Interview With Lawrence Tan
Describe your product or service:
“Leveraging Forbes’ 5Cs (Consumer, Content, Conversations, Co-Creation & Community), Vase Creation formulates clean beauty and personal care products and provides on-demand and subscription basis, at an affordable price point, through ecommerce and personalized service, since 2018.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“To revolutionize the beauty and personal care industry through formulation and digitalization.
Vase Creation provides innovative, creative [solutions] and confidence to everyone through high-quality and sustainable products [that are both] safe and affordable.”
How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.
We are self-funded. However, we are currently active in looking for investors for seed funding to further grow this business.
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“The team consists of [three] founding team members.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“Yes, all three of us always wanted to own our own business. The excitement, liberation, profound sense of achievement, and ability to leave a legacy are the catalyst[s] for our decision to pick entrepreneurship over working for someone else.”
How did you come up with your startup idea? How did you decide to actually act on the idea? What gave you confidence that you were on the right track?
“Vase Creation was actually started by our female founders, Charlotte and Wendy. Lawrence was helping out part-time from the start until he decided to leave his role in a public relation agency to enter Vase Creation full time, in early 2021.
Charlotte and Wendy were active in the modelling industry during their university years until the global pandemic happened. Being models, they were exposed to various kinds of beauty products during commercial and fashion shoots. Unfortunately, they experienced unpleasant moments with some products claiming to be natural and organic. This was when they decided to start their own company with their knowledge background as a formula chemist/manufacturer and branding [manager].
Of course, during the start of our entrepreneurship journey, there were doubts and questions, always asking ourselves, ‘Are we on the right track?’ Fortunately, we started having returning buyers, and [we did] not forget the responses and great feedback from customers, socialites, and beauty editors in Malaysia. This gave us great confidence and motivation to keep doing what we do. We are very grateful to those who supported us. We wouldn't have achieved what we have without them.”
How did you come up with your company name? Did you have other names you considered?
“The name Vase Creation was also related to the founders' experience as models. Generally, models were perceived as a person [who looks good and features] fashion designs/accessories during photoshoots/events, metaphorically like a vase used as decoration.
This public belief inspired the name for our brand, Vase Creation, where we are determined to prove that models can be more than just a decoration. We are here to show that we can impact the beauty and personal care industry with the amalgamation of understanding the needs of our market with our experience and professions.”
What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?
“During the start, there were many challenges the team faced, such as limited funds for expansion like advertisements, intellectual property, and product certification. This resulted in a lack of brand awareness which leads to low brand reliability perception from the public.
However, the team persevered through, as nothing great comes easy. A Lot of time and effort was put into this as the team handled everything in-house from A to Z due to limited funds. The team [was] also quick to identify and adapt to market demand and trends which gained some capital to utilize on product development and media marketing, and that was when the brand grew exponentially.”
Who is your product or service made for? Who is your target market?
“Vase Creation quality products are unisex from three years old and above, right up to before the end of a person's life cycle. However, beauty and personal care generally appeal more to women in Malaysia. So to look more detailed into our target market, we are targeting more towards women age 25 to 45 as they are more educated and concerned on what they apply to themselves — [what’s more,] they possess higher spending power.”
What's your marketing strategy?
“We started off by collaborating with other nonprofit organizations/businesses to gain awareness and promote each other to grow simultaneously. We practice transparency by educating our audience on the ingredients of our formulation to help them realize what they are applying to themselves before purchasing. We also focus on feedback and suggestions from not only customers but also opinion leaders in the beauty industry (such as socialites, celebrities, and beauty editors from prominent media titles). Besides that, we run social media ad-buys to further amplify the reach and awareness. Lastly, we carefully filter physical retail outlets in-sync to our target audience profile to carry the Vase Creation products.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“It was one of our early milestones to reach our first 100 customers, and it was definitely worth it. During the early stages (as mentioned), we had limited funds to play with. With customers appreciating our quality formulation with an affordable mid-price point, the word-of-mouth strategy came to enhance our brand reliability reputation and propelled us to our first 100 customers.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“Sales is definitely a priority. But to further add to this list, we look at the rate of return customers, quantity of quality reviews, and the brand's media value.”
What's your favorite book on entrepreneurship?
“‘A Passion For Success’ by Kazuo Inamori.”
What is your favorite startup or business podcast?
“We do not regularly listen to podcasts, but we do occasionally tune in to TED Talks and Malaysia's business radio station, BFM 89.9.”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“A LOT of time needs to be allocated for work that is not billable like preparing decks and decks of proposal, invoicing, marketing, and follow-ups.”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“Honestly, there is not much of a balance as we are tempted to cover as much work in the 24-hour day, with our drive to succeed with passion. This means work/life boundaries are bound to cross the line because there's always the ‘one more thing to finish.’ Of course, we do reward ourselves and [still] enjoy our leisure time.”
How do you stay motivated?
“There are many reasons for us to stay motivated, but the main reason that stands out is the feedback and review of our formulation, which shows how much people love our product. That keeps encouraging us to break boundaries and achieve our mission to provide innovation, creativity, and confidence to consumers through high-quality clean products, without foregoing affordability.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“We used to view criticism as something bad or demoralizing but, after starting our business, constructive criticism, when done right, is crucial in helping to identify our weaknesses and turn them into strengths.”
What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?
“There are no boundaries. As an entrepreneur, we can create, invent, and disrupt anything as we wish, from culture to ideas to any direction of the company. We report to ourselves, and as cliché as it seems, the sky's the limit.”
More on Vase Creation
We were fortunate enough to hear some valuable insights during our interview with Lawrence Tan of Vase Creation that will inspire, motivate, and teach aspiring and established entrepreneurs alike.
We asked Lawrence Tan, founder of Vase Creation, to share the most impactful ways to support their startup, and this is what they had to say.