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HOME > THE EDIT > What Love Means to 4 Homegrown Brands

What Love Means to 4 Homegrown Brands

9 January 2022

How does love play a part in shaping one’s business?

Love isn’t just about a relationship with another person. For some, it surfaces in the form of the dedication they put into their work. And what gets them out of bed every day is the drive to improve the lives of others.

We spoke to the founders of four homegrown brands to find out how love drives what they do.

Empowering Women with Better Skincare

“When you love what you do, people can feel it. I’m passionate about skincare and zealous about creating beauty products that truly deliver, and I think people can see that.” - Hayley Teo, 29. Founder of Rooki Beauty.

Picture credit: Rooki Beauty

Biting the bullet and quitting a stable job to start your own business can seem like a risky move. But having “been in love with skincare since a young age”, Rooki Beauty founder Hayley Teo decided to leave her advertising job and start her own skincare brand.

With no prior experience in skincare, she felt like an outsider in the industry at first. But Hayley’s rookie knowledge in skincare became her greatest asset. The supposed lack of insider knowledge led Hayley on an extensive journey to find the perfect ingredients for her products. “I was a total stranger to the inner workings of the beauty industry. But this also allowed me to approach my brand from a consumer’s perspective,” the 29-year-old recalls. “I wouldn’t create something I wouldn’t use on my own skin. Doing everything from scratch meant that there were some inevitable mishaps, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

Hayley launched Rooki Beauty in 2019. Her first product, the Green Pulp Mask Paste was born with the help of an experienced Japanese skincare formulator. From there, the entrepreneur developed a whole line of superfood-enriched skincare.

And the best part about the whole process? Her customers’ seal of approval: “What I love most is when women tell me that Rooki has made a positive impact on their skin, and when they show me before and after photos. To me, it’s irrefutable proof that the products we’ve created really work and that people really do resonate with our brand.”

Bringing Comfort to Others Through Design

“We both share a love and appreciation for design, where form and function meet to produce a good product. It brings us joy when customers write in to tell us how much they and their families in turn love their bean bags, sometimes even years later.” - Shane Low, 39 and Jay Cheng, 39. Founders of doob Bean Bags.

Picture credit: doob Bean Bags

How many of us have stared at the empty spot in our room and wished for a comfy bean bag to chill in? That’s exactly how Shane Low and Jay Cheng started doob Bean Bags, a line of multi-purpose and ergonomic (not to mention, comfy) bean bags. “When I was looking for a bean bag, the ones available were either expensive, poorly made or ugly…and sometimes a combination of all three,” Shane shares. “So, it struck me that the perfect bean bag was waiting to be made. That’s how it all started.”

The 39-year-old friends-turned-business-partners reckon that the ability to help customers add a touch of comfort to their homes drives them. Their quest to make the perfect bean bag saw them undergo rounds of R&D in the early days of product conception. While they both had day jobs (Shane was a lawyer and Jay, an analyst), their love for design had them taking time out to create, according to Shane, “the perfect butt-rest”.

Today, you’ll find a slew of unique bean bags (even ones with armrests) at doob Bean Bags. But the R&D doesn’t stop. The founders’ love for design and innovation remains constant as they continue to find ways to improve their products.

“When we’re not working our day jobs, we would stop, marvel and contemplate various designs. It could be a museum exhibit or even a trade show,” Shane says. “We enjoy being trendsetters, and the challenge to continue evolving our business excites us.”

Transforming Childhood Passion into a Fashion Business

“I love things with culture and history because they have stories to tell. When customers carry my bags, I see them carrying a little piece of Cocoonese’s story around with them to share with their friends.” - Chloe Wang, 38. Founder of Cocoonese.

Picture credit: linleiphotography

Childhood hobbies often fade to make way for the bustle of adult life. But for 38-year-old Chloe Wang, revisiting her love for handicraft motivated her to start Cocoonese. “My life had become a routine, and I wanted to find a new challenge for myself,” Chloe shares. “So, I left my job as a producer for an international broadcasting company and started my brand of handsewn bags and purses.”

While the change from being a producer to a bag maker seemed drastic, it was a load off Chloe’s shoulders - she had found her drive again. Despite not having a background in fashion design, the Taiwan-born entrepreneur saw the change as a natural transition. She had grown up around many self-taught craftsmen, and with some support from her friends, learning the ropes of bag-making turned out to be a journey of self-discovery.

Since its inception in 2018, Cocoonese has made an impression among local artisans with a growing following.  Chloe considers bag making as her little escape from reality. “When I focus on sewing and making bags, I completely forget everything else,” she chimes. “Nothing else matters except the individual steps to making the product. Even the most mundane steps are therapeutic.”

But that’s not all to Cocoonese, Chloe says. You’ll see that her bags are decked out in distinctively retro and vintage patterns. Designed in small batches, the bags are made with handcrafted silkscreen prints, imbuing them with a sense of the past. “I intentionally chose this style because I want my bags to have character,” she explains. “The details should be able to represent a time in history but still be relevant to modern day dressing.”

Ensuring That No One Misses Out on Healthy and Flavourful Food

“Our love for each other (as sisters), the team who has seen us through the tough times, Jang’s legacy and our family have been vital in Mekhala Living’s progress.” - Daphne Hedley, Co-founder Mekhala Living, and Diane Wong, Chief Operations Officer of Mekhala Living.

Picture credit: Mekhala Living

Food is an unofficial love language. Many people bond over food and sometimes, memories are created because of how good a dish is. In the case of Mekhala Living, food represents a love that transcends culture and communities. The aim? To make organic, all-natural, gluten and nut-free, and vegan-friendly foods available to everyone.

Sisters Daphne Hedley and Diane Wong are the girl bosses behind the clean-eating natural foods brand. Daphne co-founded the company with the late Jang Bauerle, a close friend of hers. Jang was frustrated with the lack of nutritional value in many Asian store-bought products (curry pastes, chili sauce, etc.) and Daphne had been on the lookout for healthy Asian cooking ingredients. Together, they sought ways to bring fresh ingredients from Thailand to our doors. And when Jang passed, Daphne got her younger sister Diane on board. From there, they furthered the brand’s mission and launched a line of Asian cooking sauces, pastes and dressings that were not only healthy but tasty as well.

These days, the brand has gone global. Mekhala Living’s products are currently sold not just locally, but in 2000 stores in five countries. “We wonder how we ever got here,” Daphne and Diane say. “Thanks to our amazing team at our factory in Thailand, we are also able to support women and marginalised Burmese youths through our internships, hiring programmes and other women-focused endeavours.”

By building their brand upon their love for food and their loved ones, the sisters are committed to creating more products that will benefit the health of others. Their middle sister, Dawn, recently joined the team as their Chief Brand Officer.  “Our late father was very entrepreneurial, so building a business together as sisters feels like we’re honouring his memory,” Daphne says. “And as businesswomen ourselves, knowing that our customers are feeding themselves with clean and healthy food make us really happy.”

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