Natural skincare social enterprise supporting B40 farmers in Borneo

Author’s presentation text: I have suffered from chronic skin problems all my life and have tried various products claiming to work wonders on people with skin conditions to no avail. It wasn’t until I was properly educated by a compassionate dermatologist about my condition that I was able to seek out the right treatment to control the problem.

Natural skin care products have been in great demand for relieving skin problems ranging from acne, eczema, and psoriasis to simply oily and combination skin.

A few years ago, Sulie struggled with chronic eczema which caused her to quit her job. Unable to find products that she could safely use on her sensitive skin, her doctor suggested that she try an alternative in the form of natural ingredients.

Immersed in research, she handcrafted her own skin care products using ingredients she could easily find in the backyard of her village, Melugu in Simanggang, Sarawak. There, she met a beekeeper who revealed that half of the farmers in Melugu earn less than RM200 per month from their yield.

Therefore, Sluvi was born with a two-pronged solution in mind:

  • Create natural skincare products that are safe for people, especially those with sensitive skin;
  • Empower farmers by providing them with ingredients and increasing their income.

Since launching in 2018, the company has been named one of the 2018 Sarawak Shell LiveWIRE program winners and has been supported by acceleration programs hosted by MaGIC.

Sluvi was one of the 2018 Sarawak Shell LiveWIRE program winners / Image Credit: Sluvi

Increase farmers’ income by 300%

After starting the social enterprise, Sulie told Vulcan Post that farmers in her village don’t exactly jump on the train. “We tried to spread the news through word of mouth, social media, phone calls, but after more than a month no one showed up,” recalls Sulie.

“We think these farmers did not trust the legitimacy of our business. We therefore decided to go out into the field and meet the villagers from house to house to explain to them what our project consisted of.

Some of the farmers of Sarawak / Image credit: Sluvi

Although it takes time, it was well worth it as the 4 families working with Sluvi today increased their income by 300%, earning between 850 and 1,200 RM per month. The team also trains their farmers in sustainable farming techniques to reduce the use of pesticides in their plantations while increasing yields.

These farmers consist of single mothers, elderly widowers, unemployed young adults and fathers in village areas. “Most of our beneficiaries had no other jobs before and were simply dependent on government financial assistance, which is still not enough to support their families,” Sulie explained.

“During that time, they didn’t realize what the natural plants they were growing in their garden could do for them, until Sluvi gave them the idea to use them as ingredients in our products. By having more income from Sluvi, life could be better for them.

Less is more

Currently, Sluvi only sells 4 products on the Potron and Miracolo e-commerce platforms.

All priced at RM22 each, Sluvi’s product line includes stingless bee honey face and body soap, aloe green tea face mask, rice face mask and scrub. body with lemon coffee. They can also be found in stores from their resellers, Shine Pharmacy, Farm Direct Shop, and Ranee Artisan Gallery.

Sluvi Stingless Bee Honey Face & Body Soap and Rice Face Mask / Image Credit: Sluvi

In 2018, however, Sulie told Vulcan Post that they initially started the business by selling 10 products, packaged in ziplock paper bags to accommodate their small capital of RM800. “We thought that with a greater variety of products, customers would be happy to browse the items,” explained Sulie.

The plan backfired; the paralysis of choice plagued customers instead. It went on for 6 months before the team realized that it was a waste to produce so many products because it was costing them more money than it made.

The reduction in their product variations has helped them focus more on sales and profit, while continuously improving the quality of the Sulie family kitchen production. “We learned the hard way,” Sulie said.

So far, they have been able to generate an average income of between 12,000 and 15,000 RM per month over the past year. Sulie explained that around 60% of customers are from Sabah and Sarawak, 30% are from Peninsular Malaysia, while the remaining 10% are from overseas consumers who have found them on social media.

Always concerned with improving the lives of farmers

In 3 years, Sulie hopes to increase the income of its partner farmers to at least RM2,000 per month, through agricultural training and workshops led by the Sluvi team. She is also seeking to impact 15 families and educate more Malaysian consumers on the benefits of natural skin care products.

“Our long-term goal is to create a better agricultural ecosystem in the villages of Sarawak. Through this project, farmers could have sustainable incomes, improve their skills and knowledge in agriculture, produce quality natural ingredients and have vocational training experiences, ”she added.

Sluvi is looking to expand its product line and secure more B2B customers and retailers in the hospitality, spa and beauty industries. For her business operations, product development and marketing purposes, Sulie intends to raise 100,000 RM.

At the end of the line : Over time, I discovered that skin problems are actually a very common problem. Personally, I have noticed that at least 2 people in my friend group of 6 suffer from it. And while Sluvi’s products have helped Sulie’s own eczema, she recognizes that they may not work the same for everyone, which is normal for any product in general.

  • You can read more about Sluvi here.
  • You can read about other Malaysian startups here.

Image Credit Featured: Sulie Abell, CEO of Sluvi

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