“If Not Now, Then When?” A Conversation with Handmade Heroes

It was a passion for authentic all-natural skincare that drove entrepreneur and social media darling, Isabella Wong, to introduce Handmade Heroes in Malaysia. But when things didn’t go as planned, she found support (and surprise) from her business partner and close confidant, Cai Jin Lim. For Cai Jin, Handmade Heroes was more than a passion project but a chance to start something that she truly believed in because, as she says, “If not now, then when?” Fast forward 18 months and Handmade Heroes Malaysia have gone on to make their first physical presence in the coveted Robinsons Kuala Lumpur at the new SHOPPES at Four Seasons Place. The ladies graciously took time off their busy schedules to speak with MissMafia and tell their story.

This partnership came as a surprise for both of you, so how did you find yourselves involved with Handmade Heroes?

Isabella Wong: I really liked our products after trying it out for myself and so I got in touch with our partner in Singapore to be the main distributor in Malaysia. Before Cai Jin came on board, I was working with another friend but unfortunately that didn’t go as planned, but Cai Jin really encouraged me to keep at it and keep going. But what really took me by surprise was when she decided to join the company as my partner.

Cai Jin Lim: Like Bella, it was love at first try too! I was amazed at the products itself and had always toyed with the idea of doing something I truly enjoy and believed in. So when Bella popped the question, I literally jumped and said “Yes!”.

Handmade Heroes Founders, and Friends

You’re both more than business partners, you’re friends first. What’s it like running a business with your friend?

CJL: In the beginning, a couple of friends advised that it would be a bad idea as it might affect our friendship. There is always trial and error when it comes to working out a partnership but I believe that for any partnership to work, we first need to identify our roles and responsibilities. With all that’s said, we’re actually having a great time working together.

IW: At first it was a little difficult getting used to each other’s working styles as well because we’re both really different. That’s why it’s important to talk things out so you can reach a compromise. Needless to say, we talk things out a lot!

What makes Handmade Heroes different to other natural skincare brands?

IW: A lot of brands tend to claim that they’re all-natural but when you look at the ingredients, you’ll find synthetic substances like preservatives listed. For us when we say we’re 100% natural, we mean it.

Isabella Wong @ Bella Kuan

What are some of the obstacles that you’ve encountered since launching Handmade Heroes?

IW: Many consumers are still unfamiliar with the concept of all-natural, vegan and cruelty-free.  We would like to create more awareness and to educate consumers on the benefits of how to use our products. For instance, we get a lot of questions on how to use our dry shampoo because typically, people are used to having it packaged in a spray bottle.

CJL: Also being an e-commerce company has its setbacks, because we’re able to capture a certain demographic but aren’t able to capture others like the older generation. But that’s something we’re looking into now. We are working towards having our products appear in more brick and mortar stores so it’s easily accessible.

What would your advice be to other women looking to start their own companies?

IW: If you have an idea, you should pursue it with passion and enthusiasm. Most people have good ideas but they’re understandably, afraid of not succeeding. There is no shortcuts in life but if you’re willing to try and work towards it, all the experience you gain is invaluable.

CJL: I too agree you should pursue it! Be fearless and confident, starting and taking that first step is already half the battle won. Never be afraid of failures and the “what ifs” as those will only set you back. I always go by this quote which I constantly remind myself of and that is “If not now, then when?”

Cai Jin Lim

Which celebrity would you most like to work with and why?

CJL: Emily Weiss because I would love to pick her brain and learn from her. I think what she’s done with Glossier in terms of their marketing strategy, is just brilliant.

IW: I think it would be quite fun to collaborate with Chrissy Teigen cause she seems really down-to-earth and easy going.

Finally, what empowers you and why?

CJL: I feel empowered when I exercise everyday and when I eat right. On the rare occasion that I do skip a workout, I don’t feel my best.

IW: As a part-time instructor at FlyCycle, I feel really empowered when I’m able to help people. Also being surrounded by good energy and positive vibes makes me feel great as well.

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Visit Handmade Heroes at Robinsons Kuala Lumpur at SHOPPES at Four Seasons Place, 145 Jalan Ampang. Open daily from 10am – 10pm.

About Hanna Halim

PR Executive by Day, Crazy Cat Lady by Night

I am a reluctant PR practitioner with an unhealthy affinity towards Pinterest and Topshop. I make up one fifth of the marcomm team at YTL Hotels and for the most part, I like what I do but I’m always hungry for more.

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