How to start your own beauty brand in Singapore: Founders of local labels RE:ERTH, FrankSkincare, and Sigi Skin share the secrets behind their success
Empire state of mind
While some of us may have entertained the notion of ditching our stable professions in favour of striking out on our own, it is a fantasy rarely fulfilled. The point of conflict in just about every midlife crisis movie, it seems passion hardly ever equates to financial security... even in the digital age, which is rife with new-and-innovative forms of employment. Sacrificing one for the other is the norm, and more often than not, the one that offers a steady paycheck wins.
Except when it doesn't. Meet the entrepreneurs who risked it all to forge their paths — the trailblazers of the local beauty scene. Think labels amongst the likes of Sigi Skin, RE:ERTH, and Frankskincare – many of which have gathered a staunch fan base as well as international acclaim in a few short years. This got us wondering: how did they do it? What does it take to survive a market dominated by established both Western and Eastern (read: K-beauty) players? And what do budding beauty moguls have to know before setting down the same path? We get local beauty brand founders to dish the dirt, divulging the secrets (and schemes) behind starting a beauty brand in Singapore.
"RE:ERTH is an abbreviation for 'Re-encountering Earth'. We envison to be a sanctuary of calming experiences in this modern world, accompanying our users through the seasons of life. We feel that a lot of the products out there are designed to target symptoms, but not necessarily the root issue or cause, and so we are obsessively careful in selecting quality ingredients that have well-defined safety profiles and well documented efficacy from across the globe. This not only restores skin to its natural, optimum state, but also addresses individual skin concerns.
Beyond technicalities, it's about being authentic. We first introduced the brand to beauty editors, makeup artists, and people that consumers trust. We gain credibility when potential customers see a product recommended by people they trust. We do not pay for reviews. While it is slow, word of mouth recommendations still work best. Also, as a young brand, it is also about considering each opportunity carefully and being creative with the resources that we have to stay sustainable and nimble! Be clear on your brand values and don't be afraid to ask for advice or help to ensure that it resonates with your stakeholders." — Ziling Toh
"Sigi Skin aims for stress-free skincare. The dual function products (eg. Morning Glow functions as both moisturiser and sunscreen) helps declutter your skincare wardrobe, making it perfect for time-pressed Singaporeans. I've invested a lot of time into researching the products and listening my consumers, to find out what they need and want. Sigi Skin does not launch products just for the sake of launching them, and we spend time perfecting products that we believe are really effective.
It was especially challenging selecting products that work for Sigi Skin's consumers rather than creating products that are just trendy or really hyped up. If I could sum up all my expertise in a single piece of advice, it is to believe in your idea and execute it to the best of your ability. Do not let people around you cloud your judgement or impair your confidence!" —Xenia Wong
"I decided to make the switch to natural skincare after becoming aware of chemicals found in most skincare products — and that was when I realised that there was a lack of 100% natural skincare in the local market. At that point, I had just moved to Hong Kong without a job, and it hit me one night that it was now or never to start my own brand that gives back. And so, W.ant Skincare was born.
For those looking to start their own beauty brands, I'd say make sure to do your research. And I mean a lot. Look into other skincare brands to see what already exists, look into how they market themselves, and be sure of your brand positioning." — Winona Tan
"FrankSkincare means very frank skincare — a direct and honest approach to skincare. We are completely transparent about all the ingredients in our formulations, even when it's not required by law to list ingredients below 0.5% on our website. We adopt a no-nonsense formulating process where we don't use fragrance, preservatives, alcohol, fillers, or even water in our products.
Even though Singapore doesn't have the largest market for skincare, consumers here are generally educated, skincare, and digitally savvy, which makes it the perfect testing ground for skincare labels. I marketed through social media and survived purely online in the beginning. Singapore is also physically smaller, making it more flexible in terms of logistics and delivery. Just remember to find your niche and to identify a real problem you'd like to solve. The market is never too small for a practical solution." — Cissy Chen
"The brand name Rough Beauty was inspired by a hiking trip to the Himalayas. The terrain was majestic, beautiful and raw, and I knew I wanted to incorporate it into my very first brand. Soap making really started out as a hobby for me and I didn't have any background in business or design, so I learned everything along the way.
I'd say the best thing to do is just go for it. Or, well, make sure you have some emergency funds before going into it." — Jia Tian