Malaysian personal care social enterprise for women and children

Over the years, my preferences for scented candles and soaps have shifted from the fragrant dessert range to softer floral scents such as lavender and citrus. I find the latter has more of a calming effect which helps to wind down for the day.

Dato’ Kathleen Chew’s idea behind creating personal care products for her social enterprise, Mangosteen comes from a similar place, with the addition of promoting Southeast Asian fruit and floral scents.

“The idea behind the products was that there really isn’t a personal care line that uses SEA’s fruit and flower scents. Think of the smell of pomelo or limau kasturi (kaffir lime) that are both so wonderful and yet little known outside of this region,” she told Vulcan Post.

“Mangosteen, in particular, is little known despite having immense antioxidant qualities and being absolutely delicious.” Hence the name of the brand and the use of fruit extract in its products to repair skin tissue from free radicals and provide soothing benefits.

It’s mangosteen on the surface. But peel back the layers of this brand and you’ll discover its philanthropic mission: to help fund organizations that do important work to support or launch their charitable projects.

Therefore, 100% of profits from Mangosteen products are dedicated to empowering women and children in ESA.

For kids

Dato’ Kathleen has been involved in the education of children through various charitable foundations. One of them includes Dignity For Children, which sets up community learning centers for disadvantaged and poor children in cities.

Dignity For Children meets the needs of children from preschool to IGCSE levels and vocational skills / Image Credit: Mangosteen

As Group Legal Counsel and a member of the YTL Group Management Team, she also holds the title of Program Director of the YTL Foundation, which was established in 1997 by the Group to provide scholarships to deserving students.

Overall, Dato’ Kathleen has contributed to the improvement of education in the country. “I believe that every child should have equal access to good health and a good education. Likewise, ensuring that women are empowered generally leads to better outcomes for their children,” she explained.

“The idea behind Mangosteen was to create a company that could fund charities that support women and children in a sustainable way, and eventually provide jobs for the most needy women.”

Employing their beneficiaries

Founded in 2013, Mangosteen started as a supplier of hotel amenities for some well-known resorts in Malaysia, including those owned by YTL Hotels.

It wasn’t until 2019 that the brand started looking into the B2C market, as its team of 4 saw it as a way to expand its reach and social impact.

But due to blockages, what was supposed to launch in April 2020 was postponed to late 2020 instead.

In the meantime, Mangosteen has moved into producing hand sanitizers, hiring Orang Asli mothers through The Asli Co. to help with production.

The Orang Asli mothers of The Asli Co. have been commissioned to help produce hand sanitizers for Mangosteen / Image Credit: Mangosteen

Mangosteen has also started producing face masks, working with an organization that has trained refugee women to sew the products. “We were able to provide livelihoods for these women during the pandemic last Christmas and made donations to several children’s homes,” Dato’ Kathleen shared of the results of their pivot.

Giving meaning to perfumes

The MCO also delayed the release of Mangosteen’s recent product line, From Skin To Soul. Now back in full swing, however, you’ll find that products in this line are 100% vegan, cruelty-free, and free of parabens, phthalates (used to make plastics more durable), and mineral oils, to name a few. only a few.

Despite the competitive market for vegan skincare brands and scented candles, Dato’ Kathleen isn’t too worried. She believes that different brands are recognized by their scent profiles.

We can therefore say that Mangosteen has been able to stand out in this area. Personally, I noticed that the brand has some interesting scents like its Lychee and Black Tea Candle (RM69), Cucumber + Mint Shampoo (RM59), or Pink Guava and Camellia Body Wash (RM89).

The brand’s hand sanitizer and home fragrances / Image credit: Mangosteen

The brainstorming for these scents is usually driven by the individual tastes and preferences of the people developing the products. In the case of Mangosteen, the team prefers cooler notes to heavier, spicy ones.

But it’s also one of their biggest challenges because the lighter, fresher notes tend to change during the formulation process.

In our interview, Dato’ Kathleen recalled a time of excitement when she received samples of pure natural watermelon, cucumber, and banana extracts that smelled true to the natural fruit.

Much to his disappointment, some of these natural scents changed when mixed with the rest of the product’s ingredients, and the team was unable to use these scents.

Thus, their main challenge is the time required to develop a new product, as fragrances react differently to different ingredients in each product, so stability testing is required.

Find supportive customers

In addition to standing out with scent profiles, Dato’ Kathleen believes that Mangosteen’s social mission is a trait that consumers are increasingly concerned about.

In line with this expectation, socially concerned customers from all over Malaysia who also value good quality locally made products make up most of Mangostten’s buyers.

“I think we generally attract young working women, but surprisingly we’ve seen quite a bit of buying from men as well,” Dato’ Kathleen noted, adding that hand sanitizers have universal appeal and are l one of Mangosteen’s bestsellers.

To date, Mangosteen has donated over RM130,000 to Dignity For Children and sponsored female leadership events such as Lean In 2018.

Establishment of educational infrastructure for children / Image credit: Mangosteen

This year, Mangosteen is working with the Women’s Aid Organization (WAO) to raise funds for the shelter that houses abused women and their children.

Dato’ Kathleen’s future plans for Mangosteen are to give customers more choice by expanding its range of fragrances and products. “I would also like to develop a baby care range, but that will take time because it is important to find the right product for babies and young children,” she added.

In terms of geographical expansion, it has no plans since Mangosteen is already able to deliver its products throughout the country. Instead, its marker of success lies in the impact the brand can create for its beneficiaries.

Our true achievement will be when we can support even more charities and see the impact on the lives of the women and children we support. In the case of Dignity for Children Foundation, we sponsored a group of children for 5 years in school and seeing them continue their education and grow gave us purpose.

Dato’ Kathleen Chew, founder of Mangosteen

  • Learn more about mangosteen here.
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Featured image credit: Dato’ Kathleen Chewfounder of Mangosteen

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