Since Elaine Hong was 10 years old, she knew that she wanted to dabble in fashion.
She actually realised her dreams — she used to work as a fashion designer, and has worked for various independent brands.
However, her career has since taken a shift. The 29-year-old is now the co-founder and CEO of Enya, a femtech company that’s based in Malaysia.
“I used to experience rashes during my period. The organic [pads] selling in niche stores are expensive [so] I thought it would be a great idea to launch our own,” shared Elaine.
This sparked the idea of Enya, a period care company that specialises in “skin-friendly” period products.
Although every women go through menstruation, this particular topic is very much still seen as ‘taboo’. In fact, it is common among Asian society to view menstruating women as “unclean” and “unhygienic”.
In some cultures, such women are even kept isolated from the rest of their own home by not being allowed to enter the kitchen area or prepare meals.
As a female-centric brand, Enya wants to encourage everyone to embrace menstruation, which is a big part of a woman’s life.
“[We] understand everyone’s menstrual needs and [aim] to be their monthly companion,” said Elaine.
“I go through a lot of discomfort when it comes to menstrual care and one of the main reasons why I decided to jump into this business is because I want all women who go through the same menstrual problems feel like they belong.”
As a company, Enya is focused on providing menstrual products to women to ensure they have quality care during their ‘time of the month’.
There was only one problem that we wanted to solve — period products for people with sensitive skin. We went on to conduct surveys before our first product launch. Organic cotton is said to be best option — breathable, hypoallergenic, and free of pesticides. It’s suitable for our vaginal skin, which is highly permeable. I’m not a doctor myself, [but] coming from [my own] user experience, this is what I know works for me and we’d like to share this with everybody.– Elaine Hong, co-founder of Enya
There was only one problem that we wanted to solve — period products for people with sensitive skin.
We went on to conduct surveys before our first product launch. Organic cotton is said to be best option — breathable, hypoallergenic, and free of pesticides. It’s suitable for our vaginal skin, which is highly permeable. I’m not a doctor myself, [but] coming from [my own] user experience, this is what I know works for me and we’d like to share this with everybody.
Enya’s first box of organic cotton pads was subsequently launched on International Women’s Day in 2019.
The team also worked towards soft-launching Enya premium earlier this year to test how customers would respond towards organic cotton pads, and that’s pretty much how they started introducing their product into the market.
Although not a 100 per cent organic brand, Enya’s products are priced slightly higher than the average commercial pads that already exist in the market.
Its average retail prices are from S$5.90 to S$7.90, though users can get it for cheaper through their subscription plans. Subscribers can save five per cent as opposed to a one-time purchase, and opt for deliveries every 15, 30 or 45 days.
They also have the flexibility to skip or cancel their subscription anytime.
The subscription idea came about when a customer suggested to auto-bill her every month so she doesn’t have to reorder them online or purchase in bulk.– Elaine Hong, co-founder of Enya
The subscription idea came about when a customer suggested to auto-bill her every month so she doesn’t have to reorder them online or purchase in bulk.
After all, as a direct-to-consumer brand, she strongly believes that they need to listen to what customers want.
“We are thankful that our customers are also our ambassadors — we rely on peer-to-peer recommendations a lot,” she added.
Enya has also recently launched a period care kit box to help young girls embrace their menstrual experience from young and educate them on how they can best manage their menstruation.
The period care kit was designed to help women better prepare for their menstrual cycle, and it comes with Enya’s best-selling products: its premium mix box pads, basics pads, Enya plus (good for heavy flow as well as maternity use), pantyliners, and menstrual heating patches.
Sharing more about the early days, Elaine said that fundraising was a struggle because they didn’t have the ‘right’ connections, especially with venture capitalists and retail investors.
This was why they had to bootstrap — she and her co-founders invested all of their savings to start Enya’s first line of production.
She added that they had a very lean team back then. Consisting of only the co-founders and one intern, they had to take on multiple hats, and did most of the business development and marketing themselves.
Brand awareness was another challenge that they faced, so they focused on creating content through social media.
“Our first big break was when a celebrity tweeted about our products,” shared Elaine, without disclosing the celebrity’s identity.
Another business challenge that she faced was people management.
“I think any business owner would tell you that its people are the roots of a company. Especially [so] during COVID-19, we had to move our office to be based home — this includes packing and delivery.”
The pandemic also particularly highlighted to them the importance of online presence. They ramped up their social media efforts, and she noticed that the views on their TikTok videos have been picking up.
Some of our educational videos went viral, and it made an impact when I heard people showing our content with their friends in a cafe. It’s not a huge feat, but it means a lot to us because we wanted to spread inclusive conversations directly revolving around puberty, menstrual and sex education.– Elaine Hong, co-founder of Enya
Some of our educational videos went viral, and it made an impact when I heard people showing our content with their friends in a cafe. It’s not a huge feat, but it means a lot to us because we wanted to spread inclusive conversations directly revolving around puberty, menstrual and sex education.
This year, she intends to ramp up their focus on customer retention and impactful brand awareness on social media, adding that there are many misconceptions about period that they can explore as content.
“At the end [of the day], our goal is to [make everyone] understand our bodies better — be it our period flow, efficient health check-ups, sexual preferences et cetera.”
Since its inception, Enya has expanded across Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Myanmar.
“We chose to launch in Singapore first because there were many inquiries from Singaporean customers,” said Elaine.
“If we put this into context of selecting which products are better for our body, we have a lot to catch up to and learn from our neighbouring country. I hope that being in Singapore is able to keep us well-informed, and improve our product performance in the long run.”
To date, it has also worked with over 100 independent pharmacies and 300 selected Watsons stores across the region.
Commenting on the femtech landscape in Singapore, Elaine noted that there are already several players in the space, like Ease Healthcare and Ferne Health.
Instead of seeing them as competitors, she feels that collaboration with such companies is the right step forward, especially between startups and conglomerates.
Startups have the momentum and problem-solving ideas, [while] conglomerates hav the volume and decades of trust from its consumers, so collaboration is key.– Elaine Hong, co-founder of Enya
Startups have the momentum and problem-solving ideas, [while] conglomerates hav the volume and decades of trust from its consumers, so collaboration is key.
Besides partnering with businesses, Enya is also looking forward to working together with experts and schools in the next few months.
Featured Image Credit: Enya
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