Rica King headed a global skin care brand for 20 years before retiring to spend time with her family. As a high-ranking executive, King played a big role in securing wins for the brand in the Philippines and in Asia.
It was her idea to offer whitening products, which were unheard of at that time, but have become de rigueur today. She managed to see the company grow to become a billion-peso business, and saw her products reach the top of their categories. She had done it all, and she was ready to take a back seat. “I retired in 2010 thinking I could be a full-time housewife.”
During retirement, King discovered holistic living, and, wanting to adopt the practice for her family, began to study natural alternatives to chemical-laden, mass-produced skincare. She found that fruits and plants are loaded with healing properties, and are more effective and a lot safer than synthetic ingredients. “I was fascinated by the unmatched powers of coconut oil,” she said.
King cited that scientists hail coconut oil as the ‘miracle oil’ because it outweighs the benefits of other popular and expensive oils. It is also a strong antioxidant, that many Hollywood celebrities claim this oil as their beauty secret. “A study also revealed that the Philippines has the best quality of coconut oil in the world. I figured, if there's any country that can come up with the best line-up of coconut-related products, it should be us.”
The turning point came after she saw the devastation made by Super Typhoon Yolanda to coconut farms in 2013. “It provided me a stronger mission and advocacy to help coconut farmers and help improve the quality of life through nature.”
Starting her own business
That is when she decided to set up COCO Health Products Inc., which makes lotions, body wash, and soaps made with virgin coconut oil under the brand name COCOLINE Naturals. The products, which are available in supermarkets, department stores, and drugstores nationwide, naturally have anti-bacterial properties and are paraben-free.
COCOLINE Naturals came about very systematically, through “research, plan, create, and network.” “I updated myself with world trends [and] market size, and gathered consumer insights. We visited factories and talked to chemical engineers and other experts. It was vital to find and work with the right people and agencies who share the vision,” King said.
“The entire process was not hard, but it can be tedious because I am OC [obsessive compulsive]. To add fun [and turn moments into bonding opportunity], I involved my kids—from creating the brand, to conducting consumer surveys, and helping out [with] the launch.”
After finding the proper formulation, the next step was to have the products certified. King wanted COCOLINE to adhere to international standards, so they chose a renowned and impartial laboratory, Switzerland-based SGS, to do the product testing. SGS came back impressed with the results. King said their products passed with flying colors—up to 99.99% antibacterial and antifungal qualities that can beat the quality of many other brands. “I felt like I won the lotto that day,” she said.
Room for improvement
King found that the biggest challenge was changing the way consumers thought about coconut oil. “Many Filipinos are aware of the benefits of coconut oil, but were averse to it being sticky, warm, and amoy latik (the byproducts of coconut oil production, used as garnishing for a variety of desserts),” she said.
Thus the challenge was to produce a winning formula that captures its effectivity on skin, yet it is delightful to use and COCOLINE Naturals was made to give coconut oil a modern twist. “We found other natural ingredients that complement well with virgin coconut oil to make the products smell fresh, feel cool and non-sticky, and pleasant to use daily.”
King draws on the ideas and experiences that made her one of the most creative forces in her old company to help launch COCOLINE Naturals into public consciousness. She said that apart from the high quality and strong benefits COCOLINE Naturals has to offer, they dared to be different in their way of communication.“
Thus, against the traditional use of celebrity endorsers, the brand focused on its hero—the coconut.
“With our battle cry ‘The Power of Coconut,’ we aimed to be distinct, straight-to-the-point, honest, and caring. With the increasing rate of cancer and skin problems, the demand for ‘healthy’ products is at its highest. People are taking notice and we’re slowly building our loyal base,” she said.
Selling overseas, moving forward
It seems to be working. Several interested parties have approached King to explore having COCOLINE in their countries. “Growing our local market will just be as important as planting our seeds well in other markets,” King said. “Using natural means you care enough to live longer for yourself and your loved ones. It’s a kind of beauty care that goes way beyond vanity. This is true beauty care, inside and out.”
King shared a conversation that happened just before she decided to retire. “A prominent businessman once challenged me: ‘You have already earned them [former company] tons of wealth, why can’t you do it for yourself and build your own company?’ That statement haunted me, but I was quite decided to spend the next half of my life closer to my family.”
And now, in the middle of rolling out COCOLINE’s products and developing new ones, she has found her second wind. In the end, it is all about making people happy. “When consumers tell us how they love the products and how it helped their skin problems, we still get happily giddy about it.”
Yvette is a lifestyle writer and award-winning horror author. She is working toward a world where it is permissible to wear flip-flops to a board meeting. Follow her on Twitter, @yvette_tan.
This article was originally published in the December 2015-January 2016 issue of Entrepreneur Philippines magazine.