The truth is female entrepreneurs/ changemakers/ leaders come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. We don’t conform to stereotypes in society and we may approach business and life uniquely.
In this series of Interviews by JEOEL, our founder Jiayueh interviews the founder of NattaCosme, Natasha about her business experience in skincare and tips for young women.
What was missing in the market that made you want to start NattaCosme?
I remember my grandmother used to tell me: “Back in the old days, we could never afford beauty products! There were only a few brands and they were all very expensive. People nowadays are spoilt with choices!!” And, she is right, the skincare industry is thriving. We, however, also see a problem in tandem: the growing concern over the safety of the many products in the market as well as the authenticity of those items listed for sale. We wanted to provide a solution to this because we, as consumers, also share the same worries. Then, everything just clicked so we decided to create a reliable platform under which people can peacefully buy safe and cost-effective products from. From thereon, our motto has always been to deliver with integrity.
How long did it take for you to set up Natta Cosme?
My partner started his retail business 8 years ago, transformed it into a distribution company 3 years later and eventually, we decided to form Natta Cosme (M) Sdn Bhd by the end of 2017. Registration took less than a month but the process itself, in preparing and developing a clear vision. In total, it had taken us more than 8 years since we are only a startup in the field of cosmetics.
What was the hardest thing you had to learn to do in running a business?
Learning to say ‘No’. People often come up to us with various ideas and opportunities, but we understand that staying focused is critical to success. By concentrating on the few that can and has consistently produce results, we are more productive and this made our work more fruitful. We know that we cannot be distracted by bright and shiny objects, or, simply follow what others are doing. At the same time, we also needed to make sure that we are not turning down good opportunities to grow. So, balance is key.
What would you say is the proudest moment in your journey?
Now – because we are at our most mature since establishment. From the way we handle our internal operations to the way we manage our customer service, this speaks volume about how much we have grown that our business can now tend towards steady development. On that note, we are always looking forward to the next (and more) breakthrough moments with which we may use to improve ourselves and better our company.
What was the biggest business mistake you made and what would you do differently?
I think people are bound to face, at one point or another, some obstacles peculiar to the industry that they work in. We are no different. But, I would not treat any of them as mistakes per se – let alone pinpoint the biggest mistake – because trial and error is part of how you learn to be better at problem-solving. Even if the outcome turns out to be less than ideal, these attempts are our conscious efforts to improve and they will only drive us to innovate further. To me, moments of adversity form a process necessary for us to be able to arrive at a more satisfactory decision and push forward. So, hypothetically, if you were to ask me: “If you could turn back time, what would you change?” My answer would be: “Nothing, because I would not be where I am today if not for my past experiences.” But, I will want to tell myself this: “You can do better! Don’t ever hesitate and always give your all.”
What keeps you going?
My family, my team and self-love.
What is one thing people often misunderstand about you?
Strangers often think that I’m Korean. In fact, I’m Malaysian and always proud to be one.
How do you create milestones for yourself?
Once I have my goal firmly set in mind, I will start working backwards and break it down into smaller chunks which I’ll make time to regularly review and check in on the progress.
What advice would you give your younger self, knowing what you know now?
Give yourself a moment to reflect on where you want to see yourself in the next 10 years. Make a change or do the best.
What's the difference between a high quality skincare product and a low quality one?
What, in our opinion, separates high quality skincare product from low quality ones are: safety, efficacy and freshness. The most indicative being the safety of the ingredients used because, in reality, dangerous (but common) ingredients still lurk in plenty of products simply because different countries view their potential to cause harm – in other words, the risk level – differently. It is therefore best practice to avoid low quality products made with toxic ingredients such as known cancer-causing chemicals and steroids; even if they promise good and fast results, they can cause irreversible long-term damage to your health. Besides, in the absence of meaningful regulation, it is likewise possible for some unscrupulous traders to sell their low quality products as placebos instead of actual working formulations. As such, it is important that people go for high quality skincare products produced by trusted brands that self-regulates. Otherwise, it would not only be a waste of money but also a hazard to your health.
How do I know if I'm paying the right price for good skincare?
Everyone will have different purchasing power and spending pattern so budgeting is a must. To do that properly, it is important that you never be a mindless sheep following the herd. Imagine this: people to your left and right are all talking about how the ultra-expensive brand X have transformed their skin, you decided to join the crowd and bought one to try only to be greeted with a tiny pot of cream (despite it costing nearly half your wages). Then, reality hits: this will not even last a week in your routine so you decided to stretch it out for value and instead of using it twice a day as instructed, you only apply a very thin layer once a day. In the end, this is counter-productive because your skin is not receiving enough of it to work let alone achieve results. Having said that, the answer to what constitutes “the right price” is subjective and will differ as a matter of opinion. As a general rule of thumb: as long as you are not stressed over the amount you are using, that should be about right.
As a skincare/beauty expert, what do you know that normal people don't about picking quality products?
It is our practice to understand labels, and we always double-check on the ingredient list to ensure product safety and quality. If you have been following us for a while now, you should already know that products listed on our website, especially those constantly featured on our main page, are all of excellent quality. That is because in today’s era, consumers are living the smart life and they have access to a plethora of information online from educational videos to informative articles. Most, if not all, of them will have done their own research prior purchase so having good product knowledge is a must on our end. However, picking out the right quality product can be a complicated process. Instead of traditional sale and purchase, it would therefore be more accurate to see this as a form of collaboration: just as our customers are searching for what suits them the most, we are also finding what fits them best.
What advice do you have for women who aspire to start a business?
Never just start a business because you want to make money or earn more – profitability may serve as a main priority, but it should not be your only goal – because it will drive all your decisions to cater to short-term fixes. After all, you should want to be able to run your business (not just start it) and see it flourish. Launching an entrepreneurial venture requires enthusiasm, creativity and courage; growing that entrepreneurial venture requires motivation, endurance and business acumen. In any way, you must always have faith in yourself. All the best! I hope you make it.
Click below to watch the video of #GuessmyJEOEL with Jiayueh and Natasha.