rooki beauty founder
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Hayley Teo grew up with sensitive skin which erupted in red patches every morning before she left for school.

This led to her being very meticulous when it came to selecting skincare products from a very young age, even when there was not much information online about skincare ingredients.

She would read the ingredients list on her mother’s luxury skincare products and compare them to the products that worked for her, only to be disappointed that some of these expensive products did not contain a single effective ingredient.

The 30-year-old’s experience dealing with sensitive skin led her to starting up Rooki Beauty in 2019, a skincare line that is effective, yet free from “questionable ingredients”.

She left advertising to start up her skincare brand

Rooki Beauty
Image Credit: Rooki Beauty

After graduating from university, Hayley worked in advertising for some time, but struggled to find meaning in her work.

Although I was working on big FMCG brands, I had no interest in their products. This led me to leave the advertising world to find my own path.

– Hayley Teo, founder of Rooki Beauty

She then started up a small-scale natural beauty brand called Into the Wild, which primarily sold handmade body scrubs, clay masks and lip balms containing food-based ingredients.

Hayley used to market her products by hosting pop-up stores, which garnered quite a bit of attention from Singaporeans.

Unfortunately, her business was short-lived, and it was during this time that Hayley realised what she was doing had serious potential, which gave her the courage to start up Rooki Beauty.

Rooki Beauty
Image Credit: Rooki Beauty

Hayley explained that the name Rooki Beauty was inspired by the fact that she wanted a create a skincare brand for rookies who are tired of all the “smoke and mirrors and overcomplication” in skincare.

At the same time, it also tells the story of her entrepreneurial journey in the skincare industry. She started her journey as an “outsider to the beauty industry and knew nothing about the ins and outs of starting a skincare line”.

I knocked on lots of doors and got turned down a lot. But being a rookie helped because I was earnest in my intentions and able to offer a fresh perspective. I didn’t always have the answers but I had persistence and sincerity.

– Hayley Teo, founder of Rooki Beauty

Beauty is a tough industry to crack

Rooki Beauty
Image Credit: Rooki Beauty

Drawing from her experience managing Into the Wild, Hayley realised that if she wanted to scale her skincare brand, she needed for find a proper lab for manufacturing. 

She went on to reach out to multiple labs based in Taiwan, Korea and Japan because she wanted her products to be developed in a region that truly understood the Asian skin.

She spent months vetting these labs and eventually settled on a lab in Japan, but was soon hit by some major roadblocks.

For one, the lab she wanted to work with didn’t necessarily want to work with her, because of how new she was to the industry.

They’ll want to see your track record first, and then warn you that beauty is a tough industry to crack. Launching a truly successful beauty brand is like capturing lightning in a bottle.

Especially in Japan, they have a preference to work with locals and it’s not exactly easy to share your vision with them as many of them are not fluent in English.

– Hayley Teo, founder of Rooki Beauty

It took her a few months of coaxing before she eventually got the lab onboard as a manufacturing partner.

Rooki Beauty founder
Image Credit: Rooki Beauty

Locating a suitable lab to produce Rooki Beauty wasn’t the only hurdle Hayley faced. In fact, just getting the groundwork done for her skincare line was a “logistics nightmare”, since there are many components to a finished skincare product.

Hayley also had to grapple with regulatory issues as her products are developed in Japan.

She cited an incident where she wanted to create an acne product, which contains salicylic acid. However, salicylic acid is a highly regulated ingredient in Japan — up to 0.2 per cent of salicylic acid can be utilised in cosmetics — an amount which is not enough to deliver effective results.

The only way I could overcome this is by keeping an open mind, and to constantly look for solutions and  workarounds. There are many paths to solving one problem, and I have to tell myself not to fixate on one particular path.

– Hayley Teo, founder of Rooki Beauty

Hence, she experimented with ingredients found in Japan, ranging from traditional fermented foods such as sake and nato, to the “wild and wacky” such as salmon placenta.

Hayley also spent time working closely with chemists to study the properties of these ingredients, before integrating them into her skincare line. In all, it took her about a year to launch Rooki Beauty.

Rooki Beauty broke even in less than a year

Rooki Beauty Good Egg Skin Recovery Milk
Image Credit: Rooki Beauty

Hayley launched her skincare line as soon as her first batch of products arrived from Japan. At the time, she worked out of her home office and managed her brand all by herself.

She heavily relied on word of mouth to sell her products as she did not have the funds or the contacts for a brand launch — her customers mostly consisted of her friends and family.

But not too long later, the sales for the brand began to pick up pace rapidly. “By the three-month mark,  we started to see steady sales and repeat customers, and by the time COVID-19 hit, we were prepared and that’s when our sales really took off,” said Hayley.

During the pandemic, the brand had also ramped up its digital strategy, catching the attention of Watsons and Singapore Airline’s Kris Shop. Thanks to this, her brand received significant exposure, which helped her business to significantly grow.

In fact, Rooki Beauty broke even within the first year of its launch and makes a healthy six-figure revenue annually.

According to Hayley, what’s driving the craze for Rooki Beauty’s products is the fact that the brand uses tropical-climate friendly and effective ingredients from Japan. The formulation of Rooki Beauty’s products are also extremely gentle and suitable for sensitive skin.

She added that about 80 per cent of her customers suffering from skin conditions such as eczema have reported improvements to their skin. 

Staying relevant in the skincare industry

Rooki Beauty
Image Credit: Rooki Beauty

Rooki Beauty’s products are currently available worldwide. Besides Singapore, the brand has repeat customers in Malaysia, Indonesia, United States, Australia and Hong Kong. 

Down the line, the clean beauty brand wants to introduce a more comprehensive range of products, including products that can cater to those with acne.  

That said, Hayley recognises that competition is fierce in the industry, and she believes that skincare brands would eventually reach a stalemate in the market without innovation.

I’ve seen quite a number of Singaporean and Malaysian skincare brands close down despite early success as they failed to resonate with customers over time. They try too hard to compete with Korean beauty and Western skincare brands, but the truth is we can never have that kind of economies of scale — our only option is to innovate.  

– Hayley Teo, founder of Rooki Beauty

This is why Hayley always identifies a gap or need in the market before launching a product.

For instance, Rooki Beauty’s Good Egg Skin Recovery Milk was launched as the brand noticed an uptick of “SOS-messages from people with irritated, inflamed and dehydrated skin”, as a result of returning to office after a long period of remote working.

Butterkynd/ Image Credit: Rooki Beauty

Aside from innovation, Hayley also believes that the best opportunities lie in the niche market. This has led her to launch a new skincare brand early this year, Butterkynd, which focuses on  delivering solutions for underserved and fringe skincare issues like stretch marks and eczema.  

Featured Image Credit: Hayley Teo / Rooki Beauty

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)