These women make soaps, nail polishes and candles and earn money from their hobbies-turned-businesses. Inspired? We are. By Lieu Wei Ning
Alli Sim, 31
Founder of Mmerci Encore, an aromatherapy atelier that produces hand-crafted grooming products.
At the age of seven, Alli made her first facial mask using honey, lemon juice and avocado. Now, she creates grooming products in her studio using raw and organically sourced ingredients for her online store Mmerci Encore (a play on the phrase "merci encore", French for "thanks again"). Think body scrubs and hand-poured beeswax candles made from all-natural essential oils. Prices range from $22 for a bottle of Lemon Essential Oil to $57 for a Luxe Gloss Body Serum.
Backstory: "Growing up in Brisbane, I wasn't allowed to play with dolls. So I turned to books and spent time outdoors, taking road trips to plant farms, where I learnt about various ingredients. I also learnt to make my own products. After I left my former job as beauty editor of a Singapore magazine, I started Mmerci Encore as a blog and a forum to express myself. I also made body scrubs and balms as gifts for friends, which they started buying as presents for loved ones. I started selling these products on the website in 2013."
Her beauty tip: "Essential oils oxidise, so store yours in a cool, dark place. They keep for up to 18 months, but once the colour changes and they start to smell rancid, throw them out."
"Never stop experimenting and stick to smaller batches to reduce cost and wastage." Case in point: Alli makes no more than 50 bottles of facial mist a week.
Mmerci Encore Invigorating Facial Mist, $29.50.
This relaxing blend of camomile and rose essential oils refreshes skin and calms frazzled nerves instantly.
Caryn Lim, 27
Co-founder of Coat, Singapore's first five-free organic-nail-lacquer label.
Thanks to frequent trips to nail salons with her mother as a teenager, Caryn developed a love for nail care early on. This eventually led her to open her own nail salon, and subsequently, create Coat, Singapore's first five-free nail lacquer brand. What five-free means: The formulas are free of harsh chemicals - namely toluene, dibutyl phthalate, camphor, formaldehyde and resin - and are safe even for pregnant ladies. Launched last October, Coat nail polishes are formulated and manufactured in the US. The polishes retail for $25 each and come in 20 shades. The brand also offers a Must-have Base and a Super-dry Finish at $28 each.
Backstory: "After I graduated from university, I joined the banking sector for a year. I gave that job up to chase my dreams of owning a nail salon - Hands + Feet Studio - offering nail spa and foot reflexology treatments. I was already using organic polishes in my nail spa, so creating my own organic nail polish line was a natural progression. The great thing about organic polishes is that you don't have to compromise beauty for the sake of your health - you can have both."
Her beauty tips: "Even when you're not using your nail polishes, shake the bottles every once in a while, and store them in a cool, dry place - this will help them last longer. If your nails are prone to yellowing, use organic nail polish instead."
Coat 5 Free Nail Lacquer is available at Hands + Feet Studio at 44 Siglap Drive (tel: 6448-7187).
"Get the support of your loved ones as they will be a source of strength when the going gets tough. My parents have been there for me unconditionally - my mum helps out at Hands + Feet Studio and this gave me the peace of mind to focus on starting Coat. My dad tapped on his experience as a businessman to give me advice on starting a business."
Coat 5 Free Nail Lacquer in Seduction, $25.
This deep red water-based polish dried to the touch in two minutes and lasted a whole week without chipping.
Jocelyn Yao, 47
Founder of Soap Paradise, an online store selling preservative-free handmade bar soaps.
Jocelyn started off making soaps in her townhouse kitchen for her friends and family, but she now makes them in a factory space and sells them at her online store, Soap Paradise. These handmade bar soaps do not have any preservatives or detergents, which supposedly makes them good for sensitive skin. The brand also offers balms, facial soaps and even a mild K-9 Doggie Soap ($6) for your pup or kitten. In addition, she creates customised soaps - each takes up to three hours to make - that are popular as wedding favours. However, since soaps take four to six weeks to set, you'll have to be patient if you're keen on your very own customised soap. Prices start at $8 for a bar of glycerine soap.
Backstory: "I studied microbiology and used to work as a cancer researcher, but when I had my son, I quit my job to be a full-time mum. My son had eczema, which inspired me to make my own soap to keep his skin moisturised without the use of harsh chemicals or preservatives. Soon, I was selling them at fundraisers as well. In 2010, I decided to register Soap Paradise as a business so that I could start selling my soaps online. There was a lot of trial and error involved with every batch I made - I did a lot of research and taught myself how to make the soaps."
Her beauty tip: "Air your bar soaps out after each use to prevent them from becoming gooey. They can last one to two years, but keeping them in a cool dry place prolongs their lifespan."
"Put yourself out there on social media platforms like Facebook or Youtube. This will help attract customers and build brand awareness. When I first started, I knew nothing about social media, but now I even have a Youtube channel (Jocelyn Yao) where I share my soap-making knowledge."
Soap Paradise Signature Butter Soap in Sweet Dreams, $15.
This fresh-floral soap has vegetable oils as well as cocoa and shea butters, so you don't need to apply a body moisturiser afterwards.
Shane Tan, in her 40s
Co-founder of Gummi Nails, an online store selling nail wraps.
Besides running a creative production studio, Shane also designs fashion-forward nail wraps (fuss-free stickers to decorate your nails with). Patterns are created using Adobe Illustrator before they are sent to South Korea to be manufactured as nail wraps. Fun designs include one featuring Hollywood actor Ryan Gosling's face and another with illustrations of watermelons. Gummi Nails has even collaborated with local fashion label Depression to design wraps with prints featuring spectacles, polka dots and moustaches. Prices range from $5 for a set of Water Transfer Nail Decals (designs you can print onto your existing manicure using water) to $16 for a set of Vinyl Nail Wraps.
Backstory: "I majored in illustration at university and most of my designs come from things I love. I started the brand with fashion blogger Xiao Wen, an ex-colleague-turned-friend. Both of us are very passionate about nail care and nail art, but the latter can be difficult, time-consuming and costly. We wanted to make nail art affordable and accessible, so Xiao Wen and I came together to create fun art pieces on nail decals."
Her beauty tip: "Always apply nail wraps on clean nails (do not use hand creams) and apply a top coat to help them stay on longer."
"If you are going into business with a friend, communication is key. Xiao Wen and I have worked together before and we recognise each other's strengths and weaknesses. I'm in charge of design, while Xiao Wen, who has a marketing background, handles that side of things, so we complement each other perfectly."
Gummi Nails 100 per cent Real Nail Polish Wraps in Royal Flush, $16 for a set of 20 wraps.
No drying time needed: Simply apply a base coat, stick on these nail wraps (made of real nail polish), file off the excess and finish with a layer of topcoat. They feel comfortable on your nails and last for two weeks. Best bit: They can be removed with regular nail-polish remover.
This article first appeared in the Jan 2015 issue of Her World.
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