STYLEGUIDE sits down with Louisa Ch'ng, co-founder of ColorMeHappy Cosmetics as she recounts how she went from the firm world of management consulting to the limitless world of cosmetics.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
If you had asked any of my friends, I would be the last person to start my own lipstick brand. I had spent more time staring at books in a library then cosmetics in the mall. I was a UK lawyer by training – but then ended up as a management consultant with Bain & Co for about 10+ years. Loved working on business strategies with clients in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and in the US. Even did a MBA at Wharton Business School to further my business skill-set.
After having my 2nd child, I partnered with a good friend in Bangkok to start a small school there focusing on brain and character development believing that we needed to broaden the skills of our children for the 21st century. I am also currently working on a pilot program for the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC). What can I say – I love being busy and being able to learn and contribute across my many different interests.
What made you decide to start your own lipstick brand?
When my partner (who is a veteran marketer) and I, first came together – we were both non regular make-up users… thus it would be crazy to set up a cosmetics company!!! But there was an item that we never appeared without – and that was the Lipstick. Make up is a woman’s armour and nothing is unconquerable by a woman in lipstick (especially hot smoking red lipstick!)
That started our journey to find the perfect lipstick (the colours, the shades, the textures..) and we realised you need different shades in different situations – and wouldn’t it be lovely to own them all?. To empower women of all ages and types to chase their dreams (and look good while doing so). But with our busy schedules and need to juggle multiple obligations, will we have time to browse the latest, choose the best and buy in a store?
Thus we came up with our solution - For the latest lipstick/make-up to be delivered to our doorstep regularly - a monthly delivery of surprise and delight! We really wanted to push the women to be bold and to be more adventurous, and to start that journey with their lip colours!
That was how Colormehappy was first conceived over drinks by two friends who believed in bringing some colour into a girl’s life. We had launched it as the first lipstick subscription in Singapore, but now we offer our full collection ala carte on our website as well as through Megafash (MGX) stores, OG department stores and soon to be in Metro department stores.
What were some of the challenges faced in creating the lipsticks for ColorMeHappy?
As a management consultant before, I did not have a chemistry background to formulate the lipsticks myself. But my partner and I have always taken a customer lens to our products; and we experimented with many formulations to identify the right collection for our launch. We finally managed to locate a lab in Seoul, Korea who shared our ideals and worked with us to produce our two lipstick lines.
Our other challenge was to ensure that our products went through rigorous testing and met the lengthy requirements of the ASEAN Cosmetic Regulations (similar to FDA rules in the US etc.) For a small startup, this meant considerable investment as we sent out collection to an independent lab in Hong Kong (even after the initial round of testing in Korea). And we are proud to say that our products do not include any prohibited substances (like lead), animal ingredients and are not tested on any animals during the production.
What was the most memorable experience to you with ColorMeHappy?
I think it has been the need to pivot the business model as we test our products and marketing messages. Initially we had conceived ColorMeHappy as the first lipstick subscription in Singapore, but as we realized that customers here are not as adventurous and prefer to choose their own shades, we immediately modified our offering to be sold individually. We had developed our lipsticks with Korean colour technology; but we realized we also needed strong local support as a local brand. We had then collaborated with many local make-up artists; which had given us great feedback and support in the launch of ColorMeHappy – thanks so much to all our wonderful makeup artists and ambassadors!
What is the biggest achievement for ColorMeHappy since the launch of the lipstick brand?
It has been an exciting journey since our soft launch in Nov 2016 and our official launch in Apr 2017. There are quite a few things I am proud of - one would be the fact that one of our shades (actually my favourite), Boldlicious HD Fuschia Explosion won the Boldest Brightest Shade last year in the Cleo Magazine Hall of Beauty Award, beating out many of the more established, bigger brands.
Another exciting development for ColorMeHappy has been our in-store strategy. For a new lipstick brand, it is crucial for us to get consumers to try our lipstick. We had launched our brand initially online (though our website and Lazada) but we really believed we needed an omni-channel approach. The fact that we are now in a few department stores and chains makes us very grateful that our brand can be accessible to more ladies in Singapore – allowing them to test them out before purchasing.
What is the most important to you when choosing a lipstick?
For me, it is the colour shade and the texture. We worked with our lab in Seoul to try to find the right balance in making lipsticks that are moisturizing yet be highly pigmented to deliver a rich shade of colour. We are pretty happy with our Boldlicious HD limited line which is rich in high intensity pigments and can last up to 6 hours yet moisturizes the lips.
What should a good lip care routine be like?
Experts recommend that we exfoliate our lips! Any balm/mask will be more effective if there is no build up underneath. A lip scrub can be used about once a week.
Just as we apply a face mask, our lips are just as deserving of the same treatment. The lip mask should be applied for 10-20mins; again once a week.
However for lips which require a little more TLC, we do suggest trying something stronger – lip treatment oil. Most of these oils are infused with plant oils and powerful actives – intent to condition lips, relieve dryness and shield against pollutants. Colormehappy has launched its own Lip Night Repair Oil to do its magic while you sleep.
For girls who are new to lipsticks, what tips do you have in finding the perfect shade of lipsticks that suits them best?
Our Marketing Director, Deborah Kay (Debbie), who is a whizz with digital marketing, actually created a chatbot for ColorMeHappy. To help find the right lipstick, the chatbot gives a personality test to the girls. It will have eight questions, which helps the chatbot to figure out your personality and suggest lipstick products that you will like. The first question that the chatbot will ask you is what you like to do on Saturday nights. The answers can range from hitting a nightclub to Netflix and chill. It will ask you about your ideal hairstyle, location for a perfect holiday, your take on tattoos, your reaction when you are angry, your favorite celebrity, a word that describes you perfectly, and your favorite accessory.
Once you complete the quiz, the chatbot will tell you about your personality type. For example, if you get diva, the chatbot will describe your personality type in detail. It will also give you information regarding your makeup style. According to the chatbot, divas make sure that their makeup is on-point; and suggest strong dramatic lipstick colours.
Another way which we have programmed in our chatbot is to conduct a skin analysis so that you can find the right lipstick for you. First, the chatbot will find out if you like gold, silver or both. It will also ask you for the color of your veins and how your skin fares under the sun. Depending on how you answer these questions, the chatbot will guess your skin tone and suggest the right shades accordingly.
What would you say to those who have yet to try the lipsticks from ColorMeHappy?
We have our subscription boxes that are very affordably priced – which we hope the girls will take advantage of – as we will surprise the girl with our best pick, delivered straight to the doorstep. For our Perfect Bliss package of 3 products per month, it only costs approximately $10 per lipstick. Do sign up to get a little box of Happy every month.
Are there any mentors or people whom you would like to say thanks to throughout your journey in creating ColorMeHappy?
It has been an exciting journey and I would like to thank my partner, Christine and our marketing director, Debbie (who is also a very close friend of mine since our Wharton Bschool days). They both inspire me every day to create the best product and experience for the girls out there. Christine has the perfect eye for aesthetics and comes up with the most beautiful classic designs, while Debbie has really helped us broaden our customer reach and develop our digital marketing strategy.
What can lipstick lovers expect from ColorMeHappy in 2018 and beyond?
We hope to bring ColorMeHappy to girls in the other SEA countries like Malaysia and Philippines. We are also looking forward to launch our next collection by year end.