Addicted2Startup met up with Founder of Naturally Handmade Miss Bavani Gopala Krishnan recently at the Penang Mini Makers Faire 2017. We at Addicted2startup are always inspired by people who had the courage to step up and take the initiative to start something new, be it a business or start a new talent and have the patience and determination to make it successful. Some of you reading this might smile, shrug and say “Its nothing. Anyone can do it”. Or you might just say, well ‘ I dont know why they dont dare do it’. Having interviewed so many people, 8 out of 10 people will excitingly tell you their dreams, ideas and what they want to do in the future. Only to end up, not starting it due to the millions of excuses they give to themselves.
‘EXECUTION’ is the key. An idea without execution will never see success. An idea with execution will at least have a chance at succeeding.
This is the story of Naturally Handmade.
Naturally Handmade was founded by Miss Bavani Gopala Krishnan who is also working full time as a Talent Aquisition manager in KL. She has previously worked in various Multi National Companies and have been venturing into different side businesses, among which was also to be a Chef. Her relentless spirit of not giving up to pursue her dreams
A2S: You mentioned to us at the start of this interview that Naturally Handmade isn’t your first business venture. In fact you mentioned at some point in time, you were also a chef in the food business then as a property agent and those ventures somehow didn’t turn out the way you expected it to be. Subsequently you started Naturally Handmade. Having go through the entire process of START, FAIL, RESTART, which all entrepreneurs would tell you, is the natural process of having a startup. How do you feel about failure and what advice do you have to the younger generation who wants to startup their own business but who are also afraid of failing.
Miss Bavani: I had my catering business before I worked as a Chef and I left my business when i was given the opportunity to be the Head Chef for another company. I sold all my catering equipment to the same company. They offered me profit sharing with minimal pay for a year. As I was banking a lot on the profit sharing, I was practically living on my savings ( due to my minimal wage) during my tenure as a head chef. After a year, the company went back on their word on profit sharing and things got ugly and I left the company.
Not giving up, I then ventured into the property market as a property agent. At that time the property market started to stagnate due to GST implementation, sales wasn’t doing well. I didn’t have much cash to roll, and decided to find a full time job. But early this year, I caught the entrepreneur bug again, and decided to get my hands busy on formulating DIY bath and body products for my self which involves formulating recipes (kinda like cooking). As get more immersed in this, I realized that the entire process of making your own soap was very therapeutic.
If there is one thing that I have learned over the years is that, if there is anything you want to do. If you are capable, do it yourself with your own skills, energy and time. The harder you work, the more success you will find. My advice to anyone who wants to startup is ” Don’t be afraid of failing. Failure is good as you get to learn from it. And every time you fall down, pick yourself up and strive to go higher”.
A2S: What inspired and made you start Naturally Handmade?
Miss Bavani: I started Naturally Homemade by wanting to cure my own sinus. I use hand sanitizers very often and I found the ones available commercially contain 90% alcohol which was very drying for my skin. One of the things I realized is that as Malaysians , we are exposed to Air Conditioning almost 60% of the time (working in offices) which makes our skin very dry. Therefore I went on to research natural ingredients which I could use to formulate my own moisturizing hand sanitizer.
A2S: What makes your product STANDOUT from the rest of the other handmade products in the market?
Miss Bavani: My Unique Selling Point (USP) is that I originally started by making skin products to treat my own skin problems. These products are delicately made with love and made one batch at a time. The ingredients are all natural, individually selected and formulated to give it, long lasting effective results.
A2S: Let me start with the Malaysian market, as this is where you are currently based. Malaysians are a very price sensitive lot. As you are using premium ingredients, what are you currently doing to ward off competition that are using chemical based ingredients at a cheaper price?
Miss Bavani: In my opinion, it all starts with education and understanding the importance of using good quality products for your skin. I mean lets be honest, the reason we are using skin products is so that our skin looks better. So why not use the best for our skin? By slowly educating my customers on what ingredients are used, how they are being formulated, their uses and applications ( online and offline), I am able to convince and show them how good Naturally Handmade items are. Secondly it is about the target market that you are aiming for. There was once I setup shop in KL, and I realized a stall next to me was selling similar items for half my price. I was nervous at first, afraid I might not be able to sell anything. But surprisingly, I had my own set of crowd. Customers that came to me, told me that they realized the good quality of my products and hence, came to buy from me.
In order for my products price friendly, I produce them in smaller quantities, hence with the smaller packaging, the price is reduced to an affordable price. The beauty of it is that the packaging are all now, travel size and very convenient for people who are always on the go. Also because I am using concentrated Natural ingredients and are PARABEN FREE. Customers will only need to apply small quantities of the product for effective results, which is great because then the product lasts much longer.
**Naturally Handmade products are Paraben Free, the best storing conditions are without sunlight and moisture. Products are good to last for 6 months.
A2S: What do you foresee as a major challenge in the future for Naturally Homemade ?
Miss Bavani: Testing and Scalability
Testing: Currently all product testing and formulations are done in an external Dermatologist lab. As there are so many different skin types out there, the next challenge is to be able to formulate and test products for a variety of Dry, Combination to Oily Skin and also Differentiate between Asian and European Skin as each skin type needs its own individual care and issues to address.
The process of making body butter with luxurious mango butter, cocoa butter, Shea butter and a blend of moisturizing oils & essential oils.
Scalability: Currently I am still maintaining a full time day job, I do all my formulations and packing in my own home at night. Usually between 9-11pm, I am able to make between 25 to 50 small batches of products. When the demand increases, the challenge would be to find a bigger working space to store the products, formulate and pack it. The space would also have to have good ventilation and properly kept (clean and hygienic) and also maybe we will need to look into a bottling machine and also mixer to assist in product consistency and also increase production. As production goes bigger, then there is also the challenge of quality control. Currently because I am formulating and packing it in small batches, I am able to control the consistency of the product.
A2S: As Naturally Handmade reaches the stage when you are looking to expand, then you will probably need to look at fine tuning SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) , QAQC ( Quality Checks) and maybe automation.
Miss Bavani: That is correct. My current worry is the quality of the products. When you hire someone to do the work, there is always the worry of how to maintain product quality. With skin care items, employees are able to cut corners by missing a formulation step or not mixing a certain ingredient just simply to complete the tasks within the certain working period. Most bosses or founders will only look at bottom line ( which is how many bottles produced in a time period). Once the product is bottled, and the texture and scent is the same, it will be difficult to check each bottles contents. Problem arises when the customer buys the product, applies it and after some time, the desired effects are not achieved. Therefore to complement the implementation of SOPs and QAQC checks into the production line, we need efficient supervision to ensure that these necessary steps are taken.
Naturally Handmade’s Best Seller
Aloe Vera Salve – The combination of witch hazel, tea tree oil, eucalyptus and spearmint helps to heal cuts, wounds and insect bites. Tea tree oil is known for stimulating blood and keeps acne at bay. Eucalyptus does its share of protecting you from muscle pain, respiratory problems, exhaustion and list goes on. Spearmint is a natural antiseptic and is good for the brain. Witch hazel is an awesome alcohol replacement, helps to control oil and a popular acne treatment. All in all it still works great as a hand sanitizer. Even safe for pets.
A2S: Who is responsible for creating your logo, product designs and marketing material?
Miss Bavani: My husband created the Naturally Handmade’s logo. I laser printed and hand cut the stickers for each bottle. This makes sense as production is still small and i can save costs by doing it myself. ( Miss Bavani was still labeling her products at 1.30am for the SeeknKeep Event at Bangsar Shopping Center, while we were proofreading this article with her. She will then try to catch a few hours of sleep and then head over to the event).
A2S: How are you currently selling your items and what channels are you using to get your product out to the mass?
Miss Bavani: Currently I am mostly selling our products via facebook and chat applications. It started off with friends knowing about my products and placing orders with me. Then through word of mouth, the news of this product spread and has helped me build my base clientele. I am also participating more at fairs like this to get the word out.
A2S: An observation that we would like to share, but we know maybe due to manpower limitations, this step hasn’t been implemented, is that your Social Media pages are not fully utilize to fully amplify your business and product presence. Most of the posts on Facebook, do not garner enough engagement from the public and also content are not posted up regularly. And I personally understand the issue at hand, because for our own hotel as well, we get stuck sometimes with what content we should post and whether it is relevant to the business. Most small startups that are mostly 1 man team or a 2 man team, would be looking for affordable and reliable one stop digital marketing services to handle all the marketing and Q&A sessions with the curious customers online.
Addicted2startup would like to sincerely thank Ms Bavani for stepping over the line to share with us, her valuable journey. It is our hope that we get to inspire others who are just waiting to start their own business journey but are still happy in their own comfort zone. Addicted2startup is here to give you that extra push, guidance and network to get your business off the ground.
We would like to take this opportunity to grab hold of all your thoughts and ideas of what you would like us to ask in the future so that the questions are more relevant. Please join us on our Addicted2startup community as we discuss on different startup ideas.