PETALING JAYA: For some people like Tan Mein Mein, the pandemic was a blessing in disguise. She was working in the travel industry at the time, and because tourism had come to a standstill, she decided to pursue a hobby to occupy her time.
She settled on making soaps. This proved to be a beneficial hobby as the soaps she made were also more suitable for her sensitive skin.
The first few batches she made used oregano leaves from her garden and as she carefully measured and poured, she discovered that she was having a lot of fun!
The activity was also therapeutic and it reminded her of being in her science laboratory back in school.
She decided to give these soaps to her friends. “Their feedback was that the soaps were really nice and gentle, and they could use it on their faces and bodies,” the 43-year-old recalled.
They suggested that she start a business and in March 2021, Tan did just that. She named her business EVES Artisan Soap and sold two kinds: oregano Tea Tree Rice Bran Soap and Lavender Relaxing Soap.
It wasn’t long before her business blossomed and in June the following year, she quit her full-time job. Today, she sells a tantalising range of soaps in various shapes – food, desserts and animals among others – and some of them look good enough to eat!
Looking at her macaron soaps, one can’t be blamed for mistaking them for the delectable dessert! The macaron soaps come in various scents – baby powder, lavender, and peach and they all smell heavenly!
When asked what inspired her, she shared with a laugh: “Personally, I like desserts and macarons. But I don’t know how to bake.” So, the next best thing for Tan? Make soaps, of course!
Yet another eye-catching product are the cheese soaps. They, too, look remarkably realistic but (thankfully) do not smell like the real thing. Instead, you get the sweet scent of peonies.
There are also freesia-scented galaxy soaps. Resembling colourful and sparkling crystal balls, they will certainly make showering fun!
Other interesting products include the aloe vera mint soaps which are made using aloe vera from her garden and mint essential oil. Additionally, Tan also sells honey rose geranium soaps which are made with honey from Sarawak and rose geranium essential oil.
To make her soaps, Tan uses two different methods – the “melt and pour” method and the “cold process”. In the former, the premade soap base is melted before it is customised with colours and scents.
Meanwhile, in the latter, soaps are made by combining lye and different types of oil such as olive, rice bran and sweet almond.
Apart from soaps, Tan also sells bath bombs in different scents – lavender, rose geranium, sweet orange and lemon as well as liquid soap.
Although running her business has been a literally sweet-smelling experience, the journey has not entirely been a bed of roses.
“As business owners, we need to do a lot of promotion so that people will be aware of our products. We also need to balance the price, so that it’s not too low that we can’t make a living or too high that people can’t afford to buy,” she said.
To that end, the support of non-profit organisation, Persatuan Pembangunan Artisans (PPA), is something she appreciates.
PPA helps local artisans widen their distribution channels via its online platform, retail outlets and pop-up events.
Tan shared that having her products available on PPA’s various channels has been helpful. “I don’t have to worry about rent and from there, I have slowly built my confidence,” she shared.
She added that with PPA’s help, she was able to reach more customers, including an established corporate customer that placed a large order during the Christmas season last year.
In the future, she also hopes to make her products available on other platforms such as Shopee and Lazada – and continue in her effort to make the world smell a little sweeter and showers more of a luxury treat!
Read more PPA stories and get to know its artisans here.