People talk about random things at gatherings. A casual conversation about laundry and what a chore it is with family members at a Christmas dinner two years ago inspired Herne Gan and Victoria Ng to do something to make that unavoidable task less daunting.
“My mother was telling us how hard it is to do laundry for the family, and we described our experiences doing the chore abroad. I thought ... if we could create something to bring a little fun to this dreaded job, why not give it a try?” says Gan, one of the founders of Sanren Journey.
In Mandarin, san ren means three people. The inspiration for the name was Gan, Ng and their parents, who fired them up to kick-start this journey.
Gan says he and Ng have totally different personalities and expertise. He is more creative and discussed his vision with Ng. “We started to have in-depth talks about how we could each contribute to the business. I handle business development and marketing while Victoria focuses more on operations, production and research and development (R&D).”
Gan was confident about taking on the venture because his father has experience in this industry. “We had the resources, and the whole R&D process is carefully monitored.”
The brand was officially launched in March, 2021, after they spent a year to produce the world’s first laundry stones. “We tried a lot of things with different formulas and in different ways, but failed so many times. It was really disappointing. One day, while drinking tea, I had the idea that we could replicate the teabag concept for our laundry stones. Then we worked toward realising the idea,” Gan says.
Each pouch of laundry stones — shaped like batu seremban — is made of nano anti-dye absorption fabric and contains ultra-concentrated laundry powder. This invention removes the hassle of scooping washing powder into the machine. All you need to do is throw the stone in and voila! — the machine will do its job.
As Sanren Journey’s laundry stone is the first of its kind, Gan and Ng found themselves in the hot seat trying to market it to local consumers, which made them pivot from their original plan. “We realised it is a whole different challenge trying to sell a new product because the laundry stones, made from scratch, are new to the Malaysian market. It was hard to get the message across — how to use the stones and how they make the washing process easier,” Gan says.
To overcome the challenge, the duo put on hold their plan to introduce laundry stones as their first product and instead brought in a colour absorber that has been in the market for about 30 years.
“This product is more straightforward, and we thought it would be easier for the public to accept. Essentially, our Enchanted Colour Absorber — 30 rectangular sheets in a pack — allows you to mix coloured garments with white ones,” Gan explains. It ensures fast absorption of the colour and dirt released during the wash cycle.
Positive feedback from customers on the colour absorber prompted the launch of Sanren Journey’s most anticipated release, the Classic Laundry Stones. Since then, they have added fabric stain erasers, fabric conditioner and fabric sanitiser to the line-up.
The brand has already had a few collaborations. Its latest with KLoé Hotel — a boutique hotel in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur — is aimed at introducing its fabric sanitiser that effectively eliminates germs and viruses on bedsheets and clothing. “We wanted to collaborate with a hotel because we think people want to travel but are worried about the risks right now.”
The brand has begun to gain recognition, but Gan and Ng certainly did not expect that less than a year after its inception, Sanren Journey joined other international brands on the shelves of Isetan, KLCC.
“When I received the email from their management team, I asked Victoria, ‘Is this a scam?’ We couldn’t believe it, but we replied and scheduled a meeting with them, nonetheless,” recalls Gan.
At the store, Sanren Journey was offered two rows of a rack in the household section to decorate and personalise the space to the brand’s aesthetic. “They told us Christmas is coming, and were willing to offer us a space — sort of like a pop-up booth. It was more than we expected.”
An offline platform allows the brand to interact with customers face-to-face, and that is what they have been waiting to do. After a fortnight at Isetan, they sold over 100 items.
Right now, the brand is focusing on giving customers a completely new experience in doing laundry. Going forward, Gan and Ng dream to expand their range of products to cover other household chores as well. “Our goal is to make housework more enjoyable for everyone,” he adds.
This article first appeared on Dec 20, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.