Sasy n Savy takes Aussie skincare to the world
Skincare maven Samea Maakrun was nicknamed ‘Sass’ by her family for her unique brand of wit and charm. She had a fair amount of ‘savvyness’ too, putting her background in business and accounting to work mentoring women in business. “Back then, there were so many females complaining about their lives. They had so many issues and so many problems,” she says. “That’s when I decided to set up my own lifestyle and wellbeing company [Sasy n Savy]. I wanted to develop a product or service to help women, but not necessarily to cost them a fortune.”
After a few months of research, it became clear that there wasn’t a one-stop-shop type brand in Australia that sold affordable products which would make a difference in women’s lives. “There were expensive brands out of Europe for skincare and cosmetics, and there were cheap brands out of Asia.” Maakrun launched Sasy n Savy as a skincare and aromatherapy company pitched somewhere in between. The name combines two aspects of her personality. “Women are sassy and they’re also savvy. They’re beautiful, they’ve got flair, they’ve got passion. They get what they want, they know what they want and they go out and get it.” Which is exactly what Maakrun herself has done.
The Asian opportunity
Starting with just her own savings and a small loan from her mother and sister, Maakrun began developing essential oils and aromatherapy from native Australian plants, launching the brand at the Mind, Body, Spirit expo in 2004. A week later, the brand was on shelves in Hong Kong. “We picked up a Hong Kong distributor and started developing the Asian market. We spent a couple of years just travelling around the Asian market, knocking on clients’ doors, presenting what we had.” Over the years, Sasy n Savy has developed a range of skincare products to complement the aromatherapy range, and Maakrun expects that will continue to grow.
The brand now sells in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan, but Maakrun says Sasy n Savy’s Asian success didn’t happen overnight. “We’re constantly visiting, doing expos, seeing visitors and seeing what their demands are.” Sasy n Savy now has a Hong Kong office. “Because if you’re not there, a competitor will come along. There’s no brand loyalty because retailers want high profit margins and high turnover. You need to have an actual physical presence in the market for the longevity of the brand.”
Australian products are popular in Asia because they are perceived to be clean and green, Maakrun says. Realising Australia has strict research and development procedures and high quality ingredients, some Asian brands actually get Australian companies to manufacture for them, under their brand. “Big brands have been using our ingredients for a very long time. We import the end products back in and pay 20 times the price,” she adds.
The Australian edge
The ‘Australianness’ of the brand is its unique selling point, Maakrun explains. “We use Kakadu Plum, which is the world’s most vitamin C rich fruit. It stimulates skin cells and collagen. We use wild rosella and grass lily. Those ingredients will create the vitamins, antioxidants and nutrients for your skin’s daily intake.” While the ingredients may be unfamiliar to an international audience, customers understand the value of Australian natives. The brand has been using the ‘Australian Made’ logo from the beginning, and Maakrun wants to do more to capitalise on the popularity of Australian products. “We’re changing our packaging to slap ‘Made in Australia’ right across everything.”