Women Who Launch: Human Nature Singapore

Christine Buyco-Sy, 34
Owner & Director, Human Nature Singapore

One word comes to mind when I met Christine for this interview: Tenacious. Her never-give-up attitude has seen her life through many personal milestones from being a young Filipina uprooting to a foreign country (Singapore), attaining a Master’s degree from NUS in Urban Design, becoming a successful architect working for one of Asia’s largest architectural firms, transiting to a SAHM (Stay-At-Home-Mom) with two young daughters, and today – being Singapore’s sole distributor of Human Nature, a natural personal care brand. This momprenur is a woman who is always doing something. Even as a young teenager, Christine served as President for the Youth Christian Life Community’s (YCLC) pro-poor campaign – a local Catholic organisation setup to help the poor. Activism and a passion for better living has been (and still is) her driving force in life.

How did you get involved with Human Nature?
It started on one of my trips back home to Davao City, Philippines. I walked into a newly opened store selling all-natural personal care products at super affordable prices. I was so excited and ended up buying lots! But learning about the advocacy behind the Human Nature brand, which is to provide sustainable livelihood to poor farmers and communities, helped sealed the deal for me. I wanted to be part of this cause and quickly got in touch with Human Nature to secure the distributorship.

Were you always big on natural products?
I started getting serious when I became a mother. I had learnt about harmful chemicals found in everyday products. Despite doubling our household bills, I started using natural and organic products (and food) for my two young daughters.

When did you launch your online site?
Mid-October 2012

How much investment did you need to start this business?
My husband and I set aside S$50,000.

Is this your first business venture?
This is my first official business venture. I have tried selling children designer clothes on eBay, and had an online shop but supply (from US and UK) at a great discount was inconsistent.

What challenges do you face as a momprenuer?
The most challenging part for me is setting up a business while taking care of my two daughters – a 2-year old and a 6-month old baby (at the time). My husband and I are from the Philippines. We don’t have the support of an extended family so I am very hands-on with my kids feeding them, changing nappies, taking them places etc. The only real chance I get to work is when they are sleeping. I hardly have a good night’s sleep – sleeping around 2am everyday and waking up every 4 hours to breastfeed my younger one. I lost 10 kilos in a very short span of time!

How do you juggle your time?
I recall a mompreneur being asked the same question, and she aptly replied ‘Just sleep less.’. Nothing could be truer! I think planning ahead is the key. My husband and I spend family time going to the park or beach and let the girls run loose. Once their boundless energy is spent, it is followed by a nice long sleep for the kids, and a movie time or dinner date for us.

Also, I get most out of my day if I can creatively integrate tasks while looking after my girls. I ‘babywear’ (carry in my sling) my youngest daugther while running errands and doing household chores. This keeps her contented and she learns a lot from observation. With my eldest daughter, I always bring her to the market with me, and we identify different vegetables, fruits etc. We even do counting of our Human Nature’s inventory together.

Who are your customers?
Women in their 20’s and 30’s and mostly mothers. They find me mostly through the shares and likes of Facebook, especially when I run contests and giveaways!

Having started less than six months ago, how is business for you?
Picking up! We receive regular orders now so traffic is getting better. Also, we have plenty of repeat customers and that helps a lot.

What are your plans going forward with this home-based business?
I hope to distribute my products to natural/organic shops, as well as to baby and kids shops, island-wide. To make natural products affordable in the mainstream market. But the challenge lies in the expected high profit margins needed to place these products on commercial shelves. Human Nature is a social enterprise that believes in the optimization of profits, with the aim to provide livelihood to poor farmers and communities, rather than maximization of profits. Our products are extremely affordable to customers and I don’t want to change that. So, that is my challenge.

What advice would you give to mompreners thinking of setting up a business?
I personally learned the hard way that no matter how much time and passion you put into what you do – you have to get the business basics right first. That is, have a sound and well-researched business plan to start. It allows you to sit down, think through carefully and plan your vision, strategies, projections, and most importantly, financing.

Who inspires you?
My parents. They are so supportive in whatever I do. I am also inspired generally by momprenerus.  My best friend Jenny Ong is a mompreneur and blogger of Chronicles of a Nursing Mom. Her real life success story is one of many that inspires me – knowing I can take care of my girls, earn an income, and ultimately, balance work and family life.

Since you are a breast-feeding advocate and young mom, what skincare advice would you give to women in your shoes?
When I was pregnant, I had super radiant skin. This was probably from the fish oil (DHA) I was taking when I was pregnant and a few months post-pregnancy. With breastfeeding, I tend to get dry skin and hair from time to time, so drinking plenty of water and eating proper nutrition is important to me. I have also noticed that I get skin breakouts when I do not get sufficient intake of vegetables, fruits and fish.

Honestly, I have a very basic beauty regimen since I embarked on this crazy ride being a WAHM (work-at-home mom). I am lucky if I find time for a facial!

What is your best-selling product? Why?
It is a tie between Natural Kids Shampoo and Wash, and the Strengthening Shampoo. Both contain Philippine Coco Nectar (flower of the coconut) which is a potent source of amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Human Nature is the first in the world to use it in a shampoo formula. As with all our products, they are very affordable and really work wonders!

In what ways do you practice eco-conscious living at home?
I am very mindful of the products I use everyday making sure they are environmentally-friendly, conducts fair trading and not tested on animals. To me, it is the little decisions I make everyday.

For instance, I always carry my foldable shopping tote and get away without using plastic bags. When my daughter had her birthday two weeks ago, I explained to her we would opt for latex balloons, instead of foil ones because foil takes hundreds of years to disintegrate. We also used biodegradable disposable plates made of corn starch.

If you could play your part in saving the planet in just one way, what would it be?
We boycott places or products that are not kind to our environment. For example, we don’t eat shark’s fin soup. And more recently, we don’t go to Resorts World SEA Aquarium in support of ‘Save the World’s Saddest Dolphins‘ campaign. I want to bring my kids up as faithful stewards of our planet – respecting nature’s balance and biodiversity, and hopefully pass that on to our future generations.

As a parent, it must be hard to be seen as denying your kids (and yourself) of fun and experience that other kids are participating in. How do you manage that?
I agree. It is a lonely road. I have to always explain to my kids and help them understand why it is important. For us to be saving the Planet, we need to stand our ground.


Thank you Christine ♥
To know more about Human Nature’s affordable range of personal care products, click here.

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