of other brands, and is also a recognised social enterprise by Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC).

2020 was their year

The brand’s first signature product, Pegaga by PurelyB, is a blend of herbs and fruits that improves immunity and gut health. Jesrina told Vulcan Post that new user signups almost tripled during the pandemic, and that there was a surge in demand for Pegaga by PurelyB and their wellness content.

What she garnered from this was that there wasn’t just a shift in people suddenly caring about their health, but that people were also looking for natural traditional solutions.

Their signature products, Pegaga by PurelyB (left) and Tiger Milk Mushroom by PurelyB (right) / Image Credit: PurelyB

This proved advantageous for the startup, and they sold out Pegaga by PurelyB within the first week of MCO in March 2020. As factories were closed during the lockdowns, however, production was paused for an indefinite duration. Yet order queries kept coming through.

So, they told customers they could preorder and potentially get their product within 3 months after payment. There was no guarantee, but customers could get a refund if the product didn’t come within that time. To add, they offered a 40% discount and 3-month zero interest instalments so the product would be more affordable.

The results of these? PurelyB saw their best sales month. Revenue soared by 229% in 2020 from 2019, and the business made profits.

Contributing partly to PurelyB’s revenue growth was also the fact that it underwent a business restructuring and trimmed operating costs. This reduced overall costs by 40%.

“Our half-year revenue of 2021 has already surpassed the 12-month revenue from 2020, with a 45% month-over-month revenue growth in the most recent month,” Jesrina added.

Prepared to scale, but patient with it

Following the data and trends, PurelyB also saw an opportunity beyond product solutions. They began offering lifestyle packages that integrated their digital health programmes with their traditional Asian superfood products and wellness kits. These lifestyle packages cater to corporates’ employees and consumers too, and can be customised accordingly.

Safe to say, PurelyB has weathered the pandemic well, and perhaps is even suffering from success in a way.

There was so much demand that they struggled to keep up in terms of product volume. They’d constantly sell out and have to wait for the next batch to be ready, since they haven’t obtained the necessary capital to ramp up production.

“As a result, we are also focused on just our e-commerce platform sales and do not yet work with large distributors or trade partners until our production stock can meet their demands,” Jesrina told Vulcan Post. “We do recognise our revenue could have been significantly higher if we did not have this issue.”

But she assured us that they’ve at least gotten the infrastructure in place to scale fast. Now they just have to focus on securing the capital to do so.

Helping others along the way

Prior to their social enterprise accreditation, PurelyB was already working with marginalised farmers to harvest their herbs. They took it a step further by embarking on a womenpreneurship mission to co-create products with traditional herbalists and healers from the B40 community.

These women were knowledgeable and skilled, but didn’t know how to commercialise their work. One such lady was Hameedah Hamid, or Kak Ida, with whom PurelyB co-created the aforementioned Pegaga by PurelyB.

From left: Public health specialist Professor Gerard Bodeker, Jesrina, Kak Ida, and PurelyB co-founder and COO Stephanie Looi / Image Credit: PurelyB

Thanks to this initiative, Kak Ida earns a continuous stream of income via a monthly salary and a portion of the profits.

Today the mission has solidified into a Women Empowerment Agent Programme. It provides training, creates jobs and income opportunities for marginalised communities and single mothers through selling PurelyB’s products online.

A dropship model is used at zero cost to the women, and they earn a 20% commission for every sale generated, with bonus fees.

PurelyB has worked with 2 non-profit organisations thus far, Ibupreneur and Family Wellness Club in Ipoh, to extend its reach in these communities.

Jesrina hosting a session at Family Wellness Club / Image Credit: PurelyB

Once equipped with the e-commerce and digital marketing skills from the training, the beneficiaries can branch out with their own products.

Doubling down on what they do best

Moving forward, PurelyB intends to champion traditional Asian superfood products in ways that cater to modern generations and their lifestyles. In their mission to do so, Jesrina wants to scale their social impact initiatives too, both locally and regionally.

Further growth will come with the help of partnerships in product R&D, one example being the recent launch of its second signature product, Tiger Milk Mushroom by PurelyB. Scientists and professors at University Malaya were an integral part of its process.

On the horizon is also market expansion to Singapore, Indonesia, and the Middle East, where PurelyB has gained users organically. Subsequently, localised and multilingual platforms will be created to serve these markets better.

With the help of MaGIC, PurelyB has been connected to the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives (MEDAC) and other government agencies for assistance in fundraising and market expansion.

Now, as part of its Social Enterprise Community Network, Jesrina and her team have also had opportunities to raise awareness of their social impact through events like Buy For Impact.

The space that PurelyB occupies is no longer a niche one, and as the pandemic continues, it won’t be surprising if more health and wellness startups crop up.

But the advantages that PurelyB will have over them are its years of data, its experienced team, and its core mission to do good, to name a few. Educating the masses on wellness was its first main goal as a fresh startup in 2015, and today, that value still holds across its operations.

  • You can learn more about PurelyB here.
  • You can read more wellness-related articles here.

Featured Image Credit: Jesrina Arshad, co-founder and CEO of PurelyB

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