There is a growing awareness surrounding the importance of emotional well-being, taking time for yourself, positive body culture and finding a more holistic way of taking care of ourselves. We got Cynthia Chua, founder of self-care empire, Spa Esprit Group, to talk to us about self care, her entrepreneurship journey and how she has managed to change the conversation around taboos to build a successful empire.
As a beauty innovator finding new ways for women to look and feel great, what are the key factors behind your success?
It all boils down to hard work 24/7 and sheer tenacity. Pioneering a new concept is never easy and nothing works perfectly from the get-go. But that’s where the fun is! Our journey of innovation and invention is never-ending, and our mindset reflects this in order to stay ahead.
I believe that you must have a vision of what you want to achieve and believe 100% in it – even if nobody believes in you. Have the passion and the tenacity to keep going no matter how difficult it gets and creativity to tweak and adapt as you go along.
How do you decide which ideas to act on and invest in?
I’m not interested in franchising or copying a concept simply for investment, I like to have fun in the things that I do and have always been driven by creative and innovative concepts.
Every idea is borne out of my passion for a particular concept that excites people and fills a gap in the market. This is why every brand reflects a part of my personality or lifestyle. This is how I decide on which idea to act on and invest in.
Lots of local businesses fail when they expand overseas. What are the main challenges you faced during expansion overseas and how did you overcome them?
I remember when we first opened Ministry of Waxing in London, there were a lot of challenges such as the language barrier, the different working culture, new market environment and supply chain risks. I had to spend a lot of time at the store to understand the problems on the ground, and devote time to train and build a solid team to run the business.
I learnt that resources are finite - having a great concept is not good enough to make a business work, whereas a strong team is vital. It is so important to be flexible; I had to tweak our business practices repeatedly to fit new environments.
How do you ensure that the customer experience is on-brand at all times globally?
Training is extremely important when it comes to delivering consistent customer experiences as Strip itself has 14 outlets in Singapore, and 35 global stores (excluding Singapore) across 12 cities. Globally, all Strip therapists go through a minimum 6-8 week training program in our Singapore Training Academy before they work on their first customer.
All therapists also have to go through an annual re-certification process to ensure their skills are kept up to date. A dedicated customer care department tends to customers’ feedback and random mystery shopping exercises are also conducted annually to audit each store’s performance. More importantly, my team and I keep a very keen ear out for what people are saying. This helps us to improve our services, recognise the signs of market change, and even spot the beginnings of lifestyle trends.
You've made talking about the intimate area less taboo and even commonplace. How did you do this?
Humour and wit is the best way to address taboos and difficult subjects. It’s hard to be offended when you’re laughing! I believe that if something makes you think or have a conversation about a taboo subject, then we have already succeeded.
When I first launched hair removal treatments with Strip, everyone thought Brazilian waxes were only for porn stars! In a sense, Strip paved the way for TWO L(I)PS. That’s what I want for TWO L(I)PS - to open up dialogue, instigate enough conversation, get everyone talking about the vulva without stigma.
What do you do to care for yourself?
Self-care is extremely important to me, I believe that I must first take care of myself in order to care for those that I love and care for. I do that by surrounding myself with good energy and like-minded people to create a positive environment in which to thrive and learn.
I try to sleep at least 7 hours a day, wake up to birds chirping and have a nice breakfast. I also meditate for 20 minutes a day to consolidate my thoughts and I devote time to myself daily. It could be a massage, essential oil blending, music, reading, yoga, playing my Tibetan singing bowl or relaxing with a TWO L(I)PS Blackout Mask. I’ve found the Blackout Mask to be quite encouraging for couple time in the bedroom! It’s sexy, relaxing and it can be good fun.
TWO LIPS Blackout Mask contains half a bottle of serum per mask with organic botanicals to soothe, hydrate, brighten and detox the entire vulva area. Alcohol-free so it’s suitable for use post an IPL or waxing session.
Share with us about your current pet project and where you see it going in the future.
We knew there was a need for an intimate skin care line because friends, customers and therapists were asking what else they could do as home care. The idea of TWO L(I)PS was seeded based on this. I saw a need that people had and a gap in the market. So I thought, how can I fill this gap, what can we do to make it fun yet beneficial with effective formulas that work?
We’re going through a time where people are taking better care of themselves – both mentally and physically. It’s all about self-love, self-care, positive body culture and finding a more holistic way of taking care of ourselves. TWO L(I)PS is borne out of this growing movement. I feel it’s an important topic to bring up, regardless of the social taboos and embarrassment surrounding the vulva. Women all have it but can’t talk openly about it – we shy away like it’s a shameful thing. This is a mindset that we hope to change.
What do you think will be the three biggest beauty and lifestyle trends in the next years?
Empowerment is a trend – there is empowerment in looking after yourself, giving yourself the freedom and choice to do what works for you. This translates across beauty and lifestyle genres, that all contribute to a holistic lifestyle.
People want to know the origin of ingredients, live well and eat better. There are so many new restaurant and lifestyle concepts now advocating this and consumers expect the same of their beauty products.
In beauty, the intimate care business is booming worldwide, even if the product category for skin care specific to the vulva is considered niche. TWO L(I)PS is the first of its kind in Singapore, and we are possibly the first in the world to launch a charcoal sheet mask for the vulva.
It’s a novel product category, but we know that the interest and potential growth for intimate skincare is undeniable. As it is, we sold 3,000 pieces of Blackout Mask at Strip even before its official launch.
TWO LIPS Blackout Mask is priced at $120 (box of 5 sheets), and is available at all Strip outlets.