After getting her law degree, Sabah-born Cassandra J Poyong decided that her true calling was Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Growing up, she always felt something was missing in her life, but when she began practising this martial art, everything seemed to fall into place.
Today, she is a national jiu-jitsu champion and has competed as part of the Malaysian team at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines. “I was the underdog but I came back with a silver, which was great. We were the first jiu-jitsu team from Malaysia to go for the SEA Games and the other countries were more advanced than us,” she says. Competing in Abu Dhabi, Portugal and elsewhere, Poyong has won medals and done her country proud.
Realising that she needed to find ways to fund her travels and competitions, Poyong pondered starting her own venture. As she knew nothing about setting up a business, she decided to work for a high-end tea company to learn more. After a year, she quit and launched Organically Moi in May 2018. “All my products embody me. That’s why the name ‘Organically Moi’, which means organically me. But people in Malaysia think I named it that because I am an amoi or my name is Moi. At first I thought it was a problem, but then I got used to it, and now I really like it because it’s a conversation starter,” she laughs.
Skincare might seem like a random choice for a jiu-jitsu athlete, but Poyong drew inspiration from her own needs. “I discovered that because I train a lot, my body does not always heal properly. I get bruises, bleedings and scratches on my skin but found that there are natural ways to help heal my skin,” she explains. She concocts natural remedies that are useful for athletes and regular people alike. For instance, her sugar scrub — a blend of fine sugar, oils and essential oils — removes dead skin as it nourishes, so bruises and scratches stay clean and heal faster.
Poyong’s first bazaar was a steep learning curve. “It was a seven-day bazaar in Publika, which I quickly realised was not a good idea. It was from 9am to 9pm. I did everything myself so I didn’t get to close shop, train or even eat properly,” she says. With her strenuous training schedule — working out and practising six times a week — she can only manage her business on rest days. She began opting for weekend pop-ups instead, as they were more manageable.
As she learnt from her mistakes, Poyong developed a clear vision for her life and business. “I wanted to create a business or brand that would help people, the same way jiu-jitsu helps people,” she explains. While jiu-jitsu helps motivate people to try harder (as Poyong discovered), her business helps people feel better with its pampering products.
Organically Moi’s product line consists of soothing and natural concoctions that Poyong creates after extensive research and testing. The foot soaks have been lauded by marathoners and people whose profession requires a lot of standing or walking. “The salt in the foot soak removes toxins from your feet and relieve pressure so that they are less swollen. The oils it contains are also very healing,” she says.
After learning about the restorative powers of oatmeal baths and lentils, Poyong experimented with creating her rehydrating protein face pack to nourish and repair skin. “It took me a couple of months of research to perfect the formula because you cannot have too much of any one ingredient, especially the lentils because they are a coarser grain,” she says. This product also has multiple uses — it is a face mask, cleanser and scrub. Organically Moi’s product range now includes face serums and soaps.
The Covid-19 pandemic had a great impact on many entrepreneurs. Bazaars were no longer an option, for example, which was problematic for Poyong, as she relied on pop-ups and bazaars for most of her sales. Since international travel was not allowed and there were fewer local tournaments to train for, Poyong had more time to spend on growing her business, particularly the list of stockists. While Organically Moi’s products are available at The Hive Bulk Foods, she also began a store on Shopee. “I know I should have my own website and I’m working on that, but as a one-woman show, it’s really taking a lot of time. I like Shopee because it is easy and has a good tracking system and efficient delivery system,” she explains. Past customers have also begun looking for her products online, which helps to boost sales.
“I feel like the pandemic is telling me to fix my business. But it has also helped me try something else,” says Poyong, who has also started a jiu-jitsu teaching gig at a new gym called Hikari in Bangsar.
This driven young woman’s real passion is helping people, and this is evident from her hard work and determination. She hopes her products will be available in more stores and wants to maintain the quality and handmade feel that her customers love. “If you put effort into everything you do, you will see the results,” she says.
This article first appeared on Mar 15, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.