Bar soaps were a bathroom staple until a few years ago when consumers began switching to shower gel. The perception was that bar soaps were used mainly by the elderly. Recently, however, cleansing bars have gained popularity among young people as brands such as Ana Temori have taken a more creative and innovative approach to their products.
Ana Temori was founded by Rachel Chin right before the country implemented its first lockdown last year. She started making soap as she wanted to find the right product for her mother, who suffered from a skin condition. At the time, they were unable to find suitable products on the market to treat her condition.
“My mother had itchy skin and rashes. She was scratching so much and I got worried. I wanted to help however I could with a product that might help ease her discomfort.”
To achieve this, she had to do extensive research. Chin studied ingredients, created product formulations and experimented. “I found out that soaps made of completely natural ingredients have been hailed as the holy grail for treating [skin problems such as] my mother’s. Thus, I started to combine different ingredients to experiment with the outcome and slowly developed an interest in the business. Obviously, my mother was my first customer,” she laughs.
After learning that the soap worked on her mother, Chin was more confident of her product.
“I felt like I could do something with this. I did not just stop after helping my mother with her condition. I continued making the natural soaps and sold them to my friends, and the response I received was positive.”
Chin has always had a fondness for the arts. She studied illustration and worked in the field before venturing into the florist business. Now, she devotes her time fully to Ana Temori.
The brand’s products are not the sort you see on supermarket shelves. Fashioned after desserts, they look so “delicious” and beautiful you’d think twice about using them.
Chin has experimented with many different designs. “At first, I really wanted to do more rustic designs. But as time went on and I experimented with a lot of things, I realised art is ever changing. I began to like colourful and bright designs. So if you look at my soaps nowadays, they are mostly really colourful and fun.”
Ana Temori’s soaps look just like the delicious desserts posted on Instagram accounts. As Chin puts it, “The point was to really make them look yummy, and people come to us because they are interested in soaps that look like cake.”
When the business started, she found it challenging trying to engage the right audience and market her brand as she had no experience in this area. “My business is small. Trying to put myself out there among other established brands was never an easy task.” She roped in Tan Guo Xiang, who handles the brand’s photography, logistics and finance.
Thanks to its fun vibe, Ana Temori has established itself through word of mouth. “My mother, sister and friends who have tried and liked the soap recommended it to other people and their support helped to expand the clientele in the beginning.”
Chin uses natural ingredients, which she sources locally, for the soaps. As such, they are suitable for use on the entire body. Apart from olive oil, her favourite ingredients are shea butter and cocoa butter as they are highly moisturising. “I use the soap to wash my face sometimes, but for people with special skin conditions, we wouldn’t recommend using it on the face because it might be too drying or too oily. It depends on everyone’s skin type.”
Each bar of Ana Temori soap weighs about 120g and can last up to 40 days. As the soaps have detailed designs and require careful handling, the process of making them can be time-consuming. Chin produces up to six pieces in three hours, and releases between 18 and 24 pieces per batch.
Collaborations with other local businesses have been key to the brand’s growth. These partnerships allow Chin to get more creative with her products as each collaboration calls for bespoke designs.
“I like collaborating with small local business owners. As one myself, I want to help them out because I have experienced the hardships of trying to build my own brand. We help to boost one another’s business by promoting them on social media.
“For the collaboration with Natural Wonders Malaysia, the owner Jasmine approached me for customised soaps as free gifts for her customers. That was a really big jump-start for my tiny business at the time, and I was really grateful and saw the power of collaborations and what it could do for small businesses.”
For those curious about the brand’s unusual name, Chin says it is one she just made up in a bid to express its creative DNA.
Chin dreams of eventually selling her soaps in overseas markets and expanding Ana Temori’s range of products to include bath bombs — with dessert-inspired designs too, naturally.
This article first appeared on Dec 6, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.