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Spray It Around

After a couple of successful small businesses, this entrepreneur takes a stab at the global market with a spray sunblock that's out to challenge lotion
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By creating distinct products with global potential, Dennis Balajadia, founder of Naturale Laboratories, hopes to bring more options to the public and challenge the industry monopolies.

Balajadia, although only 29, has already been around in the working world. The B.S. Management graduate, major in applied chemistry, had spent one-and-a-half years helping run his family's pharmaceutical manufacturing company, Lloyd Laboratories, then another year working the stock market with a stock brokerage firm, Citisecurities Inc. During this time, he also completed his Masters in Entrepreneurship at the Asian Institute of Management as well as opened several small businesses-a Hotshots burger franchise, a few HalfMoon Bibingcrepe kiosks, and a software company.

"I didn't really fit in my parent's company because it was already 15 years old at the time," he says. "My way of working was just different, so I got into several businesses instead, looking for one that I can enjoy doing. Most of them eventually closed, but in the process, I learned a lot about myself and what I really wanted to do. Then I became interested in consumer goods."

Naturale Laboratories, the offshoot of that interest, was incorporated in 2004, but Balajadia's idea for its very first product came about a year later. It was during a beach trip with his wife, Emily, who brought a spray sunblock that she had bought from abroad.

"It was so easy and quick to apply, and I never wanted to go back to lotion after using it," he says. "Later, I learned from the chemist in my family's pharmaceutical company that it would be easy to make that spray sunblock. I therefore borrowed P5 million for capital from my Mom and set out to develop the first clear spray sunblock in the Philippines. I called it Beach Hut."

It took Balajadia about seven months to create the product. "I only had one employee at that time, and I didn't come up with any formal business plan," he recalls. "I just knew how I wanted the product to be-a clear, streak-free solution in an easy-to-apply spray bottle."

He outsourced the formulation and production of the product to his parents' companies, Lloyd Laboratories and Cosmetic Specialist Inc., which assigned a team of top-notch chemists to develop the sunblock formula using imported ingredients. The product was then rigorously tested both in the Philippines and Australia, and the formula was continuously refined based on the test results.

To set Beach Hut apart from others in the market, Balajadia made its packaging design emphasize fun and youthfulness. "If you look at the existing market leaders, the bottles are boring, almost clinical-looking," he says, "so I wanted to make something that people would buy to express themselves, to say that they're using their own sunblock and not their parent's sunblock. Our main target market is the youth, of course, but Beach Hut is really for anyone looking for an edgier alternative to the usual sunblock. It's more for those living a certain lifestyle than for a specific age bracket."

The finished product was a beach-scented formula with the Ultraviolet-A and Ultraviolet-B protection of SPF 36, packaged in a bright orange-and-green plastic bottle. The bottle has a vibrant color combination that's designed to make the product stand out on the store shelves, and it has several unique features-a spray cap, easy-grip side ridges, a distinct 36 SPF, and a quirky "Lotion Sucks!!!" statement embossed on the bottom.


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