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KajoAsks: What drives Sabah-based skincare brand The Borneo Scrub

What is it like to start a fully online skincare endeavor in Sabah? KajoMag asked Casandra Timothy the ups and downs of running The Borneo Scrub, a 100 per cent natural skincare solutions and cosmetics brand.

Established in 2015, the brand focuses on using locally sourced ingredients in Sabah. Their signature – and most sought after -item is the Coffee Face & Body Scrub.

Casandra Timothy
KajoMag: What sparked your interest in starting The Borneo Scrub?

Casandra: My husband, Azel, is a typical caffeine and coffee addict, he can’t live without his coffee and his multiple caffeine boosts. So one day out of the blue I joked about making a skincare product with the coffee he usually drinks (Ground Tenom Coffee). He said why not, I went ahead and made some scrub with ingredients we had on hand and the husband was also the first human guinea pig for the product.

The results were impressive even for the early unrefined batch. His skin, which was always dry and flaky had instantly transformed into baby skin after washing off the scrub. The rest of the family members became additional guinea pigs, then friends. They then started asking whether I was selling it and the rest is history.

KajoMag: What is the best part of running The Borneo Scrub?

Casandra: The best part about running The Borneo Scrub is seeing the reaction of people when they have tried your product. Seeing actual validation and approval of your handmade product, seeing how it amazes people is an indescribably good feeling and it still feels the same even now.

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Another equally great part is meeting other entrepreneurs, business owners, all these people and social connections that would have never existed for us if The Borneo Scrub didn’t exist.

I know it should be one thing only but I have to say, if The Borneo Scrub did not exist we also wouldn’t have tried participating in business pitch competitions. It was a whole new level of learning and experiencing. My husband in particular really enjoyed this.

KajoMag: There is a rise of local SMEs using locally sourced ingredients to make skincare products in Malaysia. How do you deal with the competition?
Coffee Face and Body Scrub


Casandra: Competition is very normal. We honestly don’t worry about it a whole lot because we believe the customers can tell the difference. Furthermore, word of mouth and actual reviews tell the best story.

When we started to be more commercially active within Sabah, and Kota Kinabalu particularly, there were about 3-4 local home made businesses selling the exact same type of products e.g. natural body scrubs.

We all did our own thing, focused on quality and customer service. We never had any issues (that we personally experienced) with competition. The way we see it, as long as it can help the market grow and get the public more interested in home made products with local ingredients, no one really loses out on anything. Plus, we elevate the whole supply chain.

KajoMag: Can you name a moment of failure in your business experience that you learned from or that helped you improve your business or the way you work?

Casandra: For us, we don’t consider it moments of failure. This was because when everything is done and settled, and we look back and reflect it’s actually just ill made decisions that didn’t work out very well. One particular situation was acquiring a commercial property as a specialized production and retail HQ.

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Seeing that we are a home based enterprise, after some months we realised we were losing money to a place that we rarely even used. Having your own store or place to sell your stuff is great and everything but it’s arguably not the most effective way, depending on your product and customers.

So after a few months we decided to let the place go. We lost a moderate amount of money due to renovation costs, tenancy contract etc. But looking back now we really did learn a lot from there.

The Borneo Scrub’s Cazel’s Face Oil
KajoMag: Care to share any long-term goals for The Borneo Scrub?

Casandra: One of our targets is to be one of the must-have souvenir products for tourists to try, to buy and to gift to friends back home.

We’re currently supplying our products to Kadaiku (under Sabah Tourism Board) and souvenir chain stores in KK. We also have agents servicing various states. Currently it is going very well and next step is to partner and collaborate with beauty spas.

We also plan to diversify products, we had a few different products in the past. Unfortunately, the amount produced was not much due to high cost. Nonetheless, we have received great feedback on them. So we plan to pursue this option when we are able to.

In addition, at times we aren’t able to cope with the demand from souvenir stores since our products aren’t made in factories in large batches. Thus, we also hope to solve this problem (good problem to have) when we are able to.

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The Borneo Scrub’s Lip Care Line
Patricia Hului
Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight. She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science. She worked for The Borneo Post SEEDS, which is now defunct. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio taking belly dance classes, hiking up a hill or browsing through Pinterest. Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at Kajomag.com or Twitter at @patriciahului.
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