Ola Beleza, which distributes Natura exclusively in Malaysia, celebrated its first anniversary on Sept 22. Here, Datin Mina Cheah, its intrepid leader shares her insights on work and life.
Options: Congratulations on the first anniversary of Natura. What have been the main highlights of the past year as well as key challenges and how did you overcome them?
Datin Mina Cheah: We have spent the past year establishing Natura’s first-ever presence in Asia, and introducing the brand to Malaysians via our pop-up store, our e-store and our social selling community. Of course, as with all businesses, the key challenge this year has been the pandemic. For Natura, however, it has only presented us with more opportunities. We opened Asia’s first full-fledged Natura store at Mid Valley Megamall in June 2020. In terms of social selling, many people have found opportunities to earn an alternative income stream from doing what they love, and from wherever they may be, by signing up with us as beauty consultants. Therefore, our business continued to grow even during the pandemic and we now have close to 300 beauty consultants, and the number continues to grow exponentially every month.
What’s on your second-year agenda for the company?
Accelerating social selling is the main focus for the brand. The social selling concept by Natura is a digitally driven business model whereby our beauty consultants do not need to stock up, orders are delivered by Natura and commission is automatically credited within five working days. I believe this concept will earn widespread popularity in this current environment.
Natura is famous for its eco commitments, such as being 100% vegan, having no animal testing and ecological packaging. But the recent pandemic and even the Klang Valley water crisis have seen a surge in the use of packaging, owing to food delivery, the purchase of bottled water and whatnot. Moving forward, what more can individuals and corporations do to remedy this?
Our priority is, first, to use recycled materials and raw materials of renewable origin; starting off correctly, we offer refills for many of our best- and fastest-selling products to further strengthen the 3R philosophy. To empower our customers and consultants to also actively practise sustainability, we offer lower-cost refills on many of our products, thus saving the amount of packaging they use. In our stores, we incentivise our customers to bring back their empty packaging for recycling, and we are now proud to say that we are finally able to close the loop by recycling the used packaging into a product that can again be used in our daily lives, such as a soap dish. Natura is a B Corp Certified company and we have just launched our Sustainability Vision 2030 with our Commitment to Life.
How do you abide by Natura principles in your own home and daily life?
First, I try to reduce my own consumption to necessities. I try to incorporate my values into my buying decisions such as choosing renewables and items with low environmental impact. I also actively support brands and businesses that share these values. I separate my recyclable and non-recyclable waste at home, and I return my plastic bottles to The Body Shop and Natura. I use recyclable bags for my daily shopping and refusing single-use plastics wherever I can. I encourage the team to go vegan once a week — we have Vegan Wednesdays every week, where staff are encouraged to be creative with vegan recipes and bring food from home.
Everyone has been battered by the Covid-19 headwinds. What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs struggling with the situation?
Stay healthy physically and mentally. Try to ride out the turbulence. Look for a supplementary business opportunity to keep afloat; Natura’s Social Selling business, where you do not need to have capital investment or keep any stocks, is a good example and it comes complete with hassle-free delivery handled by Natura. You can earn money by sharing products with friends and directing them to their own e-store portal. And you get paid in five working days!
What apps or tech devices did you feel proved most helpful for you during the Movement Control Order (MCO)? Or what books or mantras/thoughts helped you cope with the uncertainty and other upheavals during this time?
Natura recently launched a meditation app that offers guided meditation tracks and weekly classes, which help with breathing and calming the mind. Conference call tools were also helpful during the MCO, as they kept all of us together; be it business or family events — they allowed us to share about Natura and stay connected with each other and, of course, our customers.
Where did you travel to just before the MCO and why?
I went to Peru and Ecuador. Why? Because I’d never been and I wanted to visit Machu Picchu and the Galapagos islands
You have experienced some epic adventures, including summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, trekking to Everest Base Camp and rafting through 41 rapids down the Zambezi River — all in the past 10 years. What did you have planned for this year or where is the first place you would travel to once the borders reopen?
Antarctica! I’d already booked my passage and prepared my gear. Now, I have to exercise more patience than muscle.
What have been the most important lessons the pandemic has taught you — in work as well as life?
Be nimble and adaptable. The Darwinian Theory is that it is not about the ‘survival of the fittest’ but rather the survival of the best adapted. How apt that I had just returned from the Galapagos to see this theory in effect being played out in the Covid-19 era now.
This article first appeared on Sept 14, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.