Hannah Lai had her first taste of entrepreneurship at the age of 15, when it was the dawn of the “blogshop era”, before e-commerce was commonplace in Singapore.
Back then, she would use her pocket money to purchase trendy accessories that were sold for 3 for S$10 in malls, and resell them online.
“The whole process of sourcing, getting sales, order fulfilment at post offices back then – I loved it all and nothing felt like work,” recounted Hannah.
She loved running her own business and this passion propelled her to pursue Business Studies with a specialisation in entrepreneurship when she studied at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
She also graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the University of Birmingham in United Kingdom.
Shortly after that, she ventured into two other businesses before finally co-founding a soap business called BodySlick with her mother, Caroline, who grew up with a family business background.
Soaps for sensitive skin
The name ‘BodySlick’ was inspired by the slippery-smooth feel the soap bars and bath bombs leave on the skin before rinse-off.
Founded in December 2018, the startup formulates soaps that are not just gentle to the skin, but also soaps that look and smell good to uplift the mind.
Oil slicks make up much of their mood board because nourishing skin-loving oils are a big part of their formulations.
Having a son with eczema and skin conditions, Carol crafted soaps for him as store-bought soaps were not suitable.
“As a skincare junkie myself, I geeked out on the ingredients and the science behind soap-making and immediately felt a difference when I tried it out for myself,” said Hannah.
“At BodySlick, we want you to look forward to your bath time again and step out feeling fresh, uplifted, inspired, ready to take on the day or to unwind at the end of it.”
The art of soap-making
Fast forward three years into the business, the mother-daughter duo added bath bombs to their line of products. Their bath bombs collection includes The BubbleBomb, The BubbleUp and Relaxing Bath Bombs.
Besides their popular bath bombs collection, their Buff Bars are part of their soaps that are blended with exfoliants such as oats and ground coffee, providing customers with a two-in-one cleanse and exfoliate job in a single bar.
Depending on the nature of the soaps and bath bombs, the research and development (R&D) process and formulation phase of the products usually take up to a few months or even a year.
Production and product-testing is done in-house at the BodySlick Studio, with almost all of their raw ingredients being imported.
“We spend a lot of time being thoughtful and intentional about what we wanted our customers to experience, how we wanted them to feel – both physically and sensorially,” said Hannah.
Focus is placed upon each and every ingredient, bearing in mind its purpose, source, quality and safety of the products.
There is a science and art to soap and bath bomb making and the duo is always on the lookout to further improve and refine their soap-making skills.
According to the 28-year-old co-founder, BodySlick differs from other bath bombs brands in several ways.
Firstly, the duo ensures that their bath bombs are sulphate-free and use a costlier, but much gentler, foaming ingredient instead.
Secondly, its products are handcrafted in Singapore and they are deeply committed to being cruelty-free and only engage with suppliers who are aligned on this values.
Profitable within just three months
The business was quickly profitable within the first three months of launch, and sold 10,000 bath bombs within the first seven months. It managed to hit the six-figure mark in sales from their bath bombs line alone.
However, like many other startups, BodySlick also encountered a great deal of challenges along the way.
“When we started selling bath bombs, the common quip would be that most Singaporean households do not have bath tubs, and hence our bath bombs wouldn’t sell very well,” expressed Hannah.
They also received discouraging comments from well-meaning family and friends, who perceived that the products would not sell well in the local market.
Nevertheless, the duo was confident in their business and have actually hit several milestones. For instance, they secured partnerships with hotels to supply their bath bombs.
“Trusting your gut and chasing your dreams can really work out, and we’re always so grateful for how it worked out for us,” said Hannah.
“The thrill of watching people trust, buy and love what I sold on the Internet still holds the same today as it did all those years ago,” she added.
Unveiling some of BodySlick’s future business plans, she shared that they are looking at producing liquid soaps next year to meet customers’ demand.
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Featured Image Credit: BodySlick