Up Close & Personal with Jared Chuah, Co-Founder of Nateskin
GC gets up close & personal the man who sell ball shavers for a living, founded and grew Nateskin to 7 figures in 13 months, now on the way to $10m.
By GC Editor
The saying goes you should grab life by the balls - Jared Chuah, a 20-something entrepreneur, certainly took that quite literally, developing Malaysia’s first series of ball shavers that is now seeing his brand Nateskin rake in close to RM500,000 in sales monthly.
It all started when Jared stumbled upon a hilarious yet eye-catching ad that was titled: “Make your PP bigger with this PP laser”. It then sparked a brilliant idea within Jared, what if a similarly quirky approach could be taken to address a seemingly taboo topic?
For that’s what it was, despite its seemingly everyday functionality the conversation about personal grooming especially in those nether regions amongst men seemed to have the same vibe as Voldemort - ie “he who must not be named”.
Jared felt that the time was nigh to take some clippers to the overgrown bushes of this taboo - using innovative tech, accessible price points and catchy marketing to break societal barriers and bring greater awareness and openness to the topic of self-care amongst men.
In return, Jared now is reaping the benefits, with men locally speaking more comfortably and confidently on “manscaping” and monthly sales soaring into half a million figures.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing (or should we say smooth-shaving). In fact, the Nateskin journey began as rough and patchy as a 12-year-old hitting puberty. From financial setbacks to a global pandemic, it seemed that every obstacle that could be thrown his way - was.
Fittingly, Nateskin originally began in Australia and while the business initially saw positive growth - enough to convince Jared to quitquick his day job, things soon took a turn for the worse with consistently monthly losses of up to up to RM6,000.
Faced with the dreary thought of packing away his ball clippers for good, Jared boldly decided to move back to Malaysia to try again. A fairly ball-sy decision considering the relatively taboo subject matter and a highly conservative and traditional market in general.
Pushing through these barriers with a novel approach, Jared revved up his razors and took the market by storm - carving out an increasingly large share of the market going from RM150,000 in sales monthly in 2022 to more than RM500,000 monthly in 2023. The business is even looking to branch out to Singapore and Indonesia in the coming months helping bridge the grooming gap amongst men across the region and taking the taboo out of the topic.
GC gets up close & personal with Jared, to gain insights on his fascinating journey in founding Nateskin, the future plan of his business, as well as his gentleman's code.
Hi Jared, what motivated you to start a business within the manscaping segment?
Throughout the pandemic, I was working (and stuck) in Australia with my partner Rebecca. In 2021, when the local lockdown in Australia got lifted, we took a holiday. My inspiration came when I saw an ad promoting a Men’s hair laser removal service. The title of the ad was “Make your PP look bigger with this PP laser”. I thought it was hilarious and it left an impression on me throughout the trip.
When we got back, I started researching similar offerings back home in Malaysia, since the topic of personal grooming was never limited by geolocation and I’m pretty sure that everyone in the world faces these problems. I found that while they existed, laser and waxing salons for men were not as common as they were in Australia, and Malaysian men were more shy in general going to such services. On top of that, Malaysia was in MCO at that time, meaning that although people who wanted to go for waxing/ laser solutions are restricted due to the compulsory lockdown leaving them back to their not-so-friendly option of having to do it themselves with higher risk of having nicks and cuts on the said sensitive area.
This sparked an idea in my head, to introduce a device to the Malaysian market that men could use to remove unwanted body hair at the privacy and the comfort of their own homes, which led to the birth of Nateskin in November 2021 with more guarantee of their own safety and better guidelines for them to do it right!
We want our customers to be able to relate and resonate with our ads, to see themselves in our ads, which starts the awareness that it is normal for “normal” guys to manscape too.
How does Nateskin set itself apart from other brands in the market?
Considering the nature of our products, safety is the number one priority. When designing our trimmers, we chose to go with ceramic blades instead of stainless steel which is what most other brands use. Why ceramic? Because ceramic is as hard, sturdy and sharp, but much safer on people’s skin, resulting in lesser risk of any unwanted nicks and cuts.
Furthermore, Nateskin also stands out by using a lot of humour, wittiness, and a little playfulness in our marketing, which allows us to engage with our customers in a light-hearted manner.
How do you navigate various obstacles and turn setbacks into opportunities for growth?
The first challenge we faced was trying to launch the brand in Malaysia while physically being stuck in Melbourne, Australia. As the international borders were not opened, we could not be back here to take the initial photos and videos of our product. We also couldn’t fulfill the orders ourselves as planned. Back then, we had very low funds so hiring employees to do the fulfillment before we even validated the product was out of the question.
Fortunately, in our early days, we managed to work with two individuals on a freelance contract basis. One took all of our photos, videos, and marketing material; and the other had just started his own tiny fulfilment centre, operating out of half a shop lot. They were also two young guys starting out in their respective businesses, so we were lucky that they took Nateskin as their first client.
In the first month of launch in October 2021, Nateskin bagged RM25k in sales, with little to no advertising spend. I was over the moon and thought we hit a goldmine. Impulsively, I quit my day job right after. Looking back, that was a huge mistake on my end as sales started plummeting as soon as December 2021. From RM25k, down to RM18k, down to RM10k in the third month. By the start of 2022, Rebecca and I were bleeding a lot of cash month trying to sustain the business. Our savings were running dry, and we were left with two options.
A) Give up on Nateskin and get back to working a corporate job in Australia; or
B) Move back home to Malaysia, live with our parents to save on living expenses, and double down on Nateskin
We chose option B. In April 2022, despite being in Australia for 8 years and working the last 5 years, Rebecca and I migrated back home to Malaysia to give Nateskin our all.
The first few months were tough. With almost no money left for online advertising, we had to be “Pasar Malam'' sellers - setting up booths at popup events all around Klang Valley. We worked 12 hour days, 7 days a week. It was the most tiring period of Nateskin, but it allowed us an opportunity for us to be in the front lines, talking to customers, understanding their psychology, allowing us to take all these learnings and put it back into our work, product packaging, and advertising.
Once we managed to learn what made customers tick, our sales started growing. Our sales climbed up from RM10k a month, slowly to RM40k a month. We reinvested all profits back into the business - we started advertising online again, and we managed to hire our first employee!
Today, one year after moving back from Australia, we have grown our team from the 3 of us in December 2022 to 10 of us now in July 2023. As a result of working with our high performing team, our sales have also seen massive jumps, growing 30% month of month to RM500k/month in sales.
If you want to leave a positive impression on someone—to make them feel noticed, important, and valued—say their name
How are you and Nateskin tackling the manscaping taboo topic in Malaysia?
Malaysia is indeed a much more conservative country when it comes to taboo topics such as manscaping. A lot of people are still unaware about the act of manscaping. In our early focus groups, a big chunk of our feedback was that they did not know that people shaved “down there”.
To tackle this, I have to relate back to my initial encounter with the funny hair laser ad I saw in Australia. By having such a memorable tagline “Make your PP look bigger with this PP laser”, it stayed in my mind for days.
We incorporate a similar witty strategy in Nateskin, where we use a lot of our brand humour and brand authenticity in all touch points of our business. From our advertisements, to the emails customers receive, all the way down to our packaging and the way our sales teams talk about our product, everything was designed to leave a memorable impression at the top of customer’s minds. That way, whenever they think about body hair, they think about Nateskin!
There is a negative perception of male and the challenging social norms. How do you address this?
In this day and age, if you look online on social media, the “social norms” to be a masculine man, you need to look a certain way. You need to have the bulging biceps, that defined six pack, that chiseled jawline. Essentially, you need to look like a Greek god.
That is not what Nateskin stands for. Our mission is to help men be comfortable in their own skin, feel good about themselves, and have the confidence to go out and own their day.
So if you look at the marketing material we put out, we work with plenty of average looking, everyday men to make a stand that you don’t have to look like Chris Hemsworth to have the confidence of Chris Hemsworth. We want our customers to be able to relate and resonate with our ads, to see themselves in our ads, which starts the awareness that it is normal for “normal” guys to manscape too.
How does Nateskin aim to make a positive impact on a larger social level?
Just take a look at our products for example. If you order a Nateskin product, we will send you a shaving guide of some fun, adventurous shaving styles you can try.
We introduced this just for the laughs, but our customers love it! The fan favourites are the lightning shaped “Yer a wizard, Harry” style, and the arrow shaped “Avatar: The Last Hairbender” style.
Men are just big kids. When they receive our products and see our style guide, it gives them a good chuckle and they share it on social media. Essentially, what they are doing is that they are sharing with their friends, family, and followers that “I shave my family jewels and I am proud of it!”
Compare this to 5 years ago, you wouldn’t imagine the general public talking so openly about shaving “down there”.
More recently, I have customers coming up to our booths, buying our Bush Trimmers for their teenage kids. Looking back, my father never talked to me about shaving my pubes, so I am glad we are seeing that we are making a positive impact on a larger social level
What is your plan on the future of Nateskin?
To date, we have more than 12,000 customers in Malaysia and we have recently launched in Singapore in March 2023.
Looking forward, our two main focuses are:
1. Location. We aim to double our efforts in our Singapore store, and spread the same level of awareness of manscaping in Singapore. By the end of 2023, we aim for our Singapore sales to match Malaysia’s. In the next 12 months, we are also exploring to expand into Indonesia and Australia.
2. Product Range. We listen to our customers. We only launched our Face Shaver product because people wanted an affordable, safe, and fast grooming tool for their face after using our initial affordable, safe and fast Bush Trimmer. We have continued listening to our customers and are excited to announce we will be launching our Nose and Ear Trimmer in November 2023, as well as our aftercare range in Q1 2024.
What is your one rule as a gentleman?
I’m heavily influenced by the classic book “How To Win Friends and Influence People”, my favourite rule which I use in my day to day life is “A person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” In other words: If you want to leave a positive impression on someone—to make them feel noticed, important, and valued—say their name.
Nateskin understands the challenges associated with self-grooming and aims to be a trusted brand in providing simple, sustainable, and inclusive solutions. With a commitment to design excellence, Nateskin creates products that empower individuals to confidently care for themselves. Whether it's addressing body hair or tackling underarm odour, Nateskin is dedicated to developing innovative solutions that enhance our customers' grooming experiences and promote self-confidence.