Chulalongkorn graduate Pimpetch Thanaruengamorn, 45, first worked as secretary, but built up a knowledge of Thai herbs in her spare time that she used to found a successful online herbal soap business.
Learn how former secretary turned herbal soap into multi-million-baht business, step-by-step adding value to normally overlooked Thai herbs.
ENTREPRENEURS & ONLINE SMALL BUSINESS
Herbal soap: Online business success story
Pimpetch Thanaruengamorn, 45, turned soap into a multi-million-baht business adding value to normally overlooked Thai herbs.
After graduating from Chulalongkorn University's arts department 20 years ago, Ms Pimpetch started her working life as a secretary.
After five years working as a secretary, Pimpetch looked to her hobbies and realised she had always been interested in Thai herbs. She applied for a two-year course in Thai traditional medicine, majoring in Thai herbs.
"I spent my leisure time on the weekends learning about Thai herbs. And the more I learned, the more added value I could put into common herbs that have been ignored," she says.
Ban Saboo even offers a soap made with red wine to keep up with skincare trends.
MAKING HERBAL PRODUCTS SMELL BETTER
Pimpetch developed an interest in herbs.
Ms Pimpetch applied what she had learned to produce herbal balms and shower gels for herself.
After experimenting, she found the quality was good enough to share with her friends.
Finally, she started selling small batches of the balm and shower gel.
"We all know herbs are good and natural, but herbal products sold in traditional Thai massage shops have a strange smell. The smells come from the characteristics of each herb, but they make the products less appealing," she says.
"When I solved the problem of the overpowering smell, my products began to sell quite well, and that inspired me to quit my job and start my own business."
FOCUS ON SOAPS
Ms Pimpetch created her own website, Siam Nature Herbs, to focus on soaps rather than balm and herbal cosmetics.
"Soap can reach a wider customer base as everybody needs to shower, but not everyone needs cosmetics. Moreover, I own a small business that can't compete with giant cosmetics companies on advertising budgets," she says.
Ms Pimpetch produces colourful square soap bars that have different characteristics based on the herbs used.
In 2010 she founded the company Ban Saboo (House of Soap), selling her unique soaps via her online shop at BanSaboo.com (see here).
She says running an online shop saves on operation costs, allowing her to focus on diversifying her products.
"Business has gone quite well, booming over the past couple years because of a concern with health," she says.
As there are several deliberate details involved in extracting the essence from herbs, Ms Pimpetch says her products are still handmade.
"We have maintained our focus on handmade products, and as such our prices are in the upper end of the market," she says.
The global trend of health consciousness has inspired consumers to switch to herbal and natural products, and they are willing to pay for those products, said Ms Pimpetch.
"I price my soap at 60 baht per bar. That is well above the price of common soaps on supermarket shelves at 15-20 baht. But consumers are willing to pay the difference as I add quality with the herbs," she says.
Ban Saboo expects to increase its soap types to 30 next year to meet rising demand.
Ban Saboo expects to increase its soap types to 30 next year to meet rising demand.
Ms Pimpetch declined to give further details about her revenues, but says she lives quite well with 17 types of herbal soaps on the market.
"I plan to increase the product offerings to 30 types of soaps next year to meet rising demand," she says.
The popularity of Skin Food, a Korean skincare and cosmetics brand, has encouraged her to produce more types of soaps containing vegetable essences.
She expects to produce soap bars containing extracted essence of tomato, lemongrass, coconut and even red wine.
Some 70% of Ban Saboo sales are domestic and 30% exports.
"Sales in China and the Middle East grew substantially as buyers there are excited about herbs that cannot be found in their homelands," she says, adding that rising purchasing power in China increased sales there substantially.
Ms Pimpetch also produces herbal soaps for other distributors, who either export it or promote it as another brand.
With a substantial rise in sales and demand, she expects her business to grow at an average of 30% per year.
Ms Pimpetch worked hard to remove herbs' strong smell from her soaps.
Learn from listening
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advertising : telling the public about a product or a service, political candidate, etc. in order to encourage people to buy, use or support it - การโฆษณา
allow : to let somebody/something do something; to let something happen or be done - อนุญาต, ยอมรับ
appealing (adj): attractive or interesting - ที่ดึงดูดความสนใจ
applied (verb): used, put on - ใช้
apply (verb): to make a formal request for permission to do or have something - ขอ, สมัคร
average : an amount calculated by adding several amounts together, finding a total, and dividing the total by the number of amounts - เฉลี่ย, ค่าเฉลี่ย
balm : an oil that is obtained from a particular tropical trees and used especially to treat injuries or reduce pain - ยาหม่อง
bar : a long straight piece of metal or wood - ท่อน
base (noun): a group of people on which someone's business, fame or power depends - ฐาน, พื้นฐาน
batch : a group of things considered similar in type - พวก, ชุด, กลุ่ม
booming : suddenly increasing in trade and economic activity - เฟื่องฟู
brand : a type of product made by a particular company - ตรา, ยี่ห้อ
budget : an amount of money able to be spent on something - งบประมาณ
characteristic : a feature or quality that something/somebody has - ลักษณะเฉพาะ
common : ordinary; not unusual or special - ที่เกิดขึ้นทุกวัน, ธรรมดา
compete : to try to be more successful or better than somebody else who is trying to do the same as you - แข่งขัน
concern : a worry - ความกังวล
consciousness : awareness - ความตระหนักรู้
consumer : someone who buys and uses goods and services - ผู้บริโภค
cosmetics : substances that you use on your skin to make yourself look more attractive - เครื่องสำอางค์
couple : two things or people - สอง, สองสิ่ง, คนสองคน
course : a course of study, a program of study - หลักสูตร, วิชา, กระบวนวิชา
customer (noun): a person or an organisation that buys something from a shop/store or business - ลูกค้า
decline (verb): to say politely that you will not accept something, do something, or say something - ปฏิเสธ, ปฏิเสธที่จะทำ
deliberate : done intentionally; done on purpose - จงใจ ตั้งใจ
demand (noun): the need and desire of people to buy goods - อุปสงค์
detail (noun): the small facts or features of something - รายละเอียด, ส่วนเล็กๆ น้อยๆ, ส่วนย่อย
difference : the way in which two things are not the same - ความแตกต่าง
distributor : a person or company that supplies goods to shops/stores, etc - ผู้ค้าส่ง, ผู้แทนจำหน่าย, ผู้แจกจ่าย
diversify (verb): when a business or investor starts developing a wider range of products, markets, investments, etc. in order to be more successful or reduce risk - ทำหลายๆอย่าง, ทำให้แตกต่างกัน, ทำให้หลากหลาย, ทำให้เป็นหลายชนิด,ทำให้แตกต่างกัน. ลงทุนในรูปต่าง ๆ , ผลิตออกมาในรูปต่าง ๆ
encourage : to cause someone to want to do something - กระตุ้น ให้การสนับสนุน
essence : the most important part of something, usually the part that gives it its general character - แก่น
experiment : to try or test new ideas, methods, etc. to find out what effect they have - ทดลอง
export : the selling and transporting of goods to another country - สินค้าออก, การส่งสินค้าออกไปต่างประเทศ
extract : to remove a substance from another substance - สกัด
focus : to give attention, effort, etc. to one particular subject, situation or person rather than another - เพ่งความสนใจ
found : to start an organization, company, political party etc - สร้าง, ก่อตั้ง, สถาปนา
global : throughout the world - ทั่วโลก
graduate : to get a degree from a university or college; to complete a course in education, especially at high school - ได้รับปริญญา,สำเร็จการศึกษา
handmade (adj.): a beautiful object or product that is made with the hands of a craftsman, not by many machines in a factory - ซึ่งทำด้วยมือ, ซึ่งใช้มือทำ
herb : a plant normally used as a medicine or for adding flavour to food - สมุนไพร
hobby : an activity that you do for pleasure when you are not working - งานอดิเรก
homeland (noun): your country; the country you were born in; the country that you come from - บ้านเกิด
ignore : to fail to pay attention to; to pretend that you have not noticed or do not know about something - เพิกเฉย
inspire : to give people a particular feeling or a desire to do something - จุดประกาย
maintain (verb): to keep something at the same level or state and not change it -
major (noun): the "major" subject of a student studying in university, the subject a student studies mostly at university and gets a degree in - วิชาเอก, วิชาที่ผู้เรียนเลือกเรียนได้เอง เพื่อให้ครบตามหลักสูตรที่กำหนด
massage : the action of rubbing and pressing a person's body with the hands to reduce pain in the muscles and joints - การนวด
multi- : more than one; many - มาก, หลาย
natural : existing in nature; not made or caused by humans - เป็นธรรมชาติ, ตามธรรมชาติ
normally : usually; in normal circumstances - โดยปกติ, ตามปกติ
offering : something made available or able to be given to someone - สิ่งที่ถวายให้, ของขวัญ
operation : a business activity - การดำเนินการทางธุรกิจ
overlook (verb): to fail to notice or consider something - มองพลาด, มองไม่เห็น, เพิกเฉย
overpowering : too strong, so unpleasant -
popularity : a situation in which someone or something is liked by many people - ความเป็นที่นิยม, ความเป็นที่ชื่นชอบ
promote : to encourage or support something - สนับสนุน
purchasing power : buying power; the ability to buy things, i.e., having enough money to buy things - กำลังซื้อ
quality : the standard of something when it is compared to other things like it; how good or bad something is - คุณภาพ
quit (verb): to stop doing something - หยุด, เลิก
revenue : income from taxes or business activities - รายได้
run : to be in charge of a business, etc - ดำเนินธุรกิจ, ประกอบธุรกิจ
share : to have or use something at the same time as someone else - ใช้ร่วมกัน
shelf (plural: shelves) : a flat board, made of wood, metal, glass, etc, fixed to the wall or forming part of a cupboard/closet, bookcase, etc, for things to be placed on - หิ้ง, ชั้น
skin : the outside covering of the body - ผิวหนัง
solve : to find the correct answer or explanation for something - หาคำตอบได้
square (noun): a four-sided shape with sides of equal length - สี่เหลี่ยมจัตุรัส
substantial : strong; solid - แข็งแรง, แน่นหนา, เป็นจริง
substantially (adj): by a large amount - เป็นชิ้นเป็นอัน
traditional : things (buildings, clothes, music, customs, etc.) that have been part of a country or society for a long time - แบบดั้งเดิม, เป็นประเพณี
trend : a new development in clothing, make-up, etc - แนวโน้ม
unique : being the only one of its kind - ซึ่งเป็นหนึ่งเดียว
value : how much something is worth in money or other goods for which it can be exchanged - มูลค่า
value added (noun): the value that is added by one company to a product during one stage of production - ค่าเพิ่ม