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Insider Spotlight: Meet Elaine Hong, The Force Behind M’sia First Organic Pad, ENYA

Insider Spotlight: Meet Elaine Hong, The Force Behind M’sia First Organic Pad, ENYA

Enya, it means fire

By: Aqilah Najwa Jamaluddin / September 15, 2021

We’re currently entering the third quarter of 2021—with so many significant events happening around the world, it shocks me how the subject of ‘’menstruating’’ is still considered taboo in this generation. Let’s be frank, how often do you see or hear the discussion about periods take place around you? And I am not talking about those middle school ‘’Eww, you have your period?’’, type of conversation, I meant a real discussion—adults discussion, if you may. 

Here’s a simple fact check, in Malaysia, the case of ‘’period poverty’’ is still widely common. Especially for underprivileged communities who had a rough time accessing education. For those of you unaware, allow us to explain. Period poverty—is the inability to access (or buy) sanitary pads products due to financial constraints. And surprisingly, almost 40% of women across the Asian nation, as stated by the National Population and Family Development Board, these disadvantaged women often use newspaper sheets, banana leaves and worse, coconut husks as an alternative to period pads. 

Noticing this, Beauty Insider decided to speak to none other than the Founder of Malaysia’s first organic sanitary pad, Enya. To educate ourselves more regarding menstrual care—which was once considered ‘’taboo’’ in this country, and of course, the journey behind her successful women empowerment brand. 


Get To Know Enya Brand

Ever since it first launched in 2019, Enya has rapidly become the go-to brand for women who prefer minimalism yet aesthetically-pleasing features. How can they not? One glance upon Enya’s Instagram is enough to make the girls, me included, hit that follow button. But that’s not all the case at all. What impresses us more about Enya is how they promised to deliver sanitary pads, made out from 100% organic cotton material, straight to consumer’s doors, without having you to move an inch. Enya offers two products that can be purchased online that overall fit their initiative to offer sanitary pads access, which is comfortable yet safe to use. 

We know that Enya was founded in the year of 2019, and has rapidly become the choice brand for women in Malaysia. But, how did you make the leap to launch Enya? Share with us your journey. 

I was in sustainable fashion before where I dealt with sales and marketing. My favourite part is the go-to-market strategy, especially when education dominates the brand itself. I’ve always wanted to start a business that is impactful, even if it’s the slightest change. I believe it was also a chance encounter with my co-founders (Chris and Izara) and the timing was right. Together we started Enya because 2 years ago there were no other affordable alternatives to choose from. All the pieces fell into place and we’ve never looked back since. 

What was the inspiration behind the name Enya? 

Ok I know you’re probably thinking about the Irish singer – it’s not! I wished I had a more interesting story about our name’s origin but unfortunately I really don’t! It was actually Chris’s idea to name it Enya. We thought it was soothing, and easy to carry. It also means fire, like how we want to spark period conversations everywhere. Trust me, there were many weird names before this, all suggested by me of course but I’m glad it was all rejected!

 


Can you explain more about this organic cotton sanitary pads idea?

Great question, this is where I step in after all my naming ideas are written off. I’ve always liked working with natural fabrics, mainly because of how soft and comfortable it is on my skin. The well known materials are linen, lyocell, tencel, peace-silk and of course, organic cotton. Incorporating this material was initially just an idea, because of its hypoallergenic properties. I used organic ones before but they were too expensive, so we decided to source and build our own.

We believe that the Enya brand is built based on subscriptions, and not through straight marketing, where you can purchase at a nearby pharmacy. Was this also part of the initial plan? 

To sum it up, period products are fast moving consumer goods, and ultimately we are in the business of convenience. It has always been in our pipeline to go into retail, just the matter of when. Yes, the subscription model makes it easier to purchase frequent necessities, but we’d also like to make our products accessible, to capture potential walk-ins especially for women who have never heard of Enya before. Going retail makes a lot of sense this way. One of our proudest milestones is launching in Watsons Malaysia. We believe it justifies our stand in the market, and that we are here to listen and create products together with our customers. 

The ‘’Period Care’’ Subject In Malaysia

As for Elaine Hong herself, she even revealed that she used to experience sensitivity and irritation problems down under. Seeing lack of period care information and education in Malaysia, the girl boss decided to create her own path, thus, founded Enya, which is the goal is to make everything safer. Because let’s face it; period is natural, the amount of innovation when it comes to period care is still considered ‘’ridiculous’’. And while there are few disposable organic pads available in the market, the price isn’t considered pocket-friendly. 

Do you think the subject of period is more diverse now in Malaysia? Or is there still room for improvement? 

If we were to compare now versus 10 years ago, yes, faster than ever with the aid of social media. A few months ago, there were many girls that voiced up about period harassment in their respective schools. It started on social media and the thread continued throughout the week, highlighting how some of them were groped by their teachers, because they would conduct spot-checking to know if the pad was there, primarily before Agama lessons. A school should be a safe space to grow, I wouldn’t want my kids to feel otherwise in the future. And just like many ongoing social issues, I think a lot of us would always find a way, if not better ways to continue improving. 

What do you think is the biggest myth or misconception of period-care?

That you cannot get pregnant when you have sex during your period. The answer is you can and there is a possibility and many people do not know this. I think that period care is not just choosing the right products for you, it doesn’t shy away from understanding what goes on in your body and how it works. 

Who Is Elaine Hong? And What’s Next For Her? 

Initially, I tried to break the ice by asking the most simple questions anyone could ever ask. Though I admired Elaine as a successful businesswoman, I wanted to learn more about the lady behind this powerful brand. And surprisingly, the answer did not disappoint. She likes to watch movies, reading books or just spending her precious time looking at meme accounts! See, it makes the two of us. And of course, I’m eager to know if any changes took place during and after the pandemic—how’d the situation impacted her and her brand, as much as it impacted all of us. 

How is life looking for you yourself, Elaine? Did the pandemic impacted you in any way? 

Thank you for asking. I believe I’m doing alright, could have been much better. I’m more sure of myself as I grow older, and I noticed that I get excited easily about the littlest things at home – like cheese on pasta for a Friday night or that snail I found in my plant. There are a couple of times I felt quite down and I talk to myself way too much these days. Usually I would put on a good soundtrack or learn a new recipe. Books and music are my heaviest companion throughout the lockdown. I’m currently reading Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit, and am still stuck on Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. I have too many interests, the distraction scares me sometimes. 

We saw a lot of entrepreneurs having to close down their businesses due to the impact of COVID-19. What are some of the challenges that Enya faced during and after the lockdown? 

Logistics and distribution was a set back for us because of manpower shortages in the warehouse. I’m glad we’re able to bounce back in time to fulfill deliveries from different sales channels. For me I don’t get to see the team as much, which is significant for a start-up to have a company culture. But we adapted eventually by setting check-ins, deadlines and meetings to address task challenges. 

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