We got to know Michelle Lee from our first HerPortal Conference in November 2017.
She was one of the first sponsors that responded to us to sponsor sample giveaways to guests. We wanted to promote handmade businesses by Women through this initiative.
We are delighted to interview Michelle on her journey as an Entrepreneur.
To learn more about her business & products, visit NineForYou Facebook page for updates.
What drives you to start the initiative/business?
Nine For You was created to provide a clean and safe personal care solution for family. It all started during my pregnancy of my first child, the hormonal change has affected my sense of smell, skin condition and body. During this period of time, I was more careful to the ingredient, the result of the product and the smell. I am sensitive to products that are made with chemical ingredients. It gave me bad nausea and vomiting reaction. I would instantly have to change everything, even though it was all expensive branded products and only used less than a month.
The stress and worry didn’t stop there. I continue to worry what I use, as now I had to breastfeed my new born. There were too much skin contact with my Baby, as any bad ingredient may somehow be ingested regardless from skin to skin cell down into the blood stream. It all be indirectly ingested. I was very careful.
The maternal instinct in me have drove me to start the business to fill the very niche market gap, which is to provide personal care with safe and clean ingredient to Mom and Baby. So that as a mom, we don’t have to worry of what we use and focus on raising our child.
Did you get any help when starting out?
When I first started, I had my girlfriends around me that gave me ideas, insight to market trends, and process to get things done for the business. It was exceptionally useful for me, as I was a stay home mother when I begin my journey. As I grow and begin to speak to more experience people, and some of them is now a mentor to me that provides me a lot of advise to structure my thinking.
What kind of challenges did you face when you first starting out?
The biggest challenge for me was decision making. I had to be very careful in making the right decision, as it involve not just monetary but also the wellness of other human being.
How did you overcome those challenges?
I start to read more articles that relates to the business, speak to more experienced business people and being more receptive of feedbacks and idea. I wasn’t afraid to just ask, because all I knew was I needed answer that can help my business, and I need help that won’t cost me money. I was lucky too to have a Mentor to guide me and structure my thinking to make the right decision to move forward.
How long were you in the business that you manage to break even?
Nine For You operation cost is low, as it operates from home and runs business online.
Furthermore, the nature of handmade solution business gives better control to cost and margin – number of production, and percentage of margin for profit.
We would usually produce whenever it is needed or when there’s an event. We will gauge the number of produce based on the location, crowd and hours of event. Therefore we usually can manage to break even at each sells made in the bazaar; unless we are not selling.
When did you make your first breakthrough in business?
Nine For You goals is to be known as the go-to Mom and Baby personal care solution, providing our customer with safe daily care like – makeup, skin and body care.
So far we have almost a complete skin and body care range, and we will be launching our own makeup range soon.
It will be a breakthrough to see the result of launch of our own makeup range, and to have every household own at lease 1 product from our shelfs.
Have you faced situations where you barely have enough to make ends meet and what did you do about it?
Yes. I had to make the decision based on my goals and resolve the loss. There was once I didn’t have enough help and funds to partake an event. I had to ask for all help I could get to help out on the event to sale, and purchase ingredient in credit term. The business break even but there was barely profit as I was constantly giving out sample to promote for the products, and developing products too.
How did you earn from the business?
I’ve started the business based on personal experience needs. Hence I don’t see myself “selling” but sharing experience.
I work with event organiser, beauty saloon and wellness trainer to promote Nine For You product through contributing the experience and taking the product as a solution.
Therefore, right now the business has four distribution channel opening opportunity to expose the brand to make its earning.
How did you market or promote your business when you first started?
Unlike F&B or fashion industry, the beauty industry is highly based on reputation and reviews of the product. You build the brand around the products.
I had to give out a lot of free sample, sponsoring, and getting friends and family to try the products. I take every feedback given seriously to improve and improvise the products. Ultimately it has to help people too.
What is the best way to create awareness for your business?
Continuously creating exposure for the product, and get high followers or influencing mothers to share our products. Eventually, we want to promote wellness living through our brand and inspire mothers to create a business through providing solution that could maintain the well being of a family.
What comes to your mind when you hear “Women Empowerment”?
“Women Empowerment” to me is peer support within our sisterhood. Encourage women to be truthful to their own needs, and provide the support for her to be emotionally and mentally independent. Helping her achieve balance in managing priorities without sacrificing their well being, believing she can be confident and strong at the same time.
Who was your biggest supporter when you starting out your business?
Friends and family are my biggest supporter. They gave me a lot of support in helping me to test the products, and provided feedbacks that helped improved.
Nevertheless my son, he is my motivation to work harder each day so that I could be the person for him to look up when he grows up.
If you could start all over again, what will you better?
I never believe in “if”, what is done is done. But what one can do, is to improve and do better at each time. I will take time to reflect myself and review on things that I have done each day. I set goals to make sure I achieve, and have the courage to face my mistakes. I believe this had helped me do better.
What is your business growth like 10 years from now?
I have not set a 10 years business goal, but my 5 years business growth plan is to create product credential so that we can go mainstream, be the go-to Mother and Baby personal care solution. Establish workshop that will enable women to learn to create their own handmade personal care business too.
What’s your top 3 advise for Women who wanted to start their own business?
Determination – Clear all the excuses, have a goal to set the right mindset.
Focus – Forget about how you feel, because people doesn’t do business based on feelings. Stay objective.
Balance – Plan your chores and responsibility based on priority. If you’re a working mother that need to work from 8am -5pm. Make a point to leave work on time. If you’re a full time Mother, make a point to treat yourself well with information. Always give yourself at lease a good 3-5 hours of me-time. Don’t sacrify family and yourself, both should have a balance treatment. Know the right time to let it go, don’t hold on to yourself too hard.
What’s your advise to Women who have no idea what they wanted to do in their life (still in search of their life direction)?
Discover or rediscover a passion you have had, draw a roadmap to discover opportunity by throwing in a lot of question to get the ultimate answer. Through this you’ll learn to understand yourself better. Otherwise, think how do you want your children to learn and see from you. Find a goal as a motivation to go forward – be it a monetary reward, or personal value. Be your own worth.
What is your brutal honest advise to Women who finds/gives excuse (self-limiting) in pursuing their dreams.
Happiness are from within, but not by the people or things given. You can only be happy and loved with things that you’ve achieved or created as it is a fulfilment that will be and stay within you.
If you fail in your business venture earlier, what do you foresee yourself doing now?
If I have not start this, I will not be able to discover my value and the determination to establish my worth in life.
How do you maintain balance while running your business (family & personal)?
I manage my routine, schedule, and work around my son. As my determination to achieve without sacrificing the time to raise my son, I find it’s very important to communicate and manage responsible equally with my husband and family. Always remind myself that some work can wait, focus what needs to achieve today by timeline and it’s fine to be imperfect as this gives us room of improvement.
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