I am your typical Sabahan girl. I grew up here, went to school here, and just like everyone else, I wanted to have a study abroad experience. After high school I looked around for the best schools, while at the same time trying to figure out what I wanted to do in life. I couldn’t – so I just decided to take a business degree in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has some of the best business schools in the world. I enjoyed studying there, but I don’t like working in big cities – which is why I say that I am really Sabahan. I prefer being close to nature, and that’s the reason I didn’t stay in Hong Kong.
Maciej (Natalie’s husband) – That’s where we met..
Oh! Yes that’s also where we met. Chuckles. We didn’t like it there so we decided to come back, without much of a plan or any solid business experience. So I talked to my parents and that was when they gave me the idea of starting a salted egg business. My family is in the agriculture industry. They run a pig farm while my husband and I decided to start the salted egg business. At that time we had no better options so my husband and I went ahead and did it. We started running the salted egg business about two years ago, and we managed to grow our duck farm three times the size from when we first started!
However, we knew that it wasn’t what we wanted to do in the long term. Maciej found his passion (as a 3D artist) and what I am truly passionate about is skin care. I was doing this natural skin care business on a part time basis, but now I have the opportunity to do it full time. We will be selling off the farm and my sister will continue managing it – she has been working with us for three months and will be taking over everything in October. Maciej and I will be moving to Kuala Lumpur and we will continue to do what we love.
My parents are cool about us selling the farm as well as taking my natural skin care products business full time, as long as we can make a living for ourselves.
A lot of people wonder why I start doing natural skin care although I graduated from a business school. Actually, I’ve always been an artsy person. I love doing DIYs. Even when I was in college back in Hong Kong, I always read blogs about DIY skincare. I made my own facial oils, serums, candles and balms from online tutorials. I stopped doing these after I started running the salted egg business, but the artistic side of me was always there. It was not until I attended a soap making class that my passion came back to life and I reminded myself what I really wanted to do for a living. I actually enjoy crafting natural soaps and other skin care products. In fact, I take all the photos that you see on my website, Facebook or Instagram profiles, and I design all the packaging on my own.
I took soap making classes in April last year after seeing an advertisement on Facebook. After the classes I kept on experimenting at home until I got so addicted to it. Sometimes I fail and sometimes it doesn’t turn out how I wanted it to be. So I started to read blogs, online forums, and I bought books to enrich my knowledge. I also shared my products with people around me. They gave me really good feedback. Few months later, I finally felt like I have one solid skill that I can turn into a business.
After doing this for part time for almost a year, my husband and I decided to move to Kuala Lumpur. It is also when I decided to do this full time. I think it’s a great opportunity for my business because it would’ve been more difficult if I continued to stay in KK as the market here is smaller. Of course, there will be higher competition in KL, but the market is also larger and generally the people there have a higher disposable income. Another reason is that sourcing ingredients would be a lot easier and cheaper. Currently I am buying a lot of things from West Malaysia, so moving to KL means that I can save shipping cost and there will be many more options to choose from.
However, I think the most difficult part is building connections from scratch. I had the opportunity to speak at Webcamp KK the other day and I am hoping that opportunities like these will come when I am in KL. I wish to find a business partner, but until I do I will be doing this on my own. I figured out that doing it alone is not the best way. I cannot do many things in a short period of time. The soap-making process isn’t the most time consuming part – it’s the marketing.
In terms of marketing and getting the word out, my social media platforms, either Instagram or Facebook, are the most effective ways for me. Generally people still do not have the habit to do online shopping. Somehow they don’t prefer to order through my website – they like to write to me personally and order from me directly.
For my next project I will be using salts. I talked to a nutritionist about the benefits of natural soap, and she gave me a suggestion to incorporate salt in the soaps. She told me that it works really well, especially for cancer patients who suffer from dry skin. The nutritionist will normally suggest her patients to rinse their legs in salt water for half an hour to boost blood circulation. By using salt soap, the patients get to enjoy similar benefits in their shower too!
Natalie Lo is the founder of Native Body & Skin, maker of natural body care products such as soaps, massage oils and lip moisturiser. I hope you enjoyed reading about Natalie’s story and leave us a comment if she inspired you in any way! Remember to check out her ginger turmeric soap making demonstration here if you haven’t already done so.
Featured profile image © Danielle Soong. All other photos © Natalie Lo.