Author's blurb: Flawless skin is a goal for many. Personally, I've tried long 10 step skincare routines and even reduced them to a simple cleanser and moisturizer when the former didn't work. So far, I haven't found the right products that work for me.
Aerin Gabor visited her grandparents from Kadazan-Dusun, who live at the foot of Mount Kinabalu.
There she noticed that her elderly grandmother, aunts, and mother had clear, flawless skin.
That made her curious about her skin care routine.
Aerin herself was having trouble getting rid of acne and redness in adults because she tried too many scented beauty products.
Relatives told her the secret lies in a kalalit tree that is native to the Southeast Asian region.
"The stories of old women of Kadazan-Dusun elders believe that a few sprinkles of kalalit water on their face was the invigorating touch that helped their complexion look flawless," she said.
So every day she tried to apply the kalalit water to her face. To her surprise, her skin improved after a week with several problems.
After this trip, she returned to Kuala Lumpur and shared her newfound discovery with friends who were fascinated by her skin.
“That's how I founded OLUMES, on a mission to help those with multiple skin problems solve them with a clean skin care formulation that works,” she said.
Combine passion with education
"In today's market, we are bombarded with thousands of products that can only solve one skin problem at a time," she said.
"For example, moisturizers that target fine lines but cannot work on acne and bumpy skin."
Aerin understood the city's busy lifestyle and wanted to develop products that could solve multiple skin problems at once.
This was because not many have the time to slap their faces into a 10-step skin care routine day and night.
(Left) Aerin, (Right) The Refining Lotion and The Satin Cream are currently the only 2 products of the brand / Image Credit: OLUMES
She brought this passion to the UK to earn an Advanced Diploma in Organic Cosmetic Science.
There she learned how beauty products are made and how important they are.
Combining her education with the belief that the solution to beauty problems lies in nature, she decided to mix the Kalalit water in creams and lotions.
"It's like Borneo in a bottle!" she rang the bell.
Natural Resource Pricing
Aerin works with a local laboratory to extract the Kalalit water from sappan wood.
She went on to explain that OLUMES contains other ingredients like plant phytosterols, ceramides, plant stem cells and plant extracts, to name a few.
These ingredients aren't cheap. The prices for OLUMES are between 80 and 300 RM per product.
This form of branding, where a natural resource like Kalalit water is packaged in a bottle, reminded me of Avène.
It is a brand that markets itself by bottling natural thermal water obtained in France.
Avène's products range from RM40 to RM200, a much cheaper alternative to OLUMES.
That made me curious how Aerin managed to convince their customers that Kalalit water would work for them at such a price.
Kalalit water is obtained from sappan wood / Photo credit: OLUMES
For one, she shared that she relied on word of mouth to sell the products.
"I believe that products that work amazingly well will speak for themselves and will eventually find their owner," she said.
The OLUMES team also informs its customers about the ingredients they use to build close relationships with them.
This form of relationship marketing is usually helpful when it comes to building a loyal following.
Many customers these days are more open to trying locally made products on a smaller scale than when shopping at bigger brands.
This is usually the result of local brands engaging more with their customers on their social media.
OLUMES word of mouth marketing has already spread to Singapore, in addition to shipping to all of Malaysia's coastlines.
With this growth, Aerin and her team plan to conquer the Southeast Asian market within 10 years.
“At the same time, slowly introduce internationally in Europe and the USA. I am excited and very proud to be bringing my rich Kadazan-Dusun heritage to the world, ”said Aerin.
Bottom line: Malaysia is rich in raw materials and now that OLMUES uses Kalalit water, a natural extract from Sabah, it would be inspiring to see more of such a niche product shared with the world as the brand manages to scale globally.
- You can find out more about OLUMES here.
- You can read about other Malaysian startups here.
Selected image source: Aerin Gabor, founder of OLUMES