Porcelain Private Limited is a home-grown cult skincare brand and a premium skincare solutions provider with three locations in Singapore. The company was founded in 2009 by mother-daughter duo, Jenny Teng and Pauline Ng, with a vision to marry expertise and passion to create the future of skincare. Before founding the company, Jenny had an experience of more than 20 years as an aesthetician. She used to hone her skills out of a rented bomb shelter at the foot of a Housing Board block. Since its inception, Porcelain has won local and international awards for its cutting-edge treatments and effective skincare formulations. The company is best known for its extraction facial, Quintessential™ as well as the all-in-one customizable facial treatment, CryoZap™.
Pauline, on the other hand, started Porcelain after her graduation from Singapore Management University in 2009, after taking a bold decision to forgo alluring job opportunities. In the beginning, Jenny focused on training the therapists for the services herself. And her daughter managed other aspects of the business from marketing to operations.
Over the years, the Porcelain team has grown substantially. This allowed Pauline to better focus on business developments as well as on research and innovation to create more newness and excitement for the brand. The team at Porcelain is really good at listening and has been doing a lot of that since 2009. Being such great listeners, Porcelain’s solutions are all conceived in-house, based on ongoing interactions with customers after the company’s team gets under their skin (literally)! And since customers’ skin evolves with time, it means Porcelain will never stop listening and curating products and treatments to meet their needs.
Essential Attributes of Successful Leadership
Humility and learning are two of the most common traits Pauline found amongst some of her mentors and friends who have amazingly successful businesses. They have an amazing growth mindset and have a very great character. Many of the top leaders she met have an amazing passion to pay it forward. She finds them kind and patient with helping nature and provide advice to younger entrepreneurs like her. They have been pivotal in helping shaping the way she leads.
Rising Beyond Significant Challenges
Pauline says, “There were different challenges at different stages of growth.” In the beginning, the biggest challenge was the lack of capital. The team at Porcelain had to watch the cash flow like a hawk. Soon as the company started growing and hiring, they made legal mistakes with the self-drafted Employment Contracts. According to her, this was a painful lesson, but she considers herself blessed with friends who stepped in and helped her out.
When the brand reached the point of expansion, Pauline realized that the original “self-designed” logo and packaging bottles would no longer work. She felt the need to re-brand them although it was expensive but worth a step to take.
Later, Porcelain had issues in ensuring consistency in service standards, training, retaining and hiring staff, amongst other operational issues. Also, the landscape became very competitive with new entrants in the Medical Aesthetics field.
Pauline says, “As with any company, manpower and quality control issues are the biggest challenges, hence the company believes in growing at a slow pace, instead of over-expanding.” This was to maintain a high level of quality of service and try their best to pay the employees very well and develop a strong cohesive company culture to retain employees who have aligned values. The main challenge lies in creating sustainable, yet malleable processes to help Porcelain achieve international growth in the next five years.
Innovating Through Customer-First Approach
The team at Porcelain curates and creates the best solutions through an active feedback loop with their clients. All treatments and products of the company are designed, developed and continuously reformulated because of the common principle at the company, they listen.
Porcelain adopted a flat hierarchy in the organization. This gives a lot of autonomy to its front-line staff in how the company delivers the best service to its clients. Staff training is a top priority. The company equips its people with the right skills, knowledge, and values, and lets them focus on delivering the best Porcelain experience.
At the same time, the company leverages on technology to drive the operations, business decisions as well as their product & treatment R&D. For instance, by being one of the first beauty salons to introduce a Porcelain App, the company aims to elevate the customer experience, bringing convenience to their fingertips. Porcelain Origins was opened last year and touted as Singapore’s first Smart Spa offering curated touchpoints and digital innovations that help meet the clients’ changing skincare needs.
Breaking the Conventional Industry Barriers
Pauline believes technologies are breaking down barriers, allowing people to communicate, work and live better. For example, the retail industry has transformed from transactional to an experiential playground. In the past, retail was where people consume and buy, now it is where brand-love is built. Consumer engagement is key. Failing to understand the shift and evolution of how technology can impact lives will leave businesses obsolete faster than the past. The role of the leader of an organization is to foster a corporate culture to embrace change, challenge the status quo and instill a growth mindset in each employee. This is difficult because fundamentally, humans don’t like change. And change often means upsetting the natural balance of things. So, considering the impact of innovation, pushing for experimentation and changing mindsets is critical for the leaders.
Aspiring for Future Expansion
Commenting on the future, Pauline said the beauty space will continue to become more competitive with the launch of new skincare brands and medical spas. To stay ahead of the competition, brands need to evolve with consumers, while creating unique and differentiated experiences.
For Porcelain, the team is expecting further expansion both locally and regionally in new markets such as Vietnam, Philippines, and Malaysia. The company’s product sales have registered strong growth over the years. This has given Pauline the confidence to expand the product line through more R&D and the desire for Porcelain’s products to be sold via more distribution channels.