Just as some of the top obgyns in Singapore are male, you don’t have to be a mother, or female, to do something for women and babies. “It’s also worth noting that men built some of the most prominent women’s brands in the world, such as Victoria’s Secret, for example. What does a man know about making bras as support for women’s breasts? And yet, they are successful in creating quality products,” says Chin Rui Shan.
The Gooberr founder, who has been creating lactation cookies and teas for breastfeeding mums since February 2019, is sanguine when asked how she responds to people who question her ability to create products for mothers, when she herself is not one.
Similarly for Valencia Chen. The brain behind Little Bearnie, which carries locally-inspired teethers — such as boba and gem cookie designs — started her business in 2016. At that time she wanted to find unique gifts for her friends who had given birth. Since then, Little Bearnie has grown from a home-based business with 5,000 Instagram followers in 2018, to a trusted baby brand with more than 22,000 followers. Both Gooberr and Little Bearnie have diversified despite Covid-19 situation. Rui Shan and Valencia tell us more.
Chin Rui Shan, Gooberr
“I launched Gooberr in February 2019. It means peanut, which I find to be a cute term of endearment. After graduating from New York University with a Bachelor in Finance and Master in Accounting, I worked in the finance industry. After a while, I felt jaded and wondered about my purpose. Eventually a combination of seeing my mum ill with cancer, and witnessing my father’s success in his own business, inspired me to start my own.
My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago. We opted for a mastectomy and thought everything was going to be fine. However, she was re-diagnosed with Stage 4 adenocarcinoma a year ago. The cancer had spread to her heart, lungs, and bones. We were shocked and devastated.
After talking to many specialists, we realised how important food is in the fight against cancer. I wonder if things would be different if we had taken note of this back when she was first diagnosed. I started going through ingredient labels of everything my mum ate, and noticed the many additives in the food we eat.
Clean, healthy ingredients always
It got me thinking about how taking care of mummies’ health, especially when they’ve brought a new life into the world, could make a difference. Thus Gooberr really is a brand inspired by the love mothers give, and a way to give back. This belief extends to our skincare range as well.
When you are breastfeeding, you don’t want to be using steroidal creams that may go into your bloodstream. The same goes for babies’ skin. For the first six months of life, a baby’s skin is very delicate and thin. Hence our skin products are free of steroids, parabens, artificial colours, and fragrances.
Making it work
My biggest fear was failure. Eventually, I asked myself, If you are not even going to take the first step, how will you ever know if you are going to fail miserably or fly? The thought of never knowing what could be was worse, and that helped me take the first step.
It was fairly quick once I zoomed in on the product I wanted to launch with. Lactation cookies were already in the market. However many contain extracts like vanilla extract. These are made by soaking ingredients in chemicals to extract the flavour. In addition, a commonly-used chemical in the process is propylene glycol — which is also used as car antifreeze.
Why consume this — even if it’s just a drop? When you’ve just brought new life into this world, you need nutritious foods to heal your body, and help you provide your baby with the best nutrient-rich food — breast milk. There isn’t anything better, and it’s free!
Ensuring safe, clean, bakes for mums
It took months of baking almost every other day to come up with a flavour that works since we don’t use extracts. We bake our Boobkies in an SFA Grade A and FSSC Certified Facility in Singapore, which means they meet professional hygiene standards. A lot of lactation cookies are home-baked, and while some customers like the homey feel of them, they do not realise home-baked cookies can mean lapses in hygiene.
We also chose opaque packaging to prevent premature breakdown of cookies. This is because vitamins and nutrients are sensitive to temperature, oxygen, and light. Many vitamins are vulnerable to degradation by UV light, including vitamin A, B2 (riboflavin), B6, B12, and folic acid — which are some of the key vitamins in our cookies!
Seeing it work
Since I started this company using my hard-earned savings, I was very reluctant to spend money on marketing. I felt that if my products are good, people will talk about it and recommend it to others. Unfortunately, I quickly realised that this couldn’t happen if customers don’t even know you exist. It also doesn’t mean throwing your money away on Google ads, which I did, and got zero conversions.
Many mums have written in to say that they were stressed out about milk supply issues, and that Gooberr’s Boobkies helped them. There’s nothing better than reading notes like these. Starting Gooberr allowed me to interact with mothers more, and affirmed how beautiful a mother’s love is — pure, unconditional, and universal. These mothers inspire me every day, and I can only hope that when I am able to, I can be like my customers, and give 100% to my child.”
:: Giveaway ::
How to win:
- Like and share (make it public so we can see) this article on Facebook
- Tag a friend and comment SM x GB
- Follow @gooberrofficial and @singaporemotherhood on Instagram
Closing date: 12pm, 18 September 2020
Valencia Chen, 32, Little Bearnie
“I founded Little Bearnie in 2016. The name comes from the combination of the phrases “little ones” and “bear in mind”. I want Little Bearnie to be the brand that people will always bear in mind when buying gifts for their little ones or for their friends’ children.
The inspiration for Little Bearnie started when my friends were having babies, and I wanted to bless them with something unique, memorable, affordable, practical and functional. Ideally, it should be something that both the parent and the baby liked.
So I did some research and came across some silicone teethers from Canada and Europe. These teethers looked unique, and had cute Instagrammable designs. They were also tested to be safe for babies to use, which is a great plus point.
I bought one for my friend, and she was pleasantly surprised. She suggested that I could import these teethers into the Singapore market to make it easier for local parents to purchase them for their babies. I decided to try it, and started by bringing in the brand Loulou Lollipop, from Canada.
Bringing in a local flavour
Customers loved the products. Many suggested we bring in more local-themed teethers to help educate babies about parts of our culture that are uniquely Singaporean. I loved the idea, but I wanted to do this right. Hence I spent countless nights thinking and researching on designs until we finally created our first locally-themed teether inspired by one of Singapore’s favourite childhood snacks — gem biscuits.
I studied the product catalogs of similar businesses in other countries, and penned the first draft of the Gem Biscuit Teether myself. Then I found professional illustrators to finalise the product design. After that, I sent the design for production and got the product tested at certified laboratories to conform to safety standards for baby toys safety standards, in accordance with Singapore law.
The conception took about half a year. The product research took much longer and we went through many months of trial and error to fine-tune our products to ensure a good experience for our customers.
The process of researching and surveying took the longest time in the whole process, as we had to source materials from different countries and make sure they all go through stringent tests in certified labs to ensure that they are safe for the little ones.
Making it work
The biggest challenge was to convince customers that Little Bearnie was a baby brand they could trust. It was harder for me because I’m not a mum.
We went through many events and pop-up stores to showcase our products and speak to a lot of mothers and grow trust while getting feedback about my products.
I had to assure them that just because I was not a parent, it did not mean I was careless or flippant with my products. Little Bearnie is my baby, and I strive to make sure our products are of the highest quality and safety standards.
Inspired by mums and babies
I am most proud of our Gem Biscuit Teethers and the Boba Swaddles as they are the first two original creations by Little Bearnie. Gem biscuits are my favourite childhood snacks, while bubble tea is my favourite drink in adulthood. I know many other Singaporeans also love these treats, and it makes me so happy to see babies using Little Bearnie products that symbolise our Singaporean culture.
My friends’ little ones love their Little Bearnie products. When they grow older, they use the teether as an educational toy, and the swaddle as a blanket. I specifically remember one mummy telling me that our teether helps keep her baby entertained so that she can eat peacefully!”
Header and featured images: Gooberr